I love Christmas. I really do love it and I always have done. I'm a kid you see. I know most women think that most (if not all) men are children, but I am a proper example of someone that has managed to keep the mental age of a ten year old despite being 38.
Christmas is just so exciting. Santa Clause comes with sacks full of presents, there is more drink to consume than normal, and we play rather a lot of games in a short space of time.
This year, not unlike last, I have had the added bonus of having a son to get excited with. Mrs KHA has been completely bewildered by our repetitive declarations that "I'm so excited".
There was added excitement with Christmas this year as I am on taking and bringing home from school duty. This means that I am responsible for looking after my 5 year old Son from when the school breaks up. Thus my Christmas break started on the 18th December.
So, Millwall was in my Christmas 'holiday'. I've now managed to calm down from the disappointment of letting in that late equaliser, and can see that the game was a classic, and as much as I wanted to win, I accept that on the basis that they had ten men for so much of the game they probably deserved a point.
I love going to football on Boxing day. Away is ok, but I like to be at home. Again we failed to win, but the last few minutes were as exciting as I can remember at The Valley. In fact, now that I do think about it the last time I remember a game finishing so excitingly was when we beat Blackburn with a late goal in December 2006. I was convinced that El Karkouri was going to hit it like a rocket, and hit the wall, but he bent it 'round the wall and The Valley was ecstatic. It is rare to score late goals that mean something, and a draw with nine men is as exciting as a win - it certainly was on Boxing Day.
Still, that result left Norwich and Colchester breathing down our necks and another game in two days after playing our socks off with nine men, and with two influential players missing. The Brentford game was always going to be difficult, not only because of what we'd been through, and the players we had missing, but they have been very strong at home - having not lost there for almost three months (including Leeds). Thus a 1-1 was acceptable in the circumstances.
The fact is, the circumstances shouldn't have arisen. Sam Sodje was a fool to lunge into that tackle. I believe he was sent off for us on boxing day two years earlier for a two footed challenge. Totally unprofessional, and was in large part responsible for the four points that we could have had if we'd won those two games. Dion Burton also let himself and the team down with his sending off. I do have some sympathy with him as he was technically correct that the Referee had allowed all sorts of fouls to go unpunished on Akpo Sodje. To have remonstrated so much was probably always going to end up with a booking. The hand ball, however, was just plain irresponsible. It is my belief that he did it to make a point that he was being fouled. I can understand why he did it, and might have done the same thing myself. I should point out that I am a spoilt, bad loser, and I would probably have made a big dramatic statement about being man handled by the defender. I am not, however, a professional footballer. Burton should have known that with all the fuss with Thierry Henry's goal against the Irish there was going to be a punishment for it.
On reflection, despite having a very bad game, the referee had little choice with Sodje's red card or Burton's two yellows. Sadly it probably cost us four points (at least two) and that could well mean everything if we fail to finish top two and don't win the playoffs. I don't want to be too dramatic, and there is a lot of football left to play, but it is quite possible that our football club could well be in real trouble in the summer if we fail to win promotion, and I doubt that we will finish more than four points behind the team in second place. Still, if we could afford a central defender that never put a foot wrong we wouldn't be in the division in the first place. I think I would be inclined to release Sodje in the summer though. With such a limited squad you can't carry liabilities, and he has been sent off 14 times in his career now. He has missed five games, through suspension, for us this season, and we have half the season to go. Anyway this is a discussion for another time, and I may well have changed my mind by the summer.
Walsall was a bit of a disaster. Not only did we slip out of the top two for the first time this season but I drove to my Dad's and we were 25 miles from the ground when the game was called off. Strangely we discussed not going. I think in these situations (when a pitch inspection cannot guarantee the game will go ahead when the away fans need to leave) a full refund should be offered those that decide not to travel on the off chance that it goes ahead. I feel sorry for Walsall, but to have two games called off with less than two and a half hours before kick-off does give the impression that they were gambling the fans travel costs in the hope that the game would go ahead and they would get more money or would get money quicker.
I will not be going to the rearranged game, but the whole episode has probably cost us over £50 and best part of a whole day in the car. I left my home at 9:30 and got home at 5:30.
Anyway we have an average of exactly 2 points per game, the same as Norwich, and it's all to play for. Their recent form has been outstanding, but we have been amazing at times ourselves this season. The only ray of hope is that Norwich are rumoured to be in financial trouble and with the transfer window working the way it does they will need to sell this month or they will not be able to raise any more funds until the summer. This could (and, in fact, would) be a great gamble if they really do need the money. I'm not all that familiar with their situation, but I do remember them selling something like 17,000 season tickets in January last year. Thus their match by match income must be rather low. Anyway time will tell, and even if they don't sell we could still finish above them. They do need to come to The Valley, after all.
I also think that Leeds could be catchable. I know they look like they are out of sight, but the sale of a star or two could cause a lack of confidence that could do to them what the sale of Andy Reid did to us two years ago.
So we start the new year (and decade) with an average of two points per game, goal difference behind a team that needs to come to our place, and with suggestions that we will be strengthening our squad while they will be selling to raise money.
Up the Addicks!