By John Mead
Back in May after celebrating our promotion to the Blue Square Bet South, we looked around for comparisons. Another side playing at their highest ever level, courtesy of the Play-off’s were our old arch rivals from East London, Dagenham & Redbridge.
A team we played against at Ryman Premier level ten Seasons ago, they, under the guidance of the revered John Still, were also embarking upon a journey into the unknown. A “Non League” side in the third tier of English Football? Unheard of in modern times, described by Mr. Still as “A fairy story” and now at the business end of the Season seemingly survival is well on the cards.
A parallel story to our own, stuck in the relegation zone for the majority of the Season, both sides seem now to have come to terms with life in the fast lane. “Being a Dagger” was a pre requisite for survival under the rules laid down by Mr. Still. When the going got tough he demanded from his players that they could look you in the eye and show the commitment.
Here at Wood, Ian Allinson issued a war cry to the Squad when the chips were down at the turn of the year. “Run through a brick wall for me or get lost!” A very similar demand to that issued down in Dagenham, that has led to a run of just one defeat in ten matches.
A further comparison was made to our own achievements by another fellow Play-off conquering side Blackpool. Thirty-nine years out of the top flight, returning in a totally new era of millionaires, foreign players and bank breaking Sponsorships, how fitting that The Tangerine Army’s philosophy is as far removed from the Premiership as can be. The gaffer, Ian Holloway, is seemingly as mad as a bag of spanners, whilst being one of the most motivational icons in the footballing world. His out there
4 – 3 – 3 formation regardless of where and who they are playing has won gasps of approval throughout the football world.
When Holloway took over at Bloomfield Road he quoted, “I love Blackpool. We’re very similar, we both look better in the dark!”
Nobody gave these three sides a prayer of survival. Yet with three quarters of the Season gone we sit six points above the drop zone. Thanks in part to the outstanding contribution from Luke Wilkinson, a nineteen year old with seemingly a great future on Loan from the Daggers. His side just like ourselves have hauled themselves out of the drop zone, albeit on goal difference, but with games in hand over the teams below.
Meanwhile our opponents from eight Seasons ago, in the F.A. Challenge Cup First Round, spurred on by one D J Campbell, who was a regular threat to our defence here at Meadow Park when Yeading were the visitors a few Seasons back, are certainly not dead and buried. Sitting one point above the drop zone they are participants in the tightest relegation battle in the Premiership’s history. Just four points separate eight of the teams in the mix.
Anybody smart enough to have betted on these three ugly duckling’s survival at the start of the Season should count themselves lucky. The odds were against it but the bet is still very much alive!