Well, what do you know? We only went and did it.
A year on from that non-performance at Wembley a draw at home to Brighton in the last game of the season was enough to secure our return to the Premier League seven years after it slipped away that afternoon at West Ham.
I’d bought tickets for the game as soon as I knew I was leaving Australia and long before the inevitable sell-out. Tom and I were in the South Stand, to the side of the goal nearest the Brighton fans.
I’ve never been to a Boro game, or any game for that matter, where the support was so intense and where the singing was non-stop despite the tension of the occasion. It wasn’t like Eindhoven where most of us peaked too early and failed to play our part, or Wembley on just about any visit you can think of when it was either more about just being there or an early setback knocked us back. Or both.
It wasn’t like Cardiff where the team did their bit early on and then left us to bite our fingernails for almost an entire match. This was so different to any of those times. It was a crowd playing their part and providing the background for the lads on the pitch to get us over the line.
If ever a lull in the noise threatened, a Red Faction-led chorus of “Follow, Follow, Follow” filled the potential void to the extent that the words were still resounding through my head days later. Even as the board was held up showing an additional eight minutes, the support never wavered.
As we entered the final seconds I felt a few tears in my eyes. Sometimes it means more than you realise. I tend not to get emotional when it goes badly; I was able to put last season’s play-off defeat behind me before the game had finished and within an hour or two was already looking ahead to this season rather than dwelling upon what might have been in different circumstances. This was another matter altogether.
The whistle blew and Tom and I hugged. My thoughts went back to our last promotion eighteen years earlier. Tom and I had been in the West Stand for that one, me in my thirties rather than my fifties and him just eight years old and in serious danger of having someone’s eye out with his flag.
I’ve enjoyed being in the Championship with trips to some of the so-called ‘less-fashionable’ grounds and in the last couple of years it was nice to win a few games.
But it’s good to be back. Back in the big time.