One of those ‘not sure why that was so good, but it really, really was’ kind of evenings. Still buzzing from it a couple of days later to be honest. There were a number of ‘why on earth are you going?’ questions that were thrown my way beforehand, but it was a bit like Saturday, in that I felt I really should be there.
No opportunity for #Coachwars, as there was just the one coach, although I did my best, with #coachwarssoundtracks bringing the best of a series of Desert Island Disc podcasts. Chris Hadfield, Kylie and an author, activist and feminist whose name escapes me all shared their life stories and their record collections, and the journey went quickly.
Hillsborough is a difficult place to watch football. As soon as you see the away end from the outside, it still looks exactly the same as it did in all those news reports from 1989. It’s eerie and I find it hard not to feel like some sort of tragedy voyeur if I spend too long outside there. I took a walk round to the memorial, which I always find a moving experience – this year, with our match being so close to an anniversary, and particularly with the jury currently being out, it felt doubly so. There were messages and flowers from some of the families, which I found difficult to read, so I made my way back to the ground.
We weren’t expecting many of our lot, and it felt a bit like an away match of old – I recognised pretty much every one of the 185 of us who made the trip, and there was just a good feeling about it. We know we’re down (unless something ridiculous happens repeatedly over the next few weeks, but more of that later) and everyone just seemed happy to enjoy the ride while we’re still in the championship.
So we’re relying on a miracle if we’re going to stay up, we rarely score (to be honest at the moment, we rarely shoot), our main goalie is out for the rest of the season, our number two goalie is suspended and we’ve got our academy goalie Charlie Burns making his full debut. Our most consistent defender is on 14 yellows so one more will see him out for the rest of the season. We’re playing a team who have resources that simply are in a different league to us, and who are in the playoff spots. What could possibly go wrong?
Well to be honest, it went rather well, all things considered. Charlie did himself proud, making some good saves throughout the game. Wednesday hit the woodwork about a hundred times, and didn’t seem to have their shooting boots with them when they managed to get into good positions. Wednesday went down to ten men after one of their lot decided to literally kick Johnny Williams up in the air while the ref was busy booking one of their lot for diving (harshly I’ve heard since). Johnny Williams got assaulted by one of their supporters when he got substituted, Robbo intervened to protect him, and all the while, the Wednesday players, bench and fans were getting more and more hot and bothered.
The crowd were getting on their backs, and were we even remotely threatening as a football team at the moment, we’d probably have gone on to win it. Sadly that wasn’t to be, but we knew that a draw would be enough to keep us clinging on for four more days, and cling on we did.
What made the evening so special for me was that we felt united as a fanbase. We were all in it together, we all sang together, we all laughed together and we generally all had a great time together – none of the frustrations and annoyances that have been part of other away trips this season were there, and it felt great to be there together. Thanks everyone.
Come the final whistle, as the other scores came in, it became clear that everyone else had drawn too. That meant that Charlton were relegated, we were still nine points behind the three teams above us, but interestingly, Bristol City had dropped back into fourth from bottom.
Odd as it may seem, there’s still a chance for us to stay up. If we win our remaining three games, and Bristol City lose their remaining three games, we will stay up. While I could easily see Bristol City losing their remaining three games, I really can’t see us winning ours, so it’s not going to happen, but it keeps it alive for one more game. If we win on Saturday and any of the other four lose, then we’re still clinging on, but the Bristol City goal difference means that it really has to be them.