When I drove home after the Bradford game, which was as good a home performance as I can remember against decent opposition, Jerome Sale read out the league table. We’d dropped a couple of places, which didn’t seem terribly fair, but when he read the teams sitting above us, they were all names you could imagine having ambition to go up, and in most cases, automatically.
We’ve now dropped to 10th, albeit still only three points from the play-offs. But, what strikes me looking at those above us, and a number still below, is just how much potential there is in the division this year.
Of the top 13 places, Peterborough and Shrewsbury, the top two, are ironically the only two teams I probably wouldn’t have mentioned as being potential promotion contenders at the start of the season. Every other team has either recently spent time in the Championship or should have the resources and infrastructure to play at a higher level.
That’s not to say we’re doomed, last season I got a strong sense we weren’t ready to go up, this year we’re better equipped to do well. Plus, despite the names, who knows what hidden gremlins are eating clubs like Portsmouth, Charlton or Wigan from the inside? They are all well supported and financed, but they ultimately, they are League 1 teams for a reason. This is one of the things about League 1, it’s an elephant’s graveyard of ambition, what is yet to show this year, is who is actually dead in the water. Someone will suddenly capitulate, but it’s a question of who.
The Blackpool defeat reminded us of two things, the first, the difficulty we still face in getting out of this division and second, that it’s still early in the season. Blackpool may have their internal problems, but they were promoted last year, so they must have done something right. But, on the other hand they are still a deeply troubled club, and there has to be a question as to whether can they sustain their run throughout the season.
We, on the other hand, are comparatively stable particularly off the pitch, and if we discovered anything from last year, it was that tediously stable sides succeed.
The good news is that we have already faced four of the top six and that three of our next four league games are against teams at towards the bottom of the table, outside the current zone of clubs with ambition.
But, we are never far away from another challenging fixture, and while we wait for the season to settle down a bit and for a few of the contenders to fall away, we may have to simply eek out as many points as possible before we start thinking about a serious assault on the play-offs.