When you’re smiling when you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you.
When you’re laughing when you’re laughing the sun comes shining through.
But when you’re crying you bring on the rain. So stop your sighing be happy again.
Keep on smiling, coz when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.
The. Whole. World. Smiles. With. Youuuuuuuuuuu.
Ah Lesta. Ah Lesta!
(A traditional East Midlands arrangement)
On 26 April 2008, Lesta City needed to beat Sheffield Wednesday to avoid relegation to Division One or what traditionalists like to call ‘the old Division Three’, a low to which the Foxes had never previously slumped. In those days I sat with Simon, Pete (sadly residing in the football stadium in the sky since 2013….and if you think that is sentimental you might want to walk away now) and Clacton Dave. And yes my young apprentices he is indeed thus named because he is called Dave, and he is from Clacton. A true Lesta blue it would be harder to find and even though for the last four years or so he hasn’t been able to get to games we have kept in touch via text.
In typical Lesta fashion we took the lead then lost our defensive rock to injury, missed a penalty and conceded three goals.
TLF (although of course I wasn’t called that then cos I didn’t even know where St Albans was) started crying once the penalty was missed; I just kinda knew. Clacton Dave didn’t speak. He just put his arm round me for the rest of the game and at the final whistle looked at me with just the hint of a tear. The next week with a win essential and other results required to go our way we drew 0-0 with Stoke and were officially relegated.
On my birthday.
Eight years later and Lesta City are having a fookin’ massive parteh me duck, to which the whole of the city and half of Italy seem to have been invited. My home City is festooned in blue and everyone is….well smilin’.
I’m smiling because I’ve never washed down a Carluccio’s magnifico breakfast with a pint of Peroni before and let me tell you it’s a successful combination. TLF’s party begins in the Lesta branch of this Italian chain, eating with Dad and step-mum. It feels the right thing to do because that’s where 13 months ago I had a pre-match meal with them and confessed I didn’t much feel like going to watch Lesta, bottom of the league, lose to Mr TLF’s West Ham. I was given short shrift and sent on my way to the ground with a reminder of ‘my responsibilities’. Lesta won; the start of last season’s great escape.
Homage paid to that fateful day it was then time to join Simon & Co in the pub. Bit disappointed to draw Danny Drinkwater from the team drinks lottery. I was hoping for a Long Island Kante or a Matty Jamiesons (BOOM!BOOM!). But recognising it could be a long and messy afternoon TLF sticks with what TLFs know best; Amstel. And the longer we are there, the more we develop a simple MO:
* Another beer
* Another chant
* Another cheer for the mad bug#ers walking past with bells and flags
* Another, shaking of head accompanied by the words, “I can’t get my head round this, we’ve really done it.”
* Another fond anecdote
REPEAT FOR TWO HOURS.
Before we get into the ground there is a massive clap of thunder, the heavens open (maybe the weather Gods are Spurs fans?) and we get soaked. And none of us really care because many of us are VERY pissed and all of us are the happiest Lesta fans EVER in 132 years. People whose knees you have squeezed past season after season are now your best mates and random strangers want a hug. It is VERY bonkers and VERY brilliant.
Seats finally reached and in theory Bocelli and Nessun Dorma should be making me cry. But no. It is a man called Clacton Dave who has miraculously got a ticket in our bit of the ground. We hug and TLF is officially a teary mess. I remind him of Sheffield Wednesday. And he nods. And we all blub. God I love football.
The game that follows?
To be honest I remember more about that bloody Sheffield Wednesday game (ironically we finished with the same scoreline but in our favour this time)……But I think that’s ok, because the bit after – trophy, fireworks, lap of honour and celebratory wotnot that I never thought I would ever see – that’s the bit when even pessimistic TLF has to accept she ain’t dreaming and this really IS happening. And just like the whole season it is unforgettable.
The journey home is pants. But it doesn’t really matter….
“Champions of England
We know what we are!”
Dilly Ding Dilly Dong Fox