It was on the 27th June 2020 that I realised it would now be impossible for Swansea City to make the Play Offs this season. To be honest I was so disappointed it took a week or so to get back on an even keel emotionally. I know it sounds daft but that is what happened after Swansea lost to Luton, the bottom side in the Championship. To be fair to me we had been in lock down for a couple of months and Swansea had raised my expectations far too high the previous week with a magnificent all round performance to beat Middlesbrough 3 – Nil. To suffer such a soul destroying defeat at that time, well, there’s only so much a man can take.
I’m still a fan so over the last few weeks, I have sat in front of my computer watching the Swans develop a new system of play that has allowed a number of players to shine. Conor Roberts is back to his brilliant best, Ben Cabango has shown how important our academy has been in producing local talent and Marc Guehi our on loan defender from Chelsea has proved a lot of people wrong by showing what a good footballer he is. Oh, and Rhian Brewster, that boy is going to be a star striker in the Premier League very soon. It was just such a shame that he wouldn’t shine for us in the biggest league in the world because all of this happened too late to save our season.
On Wednesday we made a conscious decision not to watch the live coverage of the Swans game against Reading. We had been there before. The Play Off Final in 2011 at Wembley was a massive roller coaster of emotions. Yes, it all turned out ok in the end but at least then everything was in our own hands. This time the game against Reading was just a bit player in a much wider drama. To go through all that and then still not get to the play offs? It was too much for me.
The trouble was we had had the opportunity to put ourselves in pole position, but we had let things slip. It was still possible but highly unlikely.
Since the return of football Cardiff City have been ruthless. Apart from the dropped point here and there they have shown they are a powerful, physical side to be reckoned with. With a 3 point lead and with their final game at home against bottom of the table Hull you knew their no nonsense style of play was bound to win through.
The only other team in the mix, a team we could still catch mathematically were Nottingham Forest. If we had only beaten them the week before we would have given ourselves a fighting chance but that draw alongside losing against Luton meant we would need to win and there to be a 5 goal swing in goal difference to make the impossible happen.
My new family bubble includes some of my football loving kids. One of them actually said I hope Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest score 3 goals early doors so we can relax for the rest of the evening. At that point I did say just you wait and see, this will be one of those nights that we look back on and say remember when Swansea got into the play offs at the last minute…we all laughed.
Out of curiosity and loyalty to our team we kept the BBC website page open on Championship scores. An early goal from Rhian Brewster drew some attention from my gang but by half time Cardiff were 2 goals to the good at home to Hull and basically home and dry. There had been a slight glimmer of hope when we saw Stoke City were beating Nottingham Forest but that was soon extinguished when we saw Swansea had conceded a late goal through a penalty which meant they went in at half time, 1 all at Reading.
By the 61st minute we knew it was all over. Nottingham Forest equalised. A draw was all they needed to make the play offs, for this season, sadly, that was that.
The rest of the evening is still a bit of a blur. At 61minutes into the Forest game we abandoned the BBC website but as the minutes passed we started getting texts from friends updating scores.
66 minutes and Swansea’s Wayne Routledge scores a wonder goal
73 minutes Stoke take the lead again. 78 minutes and Stoke make it 3.
84 minutes and the Swansea academy project scores his first senior goal for the club. Liam Cullen makes it 3- 1 to the Swans.
At this stage the kids fired up the iPad and tune in to Swans TV. I know that it’s a hopeless case so decide the best thing to do is put the bins out. As I’m walking through the kitchen I can here my kids groan each time the Swans go close.
As I’m putting my green bags kerbside I heard a scream, a good scream; not from my kitchen but from a garage a few doors down. I assume Malcom is listening to the BBC radio commentary. The Swans TV stream is a couple of minutes behind. I decided to rush back to the kitchen and keep quiet.
There’s a break down the right; the ball comes to Conor Gallagher who crossed the ball. The big man rises at the back to head home. Wayne Routledge??? At this stage I wonder whether I’m dreaming, or I’ve eaten some dodgy left over curry.
At 91 minutes into the final game of the season Swansea are in the final Playoff position. Its then we realise that the Forest game kicked off a few minutes after our game. Ever the optimistic football fan I tell the kids Forest are bound to score in extra time???
It was then I heard another scream form Malcolm’s garage and I started to get messages on social media and some texts as well. They all said ‘Congratulations’. We kept trying to refresh the BBC scores page but for some reason the Forest game was stuck on 84 minutes..
Finally, the Forest score turned yellow with those beautiful 2 letters underneath FT, but it wasn’t 3-1 to Stoke, it was 4-1. I was right Forest had scored in the 96th minute, it was an own goal.
At this stage we left to take a victory lap of honour down our street. We weren’t alone. Then we sat in front of the TV clutching mobile phones and tablets watching every report and every social media post from pundits and fans around the world.
Now we start again on Sunday with the first leg semi-final against Brentford. I’m trying to stay grounded telling myself and anyone who will listen that lightning rarely strikes twice and ‘you’ll never win anything with kids’, but football is a funny old game and no matter what I say…I still believe in the Swans.