Football League: Diary of a play-off hopeful – Part 2

Laura Jones continues her diary of what it feels like to be a fan of a play-off contender.
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16th May

Brighton and Hove Albion v Sheffield Wednesday play-off semi-final leg 2

This evening felt like I’d been oiled up by Neil Warnock and had electrodes attached to my nipples: it was painful and a huge relief when over.

Brighton, despite their supposed bad luck and injuries, came out for the first half like a seagull that’s spied your chips as you walk along the seafront. It doesn’t matter how much you protect them, that seagull is having your chips away.

I don’t think I’ve seen such a relentless attack by a team. Brighton wanted to overturn the 2-0 lead they’d surrendered at Hillsborough. As impressive as Brighton were, Wednesday were equally as resilient and persistent in defence. A freak Ross Wallace shot/cross made sure that we dented their confidence and finished the evening as the overall victors.

Sheffield Wednesday are play-off finalists. I went to bed exhausted and with a smile on my face which was thankfully nothing to do with Neil Warnock oiling me up.

17th May

I’m sure the Second World War didn’t take this much planning. The phases for buying play-off final tickets have been released and it’s all to do with levels of priority points and membership. The more you’ve been and contributed to the club, the earlier you can buy your ticket to the most important game in 11 years. Fair enough.

It’s a logistical nightmare working out who has the fewest priority points and what phase we can buy in. What if they sell 30,000 tickets in the first phase? Thoughts like this are irrational but we’re 90 minutes away from being promoted to the Premier League. Nothing about this is rational.

We also need to figure out who won’t be going to Wembley so they can look after our tiny human.

28th May

A friend of mine sent me a message last night asking why I wasn’t “rocking in corner” when I expressed how excited I was about today. Play-offs shouldn’t be fun.

After reading the morning papers which included an article about Brighton’s Chairman formally complaining to the Football League about the injustice of the play-offs, I paced the floor for about five hours; the proverbial cat on a hot tin roof.

As we left the house I put the tiny human to bed. As I shut the door to his room my Dad said to me “next time you see him Sheffield Wednesday will be a Premier League football team.” I nearly wept in the corridor.

The tube journey to Wembley was eerily quiet. My family and I barely exchanged a word as we travelled to our football fate.

We made our way up Wembley Way to Bobby Moore. Today he had a new set of fans sheltering under him. As we waited for the other fragments of our family by Bobby’s feet, we watched on as Jordan Rhodes got frisked by security on his way into Club Wembley.

Inside the ground there were 40,000 Wednesdayites in the shady side and significantly fewer Tigers burning in the sunny side, but it was the Owls fans that were roaring.

There were explanations from the Hull City fans about not taking up their full seating allocation; the tickets prices, the rugby league teams playing at home that day, I even saw an excuse that Hull were bored of going Wembley.

As a football fan who hadn’t set foot in the new Wembley with my team or played at the home of football for 23 years, it’s an alien concept to think fans would be bored of competing at Wembley. But it would be the Hull fans who left the ground as a Premier League team.

Hull proved to be too experienced for Sheffield Wednesday. Their yo-yo existence gave them the edge and we performed off the pitch but not on it.

I’m not going to lie, I cried at the final whistle. I cried because it matters that for the first time in 16 years Sheffield Wednesday had a chance of being back at the top.

Pre-match I think I mistook confidence for optimism. For so long Owls fans have had so little to look forward to that once it happened it felt like we could rule the world.

I walked back down Wembley Way surrounded by Hull City fans who were just as muted as the Wednesday supporters. Whilst they were worthy winners on the day I couldn’t help feel that they didn’t appreciate the magnitude of what they’d achieved. Just another season for the Tigers.

As a play-off hopeful I congratulate Hull on their promotion As a fan of Wednesday, it’s been an incredible season. That optimism still remains and hopefully one day we will be ‘on our way back.’

Read more from Laura Jones here

Follow Laura at @YICETOR

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