I learnt a valuable lesson last week, from someone whose writing I greatly admire. The key to a well written piece is simple, it has to be from the heart. So it’s probably a good job I didn’t write this last Wednesday after our first leg defeat at Boston in the National League North Play off’s. The “Our” in question is North Ferriby United, my team for the last 6 years, since my love affair with Hull City ended. It’s been quite a ride following The Villagers, promotion, Play off’s, Wembley for the Trophy Final, and this season another crack at the Play off’s. The mere fact we’re even in this league is nothing short of a miracle, never mind finishing 2nd. Cast your minds back 14 months, and the club was up for sale just weeks after it’s finest hour, an underdog victory over Wrexham in the Trophy at Wembley. Early talk was of reduced budgets and voluntary relegation, back to a more sustainable level. With crowds around the 300 mark – on a good day – that level would probably be back in the Northern Premier League or below. Thankfully, any demotion was avoided, with the club’s owners Steve and Eman Forster ( Son in Law & Daughter of Hull City owner Assem Allam ) deciding to steady the ship and stay on for a further year at least.
The season started with the Ferriby hardcore expecting just to make up the numbers in the highly competitive National North ( Step 2). Nine months on, and the team finished the season in 2nd place, despite a last day defeat to Alfreton. Fylde’s inability to beat Worcester meant they would finish 3rd. The other Play off teams would be Harrogate and, as touched on above, our bogey side Boston. The season before last had seen Ferriby lead the table for 90% of the campaign, before a last day defeat at Boston dropped them to second, and a resulting defeat at the hands of Guiseley in the Play offs’.
So off we went to Boston on Wednesday. A lacklustre performance saw us lucky to escape with a 2-0 reversal. Lucky in respect that it could easily have been 5 or 6. The woodwork would be the only thing keeping us remotely in the tie. The Home leg would be the following Sunday, but even the most ardent of followers couldn’t help but think we’d blown our chance, once again. The combination of a small squad ( just 19 players used all year ) and a last month loss of form, meant Ferriby started the game very much the underdog.
What followed was nothing short of a footballing miracle. A deserved 3-0 victory, on a red hot day, in a white hot atmosphere. The Boston fans had travelled in numbers, out -numbering the Home support 3 to 1. It was almost like playing away. However, their party was silenced within 15 minutes as two goals brought us back into the game. A 3rd goal from a now rampant home side was nothing more than we deserved. All week the talk had been of it only being half time in the tie. The last time we were 2-0 down at half time was at Wembley. On Sunday history repeated itself, these players showing they just don’t know when they are beaten. The feeling at Full time was one of euphoria, from the green and white fans at least. The amber and black hordes showed a mixture of disbelief and anger. Some of this spilled over, but was soon nipped in the bud.
So here we are again, plucky little North Ferriby United on the brink of making history. A squad made up of players from the Northern Premier League days, and a splattering of young lads released by professional sides, but still with a dream of making it back there one day. As with all success comes jealousy. Other teams talking of big budgets and our “rich backers”. But budgets don’t take to the field and run themselves into the ground 40 weekends of the year. Budgets don’t follow the managers instructions to the letter, sacrificing individual glory for the greater good of the team. Budgets don’t travel to Lowestoft on a Tuesday night, get delayed in trafffic for four hours, but then turn in one of the performances of the year to win 3-0. But Team spirit does. The same team spirit that saw us go unbeaten for a club record 17 games. The same team spirit that, when everyone else thought they couldn’t win in the play off’s, saw them overhaul a deficit and dominate a team with one foot in the Final. No amount of money can buy that determination.
Good luck on Saturday, my heroes in green and white. History beckons. A victory would see Ferriby reach their highest ever level of football. Still much goes on in the background, the recent illness of owner Steve Forster has seen the club put back up for sale, for the 2nd time in 14 months. Talk of takeovers is in the air. Can the club afford to go up ? Can it afford NOT to go up ? Chasing a dream in semi-professional football isn’t cheap, as the owners have found. But for 90 minutes this Saturday, victory would be priceless, in more ways than one.