It’s been over 48 hours since I last penned anything for the site. For those who don’t know, I now work with the Priory Academies delivering alternative media content on a Friday afternoon and that, coupled with yesterday’s game, kept me off the computer.
When I got home last night, despite having witnessed a Lincoln City team lift the first Football League title in 43 years, despite having been able to sing ‘Champions’, or whatever Spanish sounding equivilant we felt was required, I was still seething with anger. Football, it’s a funny old game, isn’t it? I poured myself a glass of Pepsi Max Cherry and watched the first series of Line of Duty. That’s rock and roll for you right there.
There should have been a carnival atmosphere. The final day of the season should have brought sunshine, singing and celebration. In the main, that was the case I guess. To soak up the atmosphere Dad and I went not just in our usual Wetherspoons haunt, but also the Golden Cross before heading to the ground. Having seen a planning application to turn it into flats had been turned down, we both felt we wanted to show solidarity to a good, traditional English boozer.
Once we hit the fan zone there was an air of celebration, but the intermittent showers seemed to dampen any atmosphere. I envisaged sunshine, singing and celebration and got showers and subdued joy. Of course, there were the really touching moment I shared with people. Andy Townsend almost had me in tears; here’s a man who has followed the Imps since the day he slipped out of the womb and when he sees what’s happening he, like me, thinks of ghosts of fans who can’t be with us.
Weather aside, it was a nice morning. No pressure, no need for a win and eyes on everywhere else. So many people said the result didn’t matter and although I said on the podcast it did, I wasn’t worried like most home matches. Despite the rain, I enjoyed the morning. I liked the celebratory programme, the gold cover and the names of fans who had passed inside. I bought a ‘champions’ scarf from the club shop, turned my nose up at the groups hawking their illegitimate wares in the High Street and gave faces I’ve been seeing for years hugs, handshakes or whatever else was appropriate.
Heading into the ground it began to feel really special, the 617’s display always adds something to the incredible atmosphere and when Chris Wray, who I’m sure was worse for wear, came and gave me a hug, I found that celebration within me. Having not partaken of alcohol I enjoyed it all with clarity, but also with restraint. Since I’ve no been drinking at game I’ve found myself a little more grounded, perhaps that’s my personality as much as anything.
The teams came out, the guard of honour was formed and the display cards went up. This was it; the champions were here. This was our time, our Doncaster ’76, our lifetime memories. Whatever happened for 90 minutes, we were about to witness the sort of history nobody could ever take away from us.
We certainly witnesses something in the 45 minutes, perhaps it was history. I certainly won’t forget it!
For the first fifteen minutes I thought we looked the better side. They’d come to attack us and that left gaps we could expose. It had the makings of a great encounter, especially with them needing something from it. Trevor Kettle, a referee I usually associate with over-zealousness, had a calming influence on a game that threatened to boil over. He could have sent one of their lads off early on, two bad challenges in succession gave him a decision to make; he made the right one and kept it as eleven against eleven.
Slowly but surely their urgency began to show and their skill players got on the ball. Sammie Szmodics is one I’ve talked about before and naturally, he impressed me. I really liked Courtney Senior as well, he was tricky and direct whenever he had the ball. They began to get a bit of possession and I nipped down to the loo with the scores 0-0.
By the time I got back, it was 1-0, I took my seat to see a Neal Eardley free-kick zip over before it was quickly 2-0. The following 20 minutes could have seen them go in 5-0 up at half time as we fumbled our way through 25 minutes of misplaced passes, bad decisions and ineptitude. It was the worst period of football I’ve seen from this side, worse than when we lost 4-1 to Crewe and definitely worse than anything we’ve seen this season.
Danny talks about not reaching our levels, we didn’t reach Notts County’s levels yesterday. Hell, we didn’t reach the levels my eight-year-old nephew reaches when he lines up against me on FIFA.
25 minutes of truly terrible football from a team who won the league three matches ago, earned promotion five matches ago and have been top of the pile almost all of the season. A team with the highest number of their players voted into the Team of the Year by their peers, a team winning their third trophy in as many seasons and lifting a Football League title for the first time in 43 years and only the second time in 66 years.
As they trooped off the field, they were booed.
I don’t know what your experience was. I don’t know if you heard the booing, but there was plenty around me. It wasn’t everyone, not by a long shot, but for a few seconds it was the loudest noise I could hear. I did also hear someone kicking off about it as well, which pleased me. Elsewhere in the Coop one of what I refer to as ‘the Market Rasen lot’ heard booing and ended up almost coming to blows with one ‘supporter’ who allegedly asked ‘what are you going to do about it?’ when taken to task.
The football had been poor, no denying that. I heard plenty about the home form being awful since Christmas too, but it’s not so awful we dropped off the top spot is it? I heard people complaining they drive long distances and deserve better football. Here’s an idea…. stop coming. I know of several die-hard Imps, unable to afford a season ticket who didn’t get one yesterday.
My fanzine seller, Mike Downs, couldn’t get an ST as he was travelling round Australia for half the season. he turned up yesterday, sold the fanzine and then waited outside the ground, hoping to get in at the end to see the presentation. He wouldn’t have booed and, in my opinion, he deserved to see it more than idiots who booed.
I even heard of fans walking out at half time.
Not only that, but the 617s display paper began to get thrown onto the pitch, the club had to ask fans to stop, but I watched it carrying on. The referee couldn’t deduct points from the club, but he could have stopped the game and it could have cost us, yet I watched kids (some being allowed by the parents) keep doing it after the game kicked off. Again, is this what we attract now? A petulant defiance? Do you think the 617, their volunteers and organisers will be allowed to do another display after that? It left me feeling really jaded at half time, not just because of the result by the realisation that 45 minutes had turned some of the 9,800 crowd inter what I tend to term as utter morons.