There’s a time in a race to hit the front and head for home. The pacemakers have had their moment in the spotlight and the other contenders that have been jockeying for position are now behind you. You’ve made your move, gone up a gear and gone out in front. The challenge is to stay there until you breast the tape. Do you have the stamina? Will you find it lonely out in front, lose your nerve and choke? Or will you not look back and claim the glory?
The above are running metaphors, and I’m applying them to my team Bray Wanderers. After Friday’s win over Wexford, Bray went top of the SSE Airtricity First Division. They now have their destiny in their own hands. Win all the way from here on in and it doesn’t matter what anyone else does. Stay ahead of the chasing pack and automatic promotion is theirs. With seven games left, we are nearing the last-lap bell. A slip-up will mean the lottery that is the play-offs, not a place you want to be if it can be avoided.
After 14 seasons of top-flight football, Bray’s relegation at the end of 2018 was painful, but also necessary. The club had been through a torrid time under the previous ownership, and needed to take a step back before it could think of moving forward again. We were down but not out. 2019 was about taking stock. 2020 is about showing intent.
As a life-long fan of the club I can remember many promotion-winning seasons in the past. Winning promotion is a great achievement, and has a special feeling. It’s euphoric. The pain of relegation is banished. The summit has been scaled. You’re back in the big time, and you want to stay there enjoying the view. Will we add 2020 to the list of previous promotion seasons? The next few weeks will reveal all.
Gary Cronin has done a great job at Bray. He has built a decent squad that are now genuine title contenders. He has stabilized the club after the choppy seas it sailed on from 2014 onwards. The current owners have been prudent, patient and a breath of fresh air after what went before them. It is all good from the fans point of view. Apart from not being allowed into the stadium to cheer on the lads, obviously – it’d love to be in the Carlisle Grounds singing ‘We are top of the league, say we are top of the league!’