The referee points to the spot in the 6th minute of injury time. Our most talented player, who had just won the penalty, steps up to take it.
If we score, we are through, to Wembley and, maybe maybe, the Premiership.
The pub falls silent. Fear and pessimism - the usual companions to a penalty - sweep over everyone. ‘He’s gonna miss. He’s gonna bloody well miss. I know it.’
To add insult to injury, he misses the rebound too.
The ball breaks, they attack, we panic and within seconds they’ve scored and we are beaten. Scarves are scattered, tears break the surface, f-bombs echo over a stunned disbelief. Doors slam.
The most dramatic and traumatic defeat has been inflicted. The prospect of a Wembley final and promotion to the Premier League, the culmination of nine months and 48 games, all gone in the space of twenty seconds. But of course, hearts can break in less seconds than that.
I should probably take a moment to explain. ‘We’ are Leicester City. ‘They’ are Watford. Though in truth, ‘they’ could have been anyone. ‘They’ often beat us like that. Painfully.
It is arguably the most traumatic defeat I had ever experienced in the 30 plus years I have supported Leicester City. It wasn’t, however, as traumatic as the death of my close friend weeks before. A friend with whom, man and boy, I had spent most of those 30 years of football, sharing this regular dose of pain and the occasional actual triumph.
Though, of course, both traumas were inextricably linked, indivisible really. Because, you see, a football club is not 11 overpaid players and a middle aged man in a tracksuit armed with a post-match cliché, no matter what cynics might think. It is not a three year business plan, a TV deal or a marketing strategy. At its heart, football is simply where the games are played and who watches them. Our games are played in Leicester and I watch them with my friends and family. And one of them is now gone. Continue reading