I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the play-offs. God knows why, but I am.
I’m sure this pre-play-off positivity will soon evaporate by the time tomorrow morning rolls around when it will inevitably be replaced with a sense of sheer dread but, for now, let’s go with it. Let’s try and break down why perhaps more of us should also have cause for hope.
First up, and in my opinion the most obvious source of optimism: we went unbeaten for 11 games.
Yes, the run that followed was atrocious.
Yes, recently we haven’t looked like world-beaters.
But we still had that unbeaten streak nonetheless.
It’s not out of the question that we could go on a much shorter, yet much more critical, unbeaten streak again. Three games. That’s it. That’s all that stands between us and the Championship. If we can manage 11 straight unbeaten, we can manage three surely. Can’t we?
Secondly, we tend to view failure as guaranteed at this club. Probably because we’ve experienced so much of it that we’ve actually forgotten what success is. But the thing is, we’ve had success this season. We’ve won a trophy!
Yes, it wasn’t the Champions League. Yes, it’s named after a pizza company. But it’s still silverware at the end of the day. In fact, it was more than just a trophy for us. After what this club has gone through in recent years, that trophy was a symbol. A symbol, hopefully, of things to come. A new era. A fresh start. Something for us to build from. Even if that is a ‘tin-pot,’ ‘Pizza Trophy.’
Next, should we get there, we’ve won at Wembley now; the hoodoo is no more. Yes, we didn’t exactly dominate against Tranmere Rovers in March. Yes, I know many of us will still be cautious of the ground that has been the backdrop to so many cruel moments for us; I was there for both trips in 2019 which resulted in a long, dreary trip back up North. But who’s to say that’s going to happen again? We waited 48 years for a win at Wembley. Who’s to say that two can’t come about in the same year?
And finally, just look at Leicester. If you told their fans in 2009 when they were in League One that 12 years from now they’d not only have won the FA Cup for the first time in their history, but they’d have also been Premier League Champions, they’d have (probably quite rightly) questioned your mental stability.
Who’s to say that couldn’t one day be us.
Yes, it looks an eternity away now. But you never know. A new owner who genuinely seems to get the club and, more importantly, seems to genuinely care about the club; a major restructure at the academy; data-led recruitment. Our club could sharp be turning around and soon get back up to where we know it belongs.
And we could see the first major sign of that with success this week.
We’ve kept our faith in this club when many others would have written it off as a lost cause, condemned forever to the failure that seems to follow it like an ominous shadow. But, if we view failure as an inevitability, why not flip that on its head and instead, view success as an inevitability?
Yes, it may be more painful when it doesn’t always come to fruition, but always looking for a positive to cling to is, I find, much better than viewing everything through the lens of constant doom and gloom.
So, with that in mind, I’m viewing our upcoming play-off appearance with reckless optimism.
Well… at least until Wednesday.