We're here now.
On the eve of our first ever season out of the senior leagues in Scotland. No more mentions on Final Score, no Jeff Stelling updates, no more mentions on 5 Live Sports report. Berwick Rangers no longer exists at 5pm on a national Saturday night. It feels like a loss, like a bereavement, like the world we know has come to an end. We've gone through the denial -this can't be happening to us; the anger is still there - it's the board's fault, the club's a shambles; tried the bargaining - we want to help, let us get involved, listen to us; had the depression for about the last 9 months and now we need to face up to acceptance. We're here now.
None of us wanted to be in the Lowland League, I think we always thought there would be at least one team worse than us - 'Cowden are terrible', 'Albion are in a mess' - but this time there wasn't. We were terrible, we were in a mess. There has been a feeling of inevitability about this coming we just didn't expect it so soon - things will get better we told ourselves but they didn't. The decline has been long and inexorable. Some of us became utterly disillusioned by what we saw on the pitch and what we saw as a lack of ambition in the boardroom. We didn't want to flirt with the play-offs before finishing just outside them and we certainly didn't want to flirt with bottom place. We bemoaned the lack of ambition.
We can look at the reasons why it happened and we all have an opinion and we won't all agree on the root cause but to a certain extent this has become irrelevant. We're here now.
Throughout the summer we have raged at this decision, at that decision, at the length of time it took to appoint a manager, at the dreadful communication from the club, at the time it took to sign up players, at the turmoil in the boardroom and at each other but tonight that takes a back seat because we're here now.
We enter this season in hope more than expectation, we have already convinced ourselves that there are stronger teams with more money who are progressing while we continue to go backwards, we've convinced ourselves that the league will only get stronger and harder to get out of, we've convinced ourselves that the long term future of the club is on the line.
This may all be proved to be correct but right here, right now we have to allow some degree of optimism to shine through. It's what we do as football fans at the beginning of every season, for what is often a brief moment we hope, we hope above expectation, we allow ourselves a glimpse of what might be, we imagine Euan Smith lifting the Lowland League Trophy. By 9:30 tomorrow night that hope may have already suffered a blow but now is not the time for phlegmatic realism.
As the season progresses the arguments and debates will continue, as they should. We should challenge the board, challenge the management, challenge the players and challenge each other but we should be constructive. This is the process that helps us get better, the one thing we all want.
We may not get back to the promised land of the SPFL this season but we need to restore faith, we need to get a smile back on our faces, we need to compete in games...we need to score a goal.
As a positive we should look forward to new grounds and new opponents, we need to travel in hope, we need to enjoy our days out and not have our nights ruined. The Lowland League may be the refreshing change we need, in many ways it feels like a less formal environment, a little less serious. A finger buffet rather than a black tie event. There are times when we let football get too serious, when we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves and at others, to have fun. Don't stop caring, don't stop being angry, don't stop arguing but laugh as well.
We're here now.