It’s almost impossible to describe the feeling when, after 98 minutes and seven long years, Boro were promoted back to the Premier League. Almost, but I’m a writer, so I’ve at least got to give it a shot!
The emotions – euphoria, relief, residual nerves and nausea – are easy to name, but to pinpoint how it felt is a lot harder.
First you have to understand the town-wide depression that ensued when we got relegated. Personally, I sobbed on a friend’s chest while he awkwardly patted my shoulder. Then I had to give a phone interview for The Observer fan’s panel, but I digress.
As numerous nationals have observed in the aftermath of the match, in Middlesbrough, the town and the team are one. Match day results don’t just affect our mood, they determine it.
As some of you know, I no longer live in Boro, having moved to Chester two and a half years ago, but Boro is in my blood. Both my parents are Boro fans and myself, my big sister and my little brother all followed suit. As children we fought over who got to use the season ticket, as students it was whoever could make it home. And when I finished my journalism training I was lucky enough to join the awesome team at FMTTM and have the privilege of getting to know several sets of players.
As editor of ComeOnBoro following the team was my job, but it never stopped being my passion.
Last season, the Brunton siblings nearly bankrupted ourselves coming home to watch the promotion push, and eventually getting to Wembley. On the day, only Albert Adomah and George Friend really turned up. We didn’t do enough and we were forced to resign ourselves to another season in the Championship.
But that was then. This time, despite a rumoured mutiny, dropped points and an incredibly tense final day, we got the job done.
Brighton feel hard done by, particularly with regards to Dale Stephen’s sending off, but he’d been niggling at Ramirez all game, so even if you think a straight red was harsh, he’d easily racked up a few bookable offences. Plus that’s kind of besides the point. In both the game and the season, we were better. We did what we had to, and they didn’t.
Stuani’s goal was enough to take us back to the promised land, Brighton equalised and we held our breath. When the final whistle finally blew, The Riverside erupted.
As one we surged onto the pitch to share the moment with our heroes. I was with my sister, we found my brother and his girlfriend, and then my dad on the pitch, and created a memory which will last forever.
Following the match, some of the fans got a bit carried away and showed us up. But for the most part it was just pure joy on display.
The players celebrated in true Boro style – with a Sunday night pub crawl down Southfield Road, and some impromptu karaoke! – the perfect end to an incredible weekend.
There will be no open top bus parade, but we don’t need it. Our pitch invasion vs Burnley’s was like the final fight scene in Deadpool, comic to movie. We had Adam Clayton dancing on the roof of The Dickens to ‘Cheerleader’ and the team singing Ed Sheeran and One Direction. Burnley can keep Joey Barton (not that they will) and Brighton can cloak themselves in their self-righteous anger, we’ll take just being happy!
On the day, we drew. Overall, we came second. And we celebrated like Champions. Unapologetically, and long into the (next) night. Because that is how we felt.
Allow me to quote Bring It On for a second: “Second place, how does it feel?” “It feels like first.”
Yes Burnley won the Championship, and the presence of Barton, and Sean Dyche, makes that particularly galling, but for each and every fan, player and everyone associated with the club, second place truly felt like first. We achieved our goal, we’re back where we belong, WE DID IT!
See you next season!