I’ll let you into a secret. I didn’t think we’d win the title. I wanted us to; for a while I believed we would. But the team I thought would win the title was… Stevenage. Last year I thought it’d be Burton, the year before that Aldershot. I would say ‘I told you so’ except, of course, I didn’t.
The Conference isn’t so much won as built up to. The league is made up of a handful of basket cases (Chester, Grays) who bring the whole show into farcical disrepute. A vast majority of the league is made up of hard working, well organised defensive units that can’t score. This leaves a bunch of clubs who are well organised defensive units with a striker – these will typically occupy the play-off spots.
This leaves just two clubs. There’s The Club. The Club are the team that came down and expect to bounce straight back through the sheer force of their personality. Us, Luton, Torquay, Wrexham perhaps. They come in and suddenly realise that the league is full of hard working defensive units that will take more than a Jedi mind-trick to break down. Distraught at being relegated, they suddenly expect all their troubles to melt away as they walk away with the title. Then they find out that they actually have to play and suddenly all their insecurities are revealed.
And finally there’s the team that wins the title. As Fred Westley said prior to yesterday’s game; their success reflects three or four years of hard work. It’s this stability, plus a hard working defensive unit, plus a striker, that will win you the title. Such is the fragility of the Conference, the challenge of maintaining stability for a couple of years is something only one club a season seems capable of.
We’re just 15 months from our last fallow period; we probably have another 6 months before we can realistically sustain a title bid. I thought for a while we bucked the trend, but the science caught us up eventually. The trick now is to avoid the temptation of slinging the year’s good work out the window. Build, build, build; that’s got to be the mantra.
Of course, where the science is thrown out of the window is during the play-offs. If we can shake the feeling of failure, it may suit us better. You don’t need to sustain the stability for months and we should go into any head-to-head confident that we can be successful. People shouldn’t be writing the season off just yet.
Of course, if we do make it to Wembley, it’s going to be against Luton isn’t it? And what a game that’ll be.