There are tipping points and then there are tipping points. A new manager comes in and struggles, you could say that was down to the fitness coach not having had enough of an impact yet or you could argue he was finding out about the squad or you could even argue he didn’t have a full first XI at his disposal. Something changed after Boxing Day.
The initial spell under Parkinson was dreadful. The performances were inept and lacked any perception of backbone. Something changed. Perhaps they got an almighty arse kicking. There certainly seems to have been a change in mentality since that game. Now for the first time in a long time we find ourselves in an optimistic position. The performances after Bolton make you look at the team now and ask, “where have you been lads?” Now we are moving forward together, looking up at the table thinking we can do this.
Football is an odd thing; you worry about the future but on Friday we will be very much in the present. Managers and players all talk about one game at a time, fans appreciate that when the turnstiles click and then we get time between fixtures to cogitate, ruminate and speculate. Some of us will see the negative, others the positive. Perhaps it’s time to just think about beating Doncaster rather than how we’re going to survive in the Championship. We’re not there yet by any stretch. Keeping an eye on that is entirely understandable given our recent run, but to speculate that far ahead when less than a month ago many of us were resigned to another season in League One is a little presumptive.
Maybe presumptive is the wrong adjective. Perhaps it should be hopeful, but we all know that it’s the hope that kills you. Something has changed though. The team look capable of grinding out a 1-0 away from home or bossing a team who are top of the league at home. Whisper it quietly but I think we might be about to do it. On the way back from the Wycombe game I turned the radio on in the car to hear Mark Chapman send out a warning “look out League One, the cats are coming.” We might not make it but right now that doesn’t matter, who knows what’s around the corner? I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and never see us ever achieve what I know this club can achieve. So, I’m going to just think about it one game at a time. All the rest of it fades away when you’re winning. So, let’s pack the place on Friday and keep the feel-good factor going.
A win against Doncaster is our second tipping point in a matter of weeks. It’s not our game in hand but winning tells the rest of the league that the game in hand matters. A defeat tells them they don’t need to worry about us too much. A win on Friday piles the pressure on the top two. We played Watford in the season we went up from the First Division and Graham Taylor was interviewed after the game. He said: “we played well for the first 15 minutes then the bulldozer that is Sunderland rolled over us.” There’s a feeling about the place that the bulldozer has been serviced and its engine has just about fired up.