To dream the impossible dream
To pursue the holy grail
Younger supporters heartbroken by City's last
gasp exit from the FA Cup against Havant in November might have been perplexed
by the resigned shrugs of older fans. It might have felt like this sort of
gut-wrenching last ditch disappointment is almost … expected.
And it almost is. Supporting City is an act of
belief, success is actually an unlikely holy grail. It makes no more sense than
believing in true love, the tooth fairy or that when the label in the shop says
'best value sale price' you are actually getting a bargain. But supporting the
yellow and black hopefuls is to stand up for optimism and romance. It shows that
your heart rules your head. It probably means you should be sectioned in Coney
Hill before your feet touch the ground, but it also means you are special. You
don't run with the crowd. You stick by what you believe in and actually don't
mind what the other people think. Good on ya. Nurture the pain and the toil
because when the good moments come (eventually) your triumph will be all the
greater. When you watch City lift the Premiership title (humour me here) you'll
be able to say, "And I watched them at Bedworth".
If you can stand loyal by your club when
players and fans desert it,
If you can watch as the other side scores and cheers, and they win and you lose
But come back again and still cheer and be proud.
Then my son, you will be a true supporter.
(Or something like that, with apologies to Kipling).
But it might be cathartic to remember just
seven of those moments that have kept Gloucester's branch of The Samaritans busy
and to learn not to celebrate until the final whistle. These gut-wrenching
defeats and blows are just the finest examples; every defeat and last minute
goal would be too numerous for a single server. These are from my times on the
T-End, no doubt older fans will tell their own tales of an even longer journey
through this vale of tears….
City had against all expectations found themselves in the 2nd Round
of the FA Cup and playing Cardiff City at Ninian Park. Two superb goals from
Chris Townsend against his former club put us 2-0 up, a lead we still held with only
seven minutes left. Sure enough though, we managed to throw away two (unlucky)
goals including a last minute equaliser. Needless to say we lost the Meadow Park
replay 1-0, despite again outplaying the Welshman, hitting the post and
generally being robbed. If we'd won we would have played QPR, then one of the
top sides in the country.
Long season saw us chasing Farnborough for the league title and promotion to the
Conference. Money pumped in by Les Alderman saw us sign top players and put
together a fantastic side. A mid-week match against VS Rugby saw us twice pegged
back including a late final Boyland leveller; the 2-2 draw meaning we had to go
to Bromsgrove two points behind. We needed to win while hoping Farnborough
failed to beat Atherstone. A John Freegard goal won a tense game for City, and
we all heard from the radio that Farnborough had drawn. Boy were those five
minutes of celebrations good. Then the news came through that Farnborough had
got a last minute winner, we'd come second and weren't going up. Never, ever
trust the radio. To finish it off Alderman pulled out of the club in August and
we had to sell most of the players and the club was in financial ruin.
City pulled a plum home tie against lower division Worthing in the fourth
qualifying round. It seemed the First Round and a trip to Bournemouth beckoned.
First of all we ballsed up the home tie 1-1, and then managed to contrive to
lose the replay despite having all the play. The dismissal of the 'not very
good' Rich Boden and the sight of an unfit Baylo limping around the pitch didn't
help the 2-1 defeat.
Perhaps the most gutting of all the many bad moments. We had a fantastic FA
Trophy run, knocking out Conference opposition with fast attacking play. The
semis brought a two-legged tie against Dagenham, and with a goaless draw in
London we fancied our chances at home. All was going to plan with City
dominating and leading 1-0 with only moments left when the Daggers equalised.
Then came a rare moment of fortune when having gone behind in extra time Adie
Mings forced a replay in Slough.
The levels of support at the neutral venue demonstrated the difference in the
two clubs. We must have had ten for every one Essex fan in the ground. We took
the lead and again looked comfortable before the talismanic Dale Watkins got
sent off and the whole thing collapsed like a deck of cards. Out, with the twin
towers twice in sight, and it was a long, long trip back home on very quiet
And then the ultimate boot in the teeth. Having had to play games Tuesday,
Thursday, Saturday for a fortnight to catch up City were in with a shout of
taking promotion. With Champions Gresley unable to go up City were vying with
hated rivals Ch#*tenham for second spot and the Conference. We had to beat lowly
Salisbury at home and match any result the Whaddon lot could get. A mixture of
poor refereeing (it was not a free kick and Johnson got sent off) and tired legs
led to a second half collapse and 3-1 defeat. We handed the scum, who of course
managed a draw, promotion on a plate - and to make it worse also had our
reputation marred by idiots taking their frustration out on some poor Salisbury
fans. A season which a few weeks earlier promised everything ended with nothing,
not even the County Cup, Ch*#tenham beat us in the final and won that too. The
final inevitable indignity came as Keith Gardner's overstretched finances
collapsed with his divorce and we were once again selling players and walking
around with begging bowls.
Again we battled into the fourth qualifying round and seemed to have got a good
home tie against lower division opposition. The result was a disappointing1-1,
but even so we had high hopes for the away replay - especially after the First
Round draw pulled a potential plum local derby against Bristol Rovers. However
the trip to the deepest darkest fens was a nightmare. We led 2-0 at half time,
but in the second half fell apart conceding three amidst a tirade of racist
abuse and intimidation. Bad result, bad place and bad memories. A few months
later and we were hours away from bankruptcy in the High Court.
A neat little twist as our usual nightmares managed to extend themselves over
the whole campaign. Internal fighting and financial devastation presided over a
dismal relegation season. To make matters even worse our dismay stood starkly
next to the new League status of Ch#*tenham and the success of upstarts Forest
Green. Our plight was so dismal even our old rivals felt sorry for us, not that
it helped a great deal. Lowlights are legion - perhaps our capitulation at
Halesowen, either game against Clevedon, or the victory against Worcester that
seemed so empty as we all knew we were down unless there was a mathematical
So that’s the abbreviated version of our
kicks in the teeth without the County Cup defeats to Ch#*tenham on penalties.
I've not even mentioned the crucial Cup or Trophy defeats against the likes of
Kiddie, Stevenage or Runcorn when although we started off as underdogs we
deserved more, or the cruel last gasp defeats like that against Welling in last
season's Trophy. Neither have I mentioned the freak eye injury to the prolific
Steve Portway against Rushden that halted what looked like becoming a late
promotion push in 1995, nor the floods or the mis-management and duplicity of
more than a few directors.
So to be a supporter of Gloucester City is to
inherit a great burden of sorrow, but to learn to carry it lightly and still try
to look forward to a better future. After all, we've been through so much,
surely these things will even themselves out over time? From our luck it may be
that some long forgotten City player spat on a gypsy grave, but most of these
curses only last a hundred years! We must shake off any despondency as otherwise
the inbuilt expectation of defeat will give us a loser's mentality, but who
knows what triumphs lie ahead….
Tiocfaidh ar la !