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It felt like a victory - but we can still improve with your feedback

Joe's message in tonight's programme after Saturday's epic homecoming

17 August 2021

Club News

It felt like a victory - but we can still improve with your feedback

Joe's message in tonight's programme after Saturday's epic homecoming

17 August 2021

We all wanted Saturday at Plough Lane to give us memories that would last a life time and I think it's safe to say that's exactly what happened.

In so many ways it felt like a victory.

First and foremost, we were home in the way we had always dreamt about. A packed stadium, exploding with noise and yellow and blue, was how we all wanted it to be - until Covid spoiled everything. Our first League game at Plough Lane had been back in November 2020 but this was the first one with everyone there and that, in itself, was a major milestone.

To have managed this when so much was delayed and cancelled over the past year because of Covid is an astonishing achievement and one we all deserve to feel immensely proud of.

There's so many people to thank and I will never tire of saying that. One of my abiding memories from Saturday was seeing the smiles of those very people as they started to experience the stadium they helped build being run in the way we had all strived for.

I spent some time before the match down in the fans zone area. I always wanted this to become the heartbeat of our new home, a place where supporters would congregate just like they used to outside the main stand at Kingsmeadow.

But would it work? Would our fans feel comfortable there and would they start to build the same atmosphere and vibe? Would our new pub start to feel like a 'local', would supporters stretch out along the back of the South Stand road and create that pre-match buzz?

There was an extra element we introduced on the day as well - a mini market with stalls and vans serving all sorts of tempting and different street foods. Would our fans have an appetite for this?

As I mingled amongst the rapidly growing crowds, I couldn’t help feeling the answer to all those question will be a resounding yes - I knew I was seeing a glimpse of what the future is going to look like.

Yes, there are still many things to work on before we have a well oiled ship, rest assured, we will be working through these in the coming matches. We will improve, develop and we will listen to your feedback. Rome wasn't built in a day but forgive me if I say, we gave it a good shot.

Then, of course, we come to the game itself. I don't think any of us could have imagined a more thrilling encounter for such a special occasion and I can only thank our Head Coach Mark Robinson and the players for their heart-stopping performance.

Knowing Robbo, he'll be furious we didn't triumph, but as I said at the start of this article, it really did feel like a win, didn't it?

We were honoured to welcome London Mayor Sadiq Khan in the Directors' Box and even he roared when Dapo Mebude surged forward and calmly curled home a brilliant equaliser to come back from being 1-3 down.

In that moment, I looked around every corner of Plough Lane and saw the memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I saw the faces of young and old, of the community we were torn away from, all united in unabashed joy and happiness.

That's when I knew football had truly come home.

And so to tonight's game when we extend a warm welcome to Gillingham. They'll still be stinging from a defeat right at the death at Plymouth on Saturday and I'm sure Steve Evans' team will be coming here looking for their first win of the new season.

It promises to be a tough encounter but, if it's anything like the Bolton game, we might be in for another classic.

Enjoy - and keep on turning Plough Lane into the home you all richly deserve.

Stay safe.

Joe


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