How long before reality sets in at Molineux, and Wolverhampton Wanderers can finally be allowed to write this season off as a bad job?
With this team, on that pitch, is there anyone out there who seriously believes that Wolves are about to go storming through the Championship field like a prize sprinter let loose on the last lap of a marathon?
The most incurable of optimists will still point to last term?s classic example of Crystal Palace as an illustration of just what can be done.
But, by this same weekend a year ago, Iain Dowie?s side had already made their move and were up into ninth place, just two points off a play-off place. And two seasons ago, Wolves themselves, having come with a New Year burst of their own, were already in the play-off zone by the end of February.
This season?s damage has, let?s face it, already been done.
Wolves were in 17th place when Glenn Hoddle took over in early December.
Almost three months on, that?s precisely where they still stand, chiefly thanks to the fact that nine of his 12 league games in charge have ended in draws, six of them on this Molineux gluepot.
Watford manager Ray Lewington could only sit there and sympathise.
?I feel sorry for Glenn having to play on that every week,? said Lewington, after a game so awful that it warranted only ten seconds? worth of highlights on yesterday morning?s Championship highlights. ?As entertainment goes it was poor.
?Having walked it before the start, we knew how bad it was and we weren?t very pleased with it but we also knew it suited them less than us.
?The onus is always on the home team, we know the way Glenn wants to play and that he doesn?t want to bypass the midfield. And, with that pitch and a swirling win like we had out there, it makes it very difficult for them.?
Given that this was the clash of the Championship?s undoubted Treble Chance Titans (Wolves? 14 draws up against Watford?s 13), and that their last four meetings had all ended up stalemates, maybe it was inevitable that this one should end up allsquare too.
After a chorus of obvious crowd unrest the week before, the notoriously hard-toplease Molineux regulars at least observed Hoddle?s prematch wishes by not getting at their team. Not at first.
But, other than Wolves keeping a first clean sheet in 21 league matches, there was so very little for them to shout about.
A flurry of promising early crosses from b oth Wolves full-backs were all in vain, given Hoddle?s curious decision to leave his main target man Carl Cort on the bench. And, apart from a great tackle by Jay Demerit to deny Leon Clarke, sent clear by Kevin Cooper?s nod-on, Wolves? only worthwhile first-half effort was a lob just over from top scorer Kenny Miller.
Early in the second half, Hoddle chose to shake things up by bringing in Cort to play three up-front, with Colin
Cameron coming on to play just behind them in an even more attacking formation for the last ten minutes. But it had little positive effect.
Clarke?s one-two with Cort did set up Miller for a near-post chance which came at him at an awkward height and was stabbed just over. Then nobody got on Cort?s pull-back after a misjudgment by Jermaine Darlington, and skipper Paul Ince was just wide after a promising near-post run.
That gave Watford hope that they might sneak something, just as they had at then leaders Ipswich Town in midweek.
Wolves old boy Gavin Mahon had gone closest early in the second half with a leftfoot shot which hit the stanchion. But twice late on they almost stole three points, Mark Kennedy?s producing a great challenge to deny Danny Webber, and then Chris Eagles sending a freekick across the face of goal.
It was hardly a surprise that Wolves should get booed off at the end, by which time a small section of the frozen, fed- up crowd had also resorted to ironic chants of ?Blame the Fans!?
?To be fair to the fans,? said Hoddle, ?their reaction at the end was fair and justified by the way we finished the game.
?I don?t know what last week was about. We?re not blaming the fans. We just asked them to get behind us.
?I can?t control the fans. I can only control the team and the football that we play. And the way we finished disappointed me.
?We?ve proved we?re a team who can score late. I expected us to score late on again and that?s what most disappointed me.?
Wolves (4-4-2): Oakes; Edwards, Craddock, Lescott, Naylor; Cooper (Cort, 56), Ince, Andrews (Kennedy, 78), Seol (Cameron, 82); Miller, Clarke. Subs: Ikeme (gk), Olofinjana.
Watford (4-5-1): Lee; J Chambers, Cox, Demerit, Darlington; Eagles, Mahon, Blizzard, Jackson, Bouazza; Webber. Subs: Chamberlain (gk), Ardley, Dyer, Doyley, Young.
Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire).
Bookings: Wolves ? Edwards (foul); Watford ? Mahon (foul).
Wolves man of the match: Lee Naylor ? some encouraging bursts forward on the left flank.