All that's in the back of your mind is Fulham. Fulham. The black and white flags and the black and white kits and the media hype because of the nice boys in the team and the lovely man guiding them. It's all going to be the same isn't it? It's all going to be exactly the same and we've all got to be amicable on the tube back and just accept it. Just accept that we weren't good enough. Accept that the bloody team that everybody else wanted to go up has gone up. Just chewing on those thoughts and trying to not let them burst in your mouth.
It's a massive bowl. A cauldron of sound. Half of the stadium waves black flags, the other claret. It's just like it was. They are on top and running and oh god.
But it's different. Your team actually score in the first half and it seems to come from nowhere.
Anwar El-Ghazi crashes into the ball. A phantom bouncer launches him out of a bar and onto the street. His head connects and it's in.
After forty minutes of chewing on your nails, and chewing on the skin surrounding your fingers because there are no nails left, your team scores and you hug your brother. You hug him and twist and spin, praying that it doesn't stop and that the goal isn't cancelled. You land punches against each other for whatever reason and then you launch into celebrations, dancing into the concourse, your feet peeling from a floor drenched in alcohol. The shouting and jumping and singing continues and it never really stops.
It's emboldened by a John McGinn goal, the Scottish midfielder throwing himself into the ball and goalkeeper and somehow claiming a second. How did this happen? Should this be happening? Should I be allowed to be so happy?
They score and half of the bowl erupts. This happened before didn't it? It mattered so much, all the nerves came back.
Did the referee add four or five minutes? Or was it six or seven? When will this end? Oh god. It could go on for so much longer. Please.dont score. Please don't prolong this. Please don't let it go to penalties. Plea-
Blow the whistle.
You don't even hear it ring. You just know it's over because there are people on the pitch. There are banners and golden ribbons and music. There are bodies screaming in ecstasy. There are bodies collapsed in despair.
The tears burn and your heart pounds and it doesn't really stop. This actually happened. Nobody can take this away. Not them, not the referee, not the papers, nobody.
The team lifts something gold and it sings. They've achieved something real, that we can taste in our mouths and feel at our fingertips. There's an electric atmosphere and we are all at the bidding of our heroes as they lift the cup into the sky again and again. We're standing on seats, waving flags and singing songs. We're standing on seats and we are bouncing.