“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death… I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.
This famous, much-quoted line from legendary Liverpool Manager Bill Shankly is rarely more appropriate than towards the end of a season, where many clubs are fighting desperately for those final remaining points. At both ends of the table, there will be winners and losers, and the emotional rollercoaster players and fans experience is one virtually unrivalled in other areas of life. In some cases, supporters must wonder why they bother at all.
This season, the two clubs who arguably suffered the biggest end of year heartbreak were Brentford and Peterborough United.
The football Gods had created the most dramatic finale possible at the top of League One, with two of the division’s top sides, Doncaster Rovers and Brentford, facing each other in a straight shoot-out for the second automatic promotion place. It was Doncaster who occupied the spot before the exchange, and the travelling Yorkshire side only had to avoid defeat in order to secure their place in the Championship. But in the dying seconds of the game, with 94 minutes on the clock, it appeared as if Brentford had been handed promotion on a plate, when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Toumani Diagouraga.
For Brentford’s on-loan striker Marcello Trotta, it seemed that he was about to etch his name into the club’s history by scoring the goal that directly resulted in the club’s promotion. For the home fans, an unexpected lifeline had been offered at the eleventh hour, and they must surely have already been planning their trips to the likes of QPR and Reading in one of the most popular and exciting leagues in the world. But the fairytale wasn’t to be. The penalty crashed against the crossbar, condemning Bees supporters to one of the cruelest near-misses English football has seen. To rub salt in the wound, Doncaster then immediately went to the other end and scored, winning the title and sending their own fans into mass hysteria. The two sets of supporters simply couldn’t have left the ground with anymore contrasting emotions.
Doncaster Rovers – League One Champions 2012/13
If Brentford don’t grab the final promotion place by winning the Play-Offs (at the time of writing they are drawing 1-1 after their Semi-Final first leg with Swindon), they will be facing a Peterborough side in League One who were relegated in the most horrendous of circumstances on the final day.
When Huddersfield equalised against Barnsley with less than ten minutes remaining, Peterborough were home and dry. Barnsley required a two-goal swing in their favour over Peterborough, who were leading Crystal Palace 2-1, and there was next to no time left. But when Palace scored in the 83rd minute, suddenly the possibility of relegation became ever so slightly more real, and with no minutes of normal time remaining, the Posh back-line was breached and Mile Jedanik bundled the ball home. To add further insult to injury, the free-kick which set up the winning goal was highly contentious, with there appearing to be nothing illegal about Dwight Gayle’s challenge.
Peterborough’s supporters suffered last minute trauma
Such last minute drama can not be good for the health of a football fan! But as with every situation, there are two sides to each story, and for supporters of Doncaster Rovers and Barnsley, who stayed up at the expense of Peterborough, the final day of this season will live long in the memory.
The overwhelming joy and elation those fans experienced is why millions of football fans put up with such regular misery and depression on Saturday afternoons. When your team is successful, there’s just no better feeling.