We met in the town centre pubs as we would do on any other match day.
Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs on the juke box, winner-stays-on on the pool table, lager flowing like a treat; a typical bunch of lads in their late-teens early 20′s on their usual pre-match sesh.
But there was a slight difference today.
We weren’t facing Woking, Canvey Island, or any of our usual Conference adversaries.
Today we were in the FA Cup 3rd Round versus Manchester United.
We get to the ground, and at the point where we should have been at our most rowdiness, I vividly recall us all stood around with that final pre-match lager, calmness personified.
A sense of belief had appeared, a quiet confidence was present… (Probably from the 6 pints.)
The attitude had shifted from “how many they gonna put past us then?”, to “hang on a minute, it’s at our place, it’s our day, f*ck United and let’s have it…”
The players clearly shared that attitude.
United lined up with Tim Howard in goal, Wes Brown, Gerard Pique (now of Barcelona), John O’Shea, Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer, Louis Saha.
But it was us who started the better. It was Non-League Burton Albion who had 2 header’s cleared off the line in the first half.
6,191 of us were crammed onto the Pirelli Terraces, and you sensed something big could happen here.
But then you see Wayne Rooney and Christiano Ronaldo coming on as subs in the 59th minute.
Surely we couldn’t hold out here?
The tension grows on the terraces.
70 minutes, getting closer.
80 minutes, how is it still 0-0?!!
Ronaldo trying to weave his way through our defence; Rooney trying an extravagant overhead kick.
This was torture.
My good mate Joe and a few of the others start singing “if you’re all going Old Trafford clap your hands…”
“Shut the f**k up!!”, a few of us shout upto them, I’m not a big believer of luck and fate and all that but if there was ever a time you don’t want fate to be tempted?!
A high ball into the United box, and it’s handball!! Gerard Pique the United defender clearly handles it, but the ref is Howard Webb so United re-start with a free-kick. Somehow.
I wonder who would’ve took the penalty?…
Getting towards 90 mins… I’m twitching, I’m shaking, I’m shouting, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been this nervous. We are moments away from producing the biggest ever result in our history…
Saul Deeney has to stick his leg out quick to stop Jones’ shot giving United a late winner…
I’m urging the ref to just blow his whistle. I can’t take this.
Then, then it’s over… the whistle blow’s and we celebrate like we’ve scored… jumping around in pure delirium, wow… has this actually really just happened?
Saul Deeney, Jake Sedgemore, Darren Tinson, Ryan Austin, Andy Corbett, Chris Hall, Darren Stride, Andy Ducros, Keith Gilroy, Jon Shaw, Shaun Harrad; you’ll be remembered by us Albion fans forever for the spirit, and determination you showed on that great day, and the pride you gave us.
That’s what the FA Cup is all about.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYUlvNxzmQ0 - a link to those (nerve-wracking!) last few minutes.