5 years they’ve waited. Some have been there every week, through thin and thinner. Others have given in to their tightened financial belt, or found alternative Saturday afternoon activities harder to resist. But not now.
That rosy-cheeked queue for Cambridge away tickets on Friday said as much about our season as Andre Gray’s thumping hat-tricks or Paul Benson’s swooping diving header at Nuneaton; the buzz from the port-a-cabin counters of the ticket office, an equally valid onomatopoeia.
Because as I write this we sit 11 clear. ELEVEN.
Is it me or does it feel like that bit of a long distance race when the gangly Kenyan makes a break with a few laps to go and the crowd glances back at the bunched pack to see who will go with him? At the moment, they are all looking tired.
There has been plenty to get down-hearted about during the long and rainy 5 year winter that has persisted in Bedfordshire. At times it’s felt like the place was ready to tear itself apart as managers offered-out supporters and English Defence League marches threatened to drag our good name through the media mud. The terraces booed and bickered and the players and staff stood embattled, separate from the Luton we knew.
Last year it felt very close to the end at times. Not in the sudden, winded, sucker-punch of a points deduction, or a receivership. It was the relentless sense that something that was ebbing away slowly. The prevailing mood was that of the bedside of an elderly relative or, if you’ve got a bit more perspective than me, a stadium band reduced to the Bedford Corn Exchange. We were still there, hanging on, but with distraction and fading hope.
That feeling didn’t really lift until after the last time we played Wrexham in the league, just 5 short months ago. It already feels a world away.
5 months is all it’s taken. 5 months of winning and drawing to revive us from our 5 year slumber. Now the talk is of juggernauts and League 2 bounces and sunny days ahead.
At times like this I like to think of the few supporters, younger than me, that might not have seen us have a spell of relative success on the pitch, save for brief forays into Cup romance. All they’ve known is rain clouds and depleted crowds.
Well savour this feeling boys and girls. This is what makes that empty main stand and all that stick off your mates at school worthwhile. As the latest Sloop John B song goes “We’re on our way back” and whatever happens for the rest of this season, those lyrics will ring true into the next.
Finally, after 5 years, like 7 thousand battle-scarred Shane MacGowan’s crooning Dirty Old Town through a new set of brilliant white false teeth, we smell the spring on the smoky wind. And wouldn’t it be great to get back into the sunshine.