AKA the morning after the day before.
I’m sure each and every one of you could write your own story on Back Home 3 Cinnamon Stick 3.
Your thoughts and feelings when you walked inside for the first time (with a full house, or even just generally), the game, the catering, even the journey back home.
If you made it back home that is. I understand some may still be in Wimbledon town centre.
Mine will come throughout what will be perhaps the one SW19 match report I’ve wanted to write.
Before I go on, there are actually two stories from yesterday – the second one is what happened on the field of play.
I think it showed what problems we’ll have this season, and why we’ll overcome many if not most of them.
We started the game fired up, as you can well imagine, though it quieten down a bit afterwards.
Well, until Will decided to get in on the act.
Those who read the Friday update will know about Charlton’s Colin Walsh banner, deplicting their first goal back at the Valley.
Hopefully, somebody is now arranging the AFCW version :
NIGHTINGALE, 3:20PM, 14/08/21.
Bet I got the time wrong now.
Of course, by the time it reached 3:27PM we had gone behind. I’m still not sure if it was a penalty, though their second goal was as soft as I remember it yesterday.
If you haven’t yet read the update I did after the game yesterday, I moaned about how easy Bolton seemed to find scoring.
Watching the highights again this morning, and I’m even more convinced of that.
Robbo himself wasn’t happy with the defending, and what little hair he has must have been torn out.
When Notlob went 3-1 up, and then Tzanev had to pull off the save of the season (already), it wasn’t going to ruin the day but it would have been slightly anti-climatic.
But if being on course to lose is, as said above, why we’ll have problems this season – we know how to fight back.
You need a bit of good fortune to do that, although we made our own luck by pushing hard again.
They were struggling to deal with Assal, especially as he was the one upended for the penalty.
At least we’ve found another spot-kicker in Aaron Pressley, who took the ball like he was carrying a bag full of gold, and pretty much held his side of the bargain.
Even if we were to lose 3-2, at least we would have something to build on. But we had other plans…
PL itself has been open since November 2020, and even in an empty stadium there’s been memories already.
Tzanev’s penalty save against Northampton, Piggy’s last minute equaliser against Rochdale.
And from yesterday, Dapo Mebude’s run and finish.
I hope somebody is checking the roof for structural defects this morning, because it must have come off when the ball curled into the net.
Thirty years of frustration releasing itself in that one moment? Or eighteen months of the half-life we’ve all had to endure?
Whatever it was, you can’t fake that reaction.
To be fair, and this may be as important as anything else from yesterday – we didn’t let it slip afterwards.
Bolton were looking for their fourth goal, as were we to be fair, although we looked more solid once NGW came off and Lawrence came on.
Seeing games out has been one problem in recent seasons, and that’s a trait I think is often under-appreciated.
A draw was a fair result in the end, and you would have accepted that before the game kicked off.
Did we play the occasion at times rather than the game? Yes we did, although equally it motivated us to come back.
And we all went home happy.
But then, we arrived at the venue in good spirits too. It still feels a big venue even on reflection this morning, and that’s what a lot of people were saying.
The room to expand the stands is there, and if/when we need to, PL is going to be a damn fine place.
Anyway, shall we…?
Plus points: We didn’t lose. Coming back. Assal. Substitutions. Going back home after thirty years.
Minus points: We didn’t win. NGW. Empty seats in east stand.
The referee’s a…: Awarded us a penalty, which was the least he could do after some decisions.
Rounded off what was a decent day by getting caught clean in the gonads in injury time. If he was hung bigger than a mouse, he would have been hurt.
Them: 1400 or so of them, some of them the six-fingered variety when they scored. Made a fair bit of noise, yet not much when we equalised.
I hope the flares they threw on the field hasn’t messed up our test event status, ditto the twat who decided it was funny to run onto the pitch.
If it costs us money by having to have another one, send him the bill.
As for Notlob, they’re like a lot of sides in this division – decent and shite in equal measures. If they had gone 4-1 up it might have been painful for us.
We could have had worse choices for first PL-with-fans game – a famous name, decent away support yet not invincible.
Wonder what the snooty pseudo-intellectuals who live in Earlsfield made of them?
It’s easy to forget that when Bury went under, they were also very close to not existing. I expect their supporters don’t though…
Point to ponder (non Plough Lane version): Once yesterday’s euphoria dies down, could we be in for a semi-decent season after all?
We’ve come from behind twice this campaign already, and while we shouldn’t make a habit of it, at least we’ve got the bollocks to do just that.
Defence tightening is something that can be remedied, even if it means making just one more signing before the transfer window closes.
Being able to change the tiring Palmer and McC with Pressley and Mebude will help a lot this season, especially if it’s 0-0 with fifteen minutes left.
While I think we’re still weaker without Piggy, if we can get more goals throughout the side it doesn’t matter much anyway.
Tzanev is as good as anyone since Ramsdale, and ironically his freezing out in the last two years might have contibuted to his development.
As we saw last season, there’s something about this group of players under this particular Head Coach.
It’s too early for the hyperbole, but the last time everyone seemed to be on the same page we ended up at Wombley.
Before that, it was under Terry Brown in the Conference South to League Two days.
Are we slowly starting to see that under Mark Robinson? One thing is for sure – given the post-game reception, we’ll all be hoping so.
Truth is stranger than fiction (non Plough Lane version): 1) Nobody sung “Are you watching Sam Hammam?”. I guess most people don’t bear grudges like your editor does. 2) Coming out to “Boys Are Back In Town”. Very apt, and glad it wasn’t the schmaltzy “Welcome Home” by Peters and Lee.
Point to ponder (Plough Lane version): When you think about it – isn’t thirty years a long time?
You can do the whole 11,060 (or is it 11,061?) days/363 months and 10 days/1580 weeks thing.
But it’s three decades.
I know plenty were quite emotional when we did the minute’s applause, and it’s sobering to think there are people I knew and saw in exile who never got to return home.
But I don’t think we can truly get our head around what a staggering amount of time that has been.
In the UK, they have something called the Thirty-Year Rule. Think about that – the government believes three decades is long enough for certain documents to be released.
There will be revelations revealed at some point this year which happened when we were just about to leave for Selhurst.
If you took out a 30-year mortgage back in 1991, you’re just about to finish it off.
And when Baddiel and Skinner released “Football’s Coming Home” – thirty years of hurt was a reference to something that was in the days when everyone walked around in black and white.
World Cup 1966 to Euro 96 was the same timespan as the Palace 3-0 loss to yesterday’s 3-3.
Yesterday was an extra-special occasion for everyone, and those who never set foot in the old Plough Lane have now had their christening.
They might roll their eyes at us older heads when they hear us say just what this means to us.
But when they start remembering stuff from three decades ago, and they realise just how long ago their own memories are – they’ll know what we mean…
Truth is stranger than fiction (Plough Lane version): 1) We’re back home. 2) Spending 5 minutes trying to get a cup of tea through queuing. 3) Spending 25 minutes trying to get a cup of tea but being stopped by people I know. 4) The “street food” behind the south stand. You watch, it will be full of annoying hipsters before long. 5) Knowing it’s ours.
Anything else? I’ve tried not to go overboard on the whole experience yesterday, I could easily have written double what I have already.
I ended up being too exhausted to think straight beyond 9pm, and I’d forgotten just how much football can take it out of you.
This was as much returning after eighteen months, let alone thirty years.
But after waking up this morning, I’ve worked out my one take-away from yesterday.
It really is a community thing.
Oddly, it wasn’t quite as obvious going – though the old dears who guarded the Gap Road flat entrances weren’t there – as I was more focused on getting the buses.
And I think there was a bit of skin-pinching and an inability to take it all in beforehand.
It was after the game where I felt it, for the first time since 1991.
Just seeing the mass of people walking towards Wimbledon itself, and thinking this is how it should have always been.
People making detours to Haydons Road station, a journey that for some of them has once again become their regular one.
Fans in AFCW shirts going into the newsagents and food places, like they did at Selhurst and KM.
But in our back yard.
It’s actually very hard to explain unless you were seeing (and feeling) it with your own eyes, but it feels like home in a way it just hasn’t been since 1991.
Little things like what I mentioned just now, they’re ultimately inconsequential (unless you’re hungry/thirsty, that is).
But even getting the train to South Merton and walking home, and seeing others get off at the same stop as me.
Everyone going in their own different directions, dads with lads too.
The whole “sense of belonging” can be a bit cringe-worthy at times, but equally once you experience it you know what it means.
I won’t apologise for bringing up the three decades thing yet again, because it’s true – we lost that sense of community when we left for SE25.
We never got it back until yesterday, and many of us suppressed it. Perhaps out of denial.
I don’t get to many Saturday fixtures nowadays, but when I do – at least I know I’ll be going to a home game rather than a game in somebody else’s conurbation.
Before I got a ST in 1986, I went to about six or seven games a season, and it’s no little irony that’s what I’ll head back to doing.
True, some weekends in SW17 will suck, and we’ll bitch about it on the way home and in the post-match boozers.
But yesterday, we finally became Wimbledon again. And that’s all we ever wanted.
In a nutshell: As Mr R Gould put it on 14/5/88 in his BBC post game interview – we did it…