It probably seems like a rather farfetched April Fool's joke today to hear Glenn Hoddle still backing his Wolverhampton Wanderers team to win promotion.
But there comes a time in any season when even a man of Hoddle's faith finally has to concede that mere hope is not enough. And, although his side have lost just once in 17 league matches since he took charge in December, the Wolves manager has finally recognised that draws are no good any more if they are to somehow sneak into the Championship play-offs.
When they resume at Elland Road tomorrow after the latest long international break against fellow play-off outsiders Leeds United, a Wolves team who have drawn 12 times in 17 league games have to start winning.
Wolves are still nine points adrift of the play-off pack as a result of their failure to beat Stoke City on their last outing 13 days ago. And, of the seven games Wolves have left, Hoddle has set his side the challenge of winning six of them.
The first part of the equation is to really sound the trumpets by winning the next three . . . Leeds, Leicester City (also away, next Tuesday night) and then the following Monday night's live TV clash with automatic promotion contenders Ipswich Town.
As tall orders go, this one's skyscraper size.
If Wolves lose these next two, and results elsewhere don't go for them, the mathematical impossibility of promotion could arrive as quickly as Saturday week. But Hoddle, who is still offering no clues as to what his own future has in store next season, is far from ready to throw in the towel.
"We're not out of sight," he said. "We're still in sight as long as it is mathematically possible.
"We won't give up the ghost, that's for sure.
"If we lose the next two,
then we won't have any hope. But, if we do manage to get six points out of six, then the momentum would take us into the Ipswich game which would then become a massive game.
"And it's no bad thing that, if it does go to the wire, our final two are against two teams who look like they are going to be up there, Reading and Sheffield United, and it might then be in our own hands in what would then be two six-pointers.
"All I keep thinking is that sixth spot is looking a very elusive one. Reading have won just twice in 14 games and are still there in there. You scratch your head as to how that's worked out like that but the fact is that's the spot we've got to keep on aiming at.
"But first we've got to make sure we win the next three games as, if we don't win the next three, then it's going to be very difficult to put ourselves even in that position."
Much depends on the fitness of Seol Ki-Hyeon before Hoddle selects his side for thr trip to Leeds.
The Korean front man was due to fly back to England last night following a chaotic week of international football that saw him turn out for his country in Saudi Arabia last weekend before taking on Uzbekistan in Seoul in midweek.
Hoddle needs to check chiefly on his state of mind and body, as well as that of full-back Rob Edwards, part of the Wales squad who suffered such a heart-breaking last-minute defeat to Austria in Vienna.
Apart from that, with season-long absentee Vio Ganea starting to edge closer to a first-team return, Hoddle's only worry is Mark Clyde, who has suffered a slight relapse in his bid to recovery from the knee injury that caused him to miss Northern Ireland's game with England at Old Trafford last weekend. n Top scorer Paul Furlong is expected to sign a new twoyear contract with Queens Park Rangers next week.
The 36-year-old has hit 17 goals so far in an impressive season.