Sunday, 8 May 2011

Smiling Through The Tears

I wasn't there today, our biggest game ( we seem to say that every season now don't we ) in our history and I wasn't there. Its not that I didn't want to be believe me, it was because of my urgent need to sell my house and move before my daughter starts secondary school in the summer, so forgive me.

A thousand Daggers made the trip to Peterborough whilst I spent the day looking at houses and having people look at mine. I made sure though there was no one looking at my house between 3pm and 5pm and with my fags and drink I settled down to Jeff Sterling and the boys, on my own, whilst my wife and her Mum sat in the garden catching the last of the afternoon sun.

To be honest I was glad of the earlier distraction as it meant I had something else to think about. Being a football fan is something you cant explain, believe me Ive tried. It takes you to the highest highs and can also bring you to the lowest of lows. The width of a post, the wave of a flag, the blow of a whistle, all of these things can give you an unbelievable buzz or leave you pulling your hair out with frustration.

The game started and I was mildly optimistic that we would do it, Id read all the comments from Mark Arber on Twitter all week saying that we would do it and to believe, and I did I really did. It wasn't to be though was it?. It wasn't anyone's fault it was just one of those things. A bridge too far if you will pardon the pun. We can go over the season and look at the games we lost, the games we drew, the games we should have won but didn't but it wont change anything will it? Its pointless to do such things because it makes us look for someone or something to blame when there isn't anyone to take the blame.

The effort that all at the club put into this for us, the fans, will live with me and others for the rest of our lives. We may bounce back next season we may not, it will depend on who moves on in the summer to be honest. There seems no doubt that Vincelot and Green are favourites to go. Perhaps Scott Doe and Abu Ogogo will go as well but this isn't the time to think about this now. This is a time to reflect on how proud we are of what we achieved. We came within one point, one bloody point of staying in this league, the smallest of margins and that makes me proud of the players, John Still and everyone involved in the club.

My door bell rang at 4.30 this afternoon and my wife opened the door to a couple who had come to look at my house.They apologised for being earlier than expected and asked if it was okay to come in. My wife as she always does smiled and said it was fine. She started to show them around as I sat there on the settee, tears streaming down my face as the goals flowed in. A strange mixture of pride and pain as the realisation of what this defeat meant began to sink in. My wife showed them into the front room and I wiped my eyes, the woman looked at me and asked if  I was okay, I couldn't answer and my wife came over and gave me a cuddle then explained that my team had been relegated.

The woman smiled and her husband asked if he could sit and watch the final few minutes with me, I nodded and me and this stranger sat there as the fourth and fifth went in. My wife and the woman went into the kitchen for coffee and left us there. When it was over and the final result was known he shook my hand, wished me well and told me he was a West Ham fan and knew what I was going through. 

That is what football does to you, it doesn't need a spoken word from those that follow it, they know what it means to you, they know how it feels to win against the odds, they know what its like to lose. I am unbelievably proud of what my team achieved this season, I'm proud to wear my shirt and scarf, I'm proud to call myself a fan of this club. The tears and pain will fade over the next few days and weeks and then I shall be looking forward to the start of the season once again. One thing that will never fade though is that this club is now in my blood, it runs through my veins and whilst I may not have been there today, whilst I have breath in my body I will always be a Dagenham and Redbridge supporter and proud of it.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Biggest Game In Our History

Every season we seem to have the biggest game in our history dont we? We are quite spoilt when you consider how other supporters fair with their teams. From winning the conference title, to staying in League 2 the following season, then just missing the play-offs the next season to the win at Wembley last year, it isn't boring being a Daggers fan that is for sure.

Come Saturday at 5pm we will know where we will be next year, whether we are playing both the Sheffield clubs, Charlton, Preston North End or whether we will be traveling and hosting Southend, Cheltenham and Rotherham. Whatever happens we will still be a league club wont we.

Its been an amazing season when I look back at it, it has gone far quicker than I expected as well. Since we kicked of in August away to Sheffield Wednesday the time has absolutely flown past. Ill admit at the start of the season I thought we would survive comfortably, then Paul Benson was sold in the last few hours of the transfer window and we struggled. For a club that was spoilt with a natural goal scorer for the past few seasons we then found ourselves wanting and we struggled.

In adversity heroes of the highest unlikeliness spring forward and so it was with us. Romain Vincelot suddenly hit a vein of form with his head that took us all by surprise if we are honest and survival looked on. At this point I would once again just like to congratulate Romain on his Player of the Year award. Having signed for us as a right back what a center midfield player he has turned into. Another of those John Still gems we manage to unearth year in and year out. As we got to Christmas 2010 we were struggling we had only won 1 game in nearly two months and I for one thought we would be cut adrift at the beginning of April with only our pride to play for. Humiliated and the pundits right that we were a joke and that we should take a our little club and go back to League 2. Yes I'm looking at you Steve Claridge and Manish Patel.

I was wrong and a new hero stepped forward for us with a burst of goals that no one thought he had in him. Step forward Johnny Nurse and a take a bow son. Wembley hero and perhaps savior of our season we hit a bit of form where we lost twice in the next 7 games, picked up valuable wins against Yeovil, Hartlepool and Brentford and we were off and running again creeping out of the bottom four for the first time this season. Belief ran through me once again and I will be honest it hasn't left me yet.

We go into the final game of the season still fighting, still alive in this league, something that the majority of us didn't think would be real. We have all had a go about something or other the club has done this season, whether those of us have questioned John Stills tactics, his staff, Danny Green, Femi, McCory or the frozen burger bun I was subjected to by our own catering staff back in January (I still haven't forgiven them yet either).

Forget Wembley as special as that day was and it will remain one of the best days of my life, this club of ours, these players led by our captain Mark Arber and the legend that is John  Still go into the game on Saturday knowing that THIS is the biggest game of their careers so far. They know as we do that winning and achieving the impossible will be the biggest day in this clubs short history. To compete again in League 1 next year means we have been spoilt far beyond what any of us could have dreamed off.

John Still was quoted at the weekend as saying "These players will die for this club" how many fans are lucky to have that? Look at Swindon relegated to League 2 weeks ago, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton stuck in mid table and us little old Dagenham and Redbridge having a chance to do this wonderful League all over again. Who would you rather support?

A win may not be enough Saturday, then again a draw could be, its going to one of the most nervous and agonizing days of my life but when its all over, when that whistle goes, I will know that every player on that pitch gave everything they could to make sure we stayed in this division and I will never forget that. More importantly neither should you, just remember who we are, were we have come from and look back on this season with pride at what 'the pub team from Essex' achieved against all the odds once again.