GUTTED. But defiant. And determined to put it right on Thursday. That’s how I felt and that’s how I wanted the players to feel. And for once the boss came out and said something that echoed what I was hearing all around me.
“There’s a lot of battered and bruised egos and bodies in there,” he said. “But we have to pick ourselves up. There’s nothing I can say or do to make them feel better now but they will come in on Tuesday and will start working hard again because we don’t want to feel like that again on Thursday.”
In an ideal world he would then have snatched the microphone off a surprised Gordon Cox, jumped up on the press room desk and started bellowing: “I get knocked down! But I get up again, youÃÅœre never gonna keep me down” while gesticulating to the cockney media that he would “have them” before going into a chorus of “We Shall Overcome” .
But it’s not a perfect world. In a perfect world we would have thrashed West Ham by as many goals as we had put past hapless Steaua and we would be making frenzied invasion plans for Eindhoven and Cardiff while Gibbo would have the joiners in measuring up for the biggest trophy cabinet ever conceived.
We deserve that. We have made such a massive emotional – and financial – investment in this mind-blowing season that we deserve a return paid in silver. In a perfect world or an Hollywood movie we would win the prize and get the girl while our ailing puppy would miraculously recover and Mom and Pop would get back together again.
But Boro has never been a perfect world. Far from it. It has been a harsh one marked by cruel twists of fate and hefty kicks in the teeth whenever things looked to be going too well and so many wounded Teessiders will naturally retreat into the instinctive ‘typical Boro’ doom-mongering and cynical defeatism that we know so well. They will assume that the season is over and we will come apart at the seams and they will insulate themselves against defeat by predicting defeat and work hard propagating their self fulfilling prophesies.
Yet Boro are adept at spinning things out, going to the wire and prolonging our agony. What has happened today is par for the course. Our hopes have been cruelly dashed on one front but that doesn’t mean it is the end. No way, there is defeat on the UEFA Cup final on penalties to look forward to.
I simply can’t believe this fantastic adventure is over yet. That would be so dull and premature and ordinary. And this is no ordinary season. This is a crazy, topsy-turvy mould-breaking season of contradiction and sudden change. It can’t end just like this. I feel exactly now as I did when Basel scored at the Riverside, buoyed by an irrational refusal to believe that it could be over so mundanely.
We came back from the dead that night fired by passion and belief and by a refusal to accept defeat. There was a unity of purpose between team and crowd that ignited the Riverside and drove us on to victory against the odds. That passion and power are what we need again on Thursday. We need to collectively rouse ourselves for one more Titanic effort, one more white hot expression of our will to win.
We are one goal down in a semi-final of a European trophy with 90 minutes to play. What a fantastic position for these no-mark provincial makeweight club to be in. Whatever the short term disappointment after today we are still on the brink of unsurpassed glory. This can still be the greatest achievement in our history, a great leap forward to unprecedented success. We have come too far for faint hearts to crumble now. History is within our grasp.
I get knocked down! But I get up again, youÃÅœre never gonna keep me down… Come On Boro! Come On Boro!