Thursday, 31 March 2011

Sutton United blog: Asamoah Gyan, Paul Dipre and Sutton v Essex

It’s official: I am losing touch with football’s higher echelons.

I momentarily switched channels during the second half of England's game with Ghana. When I turned back to ITV1 Clive Tyldesley was going on about a chap wearing an England shirt called Matt Jarvis. I must confess, I’d never heard of him (and neither had the interviewer in this clip who refers to him as Mark).
Before I go on, don’t tell me, Ron Greenwood isn’t the England manager anymore. I flippin’ knew the press would hound him out sooner or later.

Any rate, more shockingly, late in the first half, just before Andy Carroll put Fabio Capello’s side ahead, Tyldesley mentioned the up-and-coming coverage of the Champions League Quarter-Finals featuring the tie between Chelsea and Manchester United. I must confess once again, I had no idea those two had even been paired together.

I can’t say I’m too bothered about it, though. My focus this season has been well and truly on the dear old Ryman Premier League where life is good, the Non-League Paper says so.

Sutton United are top of the league and we’ve hit April, well within sight of the winning post, and no, I don’t mean that dodgy pub down the bottom of Sutton High Street.

In fact, life is so good, I spent the majority of Sunday afternoon sat in the sun, supping pint after pint and poring over the Ryman Premier League table after we truimphed 2-0 in a rare encounter with a team from overseas, Canvey Island.

Craig Dundas and Leroy Griffiths brought the Gulls down to earth with second half goals.

We’re top. Seven points clear. Six games to go. It’s looking good.

I don’t want to appear smug though.

I can be accused of many things, but not smug. It's just that the last time we had a shot at league glory like this was 12 years ago. I am not used to seeing the Amber and Chocolates flying so high at this late stage of a season. Keep it under your hat, but I am starting to get a little bit excited.

By the time I polished off my third beer I’d got as much out of the league table as I could hope for. It was time to cast my eye across the other leagues.

The one thing which struck me with the power of an Andy Carroll left-foot piledriver was this; I should thank my lucky stars.

The lower echelons play host to plenty of teams who have hit hard times either on or off the field.

It wasn’t that long ago that the likes of Leek, Leigh, Northwich, Scarborough, Slough, Weymouth and even last week's visitors Canvey Island were exchanging blows with the heavyweights of the non-league game.

And what about Enfield? Look what happened to them.

Two or three of those clubs, especially those who have been woefully mismanaged, are on the verge of disappearing into the non-league wilderness for the forseeable future. Carshalton Athletic take heed.

We've had some rough times ourselves in recent years. I remember only too well when, on New Year’s Day 2008, some of the Sutton players fell to their knees and looked to the heavens after beating Hampton & Richmond 2-1 at Gander Green Lane. It was Sutton's second league win of the season and they would only managed three more by the end of April.

They were awful times for the Amber and Chocolates, so I'm just enjoying the good times once again.

Any rate, another thing which stood out like an Asamoah Gyan last minute leveller was one West Yorkshire town’s footballing plight.

According to Wikipedia, the official population of Ossett is 21,076. According to me, that’s not big enough to support two teams.

Making his point: Asamoah Gyan's late strike against England at Wembley highlighted the plight of football in Ossett to millions across the globe. Well, maybe not.

It’s appropriate then, that Ossett Town and Ossett Ablion are both finding the Evo-Stick League, well, rather sticky. Town occupy 21st place in the Premier Division, while worse is to follow, Albion sit 22nd in Division One North.

I never want to see clubs go by the wayside, but this is a desperate state of affairs. There’s only one thing for it, close them both down and start up a new super club. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ossett United.

It’s never too late. If Sutton Guild Rovers and Sutton Association FC came to the conclusion that Sutton wasn’t big enough for the both of them in 1898, then the townsfolk of Ossett could launch a club to help get them out of this sticky situation.

Any rate, what do I know? The good folk of Ossett might be very happy with the current arrangement. Unlike Carshalton owner/boss Paul Dipre, I'll stop meddling in other peoples' affairs.

These days, it seems the only way is Sutton versus Essex. Having conquered Canvey and been held by Hornchurch, Paul Doswell must now plot the downfall of struggling Aveley who contrived to lose at home to Maidstone United last Saturday.

It won't be easy mind (ok, ok, I'm just covering myself in case we lose), Aveley are down there scrapping for their lives, but have lost five out of their last six matches.

Before I go, The FA sent out a Tweet after the England game which read: Andy Carroll says he's ready to score more goals for #England after his first senior goal against Ghana.

In other words: man who is paid vast sums of money to score goals for club and country is ready to score more goals.

Wonderful. Well done that man.

That’s like me Tweeting: Amber Rambler says he’s ready to do more blogging after his latest blog post.

Now, if only I was paid vast sums for doing that...


Monday, 21 March 2011

Sutton United blog: Professor Brian Cox, JR Ewing and the Anglo-Italian Cup

Sorry for the lack of activity lately, my computer has thrown a hissy fit. I think the final straw came after watching Professor Brian Cox (pictured) take us on a journey through the Solar System on BBC iPlayer, so you can hardly blame it.  

If it hadn't been for that then I would have posted this ages ago.

Let me take you back in time...

It was one of the biggest talking points in Sutton since Dallas had everyone asking who shot JR?

Just over two weeks ago, in the borough’s bars, bistros and backstreet boozers its people were asking just one question; who scored for Sutton in their 2-1 defeat at Wealdstone?
Early indications pointed towards Craig Dundas, but shortly after the game, reports on the wires suggested that, in fact, Richard Jolly had found the net.

There's no doubt about it, RJ is as hungry for goals as JR was for money, but did he really have the final touch?
Well, confirmation arrived a few days later from FIFA’s Dubious Goals Committee. It was true, Dundas was outdone by the stetson-wearing RJ who, no-doubt, enjoyed a satisfying cigar safe in the knowledge another goal had been added to his already burgeoning balance.
I know what it’s like to claim a goal which everyone else thinks was scored by a team-mate.
The scene was the school playground as the clash between the First Year and Second Year entered the last few seconds before the bell for afternoon lessons.
It was a time when Sutton United conquered Europe, well Italy at least.
I was honoured to be selected for the First Year. It was my first cap at that level and I saw it as recognition for all the fitness training I had done playing Kiss Chase at primary school.
The game was finely poised at 8-7 to the boys representing the Second Year when I, like twenty of my team-mates, pushed forward for one last bid for an equaliser. With forty nippers chasing a tennis ball, it resembled a scene from the famous Eton Wall Game.
The Second Year boys were sweating, sensing they’d be the laughing stock of the school if they couldn’t beat the fresh-faced whippersnappers from the year below.
Suddenly, the ball fell invitingly to a lad called Raggett who lashed it with the laces of his size four Clark shoes.
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as his shot found the ‘net’ – it was a wall really, with large white painted circles on it, like a target.
However, and here's the crux, the ball faintly flicked off my left trouser leg on its way in.
To be brutally honest, I was always more powerful with my right trouser leg, but at a time like that I wasn’t going to quibble.
I distinctly felt the ball hit my dark grey Farahs as it went past the mitten-wearing Second Year goalie and twelve defenders on the line to bring us level at 8-8.
A split-second later a huge shriek went up as my team-mates ran off to heap acclaim on their saviour, the buck-toothed Raggett.
Thinking I scored the late leveller, I went running off to another part of the playground to no acclaim whatsoever.
Then the bell sounded and the majority of the Second Year boys sank to their knees as my team-mates screamed with delight like giddy schoolgirls. For the first time in my life, I was glad I wasn’t part of the in-crowd.
As we headed off to our history lesson I tried to tell some of the boys my side of the story but they weren’t having it. As far as they and the history books were concerned, Raggett was the hero.
Any rate, there were no such issues in Sutton's last home game as Jolly and Dundas both found the net along with Leroy Griffiths to ensure the Amber and Chocolates overcame the rather robust challenge of Hendon.

Griffiths scored again for the Us at Hornchurch last Saturday in the 85th minute, but Sutton's joy was short-lived as the Urchins levelled with a 94th minute penalty.

That result was even more annoying when you consider Bury Town lost at home to Concord Rangers, but I guess we would have settled for a point in Essex before the game. I am still secretly gutted we didn't win though.

I alluded to Sutton’s winning of the Anglo-Italian Cup earlier on, and with very good reason.
The other day I had an email off a chap called Fabio who is a supporter of Sutton’s opponents in that final of 1979, Chieti Calcio.

He would like to know if anyone out there has any pictures or video clips from the Sutton-Chieti game which, I think, took place at Gander Green Lane on April 14, 1979. If so, drop him a line at

Fabio has also pointed me in the direction of an Italian blogger who follows Wealdstone. Check it out here. If you don't understand it then there's plenty of pictures to keep you happy.

Right, I'm off to iron my Farahs.


Thursday, 3 March 2011

Sutton United blog: David Pleat's beige suit, Ian Bogie and Darren Ebsworth

With a fantastic suffix such as Angels you'd expect Tonbridge to play at a ground called The Heavens or The Pearly Gates and take to the field to the sound of a harpist playing that Robbie Williams track, Angels.

But, such is real life, they play at Longmead Stadium and that's where Leroy Griffiths answered the prayers of the Sutton fans with the only goal of the game in the crunch first versus third clash almost a couple of weeks ago.

I wasn't at the big game unfortunately, but I waited patiently for Twitter updates throughout the afternoon.

When that Heaven-sent Tweet arrived relaying the news that Griffiths had scored it triggered a series of involuntary actions. I jumped out of my chair and ran around my living room in the style made popular by David Pleat in 1983, but forget all that business about trying to button up a beige suit while running, I had trouble trying to contain my cardigan amid all the excitement.

I repeated the act when word reached me from Twitter Towers that the mighty Us had won. Then I skipped of to the pub, my spirits lifted, to raise a glass or seven to my boys in amber and brown.

Sinking seven beers can be somewhat silly. It normally results in my being sozzled on a Saturday and feeling as sick as a dog on a Sunday. But, it was worth it. The boys did their bit by bringing the Angels down to earth and I did mine by lowering the tone in AbraKebabra later that night. You can't get fairer than that.

Last Saturday really was a five star day in many respects. Allow me to explain.

Sutton's 5-1 mauling of Maidstone was followed by five pints in five different pubs. I popped into The Crown, Sutton Arms, O'Neils and Old Bank, but not before I had my first post-match pint in The Sydney Arms. Yes, I know what you're thinking, I go to all the best places.

I woke up on Sunday morning with words 'One Richard Jolly, there's only one Richard Jolly' still ringing in my ears after the hot-shot bagged a brace on his return to Gander Green Lane to stun the Stones. Darren Ebsworth, Leroy Griffiths and Bradley Woods-Garness got the other goals.

Ebsworth is rapidly becoming one of my favourite players. He put in a decent defensive display as well as unleashing a stunning free-kick from 25 yards which flew into the top corner. The goal was expertly captured by club photographer Paul Loughlin. To view the pictures click here.

After the Maidstone massacre I allowed serious thoughts of our possible promotion to enter my mind for the first time. Just imagine, there'll be an open-top bus tour down Sutton High Street in front of bemused shoppers, a civic reception hosted by the Mayor, and Paul Doswell's men will even get to meet Theo Paphitis at the plush Ryman League presentation evening.

Oh, wait a minute. Scrap the bit about civic reception. The Council blew the budget for that on wooden animals for the High Street.

Any rate, I am starting to believe we might finish the job off now. While we're playing and picking up the points, our rivals are havimg matches postponed as the fixture backlog mounts up.

Apart from Jolly's double, Ebsworth's effort and my five pints, the other highlight from Saturday was the induction of the first 10 figures into the Sutton United Hall of Fame. To see legends like Larry Pritchard, John Rains, Paul McKinnon and Barrie Williams back down the Lane was a real treat, but I'll write about that another time.

If Darren Ebsworth is one of my favourite players at the moment, then Gateshead are near the top of the list of teams I'm currently keeping an eye on.

February was a fabulous month for Ian Bogie's boys who won seven out of seven, scoring 22 goals in the process and conceeding only three. They wreaked havoc on Wrexham (7-2) and caused carnage at Kettering (4-1) in the Blue Square Premier before beating Blyth (2-0) in their own backyard to earn a two-legged FA Trophy semi-final tussle with Darlington.

The Heed, the nickname by which Gateshead are also known, have been so prolific in front of goal lately that many football observers are calling them the hot Heeds.

Ok, I made that bit up.

Any rate, if the Heed make it to Wembley for the final then I'll be there to back the boys from the north-east.

Finally, Wealdstone are next up for Sutton this Saturday which sees two of the league's form sides go heed-to-heed. Sorry, I am getting addicted, I mean head-to-head.

Hopefully Richard Jolly will have got a taste for rolling Stones over after hitting a hat-trick for Wealdstone against Maidstone during his recent loan stint, as well as handing out another double dose to the Kent club for us last weekend. Would he dare dish out another double, this time against his old club? I'd like to think so...