If you think the end to this season has been an unusual wheeze, wait until you see what our little lot will come up with in the play-offs. Yes, these are certain to be tight games due to the matchstick-thin inconsistencies dividing whichever teams pinball their way into the final four, and yes, I’m a man whose level of pessimism has been dwarfed only by the size of my conker for much of it. But there’s been an unnerving lack of missed penalties and self-implosion amid the Mediterranean ranks since the Palace game, and you can’t help feeling that, like some Russian oligarch feigning poverty in front of a sad-eyed tramp begging kindness from his wedge-stuffed pockets, we might unleash our collective innards in unkindly dramatic fashion.
Can you imagine what the home game is going to be like, assuming we aren’t 4-0 down already? Gus will be a study in statuesque determination. The hoards will be Instagramming Falmer into a different hue. Richard Reynolds will send dogs howling with what is certain to be his final, most mic-rattling imploration of the term. Paul Samrah will probably monotone something inadvisably partisan should we score any important goals. On a personal level, after tearing a strip off the top of my mouth which left me unable to swallow comfortably for several days by nailing a bottle of red wine in a botched attempt to quell my astonishment at reaching the semis, I’m going to try not to drink. Not such a big deal if you’re only abstaining from the piss-like cider and starchy lager served at our beloved home, but less easy given the chance to sneak a large hipflask of whisky in, with its soothing mid-match potential should things get dicey and, historically, its certainty of good luck, having previously seen action for the Southampton and most recent Palace games.
And who do we want? Hull’s promotion dodges a game they wouldn’t have fancied but we would. Watford murdered us with the clinical coldness of experienced stranglers, but that might strengthen our resolve. Forest and Leicester are both full of marauding cavemen, so we’d have to hope our nimble speed of feet and thought would win both or either days. A Palace game, with all its embellished psychological weirdness courtesy of this season, would be, were its level of predictability personified, the equivalent of an evening with the notoriously erratic singer Mark E Smith, of The Fall and general alcoholism fame.
All you can do, of course, is try to enjoy these occasions – absorb them, make their memory savourable, just don’t torture yourself, especially if it all goes awry. Nothing should turn to sour a season of unsickly sweetness.