At the end of any game there is only one truth…the result. I’m always reminded of the manger when asked if he thought the second goal crossed the line told the reporter to check the score in the newspaper the following morning. But even though we all know that it’s the result that really matters… we also understand that there is much more truth around a game than just the numbers.
If you are a regular follower of sport and especially if you are a supporter of one particular team then you will definitely have a view on every game that your team is involved in. That’s why there is so much post-match discussion on radio and TV, so much argument on message boards. How often have I come away from a game thinking, either we didn’t deserve to lose that or alternatively we certainly didn’t deserve to win. Sometimes people have the same, but opposite views on the same game. They have watched the same 90 minutes and come away with a different interpretation.
The other thing that always gets me is how your emotions are affected by when goals are scored. Managers and supporters alike will often say of a drawn match, it feels like a win or it’s more like a defeat. The score is still the same, and the division of points is the same it just feels different.
A few times this season watching my team Swansea City I have had all of these feelings. At one stage of the season we had a reputation for not being able to see a game out to the full 90 minutes. We might have been in the lead and dominant for long periods of time only to see the opposition snatch a draw or a win in the last few minutes. On these occasions it hurts even more because we were so close to the finish line. For those games where we have been behind only to draw level or ‘nick it’ in the dying seconds life is so much sweeter than just being in the lead all game long.
Over a decade ago I was involved in the film ‘Jack to a King’. It soon became clear that in our story the history of Swansea City was going to be decided by 2 pivotal games. The first against Hull City in 2003 would decide the future of Swansea City as defeat would mean regulation from the Football League and almost certain oblivion. The second was the Championship play off final at Wembley in 2011 which would decide promotion to the promised land of the Premier League.
Here’s a spoiler, Swansea won both games. This of course was good for our film but that wasn’t really going to be enough. A boring win is still a win but it’s not Hollywood. The great thing for us as filmmakers was both games had drama.
In 2003 Swansea took an early lead, happy days, only to see Hull then score 2 goals, disaster. A dodgy penalty to the Swans before half time meant the teams went in all square. The second half saw 2 Swansea Goals the last being a long distance chip from local boy, hattrick hero James Thomas. Already you can see that is a much better story than scoring 4 goals in the first ten minutes and sitting back feeling comfortable. Swansea 4 – Hull 2.
There was drama again in 2011 when the Swans did take a 3 goal lead into the half time break only to see that lead get chiselled back to 3-2. The swing in momentum to Reading felt almost tangible around Wembley Stadium. A last ditch blocked shot by the Captain Garry Monk and a late penalty to Swansea resulting in a hattrick for Scott Sinclair took the game beyond Reading and Swansea into the Premier League. Swansea 4- Reading 2.
Last Saturday Swansea played Cardiff City, their bitter local rivals, in what has now become known as the South Wales Derby. Last year, after more than a centenary of derbies one team finally did the Double or ‘Doube’ as it’s become known for the first time. With Swansea winning comfortably last year at home to make it 3 in a row this game took on even greater significance.
Now its not just the 90 mins or in Saturday’s case 99 mins that matter, it’s the build-up as well.
Last week I had been in Cardiff for the Wales Croatia game and for the ‘It’s My Shout’ Film awards. I think its fair to say that I was in the company of many of my Cardiff supporting brothers and sisters at both events.
Swansea have been on a difficult run since we beat them last October. Since their latest change of manager Cardiff have experienced something of a renaissance. All the talk was of their team passing my team on their way up the table.
Not only did the game have the significance of a local derby, the points would be valuable to both teams as they tried to steer themselves away from the relegation zone.
Being a football supporter can bring out the optimist and pessimist in you all at the same time. When Joel Piroe scored in the first few minutes I was delighted… but concerned. We are going to put 5 past them mingled with, oh my gosh, have we scored too early. When Liam Cullen scored a second I knew it was too good to be true.
These days you watch football with one eye on social media. When Cardiff pulled one back before halftime I read someone on twitter saying this had us giving away a losing goal in extra time written all over it.
With a fairly full Cardiff City Stadium, mostly supporting the Bluebirds, their equaliser in the 88th minute was greeted by a wall of sound and a kick to the pit of my stomach.
Now at this stage I’m saying run down the clock, take the sting out of the game and bank the point. We had shown character and skill and there was no shame in a draw.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when they just kept passing the ball and going for a winner. I’m sure I shouted, ‘kick it into row Z mun’ a couple of times. If they had listened to me we would never have had a last minute free kick and a 99th minute winner from Ben Cabango.
All season we have heard the manager saying that he was proud of the bravery shown by his players to have belief in what they do…it was magical to see that belief in themselves create history and give a city a boost it so needs in these difficult times.
Which brings me back, as it always does when thinking about football, to life. If we won every game without a struggle, without a drama how boring would it all be. If we take the easy option to ‘hoof the ball upfield’ rather than trust our talent and team to reach our goal, our way, we might end up always with just another average draw.
I might not win the game of life in the last minute of extra time…but as Russell Martin says, I’m determined to stick with the process have belief in the project and give it a good go.