The best things come to those who wait they say. There’s a lot of convenient little sayings like that, some which are true in all walks of life and some which have become simple soundbites.
However when something has been over 100 year in the making, this particular snippet seems more than apt.
Doncaster Rovers first and only appearance at Wembley in 2008 was such a moment – the best had come to those who had waited, few had been forced to wait so long.
That day, it’s not an overstatement to say, was a dream come spectacularly true and made all the sweeter by the sometimes soul destroying years spent waiting (that and because it was Leeds United that we beat).
The agonising seasons of mediocrity were the norm for so many years in which the club were always the bridesmaid.
Occasions like the Leyland Daf northern final against Tranmere Rovers, where the perennial strugglers which were the late 80’s Rovers team, found themselves within 90 minutes of a Wembley final. Alas it wasn’t to be and for decades it seemed like the only chance of a Rovers appearance at the home of English football would have been if the final of the Sheffield county cup had been switched to Wembley.
2003 saw a change with the final of the conference play offs but the match took place in Stoke and since has quite rightly become a piece of well documented folklore.
It looked like a case of typical Rovers bad luck when the side steamrollered its way to the Johnstone’s paint Trophy final a few years later. What had always been a Wembley show piece had been moved to Cardiff while the old girl was rebuilt and looked like that would be that.
Then 2008 came along. Just being there was almost special enough, but we all had a quiet optimism where in other years there might have been an air of fear. That Rovers team had the best midfield in the league, and given that we had already played Leeds off the park twice that year, coupled with the semi final display against Southend, we all knew we were on to a winner, even if we dare not say it out loud.
Even with that said, I must confess those 90 minutes were among the most horrendous of my life. Gripped with the kind of tension that I have only ever felt in the queue for ‘The eagles claw’ at Lightwater valley (seriously, never go on that ride, it is purgatory) I have never been on the edge of my seat for so long.
The final whistle brought a feeling more of relief than anything else (much like those first few tentative steps after the ride has stopped before my 8 year old daughter asks “can we go on again Dad?”) and, just like the theme park ride, once it had finished I could declare that I enjoyed it, but a big part of me never wanted to do it again.
That day in London was so perfect there is a big piece of me that longs to draw a line under Wembley. Just pack it away in a box labelled ‘brilliant Rovers memories’ and leave it at that. I’m terrified that another day out might not go so well and might taint what is the most perfect of recollections, so easily summonable in minds eye even now in all it’s beautiful red and white glory, – from the annoying loud and incomprehensible PA system in the ground to the second of silence which seemed to last a lifetime that was eventually broken by the wall of sound which greeted James Hayter’s impeccably placed header. It was magnificent, and that’s how I want to keep it.
A bit of me hoped that if we didn’t go up automatically this year, that we’d miss out on the top 6 altogether to spare us the agony of the playoffs, (the platinum streaks on my head are gathering numbers fast enough as it is) because as ridiculous as it may sound, I’m not sure i can take it again.
Anyway, it might not come to that. Brentford seems as good a place as any to seal promotion and we are in a place most other teams would envy. Our destiny, for now, is in our own hands.
I desperately hope we make it over the line on Saturday 27th April 2013, of course, but with the extra motivation of avoiding a trip down to the capital once again. Should Wembley come calling however – I’ll be there. Try and stop me, after some of the seasons i’ve sat through there’s an element of perspective to be had, and there’s always ‘just for men’ anyway.
More importantly, we are equipped to see the job through at Brentford and I believe a side packed with the leaders and quality we possess will get the job done before the play off lottery tickets are handed out.
Come on you Reds!