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FA Carling Premiership, 24/10/99
Staying up
By Ian Grant

The difficult bit starts now....

Trips to Upton Park, Highbury and Old Trafford? Visits from Chelsea and Leeds? Easy, all easy.

It's not just that we had nothing to lose in those games. It's more that we were able to concentrate on countering our opponents, the need to learn how to dominate matches at this level delayed for a month or so. We played brilliantly at times, we played with great commitment always...but the position of underdog suits us.

And now we're under the spotlight, now we have to establish ourselves in the Premiership in our own right. We've proved that we're capable of competing, we've come through that awesome five game sequence without slipping into the bottom three, and that's the foundation we must build on.

This is where the season will be won or lost. Middlesbrough on Sunday is massive, way more important than anything that's preceded it. Playing with pride at Old Trafford is great...but winning games like this one will keep us in the Premiership. This is it, people!

So here's the deal. Make some time, go back to last season's match reports and do some reading, starting with Tranmere and ending...well, you don't need me to tell you where it ends.

Remember what it felt like to be unstoppable, to be overwhelmed by that triumphant collective will. Remember how something as simple as winning with nine men grew into something all-conquering. Remember just how bloody great we were when we most needed to be, and how loud we were in the stands in response. It's not history yet, it was only a few months ago. You can still feel it.

Then bring that feeling to Vicarage Road on Sunday and give it some welly.

Boro won't know what's hit them.