I am beside myself with excitement and anticipation.
We all are, writing this the Thursday evening after the Thursday afternoon.
Facebook likes and shares, retweets and favorites abound. We’re in. All in.
I reminisce a lot, my history is over the pond. My favorite time watching games were with Stockport County, a league 1 team back then, whom played in a stadium of maximum attendance of 13,000 but would get maybe half that if lucky.
As I looked out of the offices of Soccer Park, that’s what I was reminded of.
Stockport County, you’ve probably never heard of them. overshadowed by their illustrious neighbors United and City, fighting for the spectator scraps in Greater Manchester with the likes of Oldham, Rochdale, Bury and Wigan. We used to play on Friday nights, so United and City fans who’d go watch them on Saturdays could come watch us. It was a good time. I’d leave college around 5pm, on a Friday night, go have a pint and then watch mediocre football.
Except something happened. Stockport went from being mediocre, to decent, to actually very good. Dangerously good.
Managed by David Jones (who subsequently managed Southampton, Wolves and Cardiff) in 1996/97 had when the fans still refer to as “the season” We got promoted to the Championship and made the semi finals of the League Cup.
We knew the team was good, the last season we finished just outside the playoffs by goal difference. Kept our squad and added some healthy additions, namely goalkeeper Paul Jones and Chris Marsden from Wolves. Jones would later being national keeper for Wales and Marsden would captain Southampton to an FA Cup final. This was the pedigree of the players.
the League season started slowly, but we began to win. However it was the league cup where we started to excel, we were drawn against Sheffield United in the 2nd round. and promptly went to Bramhall Lane, to a team in the Championship a league above us and thumped them 5-2.
Then we were pittied against Blackburn Rovers away. Blackburn were Premier League champions 2 seasons beforehand. Tim Flowers was in goal for them and punched the ball into the net off Tim Sherwoods head and we won 1-0. At a Premier League team.
What followed was me taking half a day off college to travel to London to play West Ham. we drew at Upton Park and won the replay thanks to a cracking own goal again by Iain Dowie. Seriously, he’ll never score a better header.
What followed in the quarter final was a home tie that we drew, again at home to premier league Southampton. They had great players, none more so than Matt LeTissier. Still. We won, after a replay at the old Dell. On a Premier League ground to get to the semi final of the League cup.
We played Middlesborough, it was a 2 legged affair, and the wheels on the bus came falling off in the game in Stockport. The white feather, Champions League winner, Fabrizio Ravanelli scored for them in a 2-0 defeat. But we still had to go upto their place. Amazingly again, my league 1 team won on Premier League soil. We won 1-0. So still went out 2-1 on aggregate. Middlesborough were going to the cup final at Wembley. They did a lap of honor. The first team to do so after being beaten at home by a team 2 leagues below them I’ll imagine.
So this is all good and nice right? What’s it got to do with us, here and now in 2014? well. We could do this. Next year. We could be drawing big name teams in the US Open Cup.
I remember I’d wake up on matchday, pumped. I knew we were a good team, I knew we had a chance of winning, and I knew I was going to watch it with 5000 of my nearest and closest kin.
That’s what it can feel like next year.
Are you ready?