Friday, 30 September 2011

Sutton United blog: Brian Kilcline, Jocky Wilson and the FA Cup

We all have our FA Cup dreams, don’t we.
I had a dream once that we beat Coventry City 2-1 in the Third Round. 
Hold on. No, that one was actually real life. Wow, even better. We literally lived the dream that day.
Oh come on, give me a break. What’s the point in having a Sutton United blog if I can’t mention the Coventry game when the FA Cup comes around?
That was a day, I can tell you. 
The curly locks of Brian Kilcline, Steve Sedgely hitting the post and crossbar with a single shot, and of course, the flowing tears of Matthew Hanlan’s sister after her brother volleyed his name into FA Cup folklore. Ah yes, the memories come flooding back.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. Like most clubs, we’ve experienced the highs and the lows of the Cup.
In the 1986/87 season Sutton were enjoying their first foray into fifth-tier football and had only played a handful of games in the GM Vauxhall Conference.
In the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round of that season they were beaten 4-1 at The Warren, the home of emerging London Spartan League side Yeading.
It was a true FA Cup shock.
To see a goalkeeper the calibre of Ron Fearon picking the ball out of his net four times against such supposedly inferior opposition was a galling experience. But, after all, that is the magic of the Cup, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
For years after that defeat the name Yeading sent a shiver down the spines of Sutton fans the world over. 

Thank crikey Yeading are no more, after their merger with Hayes to form the super-club we know today as Hayes & Yeading United. I do, however, look forward to seeing my boys do battle with them next season in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
The FA Cup Final of the 86/87 season produced one of the all-time classic matches, Tottenham Hotspur 2 Coventry City 3.
I remember watching the game live on television with my dad and cheering for the Sky Blues.
I always cheered for the underdog in such encounters, unless they happened to be called Yeading, of course.  
Keith Houchen had already carved his name into the annals of Cup history when he scored a penalty for York City as they beat Arsenal in the Fourth Round of 1985. But two years later, and in the Final itself, he was leaping like a salmon to head Coventry’s second goal to earn his spot in the FA Cup Hall of Fame.
I remember the shear joy etched on Brian Kilcline’s face as he lifted the Cup for the first time in the club’s history. It was a truly great day for football, unless of course, you supported Spurs.
Twenty months later Kilcline was lifting himself off the floor at Gander Green Lane after the Amber and Chocolates landed the Sky Blues a knock-out blow in the Third Round.
Whenever I watch the Sutton/Coventry highlights - which isn't very often these days, perhaps just twice a week - I always have a rye smile on my face when City score their equaliser through David Phillips.
The camera pans to the City fans where a portly chap in a jumper, who looks a bit like darts legend Jocky Wilson, is caught sticking two fingers up at the Sutton supporters. 
When Hanlan popped in Sutton's second a few minutes later, that chap got his cummupance. 
Let’s not mention Sutton’s 8-0 drubbing at the hands of Norwich City in the Fourth Round. Where’s the fun in that, aye?
Any rate, no word of a lie, I literally had my FA Cup dream last night.
Out of the blue I was chosen to play for Wimbledon against Gillingham after the two teams were paired in the First Round.
I remember wearing a snazzy tracksuit while I did my warm-up exercises down Putney High Street of all places.  
I remember seeing my name up in lights as the scoreboard announced to the gathering masses that I was to play at centre-forward for the Dons.
Unfortunately, I could hear grumblings of discontent about my inclusion in the team as I bent over to touch my toes outside Halfords.
However, if only they’d realised that I had been such a prolific marksmen for my work’s five-a-side football team then they wouldn’t have been so worried.
Then I heard a high-pitched whistle, rather like the one a shepherd makes to issue instructions to his sheepdog. It was Dons' boss Terry Brown, telling me to get in the changing room for his pre-match briefing.
As I made my way back to the ground, passing Cash Converters and Clinton Cards on my way, I got lost in the crowd of Saturday afternoon shoppers.
As the clock ticked towards 2.55pm I broke into a cold sweat and blind panic. My FA Cup dream was literally turning into a nightmare.
Then, thank crikey, I woke up.
Thank God my dream didn’t involve me putting on the famous amber shirt of Sutton United. I don't think I could have lived with the disappointment of getting swallowed up by a sea of chavs on the High Street and not making it to Gander Green Lane after Paul Doswell summoned me to get ready for the big match.
Of course, Wimbledon host Gillingham tomorrow in a League Two tussle. I think what triggered the dream was an online article I’d read about Danny Kedwell’s return to Kingsmeadow.
Any rate, after a year in exile, the Amber and Chocolates hit the FA Cup trail once again tomorrow.
It’s a real banana skin they’re faced with too, Ryman League Division One South table-toppers Dulwich Hamlet.
It’s good to see Hamlet fighting back after years in the doldrums. There's no doubt about it, Sutton are going to have keep their focus or risk another embarrassing elimination like last year.
How can we forget last year?
After a fine start to the season, we took our eye off the ball and were dumped out of the competition by a side whose name sounds like a theme park, Wessex Leaguers Alton Town.
We must be even more wary tomorrow because our trusted leader, Paul Doswell, has just earned himself the Blue Square Bet South Manager of the Month accolade. It was truly well deserved after the Amber and Chocolates collected 13 out of a possible 15 points from September.
Sutton’s latest success was last Saturday’s 4-1 mauling of Maidenhead, which apart from face-painting and a game of tag, was the main attraction of the club’s family fun day initiative.
I think it’s fair to say that everyone, apart from poor old Maidenhead, enjoyed the experience.
The family fun day at Sutton is becoming so good that even that old curmudgeon Gordon Strachan couldn’t resist a visit to Gander Green Lane last Saturday. Yes, he really was there.
But, as exciting as it was to see the dour-faced former Coventry boss sitting in the VIP area of the main stand, some of Sutton’s townsfolk were lured to the Lane by the prospect of seeing a real star on show, and they weren’t disappointed.
Craig Watkins took centre stage by claiming a hat-trick which was witnessed by a crowd of 1,332. Oh, and TV funnyman Tim Vine was there too.
When Doswell walked through what was the managerial revolving door at Gander Green Lane in the summer of 2008, the voice of Sutton United, AKA matchday announcer Tony Dolbear, made an inspired choice when he played Bringing on Back the Good Times by Love Affair on his tannoy turntable, because that's exactly what Dos was determine to do.
Now, the last thing we need is for Dulwich to produce some Yeading-type heroics to spoil the feelgood factor.
So, I'll take a 1-0 win tomorrow as we looked to make it through to that magical First Round where we're bound to play either Hereford or Notts County, because we always get paired with one of them whenever we get that far in the Cup.
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Friday, 23 September 2011

Sutton United blog: Tim Vine, Conrad Pugsley and Wayne Slob

Before I get started, promise me one thing; you'll click on the word wizards when you come across it. Many thanks... OK, now let's get cracking...

A pint of beer has rarely tasted as good as it did last Saturday night.

I popped into The Alexandra in Wimbledon to kick-start a celebratory sozzle session after Sutton trounced Truro 3-0. With that in mind, what better ale to get me started than Cornwall Coaster, it kind of summed up Sutton's afternoon.

I raised my pint glass to Paul Doswell, Alan Payne, Wayne Shaw and the boys before necking my beer in an act of unbridled joy.

I can hear Amber Aleman from the Sutton Fans' Forum tutting now, and I know you're meant to take your time and enjoy a good pint of real ale, but my Cornish Coaster, brewed by Rock-based Sharp's Brewery, didn't even touch the sides. I felt like Popeye downing a can of spinach.

I can assure you Mr Aleman, I took my time with my second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seveth pints, but I couldn't be totally be sure abouth the eighth.

Saturday's epic away day will live long in the memory for those 100 or so supporters who made the effort to go.

Sadly, I wasn't one of them.

Instead, I braved Sutton's chav-infested High Street to get a present for a party I was off to later that night, a party which I can remember very little about.

Crikey, have you been down the High Street lately? It seems Wayne and Waynetta Slob and their friends are taking over the asylum.

Fag-puffing, over-weight girls in sports gear pushing prams, talking to their chenille tracksuit-wearing friends about the latest X Factor auditions while simultaneously digesting the latest celebrity gossip from their mobile phones and a Greggs' sausage and bean melt, is a common sight.

The geezers, if they're not dressed as wizards, tend to wear bright white trainers, tracksuit trousers, a Chelsea shirt under a hoodie with a fag stuck behind one ear. They refer to each other as 'bruv' and walk with an exaggerated swagger while listening to Eminem on their mobile phones. Many of them push prams too.

These people tend to congregate outside Wilkinsons, Poundland, The 99p Store and H&T Pawnbrokers to discuss the big issues of the day, such as yesterday's edition of the Jeremy Kyle Show, which character in Shameless do they most resemble and which WAG do they aspire to be or take to bed.

If this is the future, then God help us all.

Welcome to Sutton: Wayne and Waynetta Slob, with their daughter Frogmella. We may have laughed at their fag-puffing antics in the 1990's but we're not laughing now.

If that video of the Sutton Wizardman (real name, Conrad Pugsley) freaked you out, then search for the Bearded Lady of Guildford on YouTube. I didn't want to post it on here, I feel a tad sorry for the dear old girl.

Any rate, never again will I make the mistake of 'nipping' into the High Street on a Saturday afternoon.

I have actually written a post-it note and placed it on my fridge to remind myself of the horrendous experience I put myself through. It simply reads 'NEVER AGAIN'.

So, thank crikey then for Sutton's football team, currently flying high in fourth place in the Blue Square South table.

The fans who spent time and money following the boys down to Cornwall were rewarded with goals by Harry Beautyman, Craig Watkins and Tommy Kavanagh, as well as a clean sheet from Kevin Scriven and his pals in defence.

If you haven't seen the excellent highlights of the match then click here.

The Amber and Chocolates are so good at the moment that the opposition is even willing to score for them, as was the case on Tuesday when an Eastleigh defender put Sutton ahead before Tony Taggart kept his cool to claim the second as the Spitfires were beaten 2-0 at Gander Green Lane.

I reckon if Sutton went head-to-head with Arsenal in this run of form then we'd win. Mind you, it doesn't appear to be that difficult.

Glaring misses are all the rage at the moment what with the Manchester United versus Chelsea clash producing two real classics - Wayne Rooney's abysmal penalty and a Fernando Torres howler which defies belief.

It was unusual to see a Sutton player drawing attention to himself in a similar fashion on Tuesday night. Sam Page missed a gaping goal from three yards out. But, unlike Rooney and Torres, at least Page could take consolation in the fact he didn't have the world's media capturing his appalling effort.

No, instead he just had club photographer Paul Loughlin in the right place at the right time to capture the moment. Sutton's club snapper puts his matchday pictures on the world wide web, which is as good as having the world's media at the match.

The games can't come quick enough at the moment and the high-flying Magpies of Maidenhead provide are out next opponents.

Saturday, of course, is going to be a very special occasion as it's the club's first family fun day of the season and my old pal Tim Vine is going to be there.

Vine once hosted a night of comedy at the Secombe Theatre in Sutton which included Harry Hill on the bill. Unfortunately for me, my seat was slap-bang in the middle of the front row.

Within seconds of taking to the stage Vine picked on me, and so began a night of torture. Every one of the next five or six acts, including Hill, used me in their act is one way or another.

Of course, I hated it at the time, especially as I had to go for a wee halfway through one of the acts and, in doing so, drawing even more attention to myself. But I couldn't possibly hold a grudge against the 'man with the golden puns' who just happens to be a Sutton United fan.

A Tweet on Tuesday from Tim's brother, the broadcaster Jeremy Vine, read:
Just asked my bro, @realtimvine, if he wants to come to Chelsea with me on Saturday. Answer: 'No thanks, I'm watching Sutton United.'
Well, with a response like that he's definitely off the hook as far as I'm concerned.

Now, if only the Sutton Slobs wore the famous amber shirt under their hoodies then I might be more tolerant towards them.

Right, I'm all rambled-out now...

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Friday, 16 September 2011

Sutton United blog: Nicky Forster, Guernsey FC and Fola Orilonishe

Call me sad, call me what you like, but I spent a large part of last Saturday afternoon stuck at the back of a coffee shop in Banstead glued to Twitter.

I blame Tony Taggart for that.

He scored Sutton's first goal after 51 minutes at Havant and Waterlooville last week which laid the foundations for our fightback from 0-2 down at half-time. So, I headed off to find somewhere to sit and send positive thoughts to Paul Doswell and the boys for the remainder of the match...and, it worked.

There I was, nervously sipping my latte, when news came through on the wires that Sam Page levelled the scores in the 80th minute. I instinctively shouted out 'GET IN!' and banged my fist on the table when I read the Tweet announcing the good news from Westleigh Park.

Such was the impact of my jubilation that the two old dears on the table next to me even stopped comparing their blue rinses for a few seconds. Well, one of them was a purple rinse actually.

Had they been even the slightest bit interested in football, then the two old timers would have been proud of Sutton's own golden oldie, Paul Telfer, who lasted 73 minutes of last Saturday's match before being helped off the pitch by assistant boss Alan Payne and goalkeeper extraordinaire Wayne Shaw.

I had to wait for what seemd like ages for that all-important Tweet though.

Twitter is a frenzy of activity at the best of times and, on Saturday afternoons when the football is on, it goes into overdrive.

Tweets come from far and wide, from Cumbria to the Channel Islands.

I had to put up with lots of updates from other clubs, such as Northwich Victoria's see-saw encounter at Stocksbridge Park Steels (4-3), Barrow's win over Blue Square Premier table-toppers Wrexham (3-1) and Combined Counties League Division One leaders Guernsey’s triumph over CB Hounslow United (4-0). Just these three matches alone produced 15 goals and countless excited Tweets.

Guernsey, under the leadership of manager Tony Vance, have made an instant impact in their first season in that league. There may have only been 90 hardy souls at last week’s match, but the previous week 1,604 turned up to see their 5-0 thrashing of one of our neighbours and reigning Division One champions, Worcester Park.

The Green Lions are three points clear of Bedfont Sports and five clear of Hartley Wintney, the latter I always felt, sounded like an author of history books.

I can imagine Hartley Wintney sharing a whiskey with Eric Hobsbawm, Niall Ferguson and Dr David Starkey while discussing the demise of  the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Any rate, there were also some enthusiastic Twitter updates last Saturday from Kingsmeadow, where Richard Jolly and his Wealdstone chums enjoyed the generosity of their hosts, Kingstonian, who let the Stones roll all over them on their way to a 3-0 victory.

As fascinating as all that was, I was only interested in one match and despite having what would have been a late Craig Watkins winner ruled out, the Amber and Chocolates must be proud of the way they battled back.

I'd have bitten your hand off if you'd said at half-time we'd take a point. It keeps us ticking along and sitting pretty in seventh spot in the league heading into our much-anticipated clash at Truro.

Ah, Truro. It was the one away day we all looked out for when the fixture list was released.

Some lucky swines are going to this match by plane. I'm not going at all. Bugger. I hope you have a very nice time.

Instead, it'll be another misspent Saturday afternoon looking at Twitter and sending positivity to Paul Doswell.

I might change my venue for this act of mindpower and head to the pub instead of the coffee shop. Beer puts me in a happy place, whereas coffee does not, it’s as simple as that.

While some Fancy Dans will be letting the plane take the strain to Cornwall, a few hardy souls will face a test of endurance by taking the supporters coach from the ground at 6.30am.

I will allow myself a little chuckle tomorrow morning when I turn over in bed for another two or three hours kip while dreaming of Wayne Shaw coming off the bench to head the winner from a last-minute corner to secure another Sutton success.

Apparently, the Green Lions of Guernsey had to set off to for last week’s clash with CB Hounslow at 5.30am. So, if you are going to Truro on the coach, then just be thankful it’s a 6.30am start and enjoy the lay-in.  

Of course, while Sutton do battle with Truro many clubs will be competing in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round. Thank crikey we got promoted last season, it means that we’ve already gone further in this year’s competition than our last appearance. In that sense, our Cup campaign can be seen as a qualified success.

So, who have our conquerers from last season, Alton Town, got in tomorrow’s Cup tie? Er, well, actually they’re already out. They lost to Fleet Town in the Preliminary Round.

While I was looking for the Alton Cup score on the FA website I came across this interesting interview with Nicky Forster who last season led Brentford out at Wembley in the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

These days Forster plays for Surrey-based Sussex League side Lingfield as does another former Blackburn and West Ham defender Ian Pearce.

Any rate, I had best be off. As sad as it may be, I've got a life to live, you know. 

Before I go, you have to feel for Sutton's Fola Orilonishe who, facing a seven hour coach journey with his team-mates, loaded up his iPhone with banging tunes but forgot to charge it up. There's always one, isn't there...

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Friday, 9 September 2011

Sutton United blog: Paul Telfer, Kevin Scriven and Harry Carpenter

On Tuesday night I was flicking round the TV channels looking for something interesting to watch. I made it as far as ITV1 which was gearing itself up to show highlights of the England versus Wales clash from Wembley.

To be honest, the show shouldn't have taken that long. From what I can remember, the only highlight was that glaring miss from three yards out by Robert Earnshaw. So I skipped on to Channel4 which was showing a rundown of the top 100 testcards of all time featuring comments from a host of non-entities such as former Big Brother winners and other has-beens. It was infinitely more interesting than the football.

In this classic testcard clip a young Paul Dipre can be seen to the right of the chalkboard.

Any rate, what struck me about ITV1's highlights programme last Wednesday was that it really wasn't all that long ago that football fans only had that kind of coverage to look forward to.

I remember tuning into Midweek Sports Special or Sportsnight on Wednesdays when I was a lad and sitting through what seemed like hours of boxing coverage featuring Barry McGuigan, Alan Minter, Terry Marsh, Frank Bruno and Duke McKenzie, before we even got a sniff of the football.

In this clip, the otherwise loveable Sportsnight presenter Harry Carpenter tries to whet your appetite for the late-night feast of sport by telling viewers to expect coverage of football, boxing and skiing. But Carpernter shows a devious side to his nature, what he doesn't tell us is that the running order will be boxing, skiing and only then, will we get to watch any football.

To maintain interest in the show they had to put the football on last so people would sit through it all. This was, of course, in the years before multi-channel TV in this country.

In fact, I blame Sportsnight and Midweek Sports Special for ruining my education, and in doing so, my life. I used to go to sleep bleary-eyed having waited up until midnight to watch coverage of Luton Town against Sheffield Wednesday in the Milk Cup, for example. Before I knew it, the shrill of my alarm clock woke me up just as Popeye was making his daily appearance at 7.25 on TVAM.

As a result of all that, my grades at school were poor and I ended up on the dole.

Thankfully, these days, football coverage is much better, so sitting through dour highlights of England versus Wales is just for those saddos in their mid-50s who still live at home with their parents and sit watching the match surrounded by their ever-growing programme collection.

Of course, the break for the international matches meant only one thing - Non-League Day. Woohoo.

Premier League and Championship fans, whose season tickets gave them free entry to Sutton's game with Dorchester Town, boosted the attendance to a whopping 645 as United picked up another three valuable points.

It's been a mightily impressive return back to the big time for the Amber and Chocolates despite getting walloped by Woking (0-5) on the opening day of the season. Since then results have been good, with four wins, a draw and a defeat.

I had a feeling we might struggle against Woking, but I wasn't expecting that. Thankfully, booze came to my rescue at the final whistle as I headed back into Sutton on a mission to get smashed.

By the time we played Tonbridge Angels the following Tuesday my hangover had just about subsided and by the final whistle it had gone completely after the boys swept the Kent club aside 4-1. There was only one thing for it, a few celebratory pints.

Win or lose I'm on the booze. Well, even if we don't play I'm on the booze.

Further victories against Basingstoke (2-1) and Staines (1-0) meant that Paul Doswell's boys had more than made up for the opening day's almighty mess.

Of course, we can't win them all and ten minutes of madness at Bromley cost us dearly and meant we suffered a 0-3 setback.

However, since then we have reacted well once more and I thought our performance against Dover on Bank Holiday Monday showed real grit and determination. We could have won it, and easily lost it, but for a 0-0 it was a decent advert for the Blue Square South with both goalkeepers earning the post-match plaudits.

The boys built on this well-earned point to come back from 0-1 down at home to Dorchester last Saturday to triumph 3-1 with super-sub Craig Watkins bagging a brace.

It's good to have the likes of Watkins, Harry Beautyman and Romone McCrae to come on and give us a burst of energy for the final half-hour or twenty minutes of a match.It can make all the difference between drawing and winning, as was the case last weekend.

 It's also nice that Dos is looking after the elderly too, giving old timers such as Paul Telfer a runout. Personally, I always feel that Telfer plays better in the second half of his matches. I reckon it's something to do with his half-time packet of Werther's Original.

Sweet tooth: Paul Telfer badgers Wayne Shaw for a Werther's Original as he edges towards the dressing room at half-time against Dorchester. By the time Telfer made it to the tunnel the other players were already coming out for the start of the second half.

Of course, one of the main reasons for getting promoted was to play Truro City. Planes, trains and automobiles are all on standby to take the Sutton faithful down to Cornwall next Saturday.

But, first things first, tomorrow's match. It's not going to be easy, and I'll tell you why, we're playing a team representing TWO towns. I am, of course, talking about Havant and Waterlooville.

You've always got to feel sorry for the second-named town when clubs amalgamate, haven't you? I never think of Mitcham, Ewell, Richmond or Hersham as having football teams.

Any rate, there'll be some guys in our ranks aiming to prove a point against their old club tomorrow, namely Watkins, Tony Taggart and Kevin Scriven.

Thank crikey for Scrivs. Behind our other goalkeeping superhero Wayne Shaw, he is my favourite Sutton player. I love him, and I don't mind telling the world.

If there's one man I want between the sticks as we prepare to do battle against two towns then Scrivs is my man. What a guy. He saves us time and again.

Right, before my eyes start to well-up due the the shear emotion of talking about Scrivs I'd better wrap it up there. Besides, it's 8pm on a Friday and I need to hit the boozer.


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