Harty the Albion and predictions for 2012

NO doubt, the massed ranks of the Southampton support will be clamouring for the introduction of goal-line technology, as clearly Saints did score in the first half on Monday.

Then again, as Ron Atkinson once famously said, these things even themselves out over the course of a season.

Monday’s game, sorry, emphatic 3-0 victory against our south coast neighbours, was a superb way to start 2012, and puts the Albion within touching distance of a play-off place.

That really highlights the competitive nature of the Championship this season. It has been up and down, but I can think of at least seven or eight points the Albion have thrown away – where would that leave them now in the table?

But January is always a time to look forward, rather than backwards, so it’s apparent that this league is wide open and anyone who now puts a consistent run together can compete.

Does that mean the Albion?

Well, yes, we’re told that Southampton were the all-conquering league leaders, yet we took them on with 11 first choice players missing, and then they were well beaten.

Just imagine the score if we’d had our best team out!

And, for those who thought that the game is not a real “derby”, look at the atmosphere and the reaction of both sets of supporters. It’s certainly more than just another league game.

Joking apart, Monday’s initial selection conundrum has given Gus Poyet food for thought. I understand there are serious transfer funds available, so will the Albion be the traditional side that comes out of the Championship pack and finishes strongly?

My heart says yes, my head says maybe, and then I have to remind myself how far we’ve come.

Football fans are fickle, I couldn’t believe some of the abuse Gus and the players were getting on the internet in the wake of the defeat at Coventry on Saturday, but then Monday comes and all is rosy in the garden, until the next time.

The FA Cup this weekend provides a break from league action, and with non-league Wrexham as the opposition, perhaps a nice little cup run in the first year at the Amex would also provide some classic moments?

Then again, the Albion against non-league teams in the greatest cup competition in the world has a colourful history. We certainly cannot afford to take the Welshmen lightly.

It’s at this time of year that I delve into the crystal ball and have bookies quaking everywhere (not), with my traditional mid-year predictions, so here goes:

Premier League: Man City. Relegation: QPR, Wigan and Wolves.

Championship: Middlesbrough could bore their way to the title, pipping West Ham.

Play-offs (fingers-crossed): Cardiff, Leicester, Southampton and Brighton.

Relegation (fingers-crossed again): Notts Forest, Pompey and Palace.

FA Cup: Arsenal.

League Cup: Man City.

Barca will retain the Champions League and, finally, Man United fans, don’t fret, I think you’ll win the Europa League!