Sometimes you spend the days leading up to a game in eager anticipation, thinking about little else and desperate for kick off. Other times games creep up on you and with ne’er a thought, you’re sat in your seat and there’s a quarter of the game gone. The funny thing is it’s not always the games you get excited about that end up being the more memorable, either through over excitement, over expectation or over indulgence they can all too easily let you down or slip to the back of the mind.
The even funnier thing, for me at least, is that it’s not always the big games that I get excited about or the more humdrum ones that sneak up on me. I’m not sure whether it’s me maturing, or whether commitments just shout louder these days, but it’s more a case of me getting a buzz about a game because I’ve got time to think about it.
There’s the odd occasion still where the game takes over, I was useless at work and narky at home for a good week before the final game of last season and I still get antsy towards the end of a prolonged summer break, like the one this time around. The rest of the time, it’s like I’m turning into a normal person, and I’m not sure I like it.
Two years ago, maybe even last season, this weekend’s game would have been one that I’d have been looking forward to, but as it is I’ve had to check on a couple of occasions, once to check what time Sky had moved it to, and then, later on, to see who we were playing this weekend. I might have had a lot on recently, but I even managed to shock myself with this level of shonky memory.
Surely it’s only a short step from there to finding myself in Ikea when there’s a decent game on the tele, or considering an afternoon stroll in the Lakes as a reasonable alternative to the pub and my seat at the JJB, but then again…
As it happens, any effort spent remembering the finer details would have gone to waste, I can’t make it on Sunday and in fact I’ll probably not get to watch it on Sky. That means it’s left to you fine folk to find out how Steve Bruce deals with finally having a proper left back in the squad (depending on international clearance of course) and how we can cope with the absence of our African Nations stars.
To be honest, the only likely change is the return of Paul Scharner to the back four at the expense of Emerson Boyce, although that shouldn’t be seen as a foregone conclusion. The game itself will be a real test of how Latics have improved. Not that long ago this would have been a guaranteed defeat, but the team now looks so different in terms of belief, commitment and ability that it’s hard to comprehend that it’s essentially made up of the same players that dragged us into the mire in the first place.
Still I’ve a real good feeling in my gut about this one, especially if Moyes treats this as a potential banana skin and loads the midfield. Their main creative force, Arteta, has been misfiring somewhat recently, where as in Valencia has been a major force in our revival.
It’s strange, I might not have given the game much thought prior to writing this preview, but now I have done, I’m bizarrely optimistic.
Any expectation that Latics might deliver on their improved form in a match that matters essentially rules any chance of this malaise being adulthood or normality. No one in the real world would expect a team fighting relegation to beat a team hoping to qualify for the Champions’ League, but you know what? I think we might just do it.
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