Crewe Alexandra v Cheltenham: The waiting's over, now Alex heroes must deliver
Crewe fan Jules Hornbrook couldn’t envisage a trip to Wembley six months ago. But his promotion dream could be just 90 minutes away.
THE last week has been nothing short of sheer torture for Crewe Alexandra supporters.
The tickets and travel were sorted long ago. Snacks and cash were put aside, and even the preferred Alex shirt was laid out in readiness.
The days have been chalked off like the countdown to Christmas.
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However, until we walk down Wembley Way on tomorrow afternoon, I doubt what’s been achieved this season will properly sink in.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround under Steve Davis, but we should never forget the man who laid the foundations.
Indeed, Dario Gradi deserves much credit for stepping aside and giving the new manager full control of the first team last November.
Davis is his own man, but I am sure he’s called on the vast experience on tap at Reaseheath to constantly improve the current squad.
However he’s done it, blending old and new methods, dipping into the loan market as required, the progress has been nothing short of phenomenal.
For weeks we have been an unbeatable force, the form side, with expectations rampant as the fans flocked back to Gresty Road.
We shouldn’t really forget how gloomy the outlook was just six months ago; but that’s football. Its legions of support march on bellies full of success.
The good times are back and everyone wants a slice of it.
Like thousands of others, I couldn’t resist the snaking queue that formed around the Alex main stand last Friday when tickets for our grand day out went on sale.
It was crazy, desperate and irrational. There was little chance we’d sell out our 21,000 allocation, but still we flocked there, mesmerised by the Pied Piper ticket office.
Everyone was smiling, oblivious to tired legs that stood obediently in line, banter flowed and the chatter was of promotion.
Then, to emerge into sunshine with play-off final tickets clutched tightly in sweaty palms was a magical moment.
They were kissed, waved around and held aloft like the winning trophy itself.
The effect such events can have on a town and its people should not be underestimated, as everyone associated with the Alex has walked 10 feet tall this week.
Nick Powell in particular must be on cloud nine. A Wembley appearance and potential promotion in his first full season is a decent return in anyone’s book.
It’s a shame that newspaper talk has linked him with Manchester United before the lad has even stepped out onto the hallowed turf.
Hopefully he and the other players will brush such media attention aside and go all-out for victory.
A rip-roaring performance would be perfect, but it’s now all about the result.
In line with our most recent Wembley history, perhaps a close-range rocket from our left-back would be a nice touch to seal the prize.
A deep cross would come from the latest talent coveted by the big clubs, just as Danny Murphy did back in 1997, leaving the stalwart centre-half to nod the ball down and set up the goal.
Then to hear “and Matt Tootle has scored…” will be particularly sweet, if a little unlikely given Toot’s goal scoring record at the club to date!
To be honest, an outrageous deflection off the referee’s head would satisfy me as long as it’s the Crewe fans dancing around those expensive seats just before 5pm on Sunday ...