In an 'On the Road' special, Chris Williams looks back at a historic day in Oxford United's history.
"It started with a bus trip and ended on an open-top bus through the streets of Oxford. 48 hours before Wembley 2010 we visited Wembley for a familiarisation trip: a trip that I believe gave Oxford United an edge over opponents York City, who only travelled down for the 2010 Blue Square Play-Off final on the day of the game.
As we left Wembley that Friday we reached a sharp turn in the underground road that team buses must navigate to enter or exit the dressing rooms. Driver Pete edged nervously forward until Mark Creighton shouted from the back of the bus ‘Go on Pete, loads of room’. There wasn’t. As he edged further forward the corner of the bus struck the concrete wall and a window half way along the coach shattered, showering us in shatterproof glass. I wondered whether it might be an omen; I doubt it happened the last time the club went to Wembley in 1986.
The Class of 2010, brushed down but slightly wind affected on the M40, stayed in Beaconsfield between that Wembley trip and the game itself but I travelled up on the train on matchday, rammed in with my entire family. There’s a great picture of all of us by the Bobby Moore statue, with my dad. It makes me cry. As do the images of Alan Hodgkinson celebrating victory, as proud of the achievement as he was of his England caps half a century before.
But then it was a day of tears for so many. Imagine if we’d lost: I think I’d still be in recovery now. See where York City are? That could so easily have been us. The form wasn’t great going in to that game either - defeat at Eastbourne away had been worrying and the concern was that by resting players ahead of the final Chris Wilder had risked losing momentum. Never fear: leave it to the real CW…
Upon arrival I went for a lap of the ground. I bumped in to so many people as 33,000 yellow-shirted Oxford fans enjoyed their big day out. But at the far end of the ground there were so few York fans. The contrast couldn’t have been greater, and that was the same down in the tunnel area where their players seemed slightly stunned to be there. I’ve said before that I knew we were going to win that day because of the contrast in body language and confidence when the team walked out for kick off.
There are so many things that come back to me. I remember being amazed how warm the flame thrower things were that greeted the players. I remember the sea of yellow to my right and the overwhelming feeling of relief when Matt Green smashed home the opener. James Constable made it 2-0 with a perfect strike that I still think may have been a fluke, so perfect was its accuracy. Ryan Clarke made it interesting by fumbling a Ben Purkiss cross into his own net but my overriding emotion at half time was confidence, despite there being only a one-goal difference. To this day I have yet to meet an Oxford fan who shared my unshakable belief that we were going to win at that stage.
I wasn’t nervous; York had a go but never truly tested my faith and with five minutes to go I sneaked down to a row of seats just behind the dug-out. It was just as Rhys Day nodded a corner away and Alfie Potter and Sam Deering set off on their epic adventure that ended with Alfie making it 3-1 and Wembley erupting. Watch it closely: Billy Turley matches them stride for stride down the touchline! I have never seen such joy and to be on the bench is a moment I am never going to forget; it was only later that I saw the TV clips of Chris Wilder sliding on his knees in jubilation. THE iconic goal in our history? Possibly.
If I close my eyes I can still see the fans that day. I was trying to be professional: moving John Lewis the photographer out of the way of the celebration picture, trying to make sure everyone who needed interviews got them but I was fighting a losing battle and all I wanted to do was see my family and celebrate with them.
There were the obligatory ‘soak the press officer in champagne’ moments in the dressing room and then an epic night of celebrations at a nearby hotel. Richard Brodie, York’s centre forward, was there because they hadn’t booked any after game celebration time, again backing up my belief that the professionalism and planning that went into the day gave us that little edge you need.
Those players have such a bond. Even to this day. I had a coffee with Mark Creighton not so long back (I paid, obvs) and he still talked so passionately about the club and the fans here. James Constable went on to become a club hero, but every single one of them is a legend now.
Incredibly, two years from today we will be able to book a tenth anniversary reunion. They will all come - I guarantee. Not just the eleven but players like Adam Murray, Billy Turley, Kevin Sandwith and Chris Hargreaves who were so key in fostering that unshakable belief. It was THE defining moment in so many of their careers, but also dare I suggest the biggest day in Oxford United’s history.
#Poxy #POTTER #Backonthecoupon