It’s very strange supporting Blackburn Rovers at the moment.
For years, we have been beaten down into the dust, slipping further and further from the glory days not merely of winning the Premier League but of playing as a competitive top division team and regularly upsetting the big guns.
Indeed, it was beginning to feel like a long time since we’d even won a few games on the bounce.
Now, 18 games unbeaten and pushing hard for promotion, I’m sure I’m alone in struggling to recognise this feeling of cautious optimism and excitement.
But I’m enjoying every minute.
For the first time in my lifetime, Blackburn Rovers will kick off the new season on Saturday in the doldrums of League One with, all due respect, the likes of Rochdale, Plymouth and Fleetwood.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Sure, I’m imbued with the same old start-of-season optimism that all football fans have before the leaves start to fall and the grim reality of a season of struggle begins to set in. (Make that ten past 3 on Saturday then).
But, for all that following Rovers is both a delight and a nightmare, there is some cause for cautious optimism.
Here are my reasons to be cheerful/reasons to be churlish…
Amidst the turmoil of the past seven days (make that seven years) at Blackburn Rovers, one thing is for absolute certain.
Tonight’s game at Burton Albion is a must-win.
Yes, we may have two games at hand but they’re six points ahead of us and I don’t really relying on travelling down to Fulham or entertaining Derby expecting two wins.
With a new manager in the dugout – Owen Coyle was the wrong choice from the start – there may be a bit of optimism amongst those of us travelling down to the Midlands this evening.
And if it’s Friday inspiration Rovers need, look no further than sixteen years ago and a trip down the road to the Reebok Stadium.
Harry has just started a Baby Sensory class with my wife on a day when Sophie is at nursery.
Run by an old friend of ours, Rachel, Hartbeeps has been a great experience for him (and my wife), especially if the array of outfits, comedy headgear and smiling photographs is anything to go by.
I’ve not been yet but my sole experience of Baby Sensory – or Toddler Sensory more like – was at a third birthday party of Sophie’s nursery friend recently.
Watching Portugal hold the Euro 2016 trophy aloft last night, I was struck by the thought of what might have been.
A committed, rugged and determined team, sprinkled with a touch of stardust outfought their more illustrious hosts and scored a stunning goal to clinch the title.
But, unfortunately, where was the Rovers connection?
As a Blackburn Rovers fan, I’ve got used to losing derby matches.
This season, I’ve watched on as Burnley twice beat Rovers, both times after being outplayed.
I also saw the shambles at the Macron straight after Christmas when a much fresher Rovers team were destroyed by a hungrier and, on that evidence better, Bolton side.
Look how that one turned out.
And yet, with Rovers pressing the self-destruct button to lose 2-1 at home to neighbours Preston North End today, for me, it’s the most painful derby defeat of the season.
Rovers have been busy in the transfer market today, securing a double deal of Premier League cast-offs.
The performances had got progressively worse – saying something! – and they are slipping dangerously close to the bottom three.
With that appalling run of no wins in six and only one goal scored (before the FA Cup on Monday) something had to give.
And besides, with Paul Lambert getting his first chance to change the outlook of the squad, the stakes are high to try and turn around Rovers’ form.
Rovers head to Leeds tonight looking to continue their excellent recent results against their Yorkshire rivals but off the back of a hugely frustrating defeat to Burnley at the weekend.
And with it being on Sky yet again, I’m not exactly feeling confident.
Our resident pundit has dusted down her microphone and made her predictions for the new football season.
(Yes, I know it’s ten days late, but that’s her dad’s fault, don’t blame Sophie!)
My wife noted the other other day that Sophie had a talent for turning Match of the Day on. And quite rightly I’m proud of my daughter for that!
Unfortunately though, after last nights results, Sophie and I won’t be watching the Premier League with anything other than a mild interest after Blackburn Rovers’ fourth season in the Championship was mathematically ensured.