The glory arrives again!

3 05 2010
Bangor City 3 Port Talbot Town 2
Welsh Cup Final

Some Chinese Bloke once said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Our particular journey has been a three-year odyssey of glory. All-comers may have been bested but recently it has felt slightly less than comfortable, it’s become a journey of 1,000 stressful steps. Each stop could have been our last. Therefore this week the stress began in Earnest, and in Nigel, and in Steve, and in Mike…….

The stress increased for the Jet Set last Saturday,  just after we had put our names down for the coach. This act somehow led to us volunteering to part organise the whole bloody trip. The proceeding days meant lists, texts and phone calls aplenty. Three days before the game we also had to put up with the coach company losing a coach, information that we had to phone them to find out. They said the coach was stuck in France. Three stressed hours later and we’d found a another coach.

Here’s a tip if you have to book a coach to go to a football match; Don’t!! Let someone else do it.

So Saturday came and the stress was cranked up, would everybody turn up? Would gatecrashers turn up? Would the bus turn up? Thankfully we left on time with a full complement (we’d had several drop-outs as well). All we had to worry about  was leaving people behind when we stopped, the worries never left. Even the instructural video about how to sit on a coach (it’s all about preventing deep vein thrombosis with rhythmic exercise, just stretching your legs is no longer deemed appropriate) failed to relax us; we were going to get DVT! We stopped in Builth Wells but no-one wanted to join my impromptu Tai Chi class, they wanted to go to a pub. Christ, we were going to be late to Llanelli!!!

Everybody managed to find the coach again. It was now Llanelli or Bust! On the journey I tried forget the concept of bus organisation by looking at the roadside election boards. They were mostly Tory, Plaid were second and the Liberals were third. It wasn’t until we got nearer to Llanelli that we saw Labour ones, was this a comment on the reactionary behaviour of your average countryside dweller? We arrived in Llanelli at about half one.

After a small chat with Gary from Blogdroed, we were off for the meeting point from last year -“The Halfway Hotel”. It really is a charming little place, what wonderful memories from 2 cup finals! After selling some merchandise we settled down to a couple of wonderful cheese and onion toasties. Just after they’d been polished off the Port Talbot fans arrived, Nigel offered a firm handshake and warm greetings. Then the chanting began and it was all a bit fraternal. What a nice game football is, some Port Talbot fans even nearly bought stuff as well.

After the refreshments the Jet Set and a few others decided to head to the ground to get a “good spec”, as they call it down Merseyside way. We usually need a bit more time than the ordinary fan anyway; we have flags to hang up. Today we had new creations as well.

The FAW had decided to place all fans in the same stand. This helps to create the illusion of a full ground, fine in principle but it does make things a bit tough for the flag hanger in a hurry. There were neither balconies nor high walls at the foot of the stand. All you had was a railing at the top of the stand. The longer flags were hidden, curses!!!

As for the worries, what worries? We hadn’t felt worried since we left Builth Wells, we were fine!!! The teams entered the field of play and the anthem was led by Elin Fleur, a local singing sensation. The worrying began anew. The towel thief himself, Lee Kendall, was in Port Talbot’s goal. He has had some kind of recent mental power over us, he must speak to the fairies or something. He literally standing in our way.

As the game kicked off the songs were loud and full-bodied. We were still singing when the ball was near Port Talbot’s area. Kendall was there too, too bad. The ball did something unexpected, it bounced upwards rather quickly. This shouldn’t have been so surprising (Bangor fans may not be physicists but we recognise the basic laws of physics and trajectory) but it was a surprising deviation that certainly took Kendall by surprise. He was helpless as the ball looped over him and then Mr. Lee Hunt esq ran around him and controlled the ball. He was chased by another, less shell-shocked, Port Talbot player. Would Mr. Hunt make it? The run through the area took forever and the shot took forever but then the ball made the net move, we were ahead! What worries indeed. There was much embracing between Bangor fans!!!

Before we knew it we were 2-0 up when Reedy flicked the ball in. More embracing, more singing. After this we were too busy relaxing to worry. We relaxed even though the signs were against Port Talbot just meekly accepting their lot – they attacked well. We relaxed even though the referee was shit as well. It’s cliché that a lot of fans parrot; ” The officials are crap” but there was a kernel of truth on Saturday. There were some random applications of the laws of football.

Identical situations resulted in differing outcomes, for example, one foul was a free kick whereas another was a slip, one barge was a foul, whereas another was legitimate. There actually were worries but they were brushed off with a stiff-upper-lip. At this point we need to say that Mr. Lee Hunt esq. was a perpetual motion machine throughout the first half, he didn’t give the Port Talbot players the time and space to relax.

Just after half time the worrying began, 2-0 was THAT scoreline, if they scored they would gain momentum. Losing a 2 goal lead is a terrible blow for the confidence. We started counting the time down after roughly 5 minutes of the half, mind you time was ticking hurriedly along. Before we knew it ten minutes of the second half had gone. My personality was in a struggle, one half was relaxing. The other half started to think that it was too easy, surely we couldn’t win the historic hat trick of Welsh Cup at a canter?

The relaxed half of my brain forced me into thinking that it was ok to go and get someone a cup of tea. I was immune to the cliché, I knew there would be no goals if was in the toilet or at the bar, these things didn’t affect me!!! On my return I checked the scoreboard, 60 minutes had gone, time was still passing quickly I thought. I glanced at the score, “Bangor City 2 Port Talbot 1”, eh????????????? I checked with a steward. He wasn’t sure who’d scored for Port Talbot, but told me it was a genuine score.

The worrying was interspersed with relief. We may have been on a knife-edge but the ticking clock kept us hopeful. 70 minutes had gone, 75.…….. Kendall continued to pluck crosses out of the air, we failed to get the attacks just right…….. The ref continued to baffle, only some fouls were fouls………… Bangor penalty claims were turned down……..80 minutes gone……….. Then Sion had a golden chance!!!!……He missed, narrowly.

Port Talbot seemed dangerous, 2-0 was definitely one of the least secure of leads. Lee Hunt continued in the same style in the second half but the body movements began to look tired, but then if you’d spent an hour and a half tearing around a football pitch then you’d probably look less than sprightly. The sight of flagging players didn’t help much with our confidence and the worrying grew.

Every Port Talbot miss was followed by a glance at the score board……….82 minutes gone………..83 minutes………84, only 6 to go!!!! 6 short minutes, just 6 short minutes!!!!…….. Then Port Talbot attacked and the ball was in the box, Smithy seemed to save the shot but then, shit!!!!, some bloke had scored. 2-2.

The blood drained from my body, my mind was in turmoil;

“How the fuck did we give the lead away?”……….. “Oh shit the game was lost, the hat trick of cups defeated, the chance of Welsh Cup immortality gone”……….. Then Port Talbot attacked again………….”Shit, we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose!!”…………A Port Talbot striker narrowly missed…………. “Still 2 minutes left and they could score again, they could bloody score”……… ….”Just 30 seconds left and they could still score, shit!!!”…………….. “5 minutes injury time, 5 fucking minutes to hold out.”…………… “I hate football, why is it so stressful?”……….. Bangor won a free kick, someone said the referee was irritating. The proof was in the lack of a booking and a penalty. “A free kick for Christ Sakes!!”………..

Sion crossed the ball. Before we knew what’s what Dave Morley, Bangor’s Vieira, had risen and met the ball with his head. In a moment of joyous disbelief we could see the ball was in, I waited for the whistle to go. It wasn’t blown, it wasn’t blown!!!!!! We’d scored, WE’D FUCKING SCORED!!!!!!!!!! We  jumped and sprang and embraced and howled.

A football fan lives for these moments, when everything you’ve hoped for, longed for, even prayed for happens. Much has been written about the mood enhancing properties of narcotics. But no chemical or plant could replicate the feeling of realising the goal had gone in. It’s the feeling that attracts you to football, the feeling that keeps you interested and the feeling that makes you feel ecstatic. These moments don’t happen very often so the intensity is never diluted. Thankfully they seem to happen relatively frequently, we seem to be getting 2 or 3 a season for the last few years at Bangor.

 Unfortunately we still had to wait for the final whistle, every Port Talbot pass could have led to a mover which led to a goal. The nerves resurfaced, 3 and a half minutes to go….2 minutes….A Port Talbot player was going to shoot,!!! Shit!!!……….It was over!!! 1 minute to go………….They had the ball, a Bangor tackle!!! Hoofed clear, Yes!!!!…………30 seconds to go………….Then it was over!!! We’d won., WE’D WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We could finally relax and celebrate. A Welsh Cup Hatrick, a trip to Europe, an end to unpleasant rumours, the glory, the glory!!! All we had to do now was watch Brewie hold the cup aloft!

As we’ve already said, football is all about moments like this, to use the words of Danny Blanchflower; it’s the “Glory Game”. It really puts the defeats at Bala, Rhyl, XXX XXX XXXXXX and Port Talbot in to a context. Saturday felt all the sweeter when you consider the outlook after those games.

We left Llanelli with travel to foreign parts on our minds. Football certainly is the “Glory Game”.

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