It was a tough job getting up Monday morning. We needed to get away from Podimore by 7 to drive back to London. Our legs were heavy from the 116miles (more for some) cycling the day before, and the 107 the day before that.
I was sad to be leaving without riding the final day. I had entered the ToW in the knowledge that it would clash with the playoff finals at Wembley. At the time the prospect of Palace getting there seemed rather remote. We had just taken a massive pasting at Brighton. Oh such little faith. How fortunes can change.
So I had a choice, Palace at Wembley or the final day of the ToW? In the end it was a no brainer, if I want to ride 112 miles next weekend I can, Palace’s next visit to Wembley, hmm well. It was a bit of a gamble. To have been standing with aching legs for two hours outside Wembley Central waiting for a train with a defeat in my guts would have been a very different experience.
I have experienced victory and defeat in the playoffs, and on every occasion it has been in a knife edge. But yesterday I was bizarrely confident. I felt that it was our moment. It was that the Palace support and the Palace players who seemed to have the belief. Even when we were cheerfully squandering our chances I was filled was a largely baseless confidence. That Kevin Phillips should have been on the pitch in stoppage time when the penalty was awarded is the kind of thing that tells you the planets are aligned. There is nobody else in our whole squad, even (Sir) Glen Murray who I would have trusted with this gift. It was also a fitting way to win. Though defences got wiser as time went on, our early season drive was fuelled by Zaha won penalties.
I have enjoyed playoff finals in Cardiff and the old Wembley. The new model is of course in so many ways better. The food, the view, the space was all much improved. But some things are lost. Cardiff had the feel of an away game, with a slightly more hard core intense atmosphere, maybe I had just drunk more that day. In the old Wembley with less corporate bombast the fans were able to make it more their own.
One thing that was unchanged is what a tedious pain it is to get away from Wembley. But at least the queue for the train provided an audience for the drunk (or possibly mentally ill) man in the block of flats near Wembley Central. He was able to enjoy an hour preaching (!) and remonstrating from his balcony with our slow procession. But with 220 odd cycling miles in my legs it was 2 hours of standing around I could have done without. Fortunately the anaesthetic glow of victory washed away the aches and pains.
Now we have the Premier to look forward to. Yes