On this day 19 years ago

That glorious day in the sunshine at Cardiff.
The millenium stadium was humming.
And as the final whistle blew I threw my WFC cap high in the air only to see it disapear into the lower deck.
If anyone on here found it could you please send me a pm. thanks
:wink:

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Dont remember much sunshine that day! Still an amazing day, it will take something special to top that!

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From agony to ecstasy to anxiety and then euphoria

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I’ve told the story on here before (and there’s even a video somewhere online when the E&S interviewed me about it in the Globe at Marylebone the night before that day in 2015 that I’m still not able to talk about in public), but as it’s the anniversary …

In 2001 I was in a pub quiz team in some short-lived national competition (that later went bust as it was too generous in its prizes for the sponsorship it generated). We came top of the teams in our region for the 2nd month it ran - which meant we were one of 10 teams winning free flights, and hotel rooms as part of a weekend in Paris (and a playoff for £1,000 and a place in the grand final - involving a week in Las Vegas and a £10,000 prize).

Well cushty. The only fly in the ointment being that it just so happened to be the same weekend as the game against Reading. (oh the dilemma! :scream:)

After much soul searching, I ended up driving to Manchester airport on the Friday evening and leaving my car in an on-site short stay, flew with everyone else to Paris where we were whisked to the hotel (somewhere near Montparnasse on the south bank) in an executive coach for a champagne reception and buffet. Rest of Friday night (back to the hotel in time for breakfast! :see_no_evil:) and most of Saturday to ourselves, in the evening we did the quiz playoff* - and another buffet with free booze that I (mostly) had to duck out of to make sure I was up before 5 and heading to Gare du Nord to get the first Eurostar of the day to Waterloo, and then across to Paddington for the train to Cardiff - the route of which happens to go through Reading, meaning I was more or less the only person wearing a red shirt on a train full of blue ones!

I can’t remember exactly how much it cost me in train fares, but know it was a hell of a lot more than it would have done to have gone from home! Actually the Eurostar had some offer on and were charging less for a return ticket than a single, so that’s what I asked for when booking my seat on the train from Paris. The clerk asked me what train back I would be getting:
“I won’t be coming back”
“So you want a single”
“No because that’s dearer”
“OK, a return. What train will you be coming back on?”
… and repeat.
In the end I gave up and said I’d be on the first train out of London the following morning just to shut him up.
“So do you want a forward facing seat or a rearward one?”
Some people! :rofl:

I had left plenty of leeway in my timetable to get to Paddington just in case, but everything went smoothly and I was there in plenty of time. However, all the 4 earlier trains I could have got before the one I’d reserved a seat on were apparently sold out (by London based Reading fans) so I was twiddling my thumbs in the station for a couple of hours (with my weekend case) and didn’t have enough time in Cardiff to get a pint and soak the atmosphere as much as I would have liked.

But I did meet up with my dad, brother, and mate from Ireland - they met me at the station. Had to detour to my brother’s car to drop off my case, but just about all of Cardiff between the station and the stadium that we went through was full of Reading fans - until we turned a corner into the final and suddenly it was a sea of red after hours and hours of blue and the emotion of the occasion finally hit me. I also remember a bit of banter with the Preston fans in the hotel next door to the stadium that @Chunkster mentioned recently.

Our seats were in the section round the corner at the end all the goals went in, which for some reason wasn’t quite as rammed as the sections on the side - and a bloke in front of me was going mad at everyone in the block for not making enough noise to get behind the team as we went into extra time. Well I’ve had less than 5 hours sleep in the last 48 and had lost my voice cheering before half time but after that journey to be there nobody was telling me I wasn’t a true supporter! I think he got my point …

My brother was giving me a lift home from Cardiff - but remember my own car’s still parked at Manchester airport. I’d given the keys to one of my quiz team mates - and they rang me because they’d now flown back but couldn’t work out the immobiliser just moments after the final whistle went. I couldn’t hear a bloody word, and had no voice to reply anyway! :rofl:

It was all a brilliant day but I have to admit that when Byfield got the ball, turned and shaped to shoot I was groaning and thinking “Don’t even try and hit it from there you idiot!” Shows you how much I know! :grinning:

  • So what happened with the quiz playoff? Well my team narrowly came second (think we won £100) - to a team from the Parkbrook on the Wolverhampton Road. Some of them were Walsall fans but had foregone Cardiff for the free flight home. And spookily, in 3rd place was a team from Nottingham which included a Saddleress who was studying at the uni - so a clean sweep for the mighty reds! And in fact, between Paris and reaching the Millennium Stadium I saw less Saddler fans than I’d left behind at the hotel!

The following month the quiz organisers went bust so we didn’t get another chance of a Euro weekend city break and crack at Vegas - but we were in the Championship again, so who cared?

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brilliant story andy. felt the same when byfield shaped to shoot but what a strike! before the game i went down the front and looked up at the masses ranks of saddlers there to see us play in that magnificent stadium and it was an emotional moment. my dad was with me- little did either of us know that it would be his last game before he left to join all those saddlers in the sky. what an exit! superb memories

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Second half of extra time onwards (full coverage)

2-1 to 2-3

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Fantastic, that turn and shot still sends tingles down my spine. Have to admit I can’t bring myself to watch it after that, those last few minutes were the longest of my life.

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Watching those highlights - not once did they show Walsall fans until after end of game - all about sad looking Reading fans.

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They had a choice of sad or tense.

After the final whistle it was dejected or delirious.

Thought there might be more takers to see the greatest half hour in Walsall history that exists on YouTube. Obviously not.

Bring it up for the twenty year anniversary and we’ll plug it across all the Saddler networks…

Great viewing. Especially Sir Ray’s face!