Home > Football, Previous clubs > My time at Scunthorpe United..Part 5. The play-offs and Wembley

My time at Scunthorpe United..Part 5. The play-offs and Wembley

So a tough two – legged tie with Swansea City. Our advantage for finishing in fourth position was to have the second leg at home. As Swansea had finished the season strongly they were always going to pose a real threat to us. A 1 – 0 defeat at The Vetch Field was not a terrible score line but you could have argued that we were now underdogs. A full house and a real cracking atmosphere was in store at Glanford Park for the second leg. We got off to a brilliant start with an aggregate equalizer in the first minute or two from a stunning strike from our left back Andy Dawson. He had recently joined from Nottingham Forrest and proved to be a real find. As I played from the left he did most of my running for me that season. Constantly over-lapping me and getting back when not in possession. Great for me! So we were level almost straight away and the momentum was with us. A great end – to end match eventually went into extra time. The away goals rule was in play although it only counted after the extra-time period. After 90 minutes the score was 2-2 on aggregate. John Eyre was sent off harshly for two bookable offences and we needed a goal or else we had lost. I had been replaced midway into the second half of normal time by youngster Gareth Sheldon. I had a quiet game and didn’t have much of an effect on it at all. Gareth proved to be something of a ‘super – sub’ and scored the winning goal to take us to Wembley for the play-off final. A ten-day break awaited us before the final. It was a pretty long time to wait for such a big game particularly when everybody else had finished for the season and were away all over the place on their holidays. The club decided to take us to Dublin for the weekend. I think that the management wanted it to be a relaxing break with a little bit of training to prepare for the final. I think that the lads saw it as a chance to let their hair down and we ended up spending the whole weekend supping Guinness. I know Brian wasn’t best pleased although the players argument was that it was a full week before we played and therefore there was plenty of recovery time. So the manager went with it, begrudgingly. Had we lost the final I am sure he could have brought it up but we didn’t so it was all forgotten. What a great weekend though. In fact, it was more like an end of season piss up. Traditionally footballers get away for a few days. After a long, hard season it is always something to look forward to. Somewhere abroad is normally the place where you will find a squad of footballers during the first two or three weeks of May but Dublin was perfectly fine. To be honest I felt like terrible all week building up to the final. The Guinness can’t have helped but also the fact that I had started every single match that season, league and cup. The last four or five games I had felt tired, burned out even, but I just needed one big effort in the biggest match the club had been involved in for quite some time. I was also out of contract with a baby soon on the way so it was a particularly big match for me personally. Leyton Orient were our opponents at Wembley. In a game like that it didn’t matter who we were up against. It was amazingly surreal to play at Wembley. They say that you don’t remember much about playing at Wembley. Well, apart from walking out, my biggest memory was how knackered I was from the very first whistle. The season had taken it’s toll and I must have lost a lot of nervous energy in the build up to playing in a final at Wembley. Again, the match passed me by. A fantastic 1-0 victory though capped a great season for everybody. Scunthorpe United legend Alex Calvo-Garcia popped with the historic header. We had to endure a bit of an onslaught from Leyton Orient late on but held out to gain promotion. Although I hadn’t scored in the final six games I ended up with 23 goals. My best scoring return of my career. FC Utrecht had been over and watched the last few matches of the season. With my below par performances I was expecting their interest to dwindle. To my surprise they still wanted me. I was invited over for talks in the week after the play-off final. It ended up being a whirlwind visit. In and out in one day and a contract signed. It was an opportunity I could not resist.

It was sad to leave. I really had enjoyed my time at Glanford Park. I had established myself as a Football League player which was needed. Nothing is forever though and so I moved on.

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