On Parade – with John Hendrie
Fifty points is the magic number – and the sooner City get there the better. That’s the figure everyone looks at for survival and a couple more results will get us over the line.
Of course, there will still be plenty to play for because it’s so important to finish on a high. For one thing, it makes it easier to recruit players in the summer. If you’re scraping by with the last kick, it’s not going to entice new people to sign.
From the revenue point of view, you’ve also got to attract those floating supporters and encourage them to come back.
The club are doing their part, keeping season tickets the same price for the third year on the bounce, but there are still going to be fans who will be deciding whether to buy one over the next couple of months.
You’ve got to give them something to get excited about. There’s nothing worse than a season fizzling out and you’re effectively done by the second or third week in March.
Things are looking more upbeat now for City going into the final ten games.
Carl McHugh’s goal in the last minute against Port Vale was the biggest of the season for me. If they hadn’t got three points that night, everyone would have been wondering where the next win was coming from.
Last week’s result at Colchester was just as crucial because the teams behind were starting to pick up points again.
After the back-to-back wins against Vale and MK Dons, the two defeats had put City back where they started. Those three points last Tuesday stopped everyone looking over their shoulder and the self-doubt creeping back in.
I’ve been at places in the past when team-mates have said ‘we’re too good to go down’. That’s nonsense. There’s always one team in mid-table who don’t look to be in any danger and then suddenly get sucked in. It’s that snowball effect in reverse.
It was rolling last year for City going forward for promotion when everyone had written them off. This time 12 months ago, they lost 4-1 at Exeter and looked like they’d had it. But they regrouped, sneaked into the play-offs and then moved on from there.
Unfortunately it can work the other way. If you’re not getting wins, and you concede a first goal, everyone’s thinking ‘here we go again’.
People suddenly start expecting things to go wrong and you’re caught in that trap. It’s a confidence thing. That’s why the win at Colchester was massive and Phil will have been mightily relieved.
They went down the day before, which will have made a difference. I know a lot of the clubs in the lower divisions look at the finances and I’m told City were originally planning to do the trip on the morning of the game. But Phil recognised what a crucial fixture it was and felt that the team had to prepare for it properly.
While they were down there, they could give treatment round the clock to the likes of Andrew Davies and James Hanson, who were both doubtful with injuries. I know for a fact that it was that 24-hour cover that got them both on the pitch.
That was one huge bonus and the other was getting all the boys together and away from the outside world. Phil could get into their heads without any distractions from family and friends – the only focus was on the game.
He knew how important it was in the context of City’s season and it was a masterstroke to get them down early. It’s one of the biggest mottos in football: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. But City had their preparation absolutely spot-on and got the reward for it.
Credit should also go to the guys behind the scenes for letting them do it because it would have cost the club a fair bit of dough.
Before the cup revenue from last year, they wouldn’t have been in a position to do that. But sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate and that win steadied it all.
* John Hendrie, who is a consultant for LawBlacks.com, was talking to Simon Parker