The Holy Grail

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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….

Cardiff 1989
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.

Bromsgrove 1991
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.

Worthing 1994
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.

Slough 1997
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 coaches.

Salisbury 1997
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.

Wisbech 1997
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.

Relegation 2000
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 miracle.

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 !