Date: 24 April 2010
“Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, we’re going to Saint Mary’s, que sera, sera.” This was one of the most frequently employed anthems for Cherries’ fans this afternoon, though others that will be remembered for a long time include “Oh Eddie ’owe, Eddie Eddie Eddie ’owe” and “Are you watching, football league?” Ultimately today will be remembered more for the partying than for the football - and yet the football was great too, with the Cherries dominating most of the match.
It was by no means certain from the start, how well this day would pan out. I was delayed for so long outside Clapham Junction that I wondered if I’d get to Burton at all (my tickets from Euston were valid for one train only). Then Birmingham New Street was in total darkness on account of a power cut; with no signs to indicate what platform to go to, no staff in evidence, and only about ten minutes to find my train. Eventually I apprehended a member of staff trying to rush past me, and he sent me to platform 7, while warning that my ticket wasn’t worth the paper it was written on today. At platform 7 another member of staff suggested I go to platform 9. There a train came in with no clue as to its destination, and the driver kept his window up to avoid being helpful. But the next train turned out to be the right one. Two things had gone wrong; what would be the third? Well, the Exiles pub - while having good traditional character and a great range of beers - was so congested that anywhere I stood (forget trying to find a seat!) I seemed to be in someone’s way. But problems come in threes, and that was my three ticked off for the day.
From then on, things began to look up. Some late arrivals started an extra ‘Exiles’ table’ at the far end of the pub, and I joined them. Subsequently, we proceeded to the stadium and the atmosphere here was electric. Couldn’t hear any announcements, but the same team as the previous week emerged from the tunnel. They lined up almost as expected, though the versatile Robinson had been allocated the left wing position today. We presumed he and Feeney would swap at some point, but they didn’t do so until five minutes before half time. And when they did, interestingly Bartley and Hollands swapped too - so that Bartley continued alongside Feeney and Hollands alongside Robinson. Elsewhere in the squad, leaders are emerging: Pearce organised the defence and Pitman, despite his relative youth, now has the confidence to tell Fletcher what position to take up.
The lads kicked off playing towards the goal at the far end of the ground so, although we could see that attempts were being made on goal, we couldn’t really judge why none were going in. Pitman had two very early shots (first heading wide, then firing the ball across the goalmouth); then there was a shot from Feeney, followed by two more from Pitman. We were totally dominating the play but there was a nervousness about the finishing. To make things worse, news came through that Rotherham were 1-0 up in their game; if things continued this way, we wouldn’t get promotion today. There wasn’t much action to see at our end of the ground, but we were treated to a wonderful diving save from Jalal late in the half, from a header that was definitely going in otherwise.
The domination continued in the second half. We saw a shot from Pearce saved, one from Hollands that went into the roof of the net, and one from Fletcher that hit the corner of the bar. There was then a brief spell, mid-half, when Burton took over the reins. It was during this spell that the Bournemouth fans, who’d never stopped singing, started a chant of “Eddie, Eddie, give us a wave” - and unbelievably he didn’t, because he was so engrossed in what we were doing in defence (Cooper and Pearce proving very strong, and Jalal making further great saves). When Howe didn’t oblige, the chant changed to “Jason give us a wave”, and Tindall had no reservations about doing so. I continued to hope we might score eventually; it would be great to do so, surely, in front of 1800 fans who were so excitable already? And when the moment came, it came suddenly: I was taking a swig from my water bottle at the time. In the 66th minute, a Bradbury free kick found Fletcher’s head; he nodded it back to Pitman; and he volleyed it in. Cue absolutely ecstatic celebrations. But I at least wasn’t totally confident yet; it was a slender lead and it could disappear just as quickly. We’d have to wait till the 90th minute to truly relax. This was the point at which Eddie made the perfect substitution. He’d already replaced Feeney with McQuoid, who took up a position on the right wing but did absolutely nothing. Now he brought on Connell for Fletch. Connell took up a position by the near post as a Robinson cross came in; the Burton keeper made a mess of it and Connell slotted the ball home - in his first touch of the game, just seconds after coming on! We could therefore enjoy the four minutes of added time during which Cummings came onto the left flank as our final substitution, with Robinson joining in Hollands in central midfield, and Bartley going off (as both Feeney and Fletcher had before him) to a great ovation.
When the final whistle went, Burton stewards made no attempt to keep us off the pitch. Indeed they seemed to encourage it. It’s not as though Burton have anything to play for this season, as they’re comfortably mid-table, and any damage to the pitch can be repaired before August! In fact Burton have done very well to consolidate their position in the football league, and many of their fans were kind enough to remain in the terraces and applaud us. But I, for the first time in my life, went onto the pitch. The players mounted the steps (a la Wembley) to the directors’ box, and there received our praise - often even joining in the songs we were singing. Several of the players were singled out for acclaim: Pitman, Fletcher, Connell, Bartley, Jalal and notably Wiggins (chants of “Sign him up”). And I reflected on how fortunate I am to have been present, on the day we clinched promotion, for each of the last three occasions: Fulham ’87, Millennium Stadium ’03 and Burton ’10. Up the Cherries! Up - to League One!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):