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Let Me Out Of Here
By: Dave Laister
TWO successive relegations and being eclipsed by every team within a 75-mile radius hits even the most loyal of fans at some point.
Telegraph news editor and former Boy About Town David Laister felt it most this weekend - when he found himself humming along to Slade's Merry Christmas rather than cheering on Russell's boys. Here's his take on the lack of park life.
It First started to dawn on me at about 9.30pm on Friday night. The adverts were on during 'Celebrity' and I started to flick about with the remote.
Scunthorpe United 2 Wrexham 0, live on Sky. FA Cup third round place guaranteed, top of Division Four (yes Division Four) and later to draw Chelsea, the dream ticket, what a Christmas present.
And what are my team, formerly known as the Mighty Mariners doing?
We had a weekend off. We're bottom of the regional pile and there's not a great deal to look forward to unless we put a decent run together very soon.
Two years ago we occasionally had weekends off because we played teams who couldn't get their first 11 out due to international call-ups. We didn't have to think about the FA Cup until we'd seen the turkey off and Scunthorpe and Hull were teams we graced with a pre-season friendly.
But no, we had a week off because we weren't good enough to beat non-league Exeter, missing out on a positively mouth-watering home tie with Doncaster.
The same Doncaster that, while we were playing Wolves, Portsmouth and Nottingham Forest little more than 18 months ago, were entertaining Forest Green, Hereford and Scarborough.
Bizarre how your enthusiasm changes, still managing to look at the glass like it is half full.
So there we go, FA Cup second round weekend and Blundell Park was probably getting more visitors Christmas shopping at the club store than buying tickets for future matches.
The words salt and wounds spring to mind now as the Grecians head for Old Trafford for a third round tie.
I've spent 18 years waiting for that number to come out of the hat for Town - it will probably be just as long again now.
With only the league to focus on now, thanks to another defeat to a Conference side in the league cup - should that be possible? - our thin squad should be able to cope with what faces it ahead, provided the indiscipline can be sorted out.
I'm still baffled as to how we're so low in the table with the players we've got and the standard of the early season performances, but while lady luck has lost her directions to Cleethorpes, we're running out of people to blame for our current predicament.
I still read ITV digital when it comes to picking the bones out of where we find ourselves financially.
Brighton, Rotherham and Crewe must have found the wishbone.
For years we punched above our weight, but now we're acting like the guy at the Christmas party who is out of his face by 9pm - and I'm not enjoying the hangover.
Yes, we're competing with teams who never had the riches of television - clubs used to operating with pennies rather pots of pounds - but listen to other managers in the league talk up our team as they prepare to face us.
Losing to Scunthorpe wasn't the worst thing about the 'big derby' last month.
The fact we were playing them in front of 8,000 rather than Sheffield United before 25,000 may have been part of it - but the worst aspect was how professional they were, and how amateur they made us look.
Without amazing flare or technical ability, they made sure we were third best on the field - yes I'm putting the officials above us, and we all know what we thought of them.
Taking John McDermott and Stacy Coldicott off - the two players who knew what the game meant better than anyone else - was just salt in the, by then, gaping wounds.
Town's confidence took a knock, and I can't argue that. It is a key part in any sport - look at Arsenal stumbling now they've finally lost a game.
Somehow you just know they'll finish top three come May.
Where and what will happen to Town I wait to see.
We're safe for another 12 months according to the moneymen - great.
But that looks ever increasingly like another in this division - only without the possible glamour of playing Lincoln and our friends at Glanford Park, as both look to be heading the right way out of the division.
Forget Hull City. I'd be surprised if I live to see Town above them in a league again - and I'm only 25.
So as I dragged my feet around Freshney Place - just about when the second half would have kicked off if Town had been playing - I felt like going to see Santa to tell him what I wanted for Christmas.
My wish? Three points at Sincil Bank on December 29 from a team prepared to really dig in and play like the fans want them to.
And let's have a second half of the season that at least gives us a fighting chance of a play-off spot to aim for.
Christmas past for me was a glorious Boxing Day win at Derby.
Christmas Present would be Town to beat City and restore some local bragging rights.
Christmas future? Let's hope it is a merry one. Because if Scunthorpe and Lincoln do go up, Phil Jevons finishes on 20-something goals and Hull City play Blackburn Rovers next year, I might just make Scrooge look cheerful.
And as for the shopping - I'm a Town fan, keep me out of there???
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