Like a battered wife who escaped her oppressive husband, we’ve been smiled at by a kindly looking man in the local shop this season. His eyes gave us an insight into a future, happier, more peaceful life.
But at the same time the prospect scares us; for some reason there are assurances that come with being abused. It’s not like you can be any more scared and the betrayal is evident, not hidden. When you’re at the bottom, you can’t fall anymore; could we bear to be built up only to be let down again? That would be the worst thing of all.
Confidence that we can be successful has been building all season. It’s taken a couple of knocks along the way, we’ve long been the beaten wife, so it is not a surprise that we overreact to a blip.
Thursday’s draw with Rushden proved that things are progressing in the right direction. Not just because we’re heading back to the Kassam on par, but because there’s a buzz and intensity that the players can ride on.
In 2007, we were much more fragile and headed into the play-offs in hope, not expectation (apart from, perhaps, a misplaced belief that we had a right to promotion). Despite holding a goal lead, we couldn’t sell the place out because we couldn’t bear the prospect of being disappointed again. As a result the players, exhausted from their season, tried to drag us through to promotion. They couldn’t do it, and we failed.
This time, we’ve sold the Kassam out and there is a belief that whether we succeed or fail, that the momentum is with us. We can achieve, we can be happy. There is no pressure, because we know that if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll make it – this season, next season… who knows? If it’s possible to take the pressure away, then we’ve done it. Monday is only partly about a win; it’s also about celebrating us as a community and a club. On paper, our position is worse than it was into the second leg than we did in 2007 yet we’ve sold 2,000 tickets more. The difference is that we’re now a club at ease with who we are. We all want to be part its journey and as a result the players have a great environment in which to succeed.
We have a date with the handsome man with the kindly smile on Monday; this time he wants us to stay the night. Can we dare to believe that he’s good in bed too?