I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about the game against West Ham at home tomorrow. I think it’s largely due to the fact that there’s now only nine games left of the Premier League season. Some of those games include visits from Liverpool and Chelsea and away trips to Manchester United and Manchester City. No pressure, you’d say.
My nerves haven’t been helped by our recent form, either. The idea of two consecutive home games against Watford and Everton seemed an ideal opportunity to pick up some points and throw some jabs in the relegation scrap. It was natural to feel optimistic, but ultimately we were dealt two sucker punches.
Our defensive frailties became evident against Watford as it seemed we physically could not handle the pace of Watford’s counter attack. Credit where it’s due to Deulofeu of course, who pretty much ran the show. Conceding another three goals at home against Everton, which took the tally to eight goals hitting the back of our net in five days hasn’t helped the mood either.
What was particularly frustrating about the away game at Wolves, was that we gave the game away in two minutes. We didn’t seem to cope well with the pace on the counter attack and twenty minutes in, found ourselves struggling to gain control of the game. Then came the gutting news that Sol Bamba had picked up a serious injury that will leave him out of the squad for the rest of the season.
Still at the races
Yet, as much as I think retaining our Premier League status is an uphill battle, we’re still in the mix. If you had said to me at the start of the season, that by March, Cardiff City would be still at the races, I’d have said “I’ll take that”. Let’s be frank, the pundits probably would’ve laughed, especially since the likes of Fulham and Wolves had spent much more money than ourselves in the summer. I’m not sure anybody could have called that it would be Fulham who would sack two managers by March and find themselves in the middle of a relegation battle.
I remember saying to myself at the start of the season, we’ve got to make sure we remain in the pack… we mustn’t be down and out by Christmas. It’s nothing short of remarkable really, that by March, following crushing defeats to the likes of Manchester United and City, Spurs and Watford –we still have a chance. That hope and possibility is what we must cling onto.
I’m not going to pretend like I don’t worry about City getting relegated. It’s entirely possible and one of my biggest fears is that teams around us have experienced a relegation scrap before. It’s not just a matter of playing well on the field, it’s also about remaining mentally resilient and doing all that we can to remain in this league.
It’s been a difficult season in many respects… and even writing about the truly tragic incident involving Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson still feels incredibly difficult. It’s still hard to find the words, but the way the Club has come together #CityAsOne in a time of trauma has made me incredibly proud. Our ethos of togetherness has been instrumental and it will continue to be so as the season progresses. All we can do is our best and we all have a part to play in that.
Picking up points
One of our biggest successes especially in the first half of the season, was picking up points against teams around us. Points against Newcastle and victories against Fulham, Southampton, Brighton and of course high-flying Wolves gave us real excitement.
With only five points between ourselves, Southampton and Burnley, our away games to Fulham, Burnley and Brighton and a home game to Palace could well be season defining. Our away form hasn’t been particularly strong this season, but we must build on the resilience shown against Southampton and do all that we can to get the points in the bank.
Home game against the Hammers tomorrow
Whilst I’m a bag full of nerves for the game tomorrow, I’m also incredibly excited and geared up for it. We all know just how big this game could be in setting ourselves up for the remainder of the season.
We must keep composed defensively and I really hope that Warnock sets up an attacking team. It’s a huge loss having no Sol Bamba – but if we want to stay in this league, it’s now a time for players to step up and fans to continue to get behind the boys.
It’s always been stressful supporting the bluebirds, but we’re still in with a shot to remain in the Premier League and considering where we’ve been in the last few years, that in itself is a huge achievement.
Who knows, we could still do it. Keep the faith.