Friday 25 May 2012

My knees have gone all trembly...

When I started these incessant ramblings back in April last year (not long after we lost 8-1 at Crewe actually) if someone told me I'd be sat here writing this 48 hours before we go to the new Wembley, I would have said they were as mad as Martin Allen.
OK, maybe not that mad, as no one who reads this would contemplate giving Tom Denton a contract, but I think you get the drift.
It wasn't meant to happen, we were meant to disappear quietly into the Blue Square Premier without any fuss and let the big boys get on with their games nicely.
If anything, it is the constant running-down of our team and writing off of our chances at every turn that make this weekend's events even sweeter, and will make victory on Sunday a real highspot in my 31 years of CTFC watching.
But will it beat the 0-0 at Burton, beating Yeovil to go up, the FA Trophy final, the two play-off finals, surviving against Doncaster, winning 6-5 at Burton or the day out at Spurs?
If we do win, then at around 5pm on Sunday it will definitely beat all of those, but in cool reflection by 6pm it will be added to them as fantastic highs in the last 15 years for our club.
In August, we were 'supposed' to be going down. In October and November, we were in the top three, but were 'told' it wouldn't last. In January we hit the top, which was a 'flash in the pan' apparently.
When we hit the wall in March, they said 'we told you so' and we were then going to disappear down the table and finish about 11th.
That was the view of the pundits and experts, and also at various times of some so-called Cheltenham fans many of whom will be heading to the Arch (if that's what you call it) on Sunday.
Sorry to have proved you wrong thus far
That's the way it goes - and in the run-up to this game, we are still flying under the radar, with these experts also expecting Crewe to roll us over.
So as usual, no one seems to want to show us any respect.
Today started with the fantastic news that Jack Butland is going to Euro 2012 (sympathy to John Ruddy by the way) and all I have seen on Twitter is that apparently Jack must be crap as he has only been playing for Cheltenham Town.
None of these twits have ever seen us or Jack play, so more disrespect.
Now, I am not quite at the Kevin Keegan rant level, but I would love it if we beat them, if only so, finally, someone would acknowledge that we are a good team!
I know, it shouldn't matter should it? But I am afraid it has got to me recently.
Apparently, because Crewe have been unbeaten in 18 games and come up on the rails into the play-offs, and have Nick Powell and Max Clayton, who big clubs want to pay a hugely-inflated transfer fee for, they are going to beat us. OK, we'll see.
They also beat us 1-0 twice this season, so apparently that is another reason why they are going to beat us. One was a penalty, another a set-piece. Hardly conclusive proof.
We have every reason to be confident after the run we have been on coming into Sunday as that game at Gresty Road was the only game we have lost in seven outings.
Ben Burgess has given us a new dimension, and the semi-final performances of Jermaine McGlashan and Kaid Mohamed have got us through to this fantastic showpiece.
At the back, Steve Elliott and Alan Bennett are back to their best again and as for Scott Brown, I haven't seen a better individual display from a CTFC goalkeeper than his last Thursday.
So I feel we are peaking at the right time, and we have a number of options, with Mark Yates once again having several big decisions to make this weekend.
4-4-2 or 4-5-1/4-3-3 is one, as is the choice between Keith Lowe and Luke Garbutt in the back four.
On the system, I think it has to be 4-5-1/4-3-3. Russ Penn made the difference on Thursday when he came on, and he could be the man to stop Mr Powell playing.
The system also worked in the first half at Gresty Road when Marlon Pack and Luke Summerfield got the upper hand on Luke Murphy and Ashley Westwood, although the opposite was the case after the break.
In that game, Jimmy Spencer was excellent in that opening 45 minutes, giving David Artell and Adam Dugdale plenty of problems, but that's another dilemma.
Before last week, I would not have said that Ben Burgess could play on his own up front, but in the second half on Thursday he did it very well, and Mark Yates has to toss up whether he can do it on Wembley's big pitch or whether he needs a Jimmy Spencer or Darryl Duffy in that role, buzzing around and running the channels.
The key to which one plays is down to the wide men, Jermaine and Mo, who have a massive role on the wide Wembley pitch, where they have to keep Matt Tootle and Harry Davis on the back foot, and give that support to Ben, Jimmy or Duffs.
I would start with Ben simply for that physical presence to test Artell and Dugdale on what is sure to be a hot day, and tell him to go at it for an hour or so, with Jimmy and Duffs waiting fresh to come on.
As for the defensive decision, I would stick with Keith. Yes, that's rough on Garbs, but Keith was excellent in the two play-off semi-finals and we seem that much more solid to me - plus Keith's better aerial power is an asset.
So my team would be: Brown; Lowe, Bennett, Elliott, Jombati; Pack, Summerfield, Penn; McGlashan, Mohamed; Burgess.
Bench would probably be Hooman, Spencer, Duffy, Goulding, Smikle - with maybe Garbutt for Hooman if he is fit enough.
Whatever happens, it is going to be great day for the club, and the 10,000-strong Ruby Army heading down, and I am especially happy for the hard core. The 88 who went to Wycombe in the JPT this season, the 150 or so who go to every away league game. This one is for you lot.
It all comes down to this - 90 (or 120, or 120 plus pens) minutes away from swapping Port Vale for Portsmouth, the Recreation Ground for the Ricoh Arena. - but nothing can detract from what this group of players has achieved this season, guided superbly by Yatesy and Neil.
They deserve a medal for the job they have done in the face of adversity this season, and let's hope that by 5pm on Sunday, they are wearing one.
Go Rubies!

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