I’m going to write this particular blog trying not to sound too much like a parent. At the moment it’s hard enough keeping a two year old from running away off up the garden path so believe me when I say that I don’t mean to tell anyone, especially the fantastic supporters of my beloved football team, what to do.
But as the last day of the season rolls around we have to prepare for the usual ‘end of season’ activities and in particular the envisaged pitch invasion that seems to take place each and every year no matter where we finish in the league. There’s also been videos popping up on YouTube featuring Cobblers fans throwing flares onto the pitch at Port Vale and of Vale fans confronting our fans instead of celebrating their own promotion.
The game against Barnet is of grave importance to the visitors and of high significance to us in terms of trying to finish in fifth place in League Two. Tensions will be high from the South Stand and as home supporters who aren’t in that position I can only hope and pray that we show the away fans some ounce of respect throughout the day.
I was there at Elland Road when we were relegated a few seasons back and the intimidation from the Leeds fans from both sides of us made it even harder to take that we were going down and they were heading into the playoffs. I’m sure many of you were also there and can relate to that pain. We need to, only in my opinion mind, remember that Barnet aren’t just in danger of going out of the division but out of the entire Football League. Yes, they have irritated us in the past, beaten us to a pulp in games where we just didn’t turn up and, perhaps worst of all, introduced us to the marauding lunacy of a certain Mr Barry Fry. But they, like us, are a football club and have supporters that will be in the south stand on Saturday that have travelled across the country just like you and me have over the last however many years to see their side struggle to stay in the league.
I’m not in any way saying that we should be light on the Bees. If they lose and end up with less points than AFC Wimbledon then they deserve to be in the Conference next season. It would be a fitting way to get rid of them after some of the grief they’ve caused and my personal preference is actually for Wimbledon to stay up. But there’s no reason at all for us to give ourselves a bad name by invading the pitch at the end of the game and confronting supporters who are much like ourselves and love the same game we do.
We should also keep in mind that this is the final game of the season that won’t see emotions running high from our end of things. This team has performed wonderfully over the campaign and given us a club to be proud of. We came so close to getting into the top three but the playoffs aren’t exactly the worst consolation prize in the world. These players that have given us this chance of promotion should be celebrated and unless we do go all the way to Wembley this is realistically our last chance to show our appreciation. If we bow out in the semi-finals of the playoffs it’s likely that the team who beat us will hog the limelight and celebrations as we trudge off into the summer.
So this day is perfect for us to give the players a send-off for the playoffs that will show our pride in what they’ve done. A couple of years ago when we turned things completely around under Ian Sampson the team never got the recognition they deserved on the last day because of the pitch invasion. We’d be wise to give this group a proper celebration of what they’ve done so far and really give them buoyancy ahead of next Thursday’s first leg.
So let’s be different this season, let’s get right behind our team, show respect to those in the away end and go into the playoffs with the club in a positive light.
Enjoy it and be proud of what we’ve done. See you in those playoffs!