Rhyming slang suggests that Bristol Cities are a part of the fairer sex's body that all (well most) men have a fascination with. I, myself, must admit to being guilty of such an interest. Clearly I'm only really interested in those of my wife, but have been know to appreciate others from a distance. The 'real' Bristol City have also had the ability to attract attention this season. How they have come from nowhere (Tier 3 since 1999) to lead the division with eleven games to go is beyond me. They may well fall away, but they do not have a particularly difficult run in, and have clearly tasted the pressure at the top as they were promoted last season.
We, on the other hand, have built a reputation of falling away in the 'dreaded' last ten games of the season in recent years. I personally believe that this was all due to Curbishley's belief that to avoid relegation was an achievement. Something that I think many Charlton fans have now come to appreciate. Thus I think it is a little like achieving your goal early and taking your foot off the gas. I have always been in a job where I have a monthly target (referred to as a benchmark so as to ensure that no-one is mistaken into believing that you can fail to hit it) and on those months where the target is hit by the end of the second week the rest of the month becomes rather 'care-free'. For this reason I was never too hard on the team when we entered the end of season slump. Especially as I was just happy to still be there (Premier League/Premiership) next season. As my Dad is away again I am bringing my old boss to the game. He never (officially) agreed with my sentiments regarding hitting the target/benchmark regularly and surpassing it infrequently. He always believed that you need to keep going and going and never stop until the very end. That's what we need this season.
Our end of the season was much better last year (particularly considering the quality of the players compared with the years that proceeded it). Pardew does have a reputation of having teams that come strong towards the end of the season, so I have no doubt that we will secure more points in these last ten games than we did under the last few years of Curbishley's reign, but will it be enough? The automatic promotion places look like they might be a little too far away now. Even Pardew is talking about "...a sniff of automatic promotion; just that really, no more than that". If we can provide the same kind of performances away from home as we did last Saturday then a play off place should be secure - especially if we can keep up our recent home form. But I can't help thinking that it is just a little bit like wishful thinking that we can now stumble across a run of wins when we have clearly struggled to do so all season.
However, if we are going to finish in the top two then tomorrow is a must win. A play off place would be more secure with three points of course, but if we lose to The Boobies tomorrow night then there is almost no chance of us catching either them or Stoke (not to mention Watford and West Brom in-between). A draw would be no good for either of us. The Boobies will want to put us out of the race while ensuring that they can build a bit of a lead over Stoke and possibly the other two who are also playing tomorrow. An away win would also increase the chances of Watford or West Brom being out of the play offs which is probably good news for us.
The thought occurred to me that should the current top two stay there the play offs will, this season, be massive. On the basis that neither Stoke nor The Boobies would be expected to survive in the Premier League, the winners of the play offs will only have to find one team from those there this season to finish above, to ensure a second season in the top flight. Thus if we are going to win the play offs then a defeat tomorrow night might just be the best result for us.
One good omen that we can all take heart from is that New York Addick has now seen us win in the flesh this season and his attendance tomorrow night no-longer dreaded.
As far as the side is concerned I would expect to see us return to a 4-4-2 with Varney upfront with Big Chris. I have no idea what has happened to Andy Gray, but he seems to be out of the picture right now. I expect to see Sinclair involved, but not at the expense of Thomas who by all accounts was worth his place on Saturday. I also doubt that Ambrose would be dropped, so he may well start on the right with the Chelsea starlet on the bench. I wouldn't expect Pardew to mess with the defense, so it might be the same 11 with a slightly different formation.
At this point I refuse to make a public statement about the score as I think I have failed to get it right yet and I can only suffer so much humiliation. Besides, this way I can always pronounce on Wednesday that I knew we were going to win/draw/lose*.
As a last comment, tomorrow is my wife's birthday and despite the offer of a dinner in The Millennium suite, she is going to be spending the evening on her own (with our three year old). So at the very least we better not lose of I'll have to come up with a justification as to why I would want to leave her on her own to see those overpaid millionaires lose, again.
Cone on you Reds!
* delete where applicable.