Welcome back BEB. ================================================================== "Long away trips are few and far between for me these days- I was recently branded a “part-time supporter”- but I did enough of them over the decades to not have to go to Plymouth to know what coming off Home Park after a humbling defeat at Plymouth feels like. The Ossie Ardiles debut trip was a classic balloon-puncturing exercise after a very beery and upbeat journey down and in 1991 I walked on at seven minutes past three after a hairy journey down to see my mate Steve walking off – “”two down” – he mumbled, exiting for the pub and the funfair next door. He saw our late consolation goal in a 4-1 defeat from the Big Wheel. With a long homeward journey and endless miles of motorway to negotiate as night falls, there’s no dressing up the fact that you’ve spent an awful lot of time and money and invested a great deal of emotion in an ultimately fruitless endeavour. There were differences, some subtle and some not-so-subtle in my travelling heyday of course. The mobile phone and internet were unheard of until well into the 1990s for an example of the subtle. You’d have had to stop at a phone box to vent your spleen on Radio Lancs’ phone-in. Toilets on board coaches were not necessarily a given to illustrate the not-so-subtle, and your homeward sojourn might be punctuated occasionally by the charming sound of liquid trickling into a bucket. I actually first laid eyes on my wife on the occasion of just such an arduous and unembroidered trip to Devon when another fine unbeaten run, 14 wins and a draw, came to an end at Exeter with a 2-0 defeat. Not only were there no facilities on the Accy Branch Supporters’ coach,my wife remembers there were no ladies’ on three sides of Exeter’s ground either. She had to walk round the dog track wearing a blue and white scarf accompanied by stewards to the home end, all the way treated to vociferous volleys of abuse and the favoured sexist chants of the time from Grecians fans. It’s funny what you remember. A lad called John Fletcher whom I knew from East Lancs who worked on the railways and got free travel passes came down to watch the first half only, leaving at half-time to get the 4.30pm back to Preston to begin his 10pm night shift. I recently read he’d passed away aged 80 but for me he’s forever frozen in time at Exeter waving us goodbye cheerily that afternoon, a much younger man, just as if he was leaving the reserves two minutes early for a bus to town. Thank goodness we didn’t have social media or really any tangible way of expressing our disappointment other than looking fed up and shaking your head back then. It was even frowned upon to begin any sort of upbeat conversation after a loss at least until after the second reading of the classified results at about 6pm. Getting out of the town boundaries with all windows intact was considered a bonus, not to mention hoping West Ham or Millwall hadn’t been anywhere up north to be encountered on a pit stop. As you approached Stafford, where we usually disembarked for a few pints, you might ponder in which of the town’s pubs you would cradle your first pint, reflecting whistfully on a chance which had flashed wide or a perceived refereeing injustice and looking forward to better fortunes in the next game. If you had walked up the bus steps and stood in the coach aisle after the game and said, as one message board berk did within seconds of Saturday’s result: “Can’t see this team winning the play offs, team full of bottlers, I’ve had enough, 18-game unbeaten run has been papering over the cracks,” I can only assume you would have had empty Skol or Stein cans, full ones perhaps, sandwich crusts, Scotch eggs and very possibly the contents of the aforementioned bucket hurled at you. Kendall’s 29 points out of 30 run of course couldn’t derail a promotion effort whereas on the occasions of the other great runs I remember ending, 1972-73 and 1987-88, form taperered off to the extent that we missed out both times with the added agony of a play-off failure on the second occasion which merely confirmed that the Don Mackay- Steve Archibald team’s fire really had gone out after ending the regular season with just three wins in 12 games. It was a disappointing conclusion after a club record 23 games without defeat. After Ken Furphy’s side lost their 19-game unbeaten run in 1973 they lost only two of the last 12 but drew far too many, notably the last three, to miss out by three points effectively. Kendall’s side lost two of the remaining last five but had enough in the bank for it not to matter. In some ways, I don’t believe this current Rovers side is truly the stuff of legend (perhaps that’s my age) so maybe it would have been a historical anomaly for them to be in the record books as such. What does stand out starkly though is that one long unbeaten sequence doesn’t historically tend to be followed by another. While we all hope the contrary, it’s quite likely Rovers will lose again this season sooner rather than later. Maybe more than once. The longeurs and twists of a season are lost on those who react extremely to every setback and others in the race will have days when it doesn't go their way. Surely there isn't yet justification in huffily throwing in the towel and looking to criticise the manager and players or play down the value of that run? Good heavens, we’re not two points behind Shrewbury with one game to play. We’re four behind the leaders for heaven’s sake with them still to come to Ewood and though Shrewsbury have a game in hand, we both have three apiece to play before they catch up. By the time they play it we could be seven points in front of them or 11 behind, or any permutation in between so it doesn’t become relevant until then. Much of the pre-match wisdom on Saturday was along the lines that Tony Mowbray ought not to have changed the line-up from the Walsall game where Payne instead of Conway gave us a more swashbuckling, youthful attacking spirit. After the Plymouth game when Tony said he should have made three or four changes, the cognoscenti had changed tune and agreed, using the fact that he didn’t as a stick to beat him. Talk about having it both ways. At 2.55pm he shouldn’t have changed the team. At 5pm he should have changed it more. I’m also alarmed at the frequency I’m hearing: “If he doesn’t take us up, he has to go, he said so himself.” Whatever he said or didn’t say earlier in the season (and I can no more remember verbatim than I hold any permanent store by a football manager’s throwaway words) , I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. I’m happy with the way the team’s developed, the way the signings have shown a lot of thought and planning, and that the structure from youth to under-23’s to first team is looking more coherent than for some years. I’m fed up of hearing: “Oh, woe is me, the budget will be cut and players will leave.” They might do. But would that mean Mowbray is less suitable than anyone else? I like most of what I hear from him and about him and don’t necessarily agree that even if he offered his resignation, Rovers would be wise to accept it in favour of Simon Grayson or anyone else. But that’s all if this and if that and it’sa discussion for a future which may never happen. The only time really is today and tomorrow. And if we don’t go up automatically we will have a job now to miss out on the play-offs. I’d fancy us in those. But the only thing which matters immediately is the next 16 games and how many of the 48 points we can get. Oldham at home, a derby with decent away support coming, is a grand pick-me-up. So painful are my memories of Boundary Park that I was actually amazed we haven’t lost at home in league football to them since 1978-79, winning the last six straight. Keep that going and let’s look at the table at five o’clock on Saturday. Personally I can’t wait to get to Ewood for a big game after missing Fleetwood away due to it clashing with a Berlin weekend and the last two home games with a virus and ear infection I picked up on the return journey which has rendered me (hopefully temporarily) deaf in one ear, although some might argue that’s not a bad thing among a section of our support. Then for those more hardy than part-timers like me, it’s another monster midweek trek to Pompey. Good luck to all travelling, with or without a bucket!" BLUE-EYED BOY ================================================================= Respect to the late 'Fletch'! Traipsing down to the south coast and back, effectively on ones own for just 45 minutes of football is the stuff of legends.