First relegation battle won for 25 years
It is important to witness the lows to celebrate the highs and we should all be happy with ourselves today. I am certainly looking forward to watching/listening to how The Championship games unravel on Saturday morning (my time).
Jose Riga deserves to take a lot of credit for what he has achieved in his 15 games, because looking back over the last 40 years we have often gone down without much of a fight.
We haven’t been very good at relegation battles. In recent times the dream team of Dowie, Reed and Pardew ended our love affair with the Premier League and then Pardew and Parky took us another step down, this time without as much as a whimper.
Curbs’ Premier League years was pretty much unsullied and I don’t ever remember him or Gritty having to fight a relegation battle in the 2nd tier either.
For the last successful relegation battle we have to go back to old Houdini himself. Lennie’s team avoided relegation from the elite in 1986/87, 1987/88 and 1988/89, eventually succumbing in the 1989/90 season when us and Millwall were well cut adrift.
I make that a quarter of a century since we last survived relegation. I was right when I wrote last night that we don’t get a chance to celebrate achievements, however they come, very often.
There was one last day survival in the 80’s when we beat Bolton 4-1 to send them down at The Valley. All of our four goals coming in the last 20 minutes after we were 0-1 behind. Houdini was in his first season then, a early sign of his mystical skills.
If like me you first started supporting the club in the late 70’s, then as a kid I thought relegation battles were normal practice. 1977/78 we had to go to Brisbane Road for a twice-rearranged game and held on for a 0-0 draw to ensure safety. Blackpool dropped instead and a season later Andy Nelson did it all to us again, this time we had to beat Oldham at home in the final game, which we did thanks to a Martin Robinson brace.
The writing was on the wall though with crowds in decline and I remember vividly anti Nelson and Glikstein demos after that Oldham game and the following season was right up there (still is) as one of the most awful of campaigns when we fell out of Division 2 finishing adrift at the bottom.
The late 60’s weren’t much better either, and I sure older fans will be remember some of those relegation battles, but it does show how far we have come as a club and fortunately these relegation battles have become less regular even though our record in them is pretty negative.
Let’s hope this season we have set a Lennie Lawrence pattern and not a Andy Nelson.