One of the absolute pleasures in life for someone who loves both travel and football is the cherished ‘Away Day’ and there have been few better than my trip to the ‘Cake Tin’ in Wellington on February 16th, 2014.
There couldn’t have been a better way to kick off the experience than sitting with a friend enjoying a morning coffee in a sidewalk café in Wellington, where we quietly observed the team walking past with the one and only JVS in tow.
All supporters, travelling or otherwise, will all understand the anticipation before the game, the impatient waiting for the time to finally begin walking to the ground, the process of finding our seats for the night and meeting the other (in my case, travelling) supporters, of which there were about 15.
Out the teams came, with Wellington in their black and red charity shirts and our boys in the fabulous red and white, and the game began.
Heart being Heart back then, we were expected to receive an absolute pummeling from the Phoenix, but the boys apparently hadn’t heard anything of the kind.
Orlando Engelaar bagged our first, a beauty of a goal.
David Williams went on to score three of the next four, securing himself a hattrick, with the other being recorded as an Own Goal and credited to Glen Moss.
Five-zip. What a display of exciting football.
My memories of the ensuing post-game exchange with players involved plenty of sweaty handshakes and signatures that I’ll cherish for life, capturing the emotions that such a stunning surprise of a game can evoke; pinch me, for it must have been a dream.
At that time, we were in the middle of a five-game winning streak (a now quite infamous streak given those were the only fixtures we won that season) but eventually finished bottom of the ladder.
The winds of change were blowing hard though and the Heart identity was no more by the following season, with the club taken over by the City Football Group and rebranded as Melbourne City.
That was my first experience of football in New Zealand, but it won’t be my last; in a few weeks I will be searching for my seat once again in the vast emptiness of the away section of Eden Park in Auckland, where City will play Wellington again.
Different team, different coach, different jumpers – and I too am different – but I’ll be there for the joy of that nervous anticipation before the game and then the excitement of finally watching my boys play, come what may. Go City!