What's the best thing that's happened to Omiya Ardija in recent weeks? Well, obviously supporters will need to look hard for anything positive to take from the team's results of late, but the reappearance in the starting line-up of Chikara Fujimoto must provide a glimmer of hope to those Squirrels fans despairing of Toshiya Miura's team ever winning another game ever again.
Regular readers of GGOA will perhaps be somewhat taken aback by this unexpected burst of something akin to optimism on these pages; nevertheless, if there is any single member of the current squad who can change the course of the season and navigate a way out of the maze of poor results and even poorer performances, it is surely Cheeky Chikara.
This is a team crying out for both creativity and leadership, and while Daigo Kobayashi's inevitable mid-season slump in form would appear to have bottomed out, the young star himself acknowledges that he does not particularly relish the idea of being someone who takes charge of his colleagues and provides them with on-field advice or encouragement. Hayato Hashimoto might conceivably fit the bill, but while gifted he undoubtedly lacks experience and is unfortunate to find himself behind Fujimoto in the queue for a first team place; Kota Yoshihara's season has been one long frustration and Naoto Sakurai is simply too injury prone.
So the responsibility, beginning with Saturday's match at JEF United, falls to Chikara to pull his team-mates together, to keep communicating, to provide an attacking outlet that will engage the predicted strike duo of Daigo Kobayashi and Alison - and perhaps to show that flash of inspiration that has been absent for such a long period.
And there is a precedent. Almost exactly a year ago, after seven consecutive defeats Omiya faced yet another must-win game as they struggled desperately to avoid making the drop straight back to J2. Ironically, the bald figure of one Yukio Tsuchiya powered Kashiwa Reysol into an early lead and it looked for all the world as if the Squirrels were unable to prevent one of their closest rivals from stealing a vital three points in the relegation battle.
But while it would be churlish not to mention Tuto's neat finish that drew the teams level just a few minutes later, the key event of the match and arguably the turning point in the club's whole season was Fujimoto's exquisitely chipped winning goal mid-way through the first half.
It was a moment of superb skill that brought a sense of belief flooding back into a group of footballers who had played the underdog card a little too far into their debut J1 campaign, had eventually been found out by better teams, but had just in time realised that they possessed the tenacity and enough quality to fight their way out of trouble. Ardija went on to beat Kashiwa and then to win their next three matches in a dramatic turnaround. Now, as the 2006 season approaches its final stages and with the Squirrels up against it once again, the boys in orange need a spark. Chikara - it's up to you.