When Peter Leven looks up 50 yards from goal and rifles one into the top right hand corner, when Rob Hall delicately volleys a hip-hieght cross past a bewildered Plymouth keeper. When Tom Craddock dances through deep into injury time and clips the ball over the Port Vale keeper for the winner seconds after conceding, When James Constable shins the winner in front of the Town End. When Potter plays it to Deering, then Deering to Potter, and when Potter lashes the ball in at Wembley.
When these things happened, where are all those people who think that Chris Wilder should resign? It seems almost too obvious to say but, we’ve had two league games away to the top two in the division, we’ve had a cup game away to one of the top teams in the division above and we’ve had a JPT game which was as freakish as it was meaningless.
During this time, Michael Duberry has been injured and Robbie Hall went back to West Ham. Their obvious replacements; Harry Worley and Tom Craddock have been returning from injury. The uncharitable might argue that we should have better cover for Hall and Duberry. But Hall and Duberry are in many ways unique for this level. Hall is considered to be a better prospect than Jermaine Defoe – one of the best English strikers of the decade.
Michael Duberry is almost unique in the division in that he’s a player of genuine class who loves football so much that he wants to play for as long as he can. In the past, these players were dotted around the lower leagues; unlike now, it wasn’t possible for a moderate top-league player to retire after a single Premier League contract. Now Duberry is pretty much the only player from the Premier League in League 2 still willing to put in the graft.
Although I don’t quite subscribe to the adage that cup competitions are a lottery and that anything can happen – they are typically won by the top teams – I also don’t think you can really count them towards anything resembling ‘form’. The form book is skewed during November because the fixture list is punctuated by cup competitions. In reality, therefore, we’ve lost two away fixtures to the division’s two top teams. If these two games had been six months apart, nobody would have batted an eyelid at the result. And certainly nobody would be questioning Chris Wilder’s ability.
The reaction to the 4-1 defeat to Crawley is further skewed by who they are. In the natural course of events Crawley would have gone bust 5 years ago and would be scratching around the Conference South or below. In any other industry, Steve Evans’ criminal record would almost certainly have seen him struggle to get another job. We are frustrated by the Crawley freakshow because it cynically corrupts the competition. They are an effective team, but a moribund club and concept. Football is at its best when there is competition; a small variation between the chances of winning and losing. Crawley have corrupted the competition through their spending and cynicism, but we should rise above it. Let them do whatever it is they want to do.