Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A wide open promotion race

No one can say that this year's League 1 promotion contest is boring. Having gone behind at Walsall last night, Norwich won 2-1 to stay top with 60 points but one more game played than the Addicks. (I got it large from the Norwich fan down the corridor yesterday). Leeds, with one game in hand, are second on 57 points and have a game in hand over us, but are faltering badly, going down 3-0 at Swindon. Then come the Addicks on 54 points.

Colchester beat the MK Dons 2-0, Super Kevin Lisbie scoring the opening goal and then, typically, missing a penalty. They are five points behind us and two points behind them are in form Swindon whom we visit soon at the County Ground. The last play off place is taken by a New Cross team.

Would that my grandmother was alive to advise me on the possible permutations. Let me explain. Let's go back to the late 1920s or the early 1930s at my grandparents' then home in Plum Lane, Plumstead Common. It's a Saturday and at lunchtime my grandfather has come home from his job as a clerk of works at Woolwich Arsenal. He gets to work on an interior decoration scheme for the cinema at Welling (undertaking such work helped to supplement his income and paid for my mother's apprenticeship as a hairdresser).

My mother is hard at work in the hairdressers in The Hollow, accompanied by her two close friends who are also Addicks and who are to survive into their nineties (which my mother just missed). Nor can my future uncle be at the game: he has left his home in Plum Lane early in the morning to work at his father's newsagents in Lakedale Road.

But some of the young men have been to The Valley and they come back to Plum Lane where my granfather runs an open house. He pops his head out of the room where hs is working: 'Don't worry about me, make as much noise as you like.' The young men and women head for the kitchen to hear about the match and my grandmother makes snacks.

My grandmother was a true Victorian, born in 1870, but by the time I know her she has developed a keen interest in football, admittedly partly based on 'doing the pools' (and also having the odd flutter on the gee gees). Each Friday my mother brings back to Cheriton Drive a week's supply of the Daily Mirror from the newsagents run by my uncle and aunt, accompanied by the Racing and Football Outlook.

These are subject to an intense study by my grandmother (who I now realise did this in part as a means of maintaining mental alertness). In these days it was two up and down promotion which meant only one from the third division north and south. Her basic methodology once Christmas had passed was to identify the 'surprise package': the lower mid-table team that would suddenly find itself in a relegation battle or the upper mid-table team that would suddenly be in contention for promotion. In the days before calculators, this involved a lot of arithmetic as projections into the future were made, accompanied by consultation of the News of the World football annual for past precedents. She would then consult me about her findings.

I guess that what she would say about this year's promotion race in League 1 was that nothing would be certain until Easter, that Norwich might not remain invincible, that Leeds would falter, that Charlton would still have a chance if they could regain that form and that we should watch out for Swindon. Our season is by no means over.

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