Friday, 18 November 2011

Sutton United blog: Notts County, Misery Bear and Ronnie Radford

When I was a kid I used to love going to friends' birthday parties.

The things I enjoyed the most were fairy cakes, pass the parcel, stick the tail on the donkey, a game of Twister, kiss chase (with any luck) and getting giddy on copious amounts of pop.

Somebody would generally always end up in tears while someone else would always get a good telling off for being naughty. I used to love it.

...until it came to my turn in the spotlight.

From the moment people started singing happy birthday to me my top lip started to quivver, the tears started welling up in my eyes before I couldn't stand it any more and I'd dash off upstairs faster than 100-metre Olympic Gold Medallist Alan Wells and hide my face in a pillow.

I would be miserable for the rest of the party and would listen out rather sheepishly from behind the bannisters as mum bade farewell to my friends and their parents.

I absolutely hated it when people started singing happy birthday to me.

These days I just go down the pub on the big day, on my own of course, get smashed and generally try and forget all about it, but back then I could be a real party pooper.

Tonbridge Angels are party poopers. There we were, on a fine 15-game unbeaten run when Frannie Collin struck with 14 minutes left to put a dampner on the feelgood factor at Gander Green Lane and earn his side the three points.

I thought Tonbridge looked a lively and dangerous side but Sutton let them off the hook to some extent by missing some excellent chances and hitting the metalwork twice. But let's not dwell on that when there's so much positivity around our old athletics track at the moment.

At the start of Sutton's annual quest to win the FA Cup, which this season began against Dulwich Hamlet, my mate Yorkie said: 'If you make it through the qualifying rounds then I'd put money on your lot getting either Hereford or Notts County.'

I was pleased he was wrong when we got Kettering in the First Round.

On Sunday he sent his post-draw response via text which read: 'There was something crushingly inevitable about that, man...'

Well, since the draw for the Second Round was made I have been tucked away in my bedroom designing a special 'Hello Mum' banner in readiness for our debut on live TV.

It looks really good too. It has an amber background with my heartfelt message written in big brown letters. Underneath I have written the rather catchy name of my blog, there's nothing wrong with a bit of self-publicity you know.

I'm sure mum will appreciate it and hopefully it'll go some way to repairing the damage done at bygone birthday bashes.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, or as the Whyteleafe fan once called me Billy Big B*ll*cks, I knew we'd be on TV. One look at the draw told me only a handful of ties have that air of romance that makes the Cup so special.

At this stage of the competition the recipe for a classic giantkilling is that a non-league club hosts a League side at a pokey little ground, preferably with a slope. The under-16s in the crowd are required by law to wear either a green parka or duffle coat and run onto the pitch should the home side score.

Setting the benchmark for such celebrations of course, are the good folk of our old Cup foes Hereford. The parka count is very high in this famous clip...

So, why was I so confident that we'd get a live game on the box?

Well, of the non-league sides with a home draw Salisbury City have to wait to see if Port Vale can beat Grimsby for the romance to exist in that tie. So, sorry Salisbury, no TV for you yet.

Stourbridge can relax safe in the knowledge that their First Round replay with Plymouth Argyle will be screened on ESPN next week, so there's no need to see them again in the Second Round.

Likewise, Bath City are having their replay with Dagenham and Redbridge televised anyway by ESPN.

Chelmsford v Macclesfied, Luton v Cheltenham and Gateshead v Hinckley or Tamworth don't really fit the criteria.

The Lonsdale tracksuit and Burberry cap-wearing crowds at Chelmsford and Luton just don't cut the mustard when it comes to the romance of the Cup. I am sure there'll be the odd green parka at Gateshead but, sadly for them, they were drawn at home against non-league opposition.

With the big fish of this stage of the competition, Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United all being drawn at home, that leaves Fleetwood, Totton and Sutton to have their moment in front of the live television cameras. Woohoo!

Some of the ties for the Second Round, such as Colchester versus Swindon and Shrewsbury against Rotherham, have less romance than Misery Bear's ill-fated 'wedding' to Maisy. If you haven't got a clue what I'm on about then check this out...

I know some folk weren't too pleased with the draw but I have to say that from the moment we were paired with County for the third time in recent Cup history I was very happy with the outcome.

The only excuse people can have for disappointment is that we didn't pull someone new out of the hat, after all, Charlton, Preston and Carlise were still awaiting their fate.

Well, a high-flying League One side at home will do nicely for me. It could have been much worse, AFC Totton away anyone?

All this malarkey came about courtesy of a 1-0 home victory over Kettering Town last Saturday where three pints of beer before kick-off helped calm my nerves ahead of the big game.

The lure of the big game proved too big for my old pal Tennis to turn down. This is the chap who used to follow Sutton home and away years ago but now prefers to watch the likes of Wigan versus Bolton from the comfort of the boozer rather than nip down to Gander Green Lane every once in a while. Yorkie once described Tennis as: 'The pin-up boy for the Sky Sports generation.'

After an edgey first-half performance Sutton stepped it up a gear in the second period and by the time Craig Watkins pounced on a blocked Fola Orilonishe shot to put the Amber and Chocolates ahead I was building up a thirst for more booze.

Sutton fluffed chances to increase the advantage while Kettering missed a couple of decent opportunities to force a replay. The final whistle came as a huge relief and so I skipped off to the pub to start a rapid descent into a drunken oblivion.

On Sunday morning I awoke to find a half-eaten box of delights from Dallas Fried Chicken in the corner of my room. Next to it was a half-consumed bottle of Old Speckled Hen and the piece of cardboard which was soon to become my 'Hello Mum' banner. The television was on and I was fully clothed. All of which tells me that I had a bloody good Saturday night out.

Tomorrow the Amber and Chocolates face a trip mid-table Dorchester Town for a Blue Square South game. With all the hullabaloo going on about the Cup run it is vitally important that the boys keep their run in the League going too.

Any rate, I've run out of puff today...


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