Sometimes the hope comes from the apparent hopelessness. Boy, this is a hard sell... trying to make out a case for Sheffield United in the play-offs.
It’s all the more pressured because the credibility of one of the season’s most surprising manager sackings is on the line. One win, one draw and two defeats comes nowhere near justifying it. Only promotion can do that.
Bramall Lane is one of football’s deeper wells of depression right now. But maybe less is more when it comes to play-offs expectations. What expectations? Precisely. Fatalism tends to follow the Blades after a series of heartbreaks.
Hard to find anyone who believes this year will be any different. I’ve already mentioned here how one fan gave me his preferred ordered of finishing as “first, second... and seventh.”
Well, sixth it is going into the last league Saturday and that, in one sense, will do nicely as the placing from which least is expected. There is no team making the sort of late surge into the play-offs that gives them the edge in feeling they have nothing to lose. United will not be alone in having to shake off disappointment, having been in the race for automatic all season.
At least they have longer to get over it than usual, as young boss Chris Morgan has tellingly pointed out.
Even so, it is a time of dread rather than excitement, although one or two are starting to seize on being written off as cause for hope. And it is the hope that kills you, as they say! Oh well, it’s worth a try.
Whatever happens, Morgan will be out to ensure that he and his players give it their best shot. But it’s increasingly hard to validate the axing of the manager who put the Blades in the promotion frame for two seasons running. I feel Danny Wilson was harshly judged on the barren home run that triggered his demise.
Only his skill kept United in the running in the face of a recurring loss of the team’s best players. Okay, the Blades are right up there on wages but Wilson was always fighting the financial tide. Hopefully this won’t be a debating point for the summer.
Mandaric will take care of Wednesday’s finance while Evans gamble is set to pay off for Millers
Did I detect a little sigh of disappointment over Milan Mandaric cautioning against a major influx of new players this summer?
What Sheffield Wednesday’s owner was really saying here last week was that - barring relegation - there would be nothing like the massive overhauls of previous close-seasons at Hillsborough.
That has to be for the better, surely? The Owls are a newsy club and have fans who thirst for the next thrilling instalment but sometimes I think that football has forgotten how good it is to be settled and boring.
Not that boss Dave Jones won’t be pushing for some extra quality, or that there won’t be moves in and out. But being newsy does not always equate to headlines of the really meaningful sort - as Wednesdayites well know.
Jones needs a settled base and it’s Mandaric’s job to ensure the Owls continue to progress without again endangering the club with debts.
* Some people never know when to stop. On the night a 71-year-old won his 13th English league title I learned of a 52-year-old former England star who can’t find a peg to hang up his boots.
He and his manager were entertaining table-mates at the Star and Green ‘Un sports awards on Monday. “He sits somewhere in front of the back four,” said the boss of Greenhill White Hart of the Meadowhall Premier League.
The player is former Owls legend Chris Waddle. His last appearance was at the temporary ground of Penistone Church whose home is being renovated. The only shower facilities were a nearby river!
Incredible, too, that ex-Blades great Alan Hodgkinson has only just retired from coaching at nearly 77. “Hodgy” won the Derek Dooley Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday when Waddle was also honoured.
* There was no margin for error in Rotherham United’s controversial appointment of Steve Evans. Either he would succeed with promotion or be deemed to fail given the Millers’ wage expenditure.
But they’re poised for promotion and if you’re going to kick a man for missing out, you have to applaud him for squeezing in (as in the case of the third automatic spot).