Date: 4th February 2011 at 12:32pm
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How 2011 can be like 2005, plus Holden, Lee and youknowwho.

Afternoon all. How do you feel? Feeling good? Your inner engine working at 100% capacity? Happy that we are again closer to Europe than the Championship?

Last minute goals have a way of cheering people up, regardless of the fact that it was courtesy of a colossal mistake by an opposition defender. And, in the past, they have also acted as a spur to the team to motor on.

Remember the Autumn of 2004? We hadn’t won a game since Newcastle left the Reebok with a 2-1 defeat. Bolton went nine straight games without a win and only picked up two points from a possible twenty seven. And it looked like it would be two from thirty and a sixth successive defeat as we went into the last five minutes at home against the Baggies.

Cometh the hour, cometh the enigma that is El Hadji Diouf. West Brom had taken the lead on twelve minutes when Zoltan Gera put the ball home from a cross by a certain Paul Robinson. Kevin Poole, in goal for a ‘rested’ Jussi Jaasklainen who was, at the time, linked with moves to United and Arsenal, was forty one at the time. And it could have been worse as, five minutes later, Geoff Horsfield hit the post. But, staring defeat square in the face, Dioufy popped up with a late goal.

And from there, the season changed. Five straight wins in January were followed by three wins from four in February, before Newcastle beat us by the same score that we had beaten them by in October. The run propelled us up the league and into the FA Cup quarter final. From there, we lost just three more games, the quarter final to Arsenal, the away game at Liverpool (only to be expected) and the game at T’Reebok when Chelsea won the league. We ended in sixth place and if we had won just one more game, would have taken Everton’s place in the Champions League, where we would have easily accounted for Villarreal.

So, will Danny Sturridge’s goal on Wednesday night mean kicking on for Europe? If Arsenal beat Birmingham in the League Cup final, it will open up sixth place, which we are only four points off. Of the next three games, we have chances to pick up further points. Spurs proved on Sunday that when they implode, they don’t implode by halves, and they then struggled to beat Blackburn on Wednesday. They are, naturally and historically, a different beast at home and we have recently been battered there, barring the 1-1 draw in April 2008.

Following that we have Everton at home, a club with an unhappy manager who have been made weaker by the transfer of Pienaar to, ironically, Spurs. And then we have Newcastle, shorn of their major striker and also missing their back up, now that Ameobi is out for three months. The possibility is that Kevin Nolan will have to start up front for them, as long as the Geordies haven’t strung him up before them for saying how great Liverpool are on the back of Andy Carroll’s transfer.

In a season of transition, we shouldn’t hope for too much, but those hopes have been raised again after the win in midweek. Remember, though, that Wolves are going down with Wigan and to only beat them 1-0, with a last minute goal, could be seen as poor. However, we won’t meet a keeper in form every week, as we did with Wayne Hennessey. Time will tell whether or not we will figure towards the top of the table come season end, but if we can put a run together as we did six years ago, does anyone fancy a trip to Lisbon next year?

Of his goal on Wednesday, Sturridge admits that he was as surprised as anyone when the ball was played:

‘I was surprised that the defender passed the ball back but as a striker you’ve got to be ready for those kind of things. I’m here to score goals because that’s my job at the end of the day.’

Yeah, can you tell a certain Swede that as a quick reminder.

Sturridge has the speed of thought and movement to be a top striker but has the reputation of being a big time Charlie Potatoes, especially during his contract talks, or lack of them with Citeh. Some footballers are, some aren’t, nothing you can do about that. But if his time at a small provincial club can bring him down a peg or two whilst furthering his career, as I said before, it will be good for him, us, Chelsea and maybe England.

Stuart Holden has spoken to the New York Times, I think. Can’t be sure due to needing to pay for the privilege, much like the News of the World, but with fewer breasts. Copies of the interview have been produced around the internet, so you should be able to find it. Apparently, you get your ears flicked by every single other member of the squad if you are the one that fails in a training drill. Maybe this is why Zat Knight has been playing like a man concussed recently.

One of those who probably don’t get their ears flicked all too often is Lee Chung-Yong. Subbed after an hour on Wednesday, to the sound of boos at the decision (and some of our fans wonder why other club’s fans think we’re all stupid), St Owen admits that he has to be used appropriately over the coming weeks.

‘When he came in on Monday he looked really tired, so we did nothing with him until a light session on Tuesday. But because he`s an integral part of our team, it was important to get him in there against Wolves and I knew I could get a good hour out of him. I can understand when we brought him off that the fans love him, so do I, but he`d run his race and we have to make sure we have him for the duration of the season, not just 90 minutes and then lose him for two or three weeks with fatigue. It’s something you have to be very careful with but again, that’s one of the tasks of being a manager.’

There is no getting away from the fact that the Blue Dragon will be adversely affected by the continual football. A full season in his home league was followed by a full Premier League programme, which was then followed by a World Cup, which he bowed out of on June 26th. He was back for the friendly at Falkirk on July 31st and has played consistently since then, barring the Sunderland game just before Christmas. He had also had to fly to Seoul for friendlies and has just come back from the Asian Cup where he had a full schedule.

That kind of programme would temporarily disable the normal person. And he gave his all on Wednesday, providing some of the spark that we have been missing since he left. I genuinely find it laughable that some of the crowd booed the decision to remove him from the game. I’m genuinely surprised he lasted that long.

Milan Mandaric is a madman.

‘I’m interested in Gary Megson….He’s top drawer and has tremendous experience. I rate Gary highly.’

Wednesday job? I wouldn’t give him a Sunday job.

Until tomorrow and a Spurs preview.

 

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