Tonight – in a few hours actually – we’re playing Hamilton. At stake is a place in the UEFA half of fame, believe it or not. It gets us onto their prestigious list of the longest unbeaten run in league matches. We’re currently sitting at 54. Win or draw tonight and we’re on the scoreboard. We’ll still be some ways away from the Willie Maley record in this regard – those famous 62 games unbeaten were in the league – but we’re creeping up on it.
They are at number four on the list, by the way.
The world record is 104 at Steaua Bucharest. We’ll all have heart attacks if this run goes on that long; that’s nearly three domestic league campaigns. But all the teams above us, until we get to Maley’s, are catchable. Beyond that, one more game will put us above Sherriff in third place and after that are our old friends at Lincoln Red Imps with 88.
It’s hard to keep this kind of form going. We will need to utilise the squad we have to the fullest. We will need to rotate it, and live with the negative headlines about unsettled players and people speculating on whether someone being left out of a team means they are going to Accrington Stanley in the next transfer window.
The players seem tired. They also seem pressured, as if this is starting to weigh on their minds. That’s why it was good to see Brendan telling them to drop the bag of bricks and forget it when they go out onto the park. Take each game as it comes. It’s how those bricks built the Great Wall of China; one at a time. And you can still see it from space.
It’s tough at the top. Everyone knows it.
The good news is, those clubs behind us – the chasing pack, haha – don’t have it any easier. None realistically believes they can catch us, but the pressure they are all under just to keep up appearances has to be severe. It is especially acute at Pittodrie and Ibrox. Those clubs both face difficult away games tonight. Failure is not an option.
Hibs are in the mix too; a mere three points is all that separates them from Sevco and Aberdeen. Something has to give tonight at Easter Road, when Norman Bates FC rolls into town, still without a manager. Sevco needs to win to keep up the pressure on the Dons. If Hibs win and Aberdeen secure three points that pressure all gets turned around.
Aberdeen emerged from the McInnes thing looking pretty good, aside from all the dropped points during that spell. They need to put meat on the table, or their fans are going to wonder if it was worth hanging onto the manager at all.
Murty and his club are one bad result from meltdown. It doesn’t matter that it’s wholly ridiculous for them to be putting themselves in this position; the reality of it is all that matters now. Every negative score line from now until they appoint a new boss will be blamed on their board. They were seven minutes away from dire headlines and mayhem in the stands on Saturday; if they lose tonight there will be all kind of Hell to pay.
Europe is all-important here, for all concerned.
Remember, the top team goes through to the Champions League. Slots two and three in the SPL go to the Europa. The Scottish Cup provides one other route into continental competition unless, as I would think most of expect, it’s won by Celtic or one of the other sides in the top three, in which case the fourth placed team has it.
Put simply, a fourth place finish in the SPL might or might not be enough to make it, and when your club is already one step shy of chasing Wonga loans you don’t want to be sweating it. Besides, fourth place? Sevco fans will burn the stadium down if they finish there.
Pressure then … it’s everywhere tonight. There’s pressure on us. But only to keep up a miraculous run of games unbeaten. There’s pressure on Hibs, but less so because they’re a newly promoted team that’s having an exceptional campaign thus far. There’s pressure on Aberdeen and on McInnes, because form last month and earlier this one was atrocious and his saving grace was the alibi of Ibrox speculation. There are no alibis tonight.
And there’s pressure on Sevco. The kind that splits skulls apart. The last place they wanted to be going was Easter Road, where Lenny will have his players fired up for the occasion. If he secures his second win over them in this campaign that’ll be the spark that turns simmering anger into a raging inferno. I wouldn’t even dare predict how it’ll turn out.
(5-0 Celtic, 2-1 Hibs! Aberdeen is anyone’s guess. Just don’t put money on it!)