Football supporters spend years pursuing that moment, encouraged not by any indication that it might arrive, but by hope alone.
It might only be a moment; fleeting and sometimes lasting mere seconds, but, in that moment, you and your football team have paled all others into insignificance.
For Newcastle United and their fans; it’s reaching the Champions League again, and losing your first group game, and then your second group game, and then your third, and you need nine points from nine, and you beat Juventus, and you beat Dynamo Kiev, and you’re two up at Feyenoord, and then it’s 2-2, and “BELLAMY! It’s in!”
Or it’s seeing your unpopular owner dump your popular manager, and then your popular forward, and you’re losing at Fulham on a miserable Wednesday night, and it’s Arsenal on Saturday. Then it’s Saturday, and Arsenal have scored, and they’ve scored again, and again, and again, and then there’s a red card, and Arsenal have conceded, and they’ve conceded again, and again, and “TIOTE! Incredible!”
Or it’s having an arrogant manager (who doesn’t get it) hurt a marvellous footballer (who does get it), and said footballer is battling cancer, and then the manager’s gone, and he’s replaced. Then the footballer’s back, and he’s playing, and now this manager wants his go too, and you’re probably going down, and you’re still backing your footballer. Three points will do it, and your footballer is starting, and he chucks in the cross for the first, and “GUTIERREZ! Can there be a more popular goalscorer?”
Newcastle were knocked out in the next round. They finished 12th, and now they’re back in the relegation mire this year.
It doesn’t really matter though, does it?
The naysayers and rival fans and nasty pundits can throw their statistics and insults and criticisms your way, but that moment belonged to you and your football club. They can’t take that away. That’s yours. You’ve earned it.
Don’t let them tell you that it’s better with Tony Pulis, mashed between the others in the middle of the table.
They’re not telling Leicester City that, are they?
Leicester City were here last season.
You shouldn’t have stuck with Alan Pardew; because, after a couple of years, he wasn’t giving you those moments.
Of course, you’d rather be in the Premier League; where those moments mean more, but under Pardew, you’d stopped believing.
Pardew wasn’t taking you to Rotterdam, he was taking you to be acquainted with Pulis’ boring, boring mid-table mash-up.
Rafa Benitez might know where Rotterdam is. Ask him.
He knew where Istanbul was; and Cardiff, and, the weekend before last, he knew where the away end was at Anfield.
It was noisy, and it was happy, and Benitez took you there.
Noisy, happy and with Benitez – that’s where you want to be.