Well, well, well. Who’d have thought it? As John Major said addressing his first cabinet meeting as Prime Minister in 1990.
When we lost 5-1 at home to Alex Neil’s Stoke at the beginning of March, ending a run of three straight defeats and one win in seven, the playoffs looked a distant dream. Those results left us hovering around tenth place, some five points off the playoffs.
Since that humbling we have only lost once in nine games, and that was a controversial home defeat to Sheffield United (one of only two teams to complete the league double over us).
This remarkable young team has squeezed into the playoff positions on the back of some gutsy and tenacious performances. As has been much remarked, the team is playing with a fearless spirit, and learning to stand up to the more physical aspects of the league.
Joe Gelhardt certainly gave as good as he got against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
Tony Mowbray was beaming in his Sky post-match interview after the game. I can’t work out whether he was being disingenuous when he said “I didn’t think we could come to places like this and win football matches.”
“They keep surprising me.”
“We’ve got two massive games against teams who have aspirations like us.”
This was the first time he has intimated that the playoffs are in his sight.
In the official club post-match interview he was even more candid, talking about two playoff places being fought over by up to nine teams.
Playing the playoff aspirations down is part of Mowbray’s intuitive coaching style. Taking all pressure off the players and allowing them to play with freedom, without fear of failure.
Another Mowbray tenet is that with such a young team, mistakes are bound to happen. But he doesn’t get concerned with that.
With Blackburn losing on Tuesday and then West Brom losing on Wednesday, everything is in our own hands as we head into this weekend’s games.
So can the team do something it hasn’t done yet this season: win three games in a row?
Watford would appear to be the bigger stumbling block, given our stuttering home form. But the game is headed towards a sell-out and the fans will back the team to the hilt. And will Watford already be on the beach?
We have got as big a chance as any.
I’m looking forward to the weekend and have a sneaking feeling that it won’t be the last game put on at the Stadium of Light this season.