Saturday will live long in the memory. Whether that’s for the right reasons, we can only hope.
It was just a crazy day to be honest. You could sniff the tension in the air like a stale Cornish pasty working its pungent aroma around the streets of Barnstaple.
Quite clearly, there was apprehension and anticipation in abundance around the seated bowl. Darren did a cracking job on the mic pre-match: a passionate speech that made it seem like it was the last time he’d get to do it. Was he told to be more passionate? Did he do it off his own back? We’ll literally never know (I’m sure if you asked him he’d tell you) but the point is that what followed his pertinent and timely words was a hearty roar from the home fans. Effectively, the countdown had begun.
Within 30 seconds, tennis balls of all colours (mainly yellow) showered down onto the pitch. This continued for a good few minutes. Port Vale had a goal disallowed and we looked shaky at the back. Eyes turned to the scoreboard as the minutes approached 16.
And then it began. From memory, I’m pretty sure Connor Ripley in the visiting goal had the ball in his hands. As he looked to clear the ball upfield, a flood of humans entered the pitch with some from Y19 getting to the centre-spot first and placing themselves down. It was hard to tell if they were semi-professional sprinters or got to the grass earlier than their counterparts from Y26 and Club 1871. Either way, the speed was impressive.
16 mins in, mass pitch invasion pic.twitter.com/I9zwLAMSnt— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) January 13, 2024
Hundreds more joined them, with banners, flares and chants filling the air and travelling towards the barren directors’ box. Stewards seemingly gave up the ghost and allowed more people onto the field of play, ball people scrambling to get into the stands and away from the pitch invasion.
Ruben Selles, who had looked reasonably muted up to this point, seemed to actively engage with the fans on the pitch in a positive way and stayed until he was removed by security. For that, I give him an incredible amount of credit.
The rest, as they say, is history. You’ve seen the videos, witnessed the growing media coverage and made up your own mind on the whole thing. Let me be clear: this was necessary. Even the most militant of fans would suggest they didn’t want an abandonment, but those who entered the field and then stayed dug in until the game was called off. This was the turning point in this fanbase not accepting this owner anymore.
The club is broken, physically and metaphorically. This is the start of the mending process. No doubt the EFL will slap sanctions on us again, but the eyes of the world are now on RG2.
Ultimately, it’s up to Dai Yongge about how he responds. But make no mistake: one way or another, this is the beginning of the end for him and this fanbase won’t stop until he’s gone. Saturday was just the start.
Until next time.