Tuesday, 10 March 2009

It's All in the Mind

Well once again its been a while; sadly work commitments (particularly late working hours), are making it difficult to blog at all. If I could just be less long-winded...

The last blog centred around the difficulties we encounter with the “Champions League semi-finalists” label hanging round our necks. In the last eight days we were presented with an outstanding opportunity to get back to near the automatic promotion spots with two away games. Sadly these games have resulted in us throwing away four "massive" points rather than gaining two.

I think this goes to continue to illustrate the theme of the players unable to handle the expectation levels. I have lost count of the number of times since we were relegated from the Premier League when the chips have been down, the players have dug deep, produced unexpected results and, with other results fortunately going our way, put us in a position where our progress is in our hands, only for us to throw it away.

I recall the championship play-off season when, during January of that season, Sheffield United were slipping up and we were picking up points. Suddenly it was in our hands and, as soon as we were in that position, we threw it away. Last season, having worked tirelessly to get rid of the points deduction, to climb the table, we were within reach and it was in our control. That started the run of abysmal results and performances culminating in Blackwell being sacked.

The play-offs last year were another example of us being written off earlier in the season (with a massive points deduction) only to finish strongly, to pull ourselves back into it through the play-off semis, then to throw it away in the final (still hurts).

This all boils down to expectation. Expectation that having shown the grit and determination to put our destiny in our own hands that we should not fail. It is this expectation which I think weighs greatly on the players and it is this area of mental preparation where Grayson still has much work to do.

The defence now play as a unit. The reintroduction of Kilkenny into the centre of midfield has brought some much needed stability, ball playing and possession and has for me been the catalyst for some better football and a lot of decent chances being created. Some more clinical finishing and things may be much different. It seems that the season is creating something of a mirror of itself; earlier in the campaign, before the collapse of the defence, we were playing good football and creating lots of chances.

So back to talking of expectation. Yeovil at Elland Road tonight. I expect Leeds to win. Why? Well, after the Hereford game I wouldn’t but as I said, we have turned it around, unbeaten in four and playing relatively well. So once again I expect success. Though the difference would only be four points, victories in the Oldham and Bristol Rovers games would have put a very different perspective on our league position.

There are undoubtedly many more ups and downs before the season is out; I have written us off countless times this year. But how many more times can we put ourselves in the position of underdog, overcome the odds and throw it away when we have control?

Tonight is a must win. Nothing else will do.

Marching on Together

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