I felt our second half against Chelsea saw probably some of the best football we’ve played all season and, if it wasn’t for their keeper, we might have come out with a better result and won the points.
We’ve since been on our travels and it was obviously disappointing to get knocked out of the Worthington Cup at Burnley and the performance at Sunderland was as poor as we’ve played all season.
Then last week our task was made very, very difficult when, after going 1-0 down early on to Arsenal, we lost Simon to a red card. It was a dreadful decision and one which hurt us. But at least the referee has had a look and reversed it, which was important for us because it means Simon is not on four bookings any more.
He still misses the Birmingham game but the booking he did get against Arsenal stands as a fifth booking, so he now starts again. If he was to get booked against Leeds today and the decision hadn’t been reversed, it would have been a major problem for us as he would have missed another game, so at least something went our way.
Today though, we’re back at White Hart Lane and we’ve worked a hell of a lot this week on the team. We can’t be too disappointed with the way we played against Chelsea the last time we were here and we want more of that today.
Now we have to make sure we go on a run which I really feel we can do. This league is so condensed at the moment, we are six points from 16th place and six points from third spot. I said a few weeks ago that things can change around for teams either way, unfortunately ours has been a negative, but I’m very confident we can turn it back around and put ourselves in a strong position again in the next four or five games.
On the injury front, we’ve still got Anthony Gardner and Neil Sullivan out at the moment, but we’re looking a lot healthier in that department. Matthew Etherington’s had an ankle problem off and on since the Burnley game but everyone else is returning and getting fitter and fitter.
It’s good news but it’s also important that the players need to understand that, for different reasons, we will use the squad. We’ve been waiting for this strength in depth for a long, long time and they need to realise that if we’re using the squad it’s for the right reasons.
It will be for the good of the team and now we can see where the squad will take us, because I’ve certainly not had a full squad here and managers’ before me haven’t either. So it’s interesting to see what we can achieve with everyone fit.
Maybe now players can be rested or changed for tactical reasons, we’ve got options and we’ve not had that before. But it’s important the spirit of the team isn’t affected because you can only play 11 at one given time and decisions will always be made on what’s right for that team in any particular match.
A big welcome to Terry Venables, Brian Kidd and all the players and staff of Leeds United. They are in a similar position to us at present having hit a bit of a poor spell, but they picked up very good away wins in Europe and at West Ham and probably feel it’s easier being away from home just at the moment. So we have to be vigilant this afternoon.
I played under Terry at England Under-21 level and always had a high respect for his work and I’m sure he’ll get it right at Leeds, but we’ve got to make sure we go out there and start turning performances into points, beginning today.
We’re looking forward to it even though we’ve had a bad run. Sometimes it’s the challenge of turning things like this around that can be quite fruitful and we have to be positive and make sure we can achieve that.
When we were sitting near the top, no-one here got carried away because we know this league, particularly this year, is very difficult to be consistent in for any length of time. Even Manchester United and Arsenal have found that out. But we’re still building, still progressing and I know we must ensure today is the start of a good run of games.
If we can get the win this afternoon, we have to take it on from there and make sure we don’t stutter after that. It will be hard today, but we’re back at the Lane and looking for a positive result.
It’s been a while since our last home game against Chelsea and it goes without saying that we have been very disappointed with the results we’ve had since that match.