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No one said it was gonna be easy

I never thought that a narrow win in the National League against Dorking Wanderers would be one of the best days of my life. I never thought I’d be reduced to tears by a brass band playing Mouldy Old Dough. What a time to be alive. What a rollercoaster of a week.

They say that the sun shines on the righteous, and last Saturday was glorious. Although the Dorking fans we spoke to in the White Hart before the game told us it wasn’t that hot and “it was 36 degrees when we set off this morning”. It wasn’t really the day to be wearing a woollen flat cap, but Frank asked for singing and banners and flat caps, and what Frank wants, Frank gets. Sheepfoot Lane was full of Latics fans celebrating the new era, the atmosphere was every bit as joyous as we hoped, and, in an act of true heroism in the 31C heat, Chaddy the Owl was indeed at the head of the procession.

(Image © Kevin Leach)

Having gone the pub then the offy for a bag of cans for the walk, we were at the back and couldn’t quite hear Greenfield Brass Band, the crowd being bigger than a lot of our home attendances last season. People made their own music, as did Frank, who treated us to another rendition of The Wanderer. And the procession wouldn’t have been complete without our poster girls Erin and Niamh and their placard.

(Image © @boundaryblue)

Our first home game in non-league for 115 years, and you’d think we were celebrating a promotion. Biggest crowd at Boundary Park in years, queue for the newly opened Bar Station Zebra going out into the car park, placards, flat caps, carnival atmosphere. From outside the ground we could hear the brass band playing Mouldy Old Dough and Don’t Look Back In Anger, and the limitations of my waterproof mascara were quickly revealed. We did it. We got our club back. At ease, fellow rebels. We can enjoy going to the match again.

After all that it would have been a massive let down if we’d fucked it up on the pitch, so it was a huge relief when we took the lead through Hallam Hope, who continues to be a completely different player under Shez. The return of the good times was further in evidence in the butter pies that Andy queued for a good chunk of the first half for. We didn’t bother attempting to get a drink at half-time – the bar couldn’t cope with the ‘crowds’ last season, we desperately need a separate bottle bar in the Rocky – and stayed in our seats and laughed at United being 4-0 down after 35 minutes. As did Frank. On live television. I think we might be the nation’s second favourite football club again.

The party continued on the pitch in the second half as we took a commanding 3-0 lead, but, y’know, it’s Latics. Dorking’s left back gave us a torrid time in the last 20 minutes and we conceded two near-identical goals to keep things exciting for BT Sports. The team is clearly not the finished product yet. Thankfully we hung on for the win, cheered on by the indefatigable Athleticos, and an amazing day ended beautifully. Even the sunset was perfect.

(Image © @OA95Athleticos)

And then, obviously, we lost 2-1 at home to Wealdstone and that was that bubble burst.

The Rothwell family have owned the club for less than a month, and they were never going to be able to wave a magic wand and fix years of neglect overnight. The squad still doesn’t look capable of pushing for promotion. It’s still a pain in the arse getting a drink in the Rocky. The women’s toilets still don’t flush properly. But the start that they’ve made suggests that they want to put it right, and they’re the types to get stuff done. The plumbing will be a big job (no pun intended), but at least there was soap and sanitary products. Turning the dumping cellar in the Joe Royle stand into a functioning bar in a couple of weeks is hopefully a metaphor of what’s to come. Losing to Wealdstone felt like a kick up the arse and an indication of the improvements we need to make on the pitch, rather than a despair-inducing new low and evidence of us being on an endless downwards spiral into the abyss. The hard work starts now, and we’ve finally got people running the club who seem to know what they’re doing and want the same things we want. Have patience. Stay positive. Be more Frank.

Written by Arlene Finnigan

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