I Hate Boxing Day. It promises much - a day off work, nothing to do but watch sport or go to the pub. A promised land where chocolate for breakfast is still just about acceptable and pudding with every meal is expected.
But then there’s the reality. Those presents really are all you’re getting. Your in-laws haven’t come downstairs with their luggage. When your wife had said she wished she had new tea towels, she wasn’t telling you her Christmas list.
And then there’s the football. Tired footballers, conscious that they still have twelve games in the next two weeks, watched by fans exhausted from what has gone before, desperate for the player’s quality to bring a positivity that could get them through the next few days of turkey sandwiches.
Our season so far has been Boxing Day.
The hangover, the hope, the overwhelming feeling that, while it’s all going fairly well, you’d hoped for slightly more but you’re not really sure why.
Let’s be honest, we’d love to be top. Maybe five or six points clear, looking forwards to signing two or three Championship players in January and booking an open top bus for May. Equally, go back to August and I was saying ‘if we’re holding on to a play-off spot in January, we could win the league if we sign four or five players in January’.
The answer, like Boxing Day, is that it’s somewhere between the two. It’s better than your average day, it’s not quite your dream.
And, funnily enough, it could be Boxing Day that decides whether our season continues to plod on a similar vein or moves to the next stage.
Winning our next two games and Portsmouth will be forgotten. Goals from Wyke and Watmore and it’ll be two new signings to take us forwards, a bouncing stadium of 47,000 fans cheering the lads on to greatness, an atmosphere throughout the club that will be a draw to the new defenders we so desperately need to sign in January.
Players thinking of signing will fall in love with the place. Players thinking of signing new contracts will realise they’d be stupid not to commit.
Equally, points dropped under the pressure of the biggest crowd of their careers, slightly hung-over parents with their selection box laden children all sitting back and screaming ‘entertain me’ and the Christmas period drags us further into a battle with the teams around us.
Many of those attending will be at their first game for a long time. Possibly their first game ever. If we get it right, we’ll create an atmosphere that can be with us for years to come. Get it wrong and we’ll lose them as quickly as we found them.
Boxing Day is, as ever, your choice. The hangover from what’s gone before or the start of what’s to come.
Bradford on Boxing Day feels like a sliding doors moment. Win, possibly comfortably, followed up with the same against Shrewsbury and I think it could bring the momentum that will lead us to the title. Slip up and it could be Wizzard’s worst nightmare – Boxing Day every day – a long slog to May.
All we can do is make sure the crowd are as positive and as supportive as we can be. The players need us with them to get them through Boxing Day, like a family member offering a coffee and a bacon sandwich instead of a vol-au-vent and flat bucks fizz. They need to know we’re behind them and, if it isn’t going to plan after 35 minutes, it’s not time to head for a beer to maintain blood alcohol levels, it’s not time to crack open the chocolate orange in your coat pocket. It’s time to get behind the team and give everything for 90 minutes.
Let’s make Boxing Day the start of the gift we all want to receive in May.