It is rare in the league these days that you play at home and away against the same opposition in such a short space of time. However, today’s return against Southampton does give us the opportunity to go someway towards making amends for our disappointing performance at The Dell at the end of last month.
Indeed the acute difference between our form here and on our travels remains baffling and Saints will know that they can expect a totally different game from us this afternoon.
But hopefully our spirited performance against Everton at Goodison Park represents the turning of that particular corner. Considering the players available, I was delighted with that point and although the performance was gritty rather than the flowing football that we would all like to see, there are times in adversity when you have to dig in and gain what you can.
At times, it was a real backs-to-the-wall job but you cannot go on losing players to injury as we are doing and expect high octane performances in what is the hardest league in the world.
With Sol Campbell and Les Ferdinand joining a casualty list that already included five senior players, we were already up against it because the lack of depth in our squad cannot be disguised. In the end, Sergei Rebrov played despite being hit by a virus in midweek but by the hour mark was clearly struggling too much.
Now we have the added pressure of suspensions with Neil Sullivan and Tim Sherwood both absent today.
However, we had bounced back from those forgettable performances at Southampton and Ipswich to really show our worth here against Newcastle and then FA Cup victory at Leyton Orient and that point at Everton illustrated that we are now heading in the right direction.
It was good to win at Brisbane Road because, although it was against lower league opposition, gaining an away victory anywhere was an important psychological barrier to overcome and our refusal to be beaten impressed me.
The most encouraging aspect against Everton was the performances of our younger players. The current depleted climate is not the ideal scenario for their introduction but all have showed good character in difficult circumstances.
Enthusiasm can never make up for experience and we still need major contributions from the older players to help the newcomers through. But all credit to the likes of Ledley King and Luke Young while Gary Doherty has grabbed his chance superbly and there were further opportunities for young substitutes Simon Davies and Dave McEwen which will improve their future outlook.
With outfield players Alton Thelwell and Anthony Gardner, who has yet to make his debut, also on the bench, it is clear that we desperately need to get some of our senior players back in action.
The big bonus is the mental toughness and willingness to graft that our players are showing. We must now add greater enterprise to our play as we bid to maintain our unbeaten run here, now the best since we have been in the Premiership.
In closing, a warm welcome to Glenn Hoddle who graced this arena with his immaculate skills for 12 memorable years.