By Martin Gregory
Walking out of Whaddon Road after a tedious end of season game at Cheltenham, the last thing we wanted was more stress. However, that emotion was realised when, on the coach home, news broke that second leg play off tickets would go on sale on the Thursday straight after the first leg.
Rightly so, the club decided they would review this situation and took a logical decision to sell them early on a Saturday morning instead – when 90% of supporters who wanted to go had a chance of getting one. This still did not appease some people, with various supporters groups not being prioritised for tickets. In my opinion, one group at least should have received tickets, due to years of serving the club well (quite a bit of their money went into the club).
I, like many a fan, had the idea of queuing up overnight for a ticket. But with the way things went during the first leg at Valley Parade – City 3-1 down at one stage – I received texts from others saying ‘why bother?’ Reminiscing about Blackpool back in 1996, I was determined to still be at Burton. So I was ready to camp out at Valley Parade.
All week I worried, would I get a place in the queue early? Would I, along with hundreds more, have a chance of a gold ticket? I spent most of Thursday and Friday trawling the net – from Claret and Banter to WOAP – checking what other supporter’s plans were. Some were going down after Bulls game. I was not taking any chances. Leaving work at 5pm, I decided to go straight to Valley Parade and join the queue, along with other hardy souls.
I ventured down knowing a few people had been there since lunchtime (which is an unbelievable direct passion to the club) and found a party atmosphere. Deckchairs were out, crates of beer flowing and plenty of food and banter going round. I took my place as number 20 in the queue, pitched up my chair and made myself at home outside turnstile N2. Minutes later, a few more joined next to me and I lent them a spare chair. So the rapport began.
The lads I met were brilliant in the queue, watching your things if you needed to disappear for two and generally keep morale up. Two lads brought portable barbecues and people stocked up at Tesco Express. It was surreal, because the next time I checked my phone it was 9pm and the time was flying by. The queue started to grow around the back of the stand and more people were getting in the party spirit – some even playing music from their car (although the music choice was not right cracking – One Direction, for god’s sake!) Even before the stewards came, there was no trouble. Lenny the City Gent was doing a good job at organising and taking approx ticket numbers down.
At around 1am we were led through the gate into the Main Stand, where each of us were allocated a raffle number for our place in the queue. Once inside we were on a game of musical chairs – making space in our segregation pens for more people to enter. People were singing songs about the players, everyone was in good spirits.
Around 2am is when morale started to drop. The night was taking its toll. I couldn’t sleep, and many others couldn’t. Although we kept occupied by knocking a ball around, looking out onto the pitch or talking up our chances for Sunday, we kept checking the minutes which seemed to drag by.
Around 7.30am, commotion. Stewards started to enter and exit through the ticket office gate, when there was a clamour of people starting to form queues. A steward then announced on a megaphone that ticket holders 1-20 should wait in sequence, whilst our season ticket/flexi-cards were checked, and then we would be led up the stairs to the ticket office. We had to wait another half an hour, but once we were led up it’s hard to describe how it felt to finally buy and hold the tickets.
On the way back up to my car – deckchair, tickets and bag in tow – I was approached to sell my tickets. That’s how desperate people were. I was shocked to find that tickets did not sell out until lunchtime.
Looking back now and, despite not really needing to wait 15 hours in the cold for a ticket, it really was worth it. Although still tired on Sunday, it was one of the greatest days of my life and I will never forget the atmosphere and the buzz. Now it’s back to our second home of Wembley, and I believe that this time we can see it through.
Categories: The 2012/13 play offs