What would my most special moment be in Club 1871? The inaugural game against Preston North End, West Brom where we pretty much secured safety or how about Portugal Day? All of those were very special days, but for myself there is only one winner: Wigan Athletic at home.
For me this magical moment starts with us all sat around staring at a sheet of A4 paper with the attendances for Club 1871 and seeing numbers in and around the 200 mark. But there was one overriding feeling - there was a certain type of football fan, namely people like us, who if we could get to come in once we knew they’d enjoy it as much as we do, and we’d see them return to the South Stand again and again.
This is effectively when fate seemed to intervene. Heineken came to our aid offering two free beers for all over 18s who entered; we went immediately from 200 to 800 people in the space of one home game. At this point all we needed was a positive result and to create a memorable afternoon.
We as a group met early as we usually do at the hotel for the early kick off. However, without saying anything, you could sense a certain degree of nerves and that’s excluding the fact we were in the midst of a relegation dogfight and were about to kick off a massive six-point game with the Latics being the visitors, who also were in a similar position near the foot of the Championship. We decided to move to the concourse and after our two free beers took the executive decision to get the much-talked-about South Stand drum out.
This got the concourse rocking and, with Wigan bringing their usual fistful of fans, we didn’t have much competition coming over the partition in the South Stand. Pre-game at this point we felt that we had done all we could; over to Jose and his men to ensure the 800 go home happy with three points and tell their friends and family what a great time they had and how they want to go back to Club 1871 every other weekend.
However, for the first 75 minutes or so it certainly didn’t look like that was how it was going to pan out. 2-1 down at home to Wigan it had gone overcast and it really felt like the result was well and truly going to rain on our parade.
Up steps Mo Barrow. A 35-yard bullet out of nowhere arrowed into the bottom corner; this sent the 800 into raptures. Completely out of the blue and that’s where the Royals smelled blood and so did the South Stand; everyone played their part in that last 10 minutes constant noise from the Berkshire boys. Then we won that corner and the moment the ball left Meite’s head we all knew where it was going. There’s a brilliant video where Jose is running down the touchline to greet Yak and, in the background, you can see the pandemonium which is ensuing in Club 1871.
At the final whistle there was a huge mixture of relief and happiness that not only had the players on the pitch achieved their goal and gained three valuable points but that the fans also had given their all, and helped motivate the players till the final whistle.
Since that day we as Club 1871 have never looked back. We have since seen strong attendances in the South Stand. Our David Brent flag made Sky Sports and has been a hit on social media. We all know this is still a work in progress to gain a new identity for our stadium as we go into the next decade.
So all it leaves for me to say now is thank you to everyone who has backed what we’re trying to do. Even if it’s not for everyone, we all want the same thing and have a happy new year everyone.