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You Can Go Home Again

This SW19 front page (remember them?) was created on 20th June 2001, which was created in response to this a day earlier.

I quote from that very piece, just over two decades later:

UPDATE: If you have read W&WW, then you’ll know the bad news. If you don’t, here goes.

We will never play in Merton again.

Sorry to say that, it’s probably the hardest thing I’ll ever have to write.

The reasons? Well, without the aid of any official statement and only what JZ has written, it’s down to cost and logistics.

Whilst a joint WFC/GRA thing is possible, CK reckons it will cost an extra £60m to build in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s £60m that we will never get back, which when you figure that WFC cost “only” £30m is probably a figure too far.

Also, sharing with the GRA would have been nigh on impossible : they hold races on Saturday evenings which they claim is their busiest time of the week, given that the dogs warm up at about 6pm anyway would have made things very tricky.

Given that the GRA were going to stay put, I guess that paying lots of £££ for something that would have been not totally ideal was always going to scupper it in CK’s mind.

You can read the rest yourself, but if there’s a time capsule put in the PL ground tomorrow, I hope somebody has printed that out and put the copy in it.

I have never wanted to get something so fantastically, gloriously wrong in my life.

The link just then explains the title of this very article you’re reading (you can look up the meaning yourself), and it brings a lot more context to tomorrow.

If any more of that was needed, that is.

When you walk down the Haydons Road, or Gap Road, or Wimbledon Road, or whatever street you approach PL from, just have that in the back of your mind.

And have with it every single moment of the last 30 years when roadblock after roadblock after another fucking roadblock was put in our way.

After tomorrow, everything changes forever again. And in a good way.

The strange thing is, despite us not having a home game since 4 May 1991 (in front of paying punters), I’m not sure what else there is to say now.

In “normal” times, we would have been building up for this day looking at the latest picture showing how close we are to completion.

Yet we’ve haven’t had one big homecoming – we’ve had about three or four small ones.

Considering that tomorrow is a test event (the final one, we assume), it’s still not going to be the bells-and-whistles return.

But really, by now you don’t care. It’s finally happening.

Tomorrow will be emotional, and for some it will be a bit too emotional because of the enormity of it all.

That roar at 3pm will be something else.

It’s easy to forget that we’re playing a competitive fixture, by the way, and Charlton in midweek should give us bundles of confidence.

We made eight changes, and as the game went on we became ever more comfortable. We deserved to win, although I would have liked a second.

The way we closed the game out with seven minutes of injury time was impressive, and one gets the sense already we could have some barnstormers this season.

Tomorrow wouldn’t be a bad time to have one.

OK, drawing Northampton away wasn’t the dream draw we all wanted, and the game at Sixfields is an attitude/application one.

But that’s for later this month. As for this weekend, while the OS will doubtless have more updates today, I think MR knows the importance of playing the game, not the occasion.

It’s just another fixture, even though it isn’t. It’s no less important than Gillingham on Tuesday, or Burton on the 2nd October.

Which is why there’s a bit of me that will be glad when the final whistle goes tomorrow and we go home afterwards.

I don’t quite know why, but being a momentous occasion off the field doesn’t always translate onto it.

Remember St Evenage after LBM gave us the go-ahead in December 2015? And how long ago does that feel?

There’s bound to be teething troubles, especially over ticketing, and Joe Palmer does seem to put the blame onto the people providing the service.

Should he take it on the chin himself, like many are suggesting? Possibly.

There are many people who aren’t that technically literate – especially the older types – and don’t always have access to the gizmoids the club expects them to have.

While I don’t doubt it’s complex, and to be fair other teams are having ticketing issues themselves right now, the club should still have some responsibility in overseeing the whole thing.

I reckon it’s not all the fault of the ticket providers…

If Bolton/Gillingham goes ahead without a major hitch, I think we’ll all be happy. We get two-and-a-bit weeks to properly sort it out by then.

Thinking about it, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to just turn up as early as you can tomorrow.

Getting in will be slow, especially as the turnstiles aren’t installed yet, and you might as well walk round gawping at everything for an hour.

The club pub will be open as well, apparently. Just be sure not to miss the actual game when you’re waiting to get served.

Other than all that – what more can anyone add now?

The front page/link at the beginning was after so many bleak times at Selhurst, when days like tomorrow seemed as far away as anything.

I wouldn’t say that I’d always believed we’d return home eventually, although 28/5 ironically made that more possible.

But in those days, I didn’t expect that:

a) I’d be writing SW19 (this place started in 1999), and more weirdly,

b) I’d be struggling to write something the day before fans returned home.

Yet I am. And it’s odd.

It’s just as odd that I actually had difficulty writing stuff before PL was open for the first time last November, but it’s a legitimate feeling.

There will be plenty to pontificate about in the upcoming days/weeks/months, but running out of things to say isn’t something I thought would happen in this situation.

Having once written 700 words on a 0-0 between QPR and Norwich though, I will always think of something.

And in true Assal style, I find inspiration after all. it’s from last Tuesday at Charlton. Your editor was on paid duty in the press box, and there’s this banner in their home end.

It’s the time and date of the first goal when the Addicks returned to the Valley, and the goalscorer is Colin Walsh.

That’s him doing the cheesy grin for the camera, in case you’re thinking they nabbed some bloke off the street.

Will we get our own Colin Walsh tomorrow? And if we do, can we make a similar banner for him?

I mentioned the roar at 3pm earlier. It will be nothing compared to a 95th minute winner for us.

Perhaps going to the Valley the Tuesday before we finally get to revisit PL properly is closing more circles off.

They were always proof that being exiled to Selhurst isn’t necessarily permanent, and that there’s always some hope.

Granted, it didn’t feel like it on 20/6/01, and it got progressively worse that season before you-know-what.

But going to SE7 back in October 1995 stuck in the throat, because they got the joy of returning home and we didn’t.

I have a very long memory, and I recall the bitterness I had about how Derby, and Reading, and tomorrow’s visitors to SW17 had new grounds.

There was another SW19 front page expressing my thoughts. I need to start redoing them again.

Us? Shut up and accept Selhurst forever, we’re never going home. And that was from some our fans, too.

I might drive tomorrow, or I’ll get the bus to Wimbledon. If I do, and my feet allow it, I’ll stroll down the whole of Alexander Road into Gap Road.

I might keep those above thoughts in the back of my mind while doing so. I may have a wry grin on the inside, and possibly externally too.

Tomorrow might be a good time to avoid alcohol, I don’t like drinking in the daytime anyway, and there’ll probably be some sort of update tomorrow evening.

A “proper” one, match report and all, will be on Sunday. But keep an eye out for just a little something tomorrow morning too, maybe.

Other than that, I’ve honestly run out of things to say. Except this one little request, that I hope somebody tomorrow picks up on and actions in real life.

Just think of the lies, the deceit, the hurdles, the roadblocks, and the outright shit thrown in our way since 1991.

It will be a great time to pay tribute to all that in just one song that we’ll never need to sing again – but will be aimed at the person who deserves it most.

Or in other words – let’s hope somebody starts singing “Are you watching Sam Hammam?”…

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