Saturday 26th Feb 2006 – 22:25
“I think I’ve hit the wall again. Earlier in the season I really struggled to come around to how well the season was going, but after a bit of acclimatisation and a couple of defeats things started to look a bit more reasonable. Even when the momentum was at its peak it was still possible to take a step back, take a look at where we were and enjoy the scenery. Now literally on the verge of our first appearance in a ‘showpiece’ final, I’m sat here wondering whether to go to bed early or to sleep on the coach in the morning, and it’s probably the first real thought I’ve given over to the fact I’m off to Cardiff tomorrow.
I don’t feel nervous, excited or any of the other things that usually come with a big game. I’m certainly not blase about it and I don’t think it’s because we’re in a no lose situation. I really do think that it’s because the fuse on the part of my brain that deals with all matters Latics has tripped, that I really can’t comprehend an event of this enormity.
This is one of those things. You get people asking you “I bet you never thought it would be like this at the start of the season, did you?”; for crying out loud, until a year or two ago, I never thought it would be like this ever and now we stand on the eve of a game that we’re nowhere near favourites for, but could end with Latics being presented with silverware. Not a shield, not a trophy, but a cup, a real one at that and that’s just beyond the boundaries of my understanding.
I suppose I’m not alone in that. I’d have thought that for many of us the club is advancing quicker than we can keep up with.”
So began the Cup final preview that I never finished. Just at that point, the nerves kicked in and I had to put down the laptop and have a drink. Some 5 hours later, when the alarm went off, the nerves had gone again and it was time to enjoy the day, so what happened?
It was almost like I’d been on the edge of something, like walking along a cliff top and stopping to write my thoughts down was like peering over the edge and seeing the drop. For that brief moment it was about more than being along for the ride, there was a chance of something more.
Two days later and the whole thing seemed a little silly. The idea of what would happen if we won might have been too much to take in, but how realistic an idea was it in the first place? We might have had nothing to lose in terms of the result, but things like pride and confidence were at stake. As it happens, I managed to enjoy the day without thinking about any of that. The last half hour or so of the game was a bit crappy, but it must have been worse to be on the pitch and that’s got to be more important.
I know I’ll get over it, in fact by next Tuesday the whole thing will probably be forgotten, but games like this can define a season for players. Luckily the players have a chance to exorcise the memory next Monday, but who knows what effect another walloping against United will have on their self-confidence.
It might be that my confidence has already taken a knock, it may just be the realist in me, but you can’t see past an away win for this one. The real challenge is to make them work for it. Hopefully the lads have now realised that United are up there with Chelsea, and it will take a performance like the two we put in against the champions to regain some respect.
There’s likely to be changes on both sides. Latics will hopefully put out a more balanced team and we could even get to see Scharner in his preferred position. United could rest a few after the exertions of mid week internationals (wishful thinking?). That’ll make us stronger, but if they’re weaker, it will still be a damn good team.
A good result for me would be a 1-0 defeat, with that smug child, Ronaldo not getting a sniff all game. It would be even better if we could score, but on past showings that’s about as likely as there being no United shirts in the south stand.
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