I’ve been sat, staring out of my window wondering how to start this piece. Where do you possibly begin?
Yesterday felt a bit like Christmas as a kid. You ask for a bike, way back in the summer. For the rest of the year, you think you’re getting a bike. You’re not told you’re definitely getting one and every so often you wonder if perhaps your parents might have forgotten and you’ll get clothes or something instead.
Then, on Christmas morning, you see a bike shaped gift near the tree. Even then you wonder, is it something else? Is it a bike-shaped chocolate, or some other cruel joke being played by your parents? Finally, after all the anticipation, you unwrap a bike and even though you knew all along, you still cry your eyes out with joy.
Yesterday, we got our bike.
The weekend started badly for me. After being on the radio with Rob Makepeace, I went home and felt like I’d had the stuffing kicked out of me. I slept from 8pm until 11.30am, and by slept I mean tossed, turned, sweated, coughed and dreamed of going up. It was an uncomfortable night punctuated by my partner saying things like ‘are you sure you should go tomorrow?’. She knew that was futile.
Even my Dad text and said; ‘if you’re that bad maybe you shouldn’t go’. Give over.
A message from Val, the final proof reader of my book, sparked me into life. She’s finished and now all that’s needed is for me to put it together and get promoting. It felt quite important to have the story finally complete on this day, almost prophetic.
I was much later into town than usual, forced into paying £8.50 for parking and even then felt badly, but not long after arriving at the ground, I began to forget. There was an air of something, not particularly anticipation, nor expectation, but a subdued excitement maybe. The inevitable is, by definition, always going to happen, but never have we been arrogant about it. Waiting for it isn’t easy and I sensed people were supressing their delight. The excellent tunes being played by the Gazelles helped settled a few pre-match nerves, that’s for sure.
Even yesterday, surrounded by the usual suspects in the fan zone, there was no preempting the events that followed. I don’t usually name the people I chat to before the game, but yesterday there was a steady stream of faces that have punctuated my Imps support this season. Skip this bit if you’re not interested and sorry if I miss anyone out, but I caught up with Wayne and Fred Raithby, Jimmy Atkin and James Cairns, Terry Ramm, Gareth Virgo, Ben and Rachel Ward, ‘Tang’ as I know him on Twitter, Bubs, Shaun and Charlie, Chris Cawthorn, obviously Dad and Mo, Andy Pearson, a chap who we see home and away in the smoking area and have done for years who I believe is called Andrew who looks a bit like Smithers from the Simpsons and a host of other people I class as good friends and will feel bad that I’ve missed out of the list. We all felt the same.
The trouble with football is you can’t predetermined the outcome of a game, unless you’re Delroy Facey of course.
It was a perfect day for football and the weather presented a nice metaphor too. In the sunshine, it was warm and summer-like, but as soon as you stepped into the shade it was bitterly cold. Get the result we needed and it would be party in the sun. Fail, and even though we’d still be favourites the last knockings of winter would pay us another visit.
I’m always looking for patterns in football, always. When we changed ends I noted it was the same set up as when we beat Wycombe in ’88 and Macclesfield in ’17. Cheltenham were the side we watched lift the National League title in the last game ‘BC’ (before Cowley) and something about them being visitors again caught me too.
Even the appearance of Mr Lincoln City, the legend that is Grant Brown, felt important. He played the day we last earned the right to compete in the third-tier and as he took the deserved applause and his place in the Hall of Fame, thoughts inevitably went back to that day against Brighton. The scene was set.
The trouble with football is you can’t predetermined the outcome of a game, unless you’re Delroy Facey of course. Cheltenham, literally the supporting cast, the uncredited walk-on part in the blockbuster of our promotion, hadn’t read the script. All the people predicting 3-0 (Dad, as always) or a walkover were grossly under-estimating the excellent job Michael Duff is doing there. even without Luke Varney, they weren’t going to roll over and have their belly tickled.