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A 2nd-leg tale

May 22, 2014

Image  Only 5 more mins to endure… Fish & me stood to the right of the post.

I stepped into the shower, feeling delicate. Always do first thing. Those cans at my bro Craig’s couldn’t have helped.

Sam was around for 5.50am, before Mr Holden’s gleaming Mondeo trundled down the street. Macs café awaited.

I couldn’t finish my breakfast. I needed sleep.

Sleep duly arrived on the A444… right up until Southend.

We stepped into the Wetherspoons, greeted by dozens of travelling Brewers getting their post-match quota in. Half of Southend seemed to be in here and half of Southend seemed to be getting served before me.

I surrendered the pursuit of lager and joined the others on the High Street. I didn’t really feel in the mood for alcohol.

Nerves.

We stood at the back of the stand. Bodies filled the stand, chants filled the air. Optimism, hope.

The game started at 100mph. Weir slid in, Southend knew he was there.

Chris Hussey’s free kick is curved in with pace and the precision a sniper would be proud off. Marcus Holness runs and meets the ball perfectly with his head… 1-0 Albion.

It’s pandemonium in the away end, but I freeze. I can’t celebrate. I feel sick, never known nerves like it at a game before.

Should’ve had a beer.

The noise rises even higher in the away end; unfortunately, so does the temperature.

It’s like a sauna. It’s Shane to the rescue though, back from the snack bar with a box of water’s that are handed around the baking Brewers.

I turn to take a bottle, then I hear a cheer… I look around, Lyness is on the floor, the ball is in the net.

1-1.

I see the 2nd Southend goal clearly though… is this the point we bottle it?

Half time comes at the perfect time, Southend’s momentum halted.

Sort them out, Gary.

It’s the 2nd half, and it’s a slightly different looking Albion to the nervy side from minutes 30-45.

A bit calmer, a bit quicker.

Purpose has returned.

The Southend fans quieten as the Albion begin to re-stamp their authority on the game; the away end returns to full volume as we realise we’re still very much in this.

68th minute, another Hussey free kick. A deflection, an alert Adam McGurk, an Albion goal, an almighty feeling of delirium and relief in the away end.

I wasn’t too nervous to celebrate that one.

20 minutes away from Wembley.

The players tackle, block, attack; the fans sing, chant, pray.

Sam and me get down the front of the stand in anticipation of the post match celebrations, but the 4th official throws a potential spanner in the works – 6 minutes of injury time? Nice…

The longest 6 minutes of our lives see a couple of near Southend misses, a few sighs of relief, and an increased heart rate.

Then, finally, thankfully, the referee blows his whistle for the final time.

The away end erupts, everyone singing, hugging, embracing, celebrating… and a high-5 with young Dan at his first Albion away game, what a first away game to go to!

We want to celebrate with our heroes, but by now the Southend fans have swarmed onto the pitch and a 16 year old in his finest Football Factory garments is stood behind 2 rows of police giving us his meanest glare, the same glare he’ll no doubt pull when putting Jack Wilshere into his Panini World Cup sticker album a bit wonky.

Things start getting a bit more tense, more Southend fans have gathered, more verbals, a couple of objects flying into the away end.

We just sing, que sara sara… We’re going to Wembley. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtube_gdata_player&v=2O3DkSQ6rxU&app=desktop

Out of nowhere Phil Edwards appears at the front of the stand. His son is passed to him and he stands proudly punching the air, not intimidated in the slightest by the slightly angry Southend fans just feet away from him.

The angrier Southend fans leave, clearing the way for the more polite Southend fans to give us a clap.

Most appreciated, but we really just want to celebrate with our team.

Finally, all of the lads are back out. Phil Edwards is back down the front of the stand shaking hands and high-fiving.

Attention turns to Zander Diamond, the whole stand singing his name. Tears run from Zander’s eyes, he comes over and shakes a few hands himself.

“All the best Zander.”

A respectful nod and a “thanks” his reply. I’ve not washed my hand since.

We sing even louder, letting Southend-on-Sea know we’re going to Wembley.

I feel elated, I feel drained. This play-off malarkey is emotional.

Time to leave Roots Hall and plan Wembley.

Our phones are going off non-stop as we drive out of Southend. Micky texts, Andy and Dav too. “How we getting Wembley?”

I ring Dad. “So pleased you lot will see us at Wembley…” I was 11 months old when we last got there.

Facebook and Twitter is on fire.

Olly tweets me a picture from Sky, I’m stood hands on head in the 91st minute enduring the purgatory of injury time, looking like someone who’s team is minutes away from Wembley.

I’ll be having a beer before the final!

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From → The Albion.

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