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Saturday, 6th May 2017 Kick-off 17:30
Pompey: Champions on a day like no other
Sunday, 7th May 2017 14:38 by Steve Bone at Fratton Park

'Panic on the streets of London,' sang Morrissey over the Fratton Park speakers at half-time. 'Panic on the streets of Birmingham.' He ought to have changed the words. 'Panic in the stands at Grimsby, panic in the stands at Hartlepool.' It even scans perfectly.

Because by then, the two teams who'd spent weeks, if not months, debating which one of them would win the League Two title could not have been quite so sure it would be either of them.

Pompey were winning, and not for one moment looking like giving up their lead; Doncaster were 1-0 up against the Pool but knew they had 45 minutes in front of them against a team who had to win to try to stay in the Football League. Plymouth were behind at Blundell Park.

The latter part of the second half at Fratton Park was one of those little periods in life that you'll never forget. Literally spine-tingling.

There have been other days at Pompey where the crowd have been paying more attention to games elsewhere than the one in front of them - the last day of the 1992-93 season sprang to mind - remember back then how, for a few minutes, we thought Cambridge were drawing at West Ham and we were on our way to Premier League. It turned out Cambridge weren't drawing, and didn't draw, and we had to wait a full decade to get to the top division.

Yesterday, there were cheers from pockets of the home crowd and no-one quite knew what they meant. Even in these days of everyone having phones that can tell you instantly about goals and much more, there was confusion. It seems PO4's 4G network couldn't cope with the sheer number of people checking for updates, and news of Hartlepool's equaliser - the key goal that we needed - was slow to be confirmed.

A few minutes later came more news: another Hartlepool goal (oh and in the meantime, I almost forgot, Pompey had added another five goals) but, where I was (north lower, row C, as ever), there was talk of Plymouth (who we knew by then had equalised) having taken a 2-1 lead at Grimsby. Eventually, we established it was still 1-1 at Blundell Park - thanks, it turned out, to Sonny Bradley failing to put away Argyle's best chance.

The minutes ticked by - surprisingly quickly as it goes - and no further goal news was received from the north-east or the North Sea coast. But I honestly couldn't tell you which game finished first and quite when Pompey were absolutely confirmed as the new leaders of League Two and indeed its champions.

Earlier messages about staying off the hallowed Fratton turf so the players and their families could come out were never going to be listened to if the title was Pompey's. And happily, the stewards didn't even try to hold back the masses. Within minutes, 90 per cent of the pitch was covered by fans celebrating a triumph that hadn't looked possible a few weeks ago, and hadn't looked all that likely even a couple of hours earlier.

But then when did Pompey ever do anything that was likely? Never, as far as I can recall.

Promotion, secured 19 days earlier at Meadow Lane, felt good. But this, well. The title didn't just put the icing on the cake, it turned it into an award-winner of a cake you'd see in the final of the Great British Bake Off. Out on that pitch, where wide-eyed kids were hoisted on to shoulders and fans who'd never met before hugged each other, this felt extra-special. Extra, extra-special.

Four long years we have had in League Two and at times the division has tested our patience to the very limit. To exit in this way was, is, wonderful. Sometimes it's not that you win; it's how you win. I'd liken this to the Mendes 2 Man City 1 game. I maintain to this day that if we'd had just a routine 2-1 win that day, we wouldn't have gone on the run that kept us in the Premier League. It was the way we did it that day which gave us momentum.

And you can't help thinking about the momentum Pompey have now. What a final third of the season it has been. There's no reason the management and players can't take that into the start of next season. Evidence of this season is that League One's standards are not massively higher than League Two - last season's promoted sides finished 8th, 10th, 15th and 16th. We have nothing to fear and in fact I've long believed League One will suit us much more than League Two has.

Doubtless there'll be a few additions to the squad before we all re-convene in August, there could, of course, even be a new owner, though from what we hear, that won't make a huge difference to the budget. But all that's to think about another day.

For now, we just need to soak up the joy, the delirium, in the city and beyond and congratulate everyone, from the retiring (but not shy) chairman Iain McInnes, Paul Cook and his backroom staff, the players, all of them, right through to the people who shelled out for shares or even just turned up for a few games. They've all played their part and will continue to play their part, in different ways.

Some said yesterday was better than any of those Wembley trips, better than any of UEFA Cup ties we experienced less than a decade ago. And I can see what they mean, though for me the 2008 Cup final still stands on its own as a Pompey day of days that will never be surpassed.

But yesterday will live long in the memory, even if seemed a bit of blur after a few Saturday-night Guinnesses and a long, long wait to see a bit of it again on Channel 5 (and by the way, I hope the person who decided to put three other games on before Pompey's does not have that job much longer).

Morrissey was right when he said there was a bit of a panic around at half-time. There was at Grimsby, there was at Hartlepool, and it proved well-founded. They knew we were lurking, and sure enough we chose just the moment to pounce and go top. The other two had shared top spot for 231 days; we nabbed it on the only day it mattered.

I wrote in the Sports Mail on New Year's Eve - exactly halfway through the season - that we needed another 47 points from our last 23 games to add to the 39 we already had to make sure we went up. As it turned up, we didn't need that many. In fact another 39 would have done it. Well, we didn't get 47 from the last 23, we got 48. Enough, just enough, to win the prize pot.

And you know what, Morrissey wasn't the only belting out a tune over the tannoy at the break. Did you hear Jeff Lynne with an ELO classic? I could not have put it better myself... Mister blue sky please tell us why; You had to hide away for so long (so long); Where did we go wrong?

Hey you with the pretty face; Welcome to the human race; A celebration, mister blue sky's up there waitin'; And today is the day we've waited for.

by Steve Bone @stevebone1

Picture by @PompeyChicken


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