Word of warning: I might consider throttling the next person who reminds me that the Albion not only reached the 1983 FA Cup final but were also relegated from the top flight, and then asks me whether history could be about to repeat itself 36 years later!
Driving home from the Albion’s Saturday lunchtime cup victory, I tuned into the phone-in on BBC Sussex, my ‘home’ for 11 very enjoyable years. I’m pleased to say the show has lost none of its controversy. As a listener, I found myself disagreeing with the opinions of a number of the callers, meaning the show is still doing what we set out to do more than 20 years ago.
It is a game of opinions, but Albion are sitting 14th on 27 points with 12 games left and are also in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for only the fourth time in the club’s 118-year history. I’m struggling to see how a small minority of fans, some of whom went live on air, think Chris Hughton is out of his depth and the Albion should have a change in the dugout before it’s too late.
Over the years, I’ve been called many things and earlier this week an Albion fan of mature years, who I regularly talk to near my office in Broadwater, likened my stance on the Albion not being relegated this season as a cross between King Canute and a well meaning deck steward on the Titanic. There are still 36 points to play for, with Chelsea in the League Cup final the Albion have a week off to regroup and focus for, potentially, an exciting remainder of the season.
Before the FA Cup quarter-final at Millwall, the Albion face Leicester City and Palace away, with an Amex encounter against Huddersfield in between the two away trips.
It would be stupid to say we will definitely get all nine points and find ourselves much closer to safety before cup duties in south-east London.
But while until they are mathematically safe the Albion will technically be in a relegation fight, I think 11 more points, taking them to 39, will guarantee top-flight football for another season.
It’s clearly not a given, but in answer to a number of readers I still maintain the Albion will not go down. The squad is the strongest in the club’s history and with that in mind I hope when the Albion rock up at the New Den the squad rotation system adopted by Chris Hughton in the FA Cup is stopped in favour of the Albion putting out their strongest team. Without wishing to get ahead of myself, while writing this week’s column it dawned on me that the Albion are possibly not only two games away from the FA Cup final, but the chance of European football.
If we were to beat Millwall, avoid Manchester City in the last four, and end up on May 18 playing the blue half of Manchester, given with their final league position if they are already guaranteed Champions League football, do the Albion qualify for the Europa League regardless of the cup final result?
Maybe I am getting ahead of myself, but with what’s coming up, and from where we were back in the early days of the fans’ phone-in, how can fans really complain?
Then again, some always will – but that’s all part of the fun!
As Micky Adams said ‘keep the faith’ and let’s all enjoy our weekend off.
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