Monday, 7 February 2011

Sutton United blog: The Leatherhead Lip, Super Ted and The Moomins

Forgive me for this, but I have a confession to make.
I watched another club on Saturday. You might say it was a one-afternoon stand.
Yes, I know, I know. It’s not you, it’s me. You must believe me. You're not to blame at all.
I had a few drinks and got carried away in the moment. It all seemed like a good idea at the time. Honestly, I feel like a tart.
I was led astray, if that’s any consolation.
Any rate, please, I beg you, let me explain...
I woke up on Sunday morning with a pounding headache, a foggy memory and my face stuck to an unfamiliar sofa by my own dribble – better that than someone else’s I guess. I'd had a big night on the booze at a house soiree in north-east Surrey’s party capital, Leatherhead.
My Gillingham-supporting pal Grundle has, not surprisingly, kept a low profile since his boys were dumped out of the FA Cup by Dover Athletic back in November, but he suggested we meet up early on Saturday afternoon, take in the Leatherhead v Chatham Town match and sink a few pre-party pints in the process, after all, the beer would give us the Dutch courage we’d need to chat-up the dollybirds later.
He’s a Chatham lad and cited a soft spot for the club as his reason for wanting to check them out at Leatherhead's home, Fetcham Grove. The last time he saw them play was in a Kent Senior Cup match eight or nine years ago, so I guess his soft spot had hardened over the years.
And so it was, that I passed up the chance to see my first love, Sutton United, take on Cray Wanderers in the Ryman Premier League in favour of watching a couple of clubs that mean nothing to me slug it out in the division below.


When I think of Leatherhead FC I think of Chris Kelly, a famous FA Cup run, the FA Trophy Final of 1978 and Sutton's 11-1 tonking of the Tanners back in 1982.
Ah, Chris Kelly, AKA The Leatherhead Lip. What a cheeky chimp he was back in the day. Tormenting Isthmian League defences as well as causing Colchester, Brighton and Leicester a few problems while making a name for himself along the way.
The Tanners made it to the FA Cup Fourth Round in 1975 and switched their tie with the then First Division Foxes to Filbert Street. Undeterred, they raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from the crafty Kelly and the wondferfully named Peter McGillicuddy before succumbing to fatigue and three second half goals.
I have a dusty old brochure in the loft documenting Leatherhead’s fine run to the Trophy Final of ’78 which they lost to Altrincham, 3-1. Among their victims on the road to the Twin Towers were Wigan Athletic who were elected to the Football League at the end of that season.
Wigan, of course, went on to bigger and better things, while Leatherhead went on to win the Ryman League Cup in 2009/10.

I have mentioned in a previous post about that never to be forgotten night in 1982 when Mickey Joyce scored NINE of Sutton's 11 goals against the Tanners. Richard Jolly take note, two hat-tricks in two games is simply not good enough.
When I think of Chatham I think of tracksuit-wearing, gum-chewing chavs with attitude...oh, and the historic dockyards.
With a nickname like The Tanners you’d expect Leatherhead to play in tangerine and be sponsored by Tantilising Tanya's Tanning Emporium, but they’re not, they’re known as the Tanners, they play in green and white and are sponsored by Milners, a flooring company.
The Fetcham Grove pitch itself is an example of fine flooring - lush and as green as the Tanners' shirts, which suits their expansive style of play under boss Mick Sullivan. Meanwhile, the clubhouse, which has been revamped in recent years, satisfied our thirst for Guiness, the first two pints of which went down a treat.
But for some excellent goalkeeping by the tall James Tedder, whose nickname should surely be Super Ted, Leatherhead would have been out of sight by half-time. As it was, they only had a slender 1-0 lead to show for their efforts thanks to a strike by Greg Andrews.
The Tanners had one of Finnish author’s Tove Jansson’s loveable creations in their line up. I remember fondly watching The Mu Mann’s when I was a kid, however, it was obvious he was struggling to keep up with the pace the longer the game went on and Sullivan brought his participation in the match to a premature end.


Off the pace: Leatherhead's Mu Maan found the going tough against Chatham Town on Saturday and was substituted in the second half.

I kept tabs on my first love’s progress at Cray via Twitter and was getting twitchy after finding out it was 0-0 at half-time. I had a feeling Cray would be difficult to break down.
Grundle was twitchy too, although regular Twitter updates told him that he wasn't missing much either, the Gills were being held 0-0 by Oxford at the Priestfield Stadium.

Another pint of Guiness at the interval helped to settle the nerves.
The second half saw Chatham defend stubbornly and, judging by the lack of Tweets from Sutton's HonSec, I was guessing Cray were doing a similar job on Paul Doswell's men.
The all-important breakthrough came with 20 minutes left when Crocodile Craig Dundas pounced to put the Giraffes ahead.
With nine minutes remaining at Fetcham Grove, the Chavs were undone by a slick Andrews’ pass to Jack MacLeod who kept his cool to fire into the corner of the net and send all but six of the 203 people in attendance into raptures. They were me, Grundle and four Chavs, in case you were wondering.
Meanwhile, back at Cray's Hayes Lane base, Bradley Woods-Garness put the Gooseys further ahead and me in party mood. I was ready to bust some moves at the house party, I can tell you.
Judging by the views on the message board from those who remained loyal to Sutton on Saturday the boys played well and worked hard for the points. That’s three much-needed wins in a row, one more against Hornchurch on Tuesday night and we’ll face our title rivals Lowestoft on Saturday brimming with confidence.
In a week where the non-league world has lost Windsor & Eton, and Kidderminster Harriers made the front page of the Non-League Paper with their financial troubles, it was pleasing to see a well run community club like Leatherhead battling back from the brink.
Ten years ago or so the Tanners were in financial dire straits and the future looked bleak. But thanks to the hard work of their supporters and committee they've made great strides and have a tidy little ground and facilities to show for it.
Good luck to them in their bid to get in the Ryman Premier Division. 
There you go. I’ve said it all now.
I can’t believe I was so stupid. Thirty-one mostly happy years together put on the line by a silly Saturday afternoon fling...and with Leatherhead too.
I know what you’re thinking. I could have done so much better for myself. Rest assured I’ll be back on the terraces at Gander Green Lane on Tuesday night.

Leatherhead may have a pitch to be proud of, but the grass is definitely greener at Sutton United.
Come on you Amber and Chocolates!

EMAIL ME: amberramblerblog@gmail.com   FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER here

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