I know I've said this before, but football is a wonderful thing! Its a sport loved by the nation, and the world, with millions of people watching, playing and discussing the game at any one time. Its also one hell of an emotional rollercoaster for the people that have any attachment to the game!
I mention this as this past week, particularly Tuesday and Wednesday, football has given me feelings from completely opposite ends of the scale, originating from opposite ends of the sports system. I make no secret that i am a big fan of non-league football as well as my enduring love for West Ham United, and in a way i associate the two in completely different brackets, almost in two different sports. Obviously that's not the case, but at times that's how my mind figures it!
Tuesday night was West Ham night, as we were away to Blackpool. The game had originally been set for Saturday but due to cup commitments for our opponents it was shifted to this night. Through the season the Hammers have generally been better away from home, and the fans hoped it would continue as a win would put us back at the top of the league. I was working though, so the radio was my way of keeping up with the game!
It started well enough, as West Ham raced to a 2-0 lead thanks to a James Tomkins header & a goal from Nicky Maynard on his full club debut. The Hammers were the dominant team through the half, but against the run of play the home side pulled a goal back thanks to Kevin Phillips as the half drew to a close.
The second half is where things got really interesting, all whilst i was on the tube home! Our keeper Rob Green was sent off in the 53rd minute, so with no sub keeper on the bench in went on loan midfielder Henri Lansbury! West Ham teams of old would have fallen apart at this point, but not this one as they stuck together & scored a further 2 goals to win 4-1! Us Hammers fans were both shocked and pleased at the end result, back at the top of the Championship!
Fast forward to Wednesday night, and the semi final of the Essex Senior Cup. The previous night had seen Canvey Island FC beat Dagenham & Redbridge on penalties to reach the final, and the opportunity of an all-island final was there for Concord as they took on Colchester United. Concord have been my non-league team for a couple of years now, helped by the fact they are literally just down the road, so i was looking forward to the game!
Utd are a League 1 team, and named a squad reflecting that, with no less than 8 players having first team experience. The quality showed straight away, pressing Concord and unsettling the normally calm and well placed football of Rangers. Concord were not at their best though, which was a shame as this was a huge opportunity for the team. The first half saw the main action, with Colchester getting 2 soft penalties, scoring one, and capitalising on mistakes to go into the break up 4-0.
Clearly this wasn't the game we were expecting to see, and the two Dannys (Cowley & Scopes) made 3 changes at half time in an attempt to alter the way things were going. They had the desired effect, as Concord looked better in the second half and notched up attempts on goal, but there was no way we were getting back from the first half deficit. The second half was goalless, credit to Concord for that, but the better team won on the day in a fairly one-sided fashion.
I was gutted, as i know the team and staff were too. After a lot of build up it was a crash right back down to earth, and for me it was completely the opposite of how I'd felt the night before!
Football has that affect on its fans, brilliant highs, gut-wrenching lows, and every single bit inbetween. However i can pretty much guarantee i speak for every one of those fans when i say we wouldn't change this emotional rollercoaster for the world!