Well wasn’t that eventful!
The first foray into unknown territory is often a daunting prospect. This season, however, Stevenage FC found themselves battling ex-Premier League big boys for a third successive promotion and a crack at the Championship – rather than settling for any old spot outside of the bottom four. Mad? Probably. Exciting? Definitely. Unique? Certainly.
As a fan, the past season brought with it a whole spectrum of emotions – from sheer ecstasy through to denial and uncertainty, finishing up with immense pride (admittedly, tinged with sadness) at what the club had achieved. Not just this season, but in the two or three that had preceded it.
I don’t need to go over previous seasons, because everyone knows where we’ve come from, but this season alone has seen some huge achievement. We’ve been victorious in battle with eventual champions Charlton; completed the double over automatically-promoted Sheffield Wednesday; and remained undefeated (in the league anyway) against play off finalists Sheffield United.
It’s seen us rack up six goals twice – at Yeovil and Colchester; five goals twice – away at Rochdale and at home to Sheffield Wednesday; and despite early predictions, not once seen us on the wrong end of a result that emphatic.
It hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride, of course. The departure of Graham Westley to Preston looked set to plunge us into turmoil, until Captain Fantastic Mark Roberts stepped up to the plate and guided the club through three matches without defeat – including that 5-1 win at Rochdale and a 4-2 home win over MK Dons.
The season fell flat for a short while upon the arrival of new manager Gary Smith. A string of draws looked to have derailed our play off hopes, but we put the work in (with a small amount of luck in the form of Brentford’s penalty taking!) to pull off a customary run of positive results when it mattered most and extend our hopes of promotion for another couple of games.
In the end, Sheffield United did what they’d failed to do in the earlier league games – hold us to a draw at The Lamex and then nicked a winner on home turf just as extra time was looming. If we’re honest, it was a fair result over the two legs, but that makes it no less cruel that it came so late.
And so it was. Our first season in League One ended with a paradox – it may have been extended, but it came to premature halt. With the end of the season, came the end of an era at Stevenage Football Club and everybody knew it.
It sounds melodramatic, but the final scenes were poignant.
Standing in the away end at Bramall Lane, witnessing our visibly broken trojan of a captain clamber through hundreds of Blades fans mocking our downfall and refusing police advice to go back down the tunnel. He then beckoned out his team, which merely confirmed what we’d known for a long time – this group of players we’ve cherished for so long had yet again given their all to the club, the shirt and the fans and we’ll probably never know another group like them.
The team has already been broken up with the departure of seven fringe players, adding to the loss of long term right back, Ronnie Henry; self proclaimed ‘goal scoring left back’ Scott Laird; and the scorer of the goal that made this season possible, John Mousinho.
There are undoubtedly more to follow too – it’s the price you pay for punching above your weight.
It’s difficult to look ahead to next season, what with not knowing who’ll be pulling on the shirt. But any player we sign can be assured of one thing – they’ve got some very big boots to fill.
Written by Mark Hollis, We Are Going Up’s Stevenage blogger
Mark tweets at @HollisMark