What we think we want to see for our teams is a nice orderly procession to the title. A succession of comfortable wins with few goals conceded. The team under little pressure and our players producing tricks and flicks without any meaningful challenge from outplayed opponents. In reality though what keeps us coming back for more each season is the knowledge that it rarely if ever happens that way. That at any moment the wheels can drop off or you can suddenly pull out some amazing feat defying the odds even when down to ten players. The games that are balanced on a knife-edge, where form is no indicator, where the tension is almost unbearable are what really makes the experience. Those make a season ticket worth renewing. Of course you want to see a reward for your travails at the end of a season but as Mourinho found efficiency alone isn`t always quite enough no matter how rewarding it maybe.
Our start to this season has been a mixture of some very good performances, some poorer ones and a couple of car crash games. It`s these car crashes that live longest in the memory. That allow us to relive the nightmare of snatching defeat from victory or the delirium of a triumph against the odds. Disasters like the injury time midweek debacle against the spuds or that FA cup semi final against ManU when Bergkamp missed a penalty and Giggs scored a late stunner are offset to some extent by memories of other triumphs.
A late winner from Platt at home against ManU after Sheringham had pulled back an early 2 goal lead in a game that followed a sequence of 2 draws and a 3-0 humiliation at the hands of Derby. The wheels were coming off by the time we got to that encounter with ManU at exactly the same time of year too yet we eventually took the title.
A shock 3-0 home defeat at the hands of a Venables inspired ‘boro side aided and abetted by own goals from Brazilian pair Edu and Silvinho embarrassed us 2001. In the following season we faced ManU at home, again in November, having started the month with a humiliating 4-2 home defeat to Charlton, conceded 2 points away to Tottenham to a 90th minute equaliser from Poyet then lost 2-0 to Deportivo just days before the ManU game. We were in another meltdown – yet we still triumphed 3-1 against our title rivals despite trailing 1-0 at half time thanks largely to a couple of car crash moments from Barthez. We went on to do the double that year too.
Even in the invincibles season a shock home defeat to a Chelsea side that hadn`t beaten us in 17 or so games put us out of the CL courtesy of a late winner from Bridge despite leading and seeming comfortable at half time.
Car crash football – it shouldn`t happen but it does. Every team has them. Ask Spurs fans how it is possible when leading 3-0 at half time at home to Man City in the FA Cup and playing the whole of the 2nd half against 10 men to then lose 4-3? Ask Liverpool how it is possible to lose an unbeaten start to the season against bottom of the table Spurs when an own goal and a late error much as we experienced a few days ago left them pointless at the weekend. Yet quite rightly Liverpool fans won`t feel that means they can`t triumph in their next game.
Any investment program will come with the caveat that ‘past performance is no indication of future performance`. That`s just as true when things are going against you as when they are going for you. The triumphs of the past don`t guarantee us anything at all but neither do recent failures, worrying though they are, indicate a crisis.
To understate the position somewhat so far this season our results have been variable. But with few exceptions, and individual errors excepted, our performances overall have been pretty good – yet any merit in those performances are lost in the results. We have probably crashed too often already to have any realistic chance of crossing the finishing line before some others but the season isn`t a write off and what we have is at least still capable of putting us somewhere on the podium. That won`t satisfy everyone but we can still enjoy the ride.
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