Friday, 2 December 2011

Sutton United blog: John Chiedozie, Morph and Baldrick

Thirty-year-old Sutton scarf: CHECK
Replica shirt (circa 1992): CHECK
Yellow and brown hat from the Coventry Cup run: CHECK
'Hello mum' banner for TV: CHECK
Matchday ticket: CHECK
Lucky Morph mascot: CHECK

Ladies and gentlemen, I am all set for the big match.

For a fan of a non-league football team there can be few more pleasing sights to the eye than a television gantry consisting of wooden planks and scaffolding being erected at your club's hotch-potch of a ground. We've even upgraded the floodlights for the Cup clash against Notts County too. Amazing.

All this of course, means we're getting a taste of the big time and for once, the Whyteleafe fan who refered to me as Billy Big B*ll*cks, is right.

Like an excited schoolboy, I skipped down to Sutton's Gander Green Lane home last week to pick up my ticket for the game.

I may not have had to queue for an hour or so like I did for my tickets to the Cup clashes with Middlesbrough (1988) and Coventry (1989) but I felt a real buzz about the place as the ticket office did steady trade.

It's amazing how five people can create a buzz, but create a buzz they did. Imagine the atmosphere a few thousand down the Lane will create on Sunday.

Since conquering Kettering on November 12 in the First Round of the Cup, Sutton god Paul Doswell has hatched a cunning plan, in true Baldrick from Blackadder style.

Having previously embarked on an excellent 15-game unbeaten run which saw Sutton play some fine football, Doswell has attempted to lull County into a false sense of security with our last three matches seeing us lose two, draw one, concede three and score one... well, we didn't score it, Basingstoke kindly scored it for us.

With a recent record like that, surely Notts County will win, won't they? It's cunning, but we just might pull it off. In Dos we trust.

Ah, Notts County, the memories come flooding back; Panini sticker albums of the early 1980s featuring John Chiedozie and Jimmy Sirrell, a building behind one of the goals at County's Meadow Lane home which looked a bit like a sports hall or warehouse, a trip to Wembley in 1991 and of course, our Cup clashes of 1994 and 2008.

I find it a bit difficult to describe that sports hall/wareshouse-looking building but it's featured in the 1983/84 Goal of the Season competition when Nigel Callaghan scored for Watford to the backrop of a Ford Cortina Estate, a green Mini Clubman, a mound of sand, a skip and a white garden shed. It makes even the Collingwood Road end of our place look good. Any rate, Callaghan's goal is Goal F, check it out here...

F was also on the lips of some Notts County fans I has the misfortune of bumping into after getting lost near Wembley prior to their clash with Brighton and Hove Albion in the 1991 Second Division Play-Off Final.

I attended the match as a neutral, but without really thinking about it, I decided to wear a blue and white striped shirt (Brighton's home colours) and was told in no uncertain terms to F-off by the four County fans who I'd approached to ask the way to the stadium.

You could say I was asking for trouble, not directions.

Time is a healer though, and I'm over it now. I just hope I don't get lost near Gander Green Lane on Sunday. Only kidding County fans, I know you're a decent bunch really.

There's no doubt about it, Sutton are going to have to win this match. If we don't then there is every chance the nation will be subjected to yet more appearances by Tony Rains and Matthew Hanlan over the next 20 years. Besides, can we really lose for a third time against a side whose fans sing about wheelbarrows? (Google Wheelbarrow song).
I didn't go to our last meeting with County.

Instead, while the Amber and Chocolates were putting in a plucky performance against the Magpies, I was on a plane to Canada.

Once I'd touched down, I switched my phone on and received a message from my mate Mog which read: 'Lost 1-0. Late goal.' 

Yes, my recollections of our last Cup duel consists entirely of a four word text message which I greeted with the four-letter word I'd been tormented with by those County fans I'd met outside Wembley 17 years previously.

However, I was at Meadow Lane in 1994 for our Third Round tie. Considering what happened outside Wembley I somewhat tentatively wore my amber and brown scarf, hoping beyond hope I wouldn't get lost near Meadow Lane.

Sutton, under the stewardship of Alan Gane, went 2-0 down inside ten minutes through Mark Draper and Tony Agana, then battled back to 2-2 with goals from Paul Barrowcliffe and Steve Smart, before succumbing to a controversial Paul Devlin strike with 12 minutes left.

Sutton had Simon Quail sent-off in the 11th minute after a flare-up with Michael Johnson who also saw red. Being a four-time Olympic gold medallist, Johnson won the race to the dressing room with ease.

When a County fan came up to me after the game I feared the worst. But this kindly soul, shook my hand and said what a great effort the Amber and Chocolates had put in and that we had an excellent goalkeeper in Fitzroy McCaulsky.

I proudly caught the footage of that game on VHS cassette, but sadly my old video recorder chewed it up a year or so later.

Our two previous meetings with County have seen us lose by the odd goal each time. On this occasion we have an excellent squad consisting of very talented and experienced players, so there's absolutely no reason why the Amber and Chocolates can't get something out of this game. Besides, it's just 11 versus 11 and my Lucky Morph...

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