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Judgement Day

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Judgement Day "First of all, let me apologise for our pathetic performance against Crystal Palace. Enough has been said about that already, and now we must focus positively on this afternoon's match. It's a game we must win, and then keep or fingers crossed about the eventual outcome. I don't want to think about the unthinkable." The colourful, shiny programme I held in my hands trembled as I read this. It was from the weekly interview with the Portsmouth F.C. manager, Graham Rix. It sounded a long way away from the cool and collected manager, who had denied all problems and remained optimistic until this day. For you see, this was no ordinary day, no ordinary Saturday match for the inhabitants of the bustling south coast city of Portsmouth. This was like something out of a cheesy American movie. It was the last day of the season and, as they had been forced to do four times in the last six years, Portsmouth had to win to stay in the division. It was their own fault really, as many a Pompey fan would admit. They had spurned their chance to escape this last day nerve-jangler only three days prior to this momentous day. The chance had arisen when they played Crystal Place, the team one place below them, the place feared by managers and fans alike, the final relegation place. ...read more.


Then, as time went on the constant pressure applied from Portsmouth began to show, the lackadaisical Matt Appleby pondered too long on what to do next and was caught in possession by the energetic local boy, Gary O'Neil. He powered his was down the wing, and swung in an accurate, curling cross. This was met by the huge frame of die-hard Portsmouth fan and player Lee Bradbury, who powered the Blues into the lead by steering the ball past the hapless keeper, Kevin Miller, into the net. Before the ball had even touched the floor the crowd were on their feet, sheer jubilation running through them, as they hugged strangers, and friends alike. They could sense something special was on the way. I leapt up from my seat, throwing my programme to the floor, and cheered all I could, losing my voice, which I had only just regained. Among the crescendo of clapping and cheering the game had already started again. There was a buzz among the crowd, as the players in blue seemed to swarm the ill-fated Barnsley defence, pouncing on every mistake. After a swift attack in which Barnsley committed many men forwards, Portsmouth broke, tearing up the field, sweeping the ball from left to right. ...read more.


My train of thought was broken, by the rather poignantly apt 'Great Escape' theme being blasted out of speakers all around the ground. The crowd got their voice back again, and scenes of celebrations soon followed. I was swept along, on a wave of euphoria with the crowd onto the pitch, where the players were lifted high above the heads of the crowd, on their shoulders. Flags were hoisted up around the ground, and the news cameras were all over the place, interviewing fans, interviewing players. I came upon one interview with the relieved Graham Rix. On one of the greatest days of my life, I stood there, listening to what he had to say, along with a great number of fans, who waited to congratulate him after. His words at first were serious, stating, that 'this would never happen again.' How many times I had heard that in the last six years. But there was something about this man, something different. He cared. We all knew it, and we all knew that he would do everything in his power to keep his promise. His next words struck a particular chord with me, and have stuck with me ever since. His face changing from one of happiness to one of ambition, as his delivered his final words, 'just think how those fans would have reacted if we could really give them something to celebrate!' ...read more.

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