Friday, 18 February 2011

Sutton United blog: Arthur Albiston, Telford United and Blyth Spartans

Since I started this blog I have made a couple of earth-shattering confessions.
The first was that I walked out of Gander Green Lane with Sutton losing 3-2 at home to Wealdstone with five minutes to go, only to get home and find they won 4-3. Tut, tut.
The second one was just a couple of weeks ago when I admitted to having a fling with Leatherhead.
My latest confession is, thankfully, much more innocent.
When I was a lad I had a soft spot for Telford United.
They seemed to be everything I wanted Sutton to be. They had FA Cup runs, FA Trophy successes, played in the Gola League, had some of the best players outside the Football League and a decent ground, the Buck’s Head.
When my mates and I went for a kick-about over the park, they used to pretend to be Arthur Albiston, Kevin Moran or Ray Clemence.
When I wasn’t pretending to be Sutton’s very own superstars Paul McKinnon, Mickey Stephens or Dave Collier then I used to imagine I was Telford’s Anton Joseph, Eddie Hogan or Kevin Charlton.
What a sad lad, I know.
Ok, I lied. Nobody pretended to be Kevin Moran, especially after he got sent-off in the Cup Final of ’85, and certainly nobody dared pretend to be Arthur Albiston, even if they secretly admired his dogged defensive capabilities. Albiston was substituted in the same game at half-time.
However, the reason why I bring all this up is that Telford are one of just a handful of non-league teams who have made it through to the FA Cup Fifth Round in the post-war years. Others which spring to mind are Blyth Spartans and Kidderminster Harriers and, now of course, Crawley Town.
The Spartans actually came within a dodgy last-minute corner kick against Wrexham of becoming the first non-leaguers to make it through to the Quarter-Finals.
Their team of bearded Bukta-kit wearing butchers, bakers and candlestick makers of 1978 is a far cry from Crawley’s crowd of full-time pros of today which has been assembled at huge cost and from far and wide.
Watch the first half of Blyth's big game here, or the second half here.
I remember Telford’s epic run of 1984/85. It was a time when I was finding out all about non-league football and I was hooked as their run gathered pace. They beat Lincoln City, Preston North End, Bradford City and Darlington before being rolled over by the might of Everton, 3-0 at Goodison Park.
The Merseysiders went on to reach the Final, losing to Manchester United 1-0, the goal being memorably curled into the net in extra-time by Norman Whiteside.
I secretly harboured a wish that Sutton would emulate Telford and go on an amazing Cup run. I didn't have to wait too long.
In 1986, when my boys finally made it to the top flight of non-league football, the GM Vauxhall Conference (formerly Gola League), I almost wet myself when I found out that Sutton’s first game was at home to, who else, but Telford United.
When the Bucks took a two-goal lead the writing was on the wall, but little Paul Thornton and big Paul Rogers had other ideas and earned Sutton a point.
Any rate, Telford had some excellent Cup runs in the 1980s but their Fifth Round adventure was the best of the bunch. In the 2003/4 season they enjoyed a run to the Third Round before losing to eventual finalists Millwall.
So what do Millwall and Crawley have in common?
Well, Crawley are probably the least popular underdogs since Millwall got to that Cup Final. There’ll be plenty of people happy to see them come unstuck on Saturday.
There’s no doubt about it, the Sussex side have worked hard to get to Old Trafford having overcome Newport County, Guiseley, Swindon Town, Derby County and Torquay United.
However, the fact that such an already wealthy club has hit the jackpot and landed a tie with Manchester United will not sit well with some non-league anoraks, I mean traditionalists.
Keep it under your hat, but some football forum folk are even suggesting that Crawley are a League One side in disguise.
Personally, I am think the tie lacks some of the romance attached to such David v Goliath games. Give me Blyth’s battered old butchers any day. That aside, I will be watching tomorrow evening. 
Any rate, regardless of who wins, one thing is for sure, the Red Devils will be going through.
Sutton’s victory over Lowestoft last weekend has been followed up by a 1-0 defeat at Hendon.
It’s so often the case when a team works hard to string some results together and beats a main rival in the process, that they kind of burn themselves out. Judging by some peoples’ reaction to the result on the fans’ forum, I think that was the case on Wednesday night.
I expect fans of other clubs to be getting their violins out now. 
Forget the Red Devils,Sutton have got a big game against the Angels on Saturday. 
COME ON YOU AMBER AND CHOCOLATES!  
EMAIL ME amberramblerblog@gmail.com or FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER here.

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