Tuesday, 8 December 2009
previous round and let’s face it that would take some beating. To be fair to Leeds the Cup is obviously not top priority and they had hosted Huddersfield only three days previously. The lower tier of the away stand was full, though. “You’re not famous any more!” we sang before launching in to “Stand up if you hate Diamonds!” (Took me a few renditions to make that one out).
Leeds took the lead on 20 mins with a Becchio header from a cross. It triggered a one-man pitch invasion from our end by a bloke who was grounded just as he was hurdling the advertising hoarding which must have hurt. Purple jackets this time: ‘Response team’, they call themselves. Somehow Kettering managed to go in at half-time with no greater deficit. They went from lucky to plucky in the second half and enjoyed a most unexpected purple patch culiminating in a goal. Heslop burst through the Leeds defence down the middle, pushed the ball out wide to Richie Partridge (fab name) who crossed to provide Elding with an unmissable header. “We” went potty. My ears were literally ringing with the racket. The Kettering support was brilliant.
And so to extra time – and yet more Leeds dominance. Time and time again we turned our heads to the giant video screen to see in disbelief exactly how Leeds had failed to score at the far end. Finally, at the start of the second period of extra time they got a breakthrough when Grella blasted in from six yards. The until now mute Leeds fans didn’t so much cheer as let out a huge gasp of collective relief. The killer third goal followed a minute later and by the final whistle it was five. A cruel end to the tie perhaps but any other outcome would’ve been a travesty.
So for Leeds it’s off to Man U as, indeed, it is for the zeitgeist of the whole competition. I shall leave it there.
Some more extra-time:
- Tonight I saw the Poppies and I’ve previously seen the Lambs and the Daisies. But even these can’t compete with the nickname of Market Drayton Town: the Gingerbreadmen. And I point all this out as a fan of the ertswhile Biscuitmen ...
- The more I write this blog the more I’m reminded of the BBC’s slogan for its coverage a few seasons ago: ‘One cup, a thousand stories’. Sums it up so well.
- Click here for a clipping from the Guardian about the longest ever FA Cup tie – which went to six matches. It was a fourth qualifying tie in 1971. Ah, those were t’ days.
- Check out this "miss of the century" from the aforementioned Rocky Baptiste. Click here.
- And finally for now, here’s a picture of a windmill beside a football ground in Milton Keynes. Nowt to do with the Cup but somehow pleasing all the same. I’ve pinched it from this recommended blog.
Saturday, 7 November 2009
So it’s back to Griffin Park for a replay. A more homely occasion for all concerned, I’d have thought, if not quite as novel. Today’s match was one for the FA Cup connoisseur, to be sure.
Saturday, 24 October 2009
No cricket score then but the biggest thrashing of the round and, in the end, a more than satisfactory first FA Cup qualifier for my companions. We equally enjoyed our afternoon under the arches.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Saturday, 26 September 2009
Saturday, 12 September 2009
Guaranteed fine weather, the kids to entertain and the FA Cup qualifiers. There was only one thing for it. Bursting with anticipation we slung our cozzies in the car, put on "Here comes the Sun" (what an uplifting song that is) and headed for the great Yorkshire coast ding-dong derby between Bridlington Town and Whitby Town. An hour and a half later the kids were playing in the sand and I was in a deckchair reading the latest edition of Groundtastic. Bliss.
We continued to bask in the glorious 72-degree sunshine for the main event at the Queensgate Stadium. A seagull called as it dipped over a crossbar and, as the teams trotted out, the tinny tannoy played that really kitsch version of the Match of the Day theme tune. Boy, it felt so good to be back on the FA Cup trail. My season starts here ...
Brid is a relatively sizeable regional centre so should really have a football club in a division higher than Step 5. As it happens it's remarkable in a way that Brid has a club at all. In 1993, under the ownership of new moneybags chairman Ken Richardson, they won the FA Vase and had lofty ambitions. A year later Richardson had disbanded the team and the club folded. It returned in the form of a pub side using the stadium and quickly climbed up the rankings only to plummet back down again with two recent consecutive relegations and another exodus of players along the way. Ironic, then, that they are now landlords to similarly afflicted, reformed and resurgent Scarborough Athletic.
The ground is very well appointed for this level. The main stand – a positive legacy of the Richardson era – includes a players' balcony, tidy little announcer's box, sections for the visiting directors and, most remarkably, a hospitality suite. Even more remarkably it was in use. Now that's how to really impress a client. As I passed at half-time I could see through the glass eight blokes, heads bowed presumably in silence, as they troughed pie and mushy peas that looked suspiciously like the fare served up at the snack bar. For the really keen the hospitality possibly extends to a caravan sited behind one of the goals. I daresay the sponsors, caravanchris.co.uk, have something to do with it. The ground's most distinguishing features, though, are a short section of cover which looks like a an old railway platform canopy and, looming behind it, a giant gas tank.
Brid have vocal fans too. "Seaside mafia, I said a seaside mafia", was one of their chants. 'Seaside' and 'mafia' somehow don't seem to go together and, with both clubs nicknamed the Seasiders, the chant seemed less menacing still. "Super, super Brid; super, super Brid; super, super Brid; super Bridlington Town" didn't really work either. Sorry, lads. My favourite remark from the crowd followed confusion between the lino and the bench about a substitute's shirt number. "Come on, referee," one fella shouted. "This is a football match, not a fashion show!"
It was a lively, tight game, full of chances. Brid had the edge over their near neighbours two divisions higher up and should've gone in at the interval a goal or two up. The second half followed a similar pattern. The stuffing was knocked out of the home side, though, when on 73 mins Gildea of Whitby burst through a square defence to beat the goalie in a one-on-one. With that Brid went out of the Cup - and we went back to the harbour for an ice cream and a quick go on the dodgems before driving back towards the setting sun. We never really said hello to the summer this year but the kids and I made a fine job of saying goodbye.
Star turn: The Whitby no 8 was Tony Hackworth. His claim to fame is that he came on as a sub for Leeds in a Champions League group match against Barcelona in the Nou Camp in 2000, the first of just three appearances. He was also implicated but acquitted in the infamous Lee Bowyer punch-up outside a nightclub in Leeds. A career defined by two periods of less than 20 mins.
Saturday, 28 March 2009
The Lambs (Tamworth) and the Knitters (Hinckley) take some beating when it comes to nicknames least likely to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition but I have come across an even better contender: the Daisies (Daisy Hill). Come on, let’s be honest. This monicker is only one step away from the Pansies – and, a reason in itself to make a visit to the curiously named New Sirs ground in the town of Westhoughton betwixt Bolton and Wigan. The real reason for my trip, however, is the visit of AFC Liverpool.
The club was formed this season by fans of Liverpool who had been priced out of the Premiership. They stress that they are not at odds with the parent club and, indeed, describe themselves as Liverpool's “little brother”.
The teams trot out to the tune of the Colonel Bogey March. I soon realise that the sound actually comes from an ice cream van round the corner. (I'd even wondered if it was a particularly loud ringtone). The lack of PA is confirmed when a fella walks around the pitch at half-time announcing the winning numbers of the raffle. The only other sound for much of the match comes from about a dozen AFC fans behind one goal. They are so isolated yet their song so clear they are more like drunken carol singers than chanting football fans. I like the slogan on one of the many banners: “Fate is for those too weak to determine their destiny”.
The small size of the ground and crowd (although five times larger than Daisy Hill's average) means that, disappointingly, the match has little of the cup-tie flavour that characterised my previous visits to fans clubs away: FCUM, FC Halifax, and even – it has to be said – Scarborough Athletic. AFC Liverpool doesn’t seem to have quite caught the public imagination in the way as these other clubs probably because it was formed in less adverse circumstances.
At this level groundhopping is more like pitch-hopping. New Sirs consists of a fenced pitch with cricket-style clubhouse at one end fronted by a two rows of numbered, wooden flip-up seats and a simple short cover on one of the long sides. That's it - if you exclude the dug-outs. You can even get free entry behind one of the goals where there is no perimeter fence. This is grass roots football at its grassiest. The entrance is the ground's only point of note: it looks like an 80s-style Wild West Diner – in Wigan. After the exceptional thrills of my last four matches this one inevitably felt like the morning after the nights before.
Low-key occasion, then, but what a cracking little match. The Daisies take the lead after 15 mins completely against the run of play and go two in front on the stroke of half-time when an attacker on the break draws the keeper and squares for a team-mate to slot home from the edge of the six-yard box. AFC are outraged as the goal is scored while one of their players is lying injured with what turns out to be a broken nose. AFC continue to dominate in the second-half. The Daisies keeper handles outside the box but the ref waves play on only for an AFC shot to be spectacularly saved with a deliberate handball on the line by a defender who injures himself colliding with a post and is sent off. His self-sacrifice isn't in vain: AFC hit the same post with the spot-kick.
In the last five minutes AFC finally get a deserved goal when a cross is touched home at the near post. They then level it when an up-and-under is back-headed into the goal by a towering Dominic Matteo look-a-like. We all thought we were heading for an Istanbul but, in a final twist in injury time, a Daisies attacker latches onto a long through-ball from the half-way line and, one on one with the keeper, nets the winner. Five home fans cheer.
At kick-off I was asking myself what the hell was I doing travelling 80 miles on a raw afternoon for what was only a step up from a park match but, at the final whistle, I realised I'd just enjoyed the most compelling half of football of my season.
As the players walked off at one end two AFC carol singers stayed on at the other, scarves outstretched, singing “You'll never walk alone”. Their manager, meanwhile, warmed down and, I suspect, dressed down his players in the centre circle. The club one from bottom beats the club one from the top and Daisy Hill record their first league win for three months and most memorable since, well perhaps, the Bolton Hospital Cup in 1986. A whoops-a-daisy for AFC, indeed.
For match highlights click here. (The back of my head puts in a starring performance on 32 secs).
Saturday, 28 February 2009
“No idea who they’re playing. Doesn’t really matter anyway.” That was the in-depth analysis of the opposition supplied by the chap in front of me at the car park ticket machine.
The FA Vase is, indeed, a curious competition. Even at the quarter-final stage the groundhopper usually needs to consult his road atlas. Pretty much any of the clubs that enter can make it this far given that that the highest ranked of them come from one of several regional leagues. No chance of Premiership-type domination in the national minnows knockout cup. The other odd thing about the Vase is that it has two winners. The truly once-in-a-lifetime experience (for these lads) of playing at Wembley is the real prize; lifting the trophy just makes for better pics to remember the day by. So we do care and we don’t care …
Exactly a century ago Glossop (near Manchester), competed in a quarter-final replay of the FA Cup, losing to Everton. With a then population of 17,000, Glossop became – and will, I guess, always remain – the smallest town ever to play in the the Football League first division (for a single season in 1899-1900). Remarkably, they played against Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea and, yes, even that other North End (after which they were named). They dropped out of the League after the First World War and, as you can guess, there was only one way they could go after that.
A piece in the Glossop Chronicle romantically recalls the days when supposedly “a heady mixture of cigarette smoke, steam from hot beef extract drinks and the aroma of embrocation filled the air”. The aroma today came from the barbecue and it certainly filled the air around the corner flag. So much so, in fact, I’m surprised it didn’t asphyxiate the players. I hadn’t seen so much smoke since those flares at European Cup finals in the eighties.
The ground is wonderfully delapidated in a Pontefract Collieries sort of way. The rickety main stand looks like it would blow down in a puff of wind and the perimeter is a seven-foot blue breeze block wall. The beer tent was absolutely heaving, something to do with the Vase being sponsored by Carlsberg, I suppose. The finest facility, though, was the gents which was a shipping container. This is the first signed kazi I’ve come across that you use not by entering (I did try) but going behind.
We were three matches but still a long, long way from Wembley. But where the Surrey Street ground can compete with the national stadium is in the structure that looms over it. A steel chimney extends like a giant drill bit from the shell of a ferrous alloys plant under demolition. If there is a taller and thinner structure beside any other ground I’d like to know about it. It’s eye-catching wherever you are in the town but, viewed from within a football ground and so close to it, the chimney inexplicably delights all the more.
The Marske fans gave the match another unlikely Wembley connection by being decked out in the Flag of St George to reflect their side’s strip. Their support contributed to a cracking atmosphere but was soon muted as the Hillmen (great old fashioned nickname, by the way) went 2-0 after 13 mins. Markse kept their tails up and the tie could’ve taken on a whole new complexion had their striker scored from a free header at 1-3 down with 5 mins to go before the break. Once Glossop got the fourth the contest was effectively over although Markse continued to plug away. It was real end-to-end stuff on a gluepot of a pitch and climaxed in a pitch invasion (my fourth on the trot). The presence of security men and their Alsatian seemed a bit heavy-handed in the circumstances. The only pitchside pooch necessary here was the Marske bulldog mascot. We all shuffled out through the only exit – a metre-wide gap in the wall. A Wembley way? Perhaps. Glossop’s never seen anything like it. Well, at least, not for a very long time.
Some more history: Glossop’s early success resulted from the efforts of benefactor Sir Samuel Hill-Wood. The son of a local cotton baron, he attracted the top players in an Abramovic sort of way. On one occasion Glossop fielded a forward line with an amateur international from each of the home countries plus the Republic of Ireland. Sir Sam later became chairman of Arsenal and his great grandson, Peter Hill-Wood, is the current incumbent. (The story of Glossop is fascinating. Read the relevant chapter in the highly recommended book by David Conn of The Guardian).
And finally: I love this old boy masquerading as a pundit alongside the High Peak radio commentator. Must be the Hillmen’s oldest fan. Are those headphones he's wearing or ear muffs? I look forward to seeing him on the MoTD couch soon.
For another blogger's view of the occasion click here.