Leaving Spotland on Bonfire Night, I was asked to be interviewed for some website. They wanted to ask some simple questions about the game, best player, best moment, crap like that. It showed a remarkable misunderstanding of everything that had just unfolded before us.
Asking for a favourite moment from that game is like asking for a favourite brushstroke from the roof of the Sistine Chapel, or for a favourite note from The Stone Roses album. It was a spectacle that had to be viewed in entirety to fully appreciate. The story arc was perfect, like a tale from Ancient Greece. Hope, followed by triumphalism, followed by punctured hubris, before a final explosion of delirium. I can’t imagine a more perfect way the game could have gone. I even accept that the smashed shins, and the elbow I took to the mouth during the orgiastic explosion that erupted following Cottrell’s goal were a necessary part of the narrative.
I didn’t give an interview to the website. I had nothing even approaching coherent to say. My only form of expression was a puffed out cheek exhalation, followed by blasphemous profanity. I was, quite literally, speechless.
It took a long time to process what we’d all seen and been involved in. Days, running in to weeks. I contracted what top doctors called Michael Norton Syndrome: an inability to concentrate, spontaneous laughter, and waking up in the middle of the night experiencing auditory and visual hallucinatory flashbacks. I never want it to end. I don’t think it ever will.
Queuing for Brighton tickets outside Gigg, the consensus was that Rochdale away was up there with Barcelona in ’99, Rotterdam in ’91, and for older Reds, Wembley in ’68. This viewpoint was roundly pooh-poohed in a letter to RedIssue (despite being somewhat undermined by the letter writer’s inability to correctly identify our opponent in the game) but they weren’t there. We were. And there’s nothing about that night I would change. It was as close to footballing perfection as I can imagine.
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