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FA Carling Premiership, 7/8/99
The season in miniature?
By Martin Blanc

Home now. Been screaming all the way. Wailing, moaning, gnashing teeth. And the insane thing is, it's so clear that we can still stay up. This isn't really the place for a detailed match report - Ian can do them so well - it's just for expression of feelings, and in this instance, it's reflecting on what we do so well that it seems to be second nature: industry, endeavour, team spirit in the face of an Eiger to climb (well, that's overestimating the gangly oafs (oaves?!) we were facing)...and then spontaneous combustion within sight of the finish line.

First shock was how empty the ground was - is August 7th too early for the foreign-holiday denizens of Herts? Fine, forget about them, kick off anyway, towards the new home stand. (Things weren't looking good in front of there during the warm up when Hervig Walker shot a couple past Day in the warm-up, but anyway...) We passed it a bit, took up where we left off. And then got caught. You had to wonder about Palmer's pace at this point, playing midfield, but we did what we do fantastically, and things were totally bearable outside our penalty area for a good quarter of an hour, especially after Kennedy's precision placement equaliser. Inside, however, there were rumblings, and even at the new home end, the breeze carried the first faint whisperings of disaster: "Remember Steve Sherwood...", it whispered. "And Perry Digweed...", it muttered. "And Gary bloody Plumley..." we answered. Oh yes, we have long memories.

I mean, it all comes down to confidence. And self-belief. Right, GT? Sure, but how about talent. Basic ability. That's what grounds self-belief. If you think you're a sow's ear, if you have any doubts that you can demonstrate silk purse-ness when the going gets tough, especially after you've been through a GT Motivation Masterclass, then there's probably some unreconstructable gap in your talent quotient, and you know it. And you're going to come the most almighty cropper if you ever play outside of your own back garden. Frankly, we in the Rous were delighted to see Hervig doing some serious warming up after the second Dons goal. Wish GT'd acted on his hunch, because it was obvious from way before Day and Easton got into a handbags-at-twenty-paces shouting match that we were totally ****ed if any of their strikers got past our flat back two (I'm ignoring Des Lyttle, like he ignored his teammates once the game got going). Never mind once Day's empty confidence had totally evaporated.

Does anyone at the club read this? Does it get through to any of the coaches, money men, powers that apparently be? Or are we heating air for our own benefit here? Whatever, all I'll say is this: GT's policy is fine IF WE'RE PLAYING OUR FIRST TEAM. We all know that Alec, and Gifton, and Nicky WrightWrightWright, and Allan Smart even (God, we're going to miss Hazan...) could have nailed a 2-1 victory today. They're up to it. They're up for it. But our SECOND team is not good enough. That's not heresy against GT's policy. It's a desperate, honest response, in plenty of time to do something about it. We're not even in the relegation zone. We're above Sunderland and Spurs tonight. But it's going to be a long season if we follow Villa's example last year: think that fifteen players is enough. Sure, there are thirty-four numbers, but fifteen of them aren't good enough to make our SECOND team. They must have more minuses than pluses, or GT would have picked them today. They can't all be injured. And if they are, all the more reason to think, now, seriously, about new faces.

Right - that was your moral duty done, Graham. You gave the lads a run-out, and...about five of them should regularly play again this season. Okay, six or seven, now I'm home, and calmer. But there are some, Graham, please, Graham, you can't, and I know you won't...will you...?