Imagine, kicking off a season in August, battling against opponents, referees, weather, injuries and everything else a season throws at you.
Missing chances to win games, snatching three points in games where you barely deserve one. Players coming in, players leaving, uncertainty, speculation and transfer window madness. There’s been cup distractions, heroes made and villains revealed and all of it, the whole melting pot of emotion, passion and despair comes down to one 90 minute game in the warm May evening sun.
It is both the inherent beauty of the play offs and their down fall too. They create these huge matches which in this instance only 350 of our fans can watch live, but it’s such a pressure cooker atmosphere that one slip, one mistake can break a whole season. I say ‘break’, we never expected back to back promotions, nor a Wembley appearance, so a slip tonight doesn’t break a season at all. Our season has been tremendous and tonight, the ride can be extended for one more game. If not, nobody can look back and call 2017/18 a failure and, if they do, they need to take a long hard look at themselves.
I always laugh when people say ‘what if we’d beaten Morecambe’, or ‘if only we’d been more clinical’, or even ‘if Billy hadn’t been sent off at County’. Those people are the glass half empty fans and occasionally, I’m one of them. What we should be thinking is: what if Raggs hadn’t met JMD’s corner away at Swindon? What if Luke hadn’t headed that magnificent winner against Colchester? What if Stockbridge hadn’t sent Rawson off for Accrington against us in December?
The season isn’t ever defined during a single one those 46 games, not when you finish top seven. However tonight, we might well have one of those questions seemingly defining our whole campaign, but if we do, it has to be taken in context of the season. If Matt Green misses a sitter, if Neal Eardley loses his winger, if the referee throws a red card at Bozzie, we have to take it in context. No one moment changes a season and we have had enough to control to finish outside the top seven and be sat at home doing nothing tonight.
There’s no pre-match analysis of any value to be done. We know Exeter, this is our fourth clash and the third in two months so there’s no secret weapon, no big surprises. It is two equally matched teams going at each other one last time for the right to travel to Wembley. I’ve said if we stop Stockley, we stop Exeter, but I think if we stop Boateng we’ll be half way there. They know we’ll be trying to hit Rhead and they’ll try to deal with that. It could well be decided by a penalty or penalties, if it is then so be it. Past meetings, shots on target, all that jazz is irrelevant. It’s a cup final and the only form that matters is the form we show on the pitch tonight.
It’s a tough evening for me, as you know I could have been at the Alexandra Palace as a finalist in the Football Blogging Awards. It’s incredibly hard knowing I’m in the final ten once again in an event which is the ‘Oscars’ of the online content creation world, but won’t be there to see the ceremony. One-time Imps fanzine editor Darren Bugg has kindly agreed to represent me in London, he was one of the earliest Lincoln City fanzine editors when he brought out The Banker and it seems fitting that someone who started to create content thirty years ago is there this evening flying our flag. He’s also the NewsHound who has put up several Imps videos this season and he’ll be representing me, he’ll be representing us, the Stacey West. This site isn’t just me, it’s all my contributors and most importantly, it is all of the readers too.
I would desperately love to win the award, either the judges award or the voted award, but just being in the final ten once again is incredible. Running this site isn’t easy (especially not these last few weeks), creating content on a daily basis is challenging, especially content you want to read and interact with. I don’t ever expect people to agree with what I write all the time, but I do hope to engage you, to entertain you and to get you arguing over pints in pubs or in your living rooms. Whatever the outcome, thank you for voting me to the final ten.
May 17th, 2018. A date where all of my dreams could come true, a proper national award recognising my writing and a place in the Wembley play offs, or a day that could close with us apparently achieving nothing at all. Even if it is nothing at all, you and I must remember that to even be in this position, semi-finals and finalist on the awards, is a tremendous honour and achievement. To end the day with nothing is not failure, it is not disappointment, it is the end of a chapter and the culmination of real achievement. The next chapter will start the day after and if I’m not mistaken, every chapter recently has been as good as the last. Remember that, whatever the outcome.
Now, go out and give it your all City, you’ve already done us proud but I would never, ever bet against you doing it again and again.
I’ll leave you with this song because it truly is a time for heroes. Whether they’re on the pitch, or you lot with your voting, Mickey Hines in the medical room or any one connected with the club or this site. It’s Mid May Mayhem in my household and I’m pumped up on adrenalin and passion (as well as diazepam and insane amounts of tramadol).
Wherever you are, enjoy today. It’s what life is all about.