Thursday, 21 January 2010


A thrilling League Cup semi-final at Villa Park with a two-goal lead being wiped out. Last night's seesaw action between Villa and Blackburn had my mind whirling back to the same stadium, same competition, same stage, 35 years ago. On that occasion it was my club, Chester City, who came from two down to level at 2-2. We had drawn the first leg 2-2 at Sealand Road. At Villa Park we looked down and out, as everyone had predicted, when the home team went 2-0 ahead. Then the late and much lamented Stuart Mason slammed home a Steven Gerrard-style rocket. Soon afterwards Jesse James turned in a loose ball from close range. I was in the press box and turned to the Liverpool Daily Post's veteran writer Horace Yates and said "I don't believe what I'm seeing here." Horace smiled indulgently, knowing that it would end it tears. It did. Ten minutes from time Brian Little snaffled a winner for the Villa. Even then Norman Whitehead went incredibly close to a third goal for us.

That season I'd spent a fair amount of time covering Chester's exploits and I'd been in the dresing room with the players after some fantastic wins. This time I went into the dressing room expecting a hubbub of activity and it was like a morgue. No-one was saying anything. The lads were sat on the benches, heads down, in total silence. The fact that they were devastated showed how close they'd been to Wembley and how realistic their chances of winning actually were. They had played superbly - a Fourth Division team defying all the odds.

A few weeks later the smiles were back when they clinched promotion - the least they deserved.

We had a great team, clever management in Ken Roberts and coach Brian Green, and a sensible board led by local florist Reg Rowlands.

The club today is unrecognisable. League position dire, finances worse, reputation shot to pieces, owners discredited, players unpaid and defecting, fans disillusioned.

Today the supporters' group City Fans United announced an overwhelming vote in favour of an official boycott of home games until the club is back in the hands of reputable locally-based owners. Well done the fans! Enough is enough, a stand is being made, and maybe, one day, we can start building a club which is again worthy of respect.

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