By Jonathon Ellerton
I have sat and thought about this for a while, as I have watched our season seemingly come to an end since we played Arsenal at home.
I was sat in the Kop that night, and I will never forget it. Garry Thompson’s goal, Gervinho’s miss from less than two yards, and the moment their captain Thomas Varmaelen hit the post in the shoot out – and we went through to the semi finals. Teams from our league aren’t meant to beat teams like Arsenal, who were at full strength. Teams from our league aren’t meant to go to Wigan with a makeshift centre half pairing and keep a clean sheet. Teams from our league are not meant to beat Aston Villa over 180 minutes.
We are not meant to appear at Wembley for a major cup final. I don’t care what anyone says, on Sunday 24 February, 2013, as I walked out of Wembley at full time, looked back and saw the Arch, I was so proud of my team and what we had achieved over the cup run. It will live with me forever.
Sure, we all sit in the pubs at the start of a season, saying this year we will get to Wembley. But do we ever really believe it will actually happen? Certainly not for an occasion grander than a League Two play off final or JPT final. If we are honest we did not expect to do it, which is what makes it even more special that we did.
The main point of this article isn’t to remind everyone how great it felt, but to ask this question – at the start of the season, having barely stayed up last season, would you have taken a major cup final and vastly improved league form?
I think 99% of us would have. So as our season slowly appears to wind down without a place in the play offs, should we ultimately be disappointed in our team? No, we should not.
This team should be heroes for what they achieved. We nearly went down last year, and the year before that, threatening the existence of the club. How awful did it feel when we thought we might lose the one thing we all love? It was not nice, was it?
This season has been outstanding. Yes, even I have had a go at Phil Parkinson and his rotating – why is Connell not starting? – but as I turned the radio off having listened to us draw 0-0 with Plymouth, I thought “well season’s over, but I’m proud of the boys”. Then I went on Facebook and Twitter, and the abuse for the manager and players was everywhere. I feel it’s unjust and unfair.
Is it right to slag off Parkinson and the team given what they have achieved this season? Probably not. Could they have coped better with an injury list that has included long lay offs for last season’s player of the year, our best centre back, our left winger, our left back and then replacement on loan defenders? No chance.
So let’s remember the positives, and praise the team, the Board and all the staff. Because compared to the last two seasons, this year has been simply fantastic.