Harty on the Albion and Hillsborough

WELL, there possibly goes my career as a pundit!

Jake Forster-Caskey scores in Albion's 3-0 win against Charlton
Jake Forster-Caskey scores in Albion's 3-0 win against Charlton

From being all but down and out a few weeks ago and having written this season off, a series of results in the Championship now finds the Albion again on the cusp of play-off qualification, with 360 minutes of scheduled football left.

It does highlight both the unpredictability of the Championship and also the Albion’s own inconsistencies. But, as the only team to do the double over champions-elect Leicester City, scoring seven goals in the process, it shows that if the Albion want to do it, on their day, they can.

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With the welcome return of Craig Mackail-Smith to the squad, a striker with a proven track record at this level, my only nagging worry is that people are now backing us as the form team to watch.

This season has so many twists and turns. It’s clear that it’s still not run its course and there are no questions that from all the main contenders for those remaining two play-off spots, there will be an unexpected result.

It puts me in mind of the 1980-81 season, although the Albion were at the other end of the then first division – for anyone under 30, that’s now the Premier League.

On Easter Saturday, the Albion travelled to Selhurst Park, Shakin’ Stevens was number one with ‘This Ole House’ and the Brixton riots were in full flow.

From looking all but down, out and ultimately relegated, the Albion smashed Palace 3-0, before recording wins against Leicester, Sunderland and Leeds to stay up on the last day.

This time, wins against Huddersfield, Blackpool, Yeovil and Forest will get the Albion into the play-offs. And, then, on the back of six straight wins, they become the form team going into the four-club knock-out.

To reiterate from a couple of weeks ago, I’m not in the ‘Oscar out’ faction. But, with Hull City now looking forward to a FA Cup final in May, I and thousands of others, still haven’t quite forgiven him for the schoolboy error over the goalkeeping selection policy in the cup.

Yet, come the final whistle at Forest with play-off qualification guaranteed, that will become a dim and distant memory.

The other factor is, for all the respect I had and still, to a degree, have for Gus Poyet, if we do make it, this time there will be no off-the-field hissy fitting and, ultimately, suicidal team selections and tactics.

It’s certainly never dull...

I felt a sense of aging this week, with the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

I was watching the Albion at Leeds United that day, with friends Cliff Allen, Nigel Erskine and Larry Hebert, and ironically and sadly on the actual day this week, we bade farewell to Larry at Worthing Crematorium.

A quarter of a century on, I’m not sure the whole truth will ever come out.

The fans who did all the right things and got to the ground in plenty of time ended up paying the ultimate price.

And, for all the good things she did, if Mrs Thatcher needed something covering up, it usually happened.

However, the bottom line is the fight by the families of the 96 victims must go on. No one, whatever team they support, should go to a game of football and not come home.