Football: My greatest moment in 12 years as a pro
Jamie Hewitt, Chesterfield's FA Cup hero, traces a week in which he shared the headlines with a fellow master of timing
Sunday 20 April 1997
On the eve of the FA Cup semi-final Chesterfield play Trivial Pursuit. We must guard against that tomorrow. We've come all this way and none of us want our pursuit of a place in the FA Cup final to be trivial. The game doesn't last long. We are in our bedrooms by 9.15pm. My room mate, Paul Holland, watches Match of the Day. I nod off, trying to avoid dreaming of our match of the day, of the season, of a lifetime. My stomach fills up with butterflies but I sleep surprisingly well.
Shrigley Hall Hotel is set in capacious park land and is surrounded by a golf course. It's extremely smart but then that would apply to any hotel the Chesterfield team stay in since we invariably travel there and back to away matches in a day. Four of us wander round the course, compare notes on how we would play from certain positions and dwell on the magnificence of Tiger Woods in Augusta. I ring home. The boss, John Duncan, calls us together. The team is announced, the strategy agreed. It will be a four man back four with the option to change depending on how we're coping, especially with Juninho.
The television cameras are on the coach - it's the one that England travel in, loaned to us by Green Flag - on the way to the ground and we act up for them. There are already about 3000 Spireites fans in the ground. What we don't want to do, must not do at any cost is let down the management, the fans, the town now. I feel it more than most. I'm a Chesterfield lad. I don't want to live with that for the rest of my life.
It's a belter. So many emotions, so much action. We never imagined this. Middlesbrough have the territory but we have eight men behind the ball. Their sending off has a strange effect because we know these things can work in different ways but we're delighted with 0-0 at half-time. In the dressing-room I get nervous again.
Middlesbrough look downhearted when we score and then it's 2-0 from a clear penalty. Wembley flashes before me. So did Gary Lineker's words that the Chesterfield spire would straighten before the team reached the final. In my mind I see it reaching to the skies as erect as the Twin Towers. Boro pile on the pressure and pull one back. If we could have held out for five more minutes... Then we hit the bar and the ball bounces down. I see the linesman flag and I shout at him: "If you're signalling a goal, keep your flag up."
He probably can't hear me. But he lowers the flag, the referee blows for a free-kick. No goal is given and we make no objection. It's only later that we realise the ball crossed the line, there was no noticeable infringement and it might have been 3-1.
Instead, it's soon 2-2. Another penalty, maybe not so clear cut. Before extra time the gaffer tells us we're fitter than Boro. We believe him but when they get a third we know it might be over. There's a minute to go when we get forward again. The ball makes the byeline and I start my run. Maybe it's because I'm tired that it's perfectly timed. I know where I want to head it, but I fall as I do. The noise tells me it's gone in. This is my greatest moment in 12 years as a professional footballer. Unless I score the winner in the final it can't get better.
Manchester United give us a crate of champagne which we save - for the replay. Back home, my girlfriend Tracy and I go out with a few of the lads. We're recognised in the pubs. Everyone has 15 minutes of fame, we're just having a little longer.
I'm tired mentally. It's all catching up now the adrenalin has stopped flowing temporarily. Not that there's much time to think. There's a knock at my door at 7.30am. It's a newspaper photographer. More pictures, this time with the family. The attention hasn't started to pall. I know it will eventually fade. Tiger's got this and more for the rest of his life.
A match at Brentford. One we could do without really. We've fallen behind with our league fixtures but they must be fitted in. Ravanelli can come and play for us any time. The boss makes nine changes from Saturday's team. I travel down as sub and get on for the last 11 minutes. We lose 1-0. Our play-off chance has definitely gone but the Cup is our priority now. It has to be.
Millwall at home. We haven't talked much of Middlesbrough but our thoughts aren't far away. We know we can do it at Hillsborough in the replay on Tuesday, Juninho or not... Nothing to be afraid of now.
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