North Stander: Let’s just enjoy the moment. Great game, awful season... I’ll be back in August!
PUBLISHED: 19:45 05 May 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
North Stander Terry Hunt at last has a smile on his face after Town’s win over Leeds
Wasn't that great?
Loads of goals, a red card, a comedy penalty miss, and a last-minute winner – for us!
All played in a terrific atmosphere. The perfect way to end such a painful season.
I know, I know...At the end of the day, it was all utterly meaningless for both teams.
But let's just enjoy this moment, shall we?
Let's face it, there have been precious few causes for celebration in the last nine months.
Actually, it wasn't completely irrelevant. There were some clear pointers for the future. Let's start with the only real stars of this most wretched of seasons – the fans.
Once again, they did themselves and the players proud.
They matched the noisy travelling Leeds army, and gave the home team a brilliant send-off. How many times will you see such a demonstration of affection and loyalty after a dismal relegation campaign?
On the pitch, we saw goals from Flynn Downes and Andre Dozzell, both of whom will surely have big parts to play as we bid to return from the wilderness of League One at the first attempt.
Dozzell's finish was sublime, as was his through ball to Quaner which ultimately led to Town's first goal.
I just wish Dozzell was more involved in games. I'm know he has the talent.
There was also a great battling performance from Toto Nsiala, throwing his body on the line umpteen times. He's not sophisticated, but he is certainly brave.
A big player for us next season, I would wager.
The exciting send-off will hopefully give a boost to season ticket sales.
Surely the club will extend the early bird deadline to push the total beyond the 12,000 mark?
As always this season, there were the negatives. The most worrying for me was yet another shaky performance from our captain Luke Chambers.
I know he's an important personality around the club, and a great leader, but his form has been awful.
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Against Leeds, he was fortunate not to give a goal away when he passed straight to an away attacker. Then, in the second half, he was sent off after once again being caught wrong side of his man in the penalty area.
Luckily for him, Kemar Roofe slipped as he went to strike the ball and it ballooned over the bar.
There are worrying signs for Chambers. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not sure he will perform well even in League One. Maybe a rest will do the trick.
So, an emotional end to the season, and a goodbye to the Championship after 17 seasons.
It has, without a doubt, been the worst campaign I have known since I first came to Portman Road in 1968.
Back in August, I wrote that I was looking forward to this column being a happier place after the grim last two seasons of the Mick McCarthy reign. How far wide of the mark can you be? It has been absolutely dreadful.
I certainly don't want to bore everyone by going through all the factors and mistakes which have brought us to this terrible place.
The important thing is what happens next.
Has the owner Marcus Evans learned lessons?
The whole club needs a reboot. “Switch it off and switch it on again” and hope it works this time. If only it was that simple...
It will be interesting to compare the line-up against Leeds with the team which kicks off the new season.
How many names will be in both teams? Three or four maybe? There's no doubt there will be a big turnover of players between now and August.
Paul Lambert will know who he rates, and who he wants to get rid of.
The big unknown will be how much money the manager is allowed to spend. The owner's track record in that respect is certainly far from encouraging but, as I said earlier, maybe he has learned a few lessons after what's happened to his club.
I certainly hope so.
As I've said before, League One will be ok for one season. There will be a certain novelty factor. Fellow supporters are already planning their away trips, including some who are really looking forward to a weekend of football, beer and curry in glorious downtown Rochdale!
But if it extends beyond a single season, the fun factor will very quickly disappear to be replaced by an awful realisation that we have become a lower league club. That must not be allowed to happen. It is simply unthinkable.
Thank goodness it's all over.
An utterly miserable season. But I will, of course, be back in my seat in August, full of renewed optimism. I wish you all a good, stress-free summer.
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