Since Black Sunday, I've had a little time to calm down, put things in perspective and generally get over it (mostly). Reading back my post from Sunday evening I was absolutely raging (not without due cause), but in hindsight, it was quite possibly just a little bit much.
Of course, the blame must lay squarely with Kenta for his starting line up / tactics / substitutions and what was an absolutely abject performance. But in my eagerness to dismiss Jubilo as mere relegation fodder I was doing ourselves a disservice. There were bigger factors at play on Sunday.
On paper, Little Jubilo have a team more than capable of survival in J1. The inner turmoil at the Yamaha has provided plenty of laughs around Shizuoka over recent years, but it's masked their true potential: that of a solid lower-bottom half team capable of claiming the occasional big scalp.
The dwindling crowds (less than 9000 for a Saturday game? Ouch!) and general lack of interest at the Yamaha have in turn fostered a spirit of the underdog. The years of winning things are long past. The fans know it and the players know it. Playing to more than half empty stadiums has become a matter of course for Little Jubilo, and so when they face off against their prefectural big brothers in a David / Goliath style showdown, it's inevitable they will raise their game.
Hands up - we were caught with our pants down on Sunday and dealt a sucker punch in a classic tale of the underdog. We swaggered in expecting a walk in the park, and we met a team fired up for the game of their lives. It's no coincidence that Little Jubilo's only two league victories of their last ten games both came against us. The derby is their cup final, and we were had fair and square.
So, what can we take away from all this? Well, don't underestimate the little guy. It's easy to disregard those teams scrapping around at the foot of the table, but we have been given a stern lesson, and it's one we have to learn from. Well done to Iwata for a huge achievement - you're no doubt milking it, and you've every right to given what you achieved.
Weeeeeell, anyway, onwards and upwards! On Saturday we face perpetually unfashionable Kashiwa Reysol, in what is traditionally our lowest crowd of the season. Given we've already sold three thousand more tickets for this than the same fixture last year, that distinction will probably go to another team this time around. My money's on Yamagata.
In a week it's all off to Ecopa again. This time we're using it as a home ground for the first time in three years, and S-Pulse are eager to get as many there as possible. It's for the visit of Urawa, and let's face it, anything less than 20339 and we're going to be left looking rather stupid. Any more than 18500, however, and we'll have bettered what Little Jubilo could manage for the same game in the same stadium, but with the advantage of it not being an hour journey away.
We're handing out leaflets at stations (which I reckon they should do around Iwata station, but there you go) and inviting primary school kids for free and their parents at a discount, so we'll see. The club are clearly using this game as a conciousness building exercise in the west of the prefecture. The aim being to capture the casual, floating footy fan to the orange side of life, and maybe even convert some of the fans deserting Jubilo in droves.
This is all laudable, but the thing is, despite being on a national holiday (Showa Day) we're all back in work for Thursday. Will more people travel all the way out to Fukuroi than would have to Nihondaira? Fingers crossed, but I'm not holding my breath. Either way, three points would be nice!
I'm setting out an aim of at least eight points from our next four games. We face Kashiwa, Urawa, Hiroshima and Chiba. If we harbour ACL ambitions (and with just cause, we do) then that has to be our target. If we fail to hit that, then it may well be time to talk some more about our man at the helm.
Come on S-Pulse!!!
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