Well, it’s been a reasonably pleasant season thus far. Now the “difficult moment” is behind us, it looked like we were about to make progress on all fronts.
However, events of the last 7 days, some of which were beyond our control, have unleashed a near perfect storm of fixture congestion, one might even refer to them as The Four Horsemen of the Fixture List Apocalypse.
Whilst the decision to postpone the Manchester United game was a sound one, the inability of the clubs to put their foot down with Sky has led to the match being pencilled in at 1st March. I say “pencilled in”, because the replay with Everton is going to have a serious knock-on effect.
It simply wasn’t going to be possible to replay the Everton game prior to 19th February (5th round day) due to the full Premier League fixture played this week. In an ideal world we would have played it next week. Or so you’d think.
The answer to this question is, well, no. England are playing Denmark in a Friendly in Copenhagen on 9th February in an officially designated pointless international friendly week. So no cup replays next week either. This means that in the event of our beating Everton, we will have to play the 5th round game with Reading on Tuesday 1st March. Causing the Manchester United game to be postponed. Again (see also TV).
Ironically, we now find ourselves with a free date on 26th February, courtesy of Birmingham reaching the Carling Cup Final. It’s possible that Reading might agree to postpone their Championship game that weekend in exchange for the sizeable gate receipts from a full house at the Bridge on a Saturday afternoon, and again, it will require some seriously hard graft from the ticket office to ticket the match in the space of less than a week (and those of us on our way to Copenhagen sans laptops relying on our Friends & Family).
The dates of our CL games with Copenhagen have also had a profound effect on the fixture list. This has taken up two potential midweek dates. If we had been scheduled to play on the CL on 15/16th February, we could have played the potential 5th round FA cup game on 22nd/23rd February (subject to the ticket office getting its collective finger out) , thus giving with plenty of time to ticket a potential 6th Round match on 12th/13th March.
And at this point, enter the old enemy.
If Sky had been willing to show Fulham –v- Chelsea on a Saturday or Sunday, the cup replay could have been played on 15th/16th February. Somehow you just can’t see Sky agreeing to free up that Monday.
Also, Sky will be clapping their hands with glee, because instead of Chelsea –v- Man Utd being a midweek game at the start of March, it is now likely to take place at the business end of the season, probably in May around the same time we play the away league match, when they can hype it to their heart’s content.
Still, these are circumstances which wouldn’t have arisen if we hadn’t played so poorly in the second half on Saturday. And as David Gray says, “drop a pebble in the water…”