TRADITIONALLY, football over the Christmas period can either kick-start a promotion/play-off push, ignite an escape from a relegation battle, or start a spiral down into a fight at the bottom of the league.
The Albion travelled to Reading on Boxing Day, having enjoyed an eventful season of ups and some downs in the first year at the Amex, but came away from the Madjeski on the back of a 3-0 reverse that proved no Christmas cheer for the Albion travelling faithful.
And, while on the subject of Boxing Day, I’m disappointed that it will always be a case of being the travelling faithful on December 26.
It’s come to light that the Albion have made it clear to the Football League, and, hopefully, one day, the Premier League, that they cannot play home matches on Boxing Day at the Amex, due to the fact that no trains run on that day.
The ratio of fans travelling by train to the Amex make it impossible to stage a game without this mode of transport. And, failing chartering trains and running a service when the rest of the rail network is closed, the traditional Boxing Day Albion home game will never happen – a sad state of affairs, but possibly a necessary price to pay in order to get the Amex built.
Anyway, back to Reading, and with family commitments, a no-show from Harty.
While there is no way of dressing up a 3-0 defeat, according to some, it was not quite as bad as some might paint it. But two defensive errors gave the Albion a mountain to climb, although looking at it in a positive light, we did create chances at the other end.
As 2012 approaches, looking back on the first half of the opening season at the Amex, it really has been a mixed bag.
We’ve had some classic games, dropped points when we shouldn’t, but, painfully, above all, capitulated when Palace rolled up and gave us our first-ever league defeat at the stadium – something that’s not gone unnoticed or unpublicised in South London.
Where do the Albion go from here?
Well, hopefully, they can chalk up their first “double” of the season with a New Year’s Eve win at Coventry on Saturday, followed by the arrival of Southampton on Monday.
I’m trying to forget the Palace debacle, and there would be no better way than victory against Saints on Monday, who I actually think now are as big a rivals to us, along with the Eagles.
Talk to many local Southampton fans and you’d almost think they’ve got Clark Kent in their line-up because they’re that unbeatable. But that’s just it, they are beatable, as the struggling, but now improving, Bristol City proved.
The Albion have to be at the top of their game on Monday, and if they are, then it could be a classic. Personally, I think it will be, and I’m predicting a 2-1 Albion win.
As for the rest of the season, major investment in the January window in key positions, could see the Albion mount a promotion challenge in the second half of the season.
But I think whatever happens, all concerned would be pleased with a top 10 finish and, perhaps, a nice little run in the FA Cup.
Whatever happens, it’s certainly never dull, Happy New Year!