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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