Driving down Sudmeadow Road and turning left into Meadow Park I felt a bit confused, everything was there but not where I remembered it.
The clubhouse has sunk, the pitch is much higher and everything is much bigger and taller than before but it is still Meadow Park, albeit a different one.
In the 13 years since Gloucester City have been in exile the club has survived through the year at Forest Green Rovers, the fond memories of Cirencester Town where the club won promotion to what was then the Blue Square North, the years at Cheltenham Town, a groundshare nobody thought would ever happen, and the final period out of the county in Evesham.
From the depths of despair when it looked like the club might not continue, a new future has risen. In Co-chairman Alex Petheram, City have a man who not only knows a building site like the back of his hand (he runs and owns Soldi) but has the drive to make the dream of a new ground reality.
I was lucky enough to get a tour of the site earlier this week and left feeling almost emotional. 13 years to the day that the famous picture of the flood waters lapping the crossbar was taken, Mr Petheram showed me the new ground. The pitch almost down, the stands ready for fans and the whole site a hive of activity.
In just a few weeks it will be done, ready to welcome the players – many of whom were still in school back in 2007 when the rains came down and the flood water swept into Meadow Park.
The one thing Gloucester City fans have shown throughout this time is passion. The hope may have wavered at times, with planning delays and long cold Saturday afternoons in the bitter wind at Cirencester or the driving rain at Evesham but this club moves people.
I know this as much as the next fan, without Gloucester City I’d not have met my now husband. We joked we’d not get married until the club was home at one point but have just marked our fifth anniversary. My son will be getting his first season ticket this year, my daughter’s first game was when she was just five weeks old.
But like many I am a lapsed fan, the travel time to Evesham put me off going for a while. From September (or October depending on when fans are allowed back) the club will be within walking distance. Many other fans did not live to see this day, the likes of Gordon Pointer, Gwenda Halford, Bob Green, Norman Pass, Chris Gabb, they all held out hope that the day would come.
It is bittersweet that Tom Webb, the man who holds the all time appearance record for City, who was captain, coach and a midfield stalwart, retired before he could play in front of the stand which will bear his name but now is the time for a new generation to break through.
More than 30 years ago a young Neil Mustoe would park his BMX outside the old T End and watch the team he’d later captain and manage play, how many more stars of the future could be watching City play back in Gloucester?
And so much has changed in 13 years, the Quays has opened, a new Sainsbury’s is now 11 years old and a whole new population has moved to Hempsted. Gloucestershire College is a stone’s throw away and an area of the city which was run down and unused 13 years ago now welcomes regular visitors to shop, eat and socialise. City return to a Gloucester which has changed without measure, it feels like the right time to be back.
After a strange year, when so much has changed, the return of Gloucester’s football club to its rightful home feels like order is about to be restored.
The club has done the hard part and made it this far, now it is time for Gloucester to get behind them.