That was the season that was…

4 06 2008

It’s been a very interesting 10 months to say the least. Exhilarating, frustrating, irritating, rewarding and travelling are just some of the words that could help to describe this season. If I was going to choose the apposite adjective, enjoyable is the one I’d select. So the story begins……

It was the middle of April in 2007 and we had nothing to worry about, our future was so bright we would have to wear shades. There was no doubt of this; HE had assured us. The season we had just witnessed wasn’t the most memorable we’d ever seen but we had seen progress, you couldn’t argue with that. Now it was shades time and this time it was going to be different. This time it was for real. Exciting new arrivals were “lining up” and not just anybodies either. A proper pre-season was planned; we had friendlies against Wolves, Chester, River Plate and Ruritania ahead of us.

Roughly 180 minutes after the season had finished Bleo strode towards his car. As he passed he cheerfully ejaculated; “See you next season, lads.” Perceptive Dewi and I thought this sentiment sounded less than sincere. The next moment Jiws was “kicked out”. Then Bleasdale the bullshitter was off to find a “Proper Club” and his hollow words were leaving a trail of trampled hopes. April hadn’t even finished.

Once upon a time Lisa Simpson announced that the Chinese have the same word for Crisis and Opportunity. I recently found out that this was wrong. Homer was also wrong; there is no such word as Crisitunity. Despite these facts we witnessed evidence that supports the misquoted proverb; by the end of May Nev was back!!! Hope began a tentative recovery. A few weeks later and Les was back, Hope was rekindled. By this time summer was here and the time was right for football on the pitch.
The shadows were long, the football was delightful, the goals and substitutions never ceased and the socks constantly changed colour. Hope was living and breathing. This was going to be our season!!!

30 minutes into the new season; Newtown 2 Bangor City 0. Then Welshpool away, two words to chill any connoisseur of football, or Health and Safety inspector for that matter. The only good things about that day were avoiding Asbestosis and discovering hand dryers courtesy of the space-race. Aberystwyth away, don’t even go there girlfriend. Airbus away, another windswept defeat. Newport County Away, ten hours on the train, threatened by bald men, lost to a last minute goal. Neath away, corrupt officials and fouling bastards with boy band hair. It wasn’t meant to be like this.

However, the season’s narrative was not one of despair, it was one of glory and rediscovered pleasures. The haze of glory is remarkable; it transforms impressions. The bad parts now seem enjoyable, in their own way. Perhaps enjoyable is the wrong word, they now feel more like necessary steps on the journey to glory, experiences you had to have. They’re badges of honour that show you’ve earned the right to celebrate. You can also thrust these badges into the faces of the glory fans; “You may have been in Newtown, but where were you at Airbus, eh lad?” To be honest things were never really that bad anyway. We drew at Newtown and the Newport defeat was in the middle of an unbeaten run.

If the bad parts can look ok, what about the good parts? Well they shimmer like pearls. Where does one start though? The Welsh Cup win in Caersws wins by a head. 9 men in yellow but there’s only going to be one winner, shots flew in and narrow misses piled up, extra time meant more narrow misses, more agony!! Then Walshy’s header hits the top corner of the net. Everyone threw shapes, the players, the fans, the manager, the coaches. Never in the field of human sport have so few men embraced so often. As Les said recently; “You just don’t win with 9 men” Well we did.

As for the other good bits, they’re all fantastic; Sarge’s goal v Rhyl; Les’ fabulous double on the plastic after outplaying XXX XXX XXXXXX; Kendall looking like an idiot picking the ball out of the net after giving it large; beating Aber on Pens in the quarter final; the equaliser against Llangefni after being 2-0 down with 2 minutes left, 10 goals versus the Cofis in two games, 16 against the Nomads, and on and on and on….

Then we had the Welsh Cup Final. 10 men in blue after 5 minutes. Stotty headed the goal and we cruised until half time. Then we were 2-1 down after 60 minutes. The last minute arrived and Sarge had the chance for a volley; the ball looped into the goal and we felt the joy that only football can provide. Two more goals in extra time and the cup was ours again.

It wasn’t simply Bangor winning matches that made this season so enjoyable. It was that indefinable something around the place, a feeling that was enticing and intoxicating. The fans felt it and the players seemed to feel it too. You only had to see them in clubhouses to see that there was something there, it was evident on the pitch too of course. We could sense a spirit of unyielding effort, no lost cause was ever too far out of reach. It felt as if we were all in it together too. It was a great season and long may it continue, into Europe and beyond…

Now, the other things that caught my roving eye in football this season. First, the extremely sad demise of Wrexham’s League status. After witnessing the Dragons drink at the last chance saloon last May I wasn’t expecting them to make the same mistake this season but every defeat from December onwards had me wondering and hoping; wondering if a bad run was starting again and hoping it wasn’t. Unfortunately the hoping became desperate when I compared last season with this.

This’ll be the turning point. C’mon this has to be the turning point. Wrexham shouldn’t be losing this one. Oh shit, Wrexham beat them last season. After the playing finished there was just the grim realisation that North Wales would no longer have a League Club.

Although I’m not a Wrexham fan I felt their relegation keenly. Since I’ve known football Wrexham have always been there in the background; the promotions, Brian Flynn, Gary Bennett, Arsenal, Man Utd in Europe, Ipswich and Chesterfield in the F.A. Cup, Karl Connolly, Wrexham Lager, play-offs, Soccer Sunday on HTV. All of this appears to be more in the past now that it did three months ago. Although it’s only one division it’s a psychological chasm. Wrexham are now “Non-League” and it doesn’t sound right. Let’s hope it’s a brief stay.

Cardiff went to Wembley twice and I was happy for those fans I know. Apparently the magic of the cup is back and it certainly felt more interesting this year. Lofty was promoted as part of Swansea’s squad. Colwyn Bay are still crap and Newport, along with their charming fans, have another season in the Conference South. Merthyr are still plodding. We will have a new club to visit next season as Prestatyn were promoted to the WPL. The national team looked good in parts and not so good at other times. We have to hope that the evident potential is realised.

As for football in general it became more tedious the higher the level you watched. The Champions League could only be won by the usual suspects. Chelsea, Liverpool, Milan, United, Arsenal, Barcelona, Inter, blah, blah, blah.

The Premeirship black hole sucked in most of the media interest yet again with their Grand Slam Sundays this and most exciting league in the world that. Apparently this was the most exciting title race for years. One paper even claimed that it was the closest ever. Hyperbole never effects the memory of course. May ’89 anyone?

To be fair to ’em this season the Premier League started to become altruistic, they began to look at solving British Society’s problems. For example they looked into helping with the Balance of Payments deficit. Apparently the world was crying out to see Ricardo Carvalho, Kevin Kilbane and Owen Hargreaves in the flesh. There were some ominous moments in terms of ownership in the last 18 months as multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires of dubious reputations queued up to live the Premiership dream. For some reason I feel less fond of this level of football than I used to.

And now for the European Championships…..

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