We were on a journey, weren’t we? Turning up at Premier League grounds in our thousands and winning. Wembley appearances and league titles. All in it together, with us the supporters a powerful and appreciated force, driving the team on with our unconditional support, sticking with the team through awkward moments and celebrating like mad when we won, and oh how we won, writes Real EFL journalist Roy Thompson.
MK Dons, Rotherham, Forest Green, Burnley, Coventry and …Huddersfield. We came, we took a look, sneered at history and went home with the spoils. Little old Lincoln City, with a former JCB driver at centre-forward and a couple of teachers in the dugout, upsetting the natural football order, and my God did we love it.
Unfortunately, the men at the wheel decided the journey was no longer for them this week, and at crucial a fork in the road chose to turn north for West Yorkshire. I’m not going to lie, It gutted me, and knocked the wind out my sails for quite a while. I was shocked and didn’t understand it. “Why Huddersfield?” I cried they are crap, come on boys you are better than that I thought.
Many fans on social media compared their departure to a relationship break-up, and bear with me a while; I will continue that analogy a little further.
When we all finally opened the letter they left on the mantlepiece, we discovered it wasn’t us; it was them. They needed to test themselves and take the ‘perfect opportunity’ of a Championship club in freefall and live a life free from regret. We do still love you, they said, but just not quite enough to stay and no longer in that way.
Looking back with that crucial of all benefits, hindsight, like anyone jilted in a break-up for a long time we didn’t want to believe the relationship was heading for the rocks. Many of us buried our heads in the sand when they moaned about the training ground not being ready for pre-season. Most fans looked the other way when they told us they didn’t want to consolidate. Some turned a blind eye when they signed two injured players to supplement an already threadbare squad, and the majority looked down sheepishly and started reading the paper when a striker never arrived on Deadline Day. We all appeared to take comfort when they gave a rival from the West Midlands the cold shoulder, with many believing once the summer was over it meant another year at least. They promised they would never leave mid-season after all.
Many of us still refused to believe it, even when people told us they had seen them with someone else, we hoped it was not true or if it was, they would come to their senses at the last minute.
However, by Monday morning, it was clear how foolish many of us had been. It was apparent they had been doing more than just flirting with a potential suitor, they had got in bed with them, they had discovered a certain chemistry they wanted to pursue and now as far as our unique, historic, exhilarating relationship was concerned, it was over, and they were moving on.
It suddenly dawned on a few of us, they had obviously been moved on for longer than we thought
Many of us watched them in their new blue and white ties romancing their new fans with their promise of work ethic and those seductive well-polished words of relentless positivity, and it suddenly dawned on a few of us, they had obviously been moved on for longer than we thought.
All this left me with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth and thinking the whole thing could have been handled better, but don’t misunderstand me, my cynicism does not mean I am ungrateful or underestimate the job they have done. They were a massive part of my life for three years and gave me some of the best memories, not only in football but in my entire life. They have dragged my club up by the bootstraps and changed the whole culture of Sincil Bank, from a staging post on the way down to a stepping stone on the way up. If I met them in a pub, I’d happily buy them a drink, thank them from the bottom of my heart and talk to them excitedly about Gateshead away, Sam’s free-kick and ask how loud we sounded at Portman Road. I’d wish them and their lovely families all the health, prosperity and best wishes I could, but unfortunately, I no longer want them to succeed on a football pitch.
You see, In the 1980’s I watched Graham Taylor transform a club at Watford and Trevor Peake lift the cup at Wembley at the same time I was pinning my hopes for football league survival on George Kerr, Peter Daniel and Willie Gamble. I couldn’t go through it again, watch a golden opportunity evaporate in front of my eyes, while someone I once loved is thriving elsewhere.
Football is tribal, they now wear the blue and white of a club we have a history with, and I can’t bring myself to wish them every success. I can’t handle that terrible feeling of what might have been and watch the club I have supported for nearly forty years once again become stifled by a black cloud of despair. Call it indifference or apathy, but the only way I can truly move on is by remembering the good times but not caring about what they do in the future.
I also feel the only way the club can move on quickly and ensure the change in the culture they so successfully instigated continues, is by leaving them to get on with it and focussing 100 per cent on ourselves. I will be honest, the hero worship often bothered me, it was at times close to religious in its intensity, and it is to their credit they remained as humble as they did for as long as they did. However, if I could steal a line from one of my favourite films, we now know, without a doubt, they are not a couple of Messiahs, just two very naughty boys and for me, it’s time for the homage to end. The new manager will need our support at its most intense if he is to succeed. If he is continually looking over his shoulder at how it used to be, he will stand little or no chance of being a success. A monumental job will be made even harder if people can’t let go of our former managers and are continually going on about how they are doing in West Yorkshire or how they did at Lincoln. We need to let them go.
When they arrived without any agenda, other than a burning desire to be successful, we needed them to wake us up to the fact we are a great club. Now we must carry on without them and make sure we continue our path upwards.
Just like they are no longer the humble men who couldn’t believe their luck at finally landing a job in professional football, who looked on in awe at an empty Coop stand, dreaming one day of filling it, we are no longer a desperately sad, miserable non-league club. It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship, but it’s over and what they do now is not our concern, we should focus on finishing the job they started and taking this club as far as it can go.
They will rightly go down as the greatest managers in our club’s history (so far?) and their exploits will be spoken about fondly for decades to come by those, like me, who were fortunate to be there every step of the way. However, it is now sadly and unfortunately already well past the time to move on.
They have, so should we.