I grew up in South London. It is anything but a rugby league area, but as a youngster I used to stay in on Tuesday evenings to watch the BBC2 Floodlight Trophy, a rugby league competition specially created for television. I remember too the second half of league matches shown live on BBC's Grandstand on Saturday afternoons, pitched up against ITV's professional wrestling. It wasn't much more than a curiosity, though my friends and I liked to do what so many young kids still do, bad impressions of TV stars. Frequently, we picked up on the unmistakable voice of the rugby league commentator Eddie Waring, who became a northern parody to the disgust of real fans. The first word of our take-offs in mock-Yorkshire brogue was always, "Swinton." I couldn't guess what was to come.
I moved north in 1976. Though I have always missed some things about London, I gained far more than I lost. I suppose the most surprising gift the north gave me was the chance to adopt rugby league with all the passion of a convert. Living not far away, it seemed natural to start going to Swinton and they were soon my team - for the next thirty years and counting.
It wasn't the easiest of choices, but somehow it felt natural. What followed was serial disappointment lifted by short periods of hope before being pitched back into despair. Yesterday the hope was there again, and this time it feels like the club is finally being run properly and maybe the despair is being put behind us. All we need is a stadium back in Swinton to end our exile since the sale of Station Road.
And what a day yesterday was. I am still breathless. How do you follow the drama of winning the semi final by one point in a breathtaking game? The answer should be obvious. Win the final by one point in an even more dramatic, heart stopping game. It was magnificent entertainment, with thirty years of agony packed into those eighty minutes.
There was an unusual highlight too. It came after the match. In comments on a previous post about the semi final, Simon Pottinger picked up on how our number thirty, Josh Barlow, didn't celebrate immediately, but went over to console the York players. This time, after the final hooter sounded, a middle aged fan ran on to the pitch with a banner. Stewards grabbed him, he struggled and the police moved forward to make an arrest. Josh Barlow ran up, all smiles, put his arm around the fan's shoulders, persuaded the stewards into letting him go and sweet talked the police into taking no action. Barlow then led him back to the stands, took his banner when it was offered to him, and paraded it with the team. And there it is, being held up in front of the ecstatic Swinton fans.