Liberating Weekend Ends So Let The Fight Begin
It was a weekend like no other.
There was no build up of dread over the course of the preceding week.
There didn’t seem to be too much despondency or sign of a hangover following another anemic display at the Britannia (or whatever it’s now called) last Saturday. Perhaps it was the knowledge of a free weekend that helped alleviate that sinking feeling Palace fans have come to know so well.
There was no shortage of fingernails, bitten to a bloody pulp in recent months following thrashings and disappointments, sprouts of new nails began to appear, much to the relief of the battered cuticle.
No doubt many fresh fingernails took the opportunity for some welcome activities away from SE25. I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend in Dublin with a host of friends. The footballing misery was left firmly in the departures lounge of Stansted Airport on the Thursday.
Much talk when it is FA Cup weekend or international weekend is of the annoyance there’s no Palace. Sub-standard and sub-passionate garb that doesn’t measure up to the feeling of supporting your club.
This weekend felt like a liberation.
How good was it following Sunderland and Stoke City, to not be sunk to the pits of despair from the struggling Eagles?
How good was it, at three o’clock on a Saturday, to enjoy the freedom to do whatever it is that took your fancy?
The full weekend has passed, and the footballing events have barely caused a ripple in my attention. I have no idea of what clubs have progressed or fallen to defeat. It’s bliss, but for a couple of exceptions…
The story of the weekend is no doubt the glorious scenes at Turf Moor as lowly Lincoln City eliminated Burnley to become the first non-league side in 103 years to reach an FA Cup quarter final. If there was ever merit in the ‘Magic of the Cup’ claim that networks churn out, this was it in all it’s magnificent glory.
Palace fans know too well how powerful football can be in stirring up feelings of pure bliss and passion. You would need to have a heart of stone not to be jealous of how incredible the supporters of Lincoln are feeling right now, or of how euphoric it must be to be a part of that squad. The dressing room scenes were enough of an image in themselves.
And there, in that, was where my Palace liberation cam to a crashing end. I glanced quickly as the Lincoln story was complete after the final whistle, my jealousy and envy was almost unbearable.
I felt I was back in the mire.
When would I be fortunate enough to feel like that again?
Will it be if we manage to get promoted next season?
Will it be if we can somehow beat Middlesbrough and kick start our season?
Or will that feeling be reserved for when a last minute Wilfried Zaha goal saves our skin on the last day of the season?
Jubilant tears streaming across my cheeks as hundreds of Palace fans celebrate an unlikely survival?
Moments like those experienced by Lincoln are why we do it. Why we devote every second Saturday to Selhurst. Why some absolute heroes devote every single Saturday to the club.
We seem to be saying so often about the hope we have misplaced in Palace being a killer, but without the hope that we will all witness and share in euphoria like that again. It might not be Saturday, and will most likely not be this season. Whether it’s the season after, or the season after that, or the season after that, there will be a moment.
2013 looked impossible in 2010. 2017 looked impossible in 2016, and still does now. It’s not easy, but Palace fans more than most know that to be the case anyway. But you have to believe, somewhere at sometime, that our reward for the turgid times we are living now will be moments like those lucky Lincoln folk are living.
We nearly had our ultimate moment last year. But we can keep dreaming, because football for many is about the fulfillment of those wild dreams.
It’s amazing what a week away from Palace can do. Thanks to Lincoln, my liberation has come full circle. Get me back to Selhurst next week, let the fight begin.