Que Sera Sera… We really are going to Wembley! I refused to sing this until the second goal went in – I was too nervous, because it means so much. To all of us. The fans, the players, the club, for the first time in as long as I can remember, we really are all in this together, we are Teesside and we are one.
A friend at work was trying to understand how a football fan can be so invested in a team of players, likely not from the town, who may only be with us for a season or two. How a defeat can ruin our weekend, if not the whole week. I tried to articulate the passion we have for those who kick a ball and occasionally make all our dreams come true. But you can’t make someone understand something they aren’t part of.
Living in Chester I haven’t gotten to many games this season, and our final league match against Brighton was such as damp squib that I just didn’t know how we’d do against in the first leg against Brentford.
I needn’t have worried. We dismantled the Bees, scored two goals and secured the win – job half done and we were in the driving seat for the second leg.
Tickets purchased and a half day holiday from work secured and I headed back to Boro with my brother, sister and brother’s girlfriend who isn’t from Middlesbrough but totally ‘gets’ the joy of Boro’s play-off journey so far. She also drives us to and from Chester enabling us to be there for these moments – thank you Danni, you rock!
Led by the incomparable Red Faction and driven on by the Holgate gate, a packed Riverside stadium sang for 90+ minutes urging the players to victory.
We actually started quite badly – passes going astray, poor quality crosses landing wide of the mark, silly fouls etc but in the end it didn’t matter.
We soaked up the pressure, digested the trash talk dished out by the Brentford, fans, some of the players and a couple of misguided biased national journalists, and turned it into fuel to kill of the Bees and take us to Wembley.
Well-crafted ruthlessly executed goals from Lee Tomlin, Kike and Albert Adomah grabbed the headlines, but to a man we were excellent (after the inital nervy start) and as we have so many times this season, we won as a team.
I could have a moan about referee Lee Mason who seemed it have decided ten minutes in that this match was, in fact, all about him, stopping play and punishing innocuous challenges, but it doesn’t matter now.
Boro were on fire and nobody was going to spoil our party. Whatever happens now we made it to Wembley and none of us will forget the feeling we had when the final whistle blew.
In possibly the most family-friendly pitch invasion ever seen Boro fans of all ages embraced the moment and surged onto the pitch – jobs and responsibilities be damned!
Giving Jonathan Woodgate two minutes and the captain’s armband was a classy touch as were Brentford manager Matt Wharburton’s post-match comments.
Next up it’s Norwich, at Wembley, they want revenge, we just want promotion.
After the semi-final win over Brentford, Adomah, Leadbitter and Karanka were all asked if they had a preference who we faced in the final and they all gave the same answer ‘it doesn’t matter.’ Because it’s not about the opposition, it’s about what we do on the day, how we play, if we can make it over the final hurdle and the message from Boro fans the world over is clear ‘we #Believe’.