Here’s a message for any Derby County fans who brought their kids to the Play-Off Final against QPR at Wembley on Saturday
I know what you went through.
You may well have travelled to the game looking something like this (with different coloured balloons and different shirts, obviously).
And you may well have travelled back looking something like this.
That was the 2003 Division 1 play-off final against Cardiff and in Cardiff. We lost.
This weekend we played you for a much bigger prize, and we won. I still don’t know how.
Before the game we were full of optimism
During the game, though, all that optimism disappeared. We had a man sent off and we were struggling in every area, just holding on. Perhaps we were hoping we could take it to extra time and then (with an older team of ten more likely to tire than Derby’s young eleven) somehow take it to penalties. With Robert Green stopping everything, who knows what might have happened…
But, deep down, we knew that we had blown it.
Then we won a throw on the right, and it happened – what will always be known as that goal, what will always be known as that moment. In the 90th minute of a game in which we had been, frankly, outplayed in every area, in a game in which for the last half hour we were reduced to ten men, Bobby Zamora scored with our first shot on target.
Promotion at Hillsborough was fantastic. Promotion to the Premiership first time round was fantastic too. But there has been nothing quite like what happened at Wembley.
When I saw the kids in Derby shirts walking back up Wembley way surrounded by the jubilant blue and white hoops I felt for you. You had been reminded just how cruel and unfair the game can be. We, on the other hand, had been reminded of its extraordinary and surprising beauty.
Yesterday we brought only one balloon and had only one shot on target
It’s a tough lesson to learn, but sometimes that’s all you need to make the journey home a good one.