Friday, 9 December 2011

Sutton United blog: Leroy Griffiths, Sylvester Stallone and Ballyregan Bob

Take that! A tree, a wall, two floodlights and
the BBAYIFF giving a two-fingered gesture
to the gods of football.
I knew Sutton were going to struggle against Notts County when the big blue and yellow inflatable football fan (BBAYIFF) started to lose his enthusiasm for waving as soon as the referee blew his whistle to start the match.

The longer the game went on the less enthusiasm the BBAYIFF demonstrated. However, he found a second wind when Sutton were awarded a penalty with half-time approaching.

Unfortunately, Leroy Griffiths saw his tame penalty saved by Stuart Nelson prompting the BBAYIFF to give a two-fingered salute towards the footballing gods in retaliation for the misfortune they'd just bestowed upon us.

I was having a wee at the time Sutton were awarded that penalty. When I heard the cheer go up from the crowd, I bolted out of the portaloo faster than Ballyregan Bob at the old Wembley dog track.

Griffiths has my sympathy. I too would have felt the pressure of the crowd, the TV cameras, Tim Vine, the BIBYFF and assembled mascots all casting their eyes in my direction.

People are always going to talk about the 'missed penalty', but in my opinion it wasn't a miss, the goalkeeper saved it. Of course, it was a poorly struck penalty which made it easy for Nelson to make the save, but the save still had to be made. Credit must go to the County keeper for guessing correctly which side Griffiths would strike his kick.

I, like many people at the game, thought that if I'd stepped up to take the penalty then I'd have leathered it into the top corner of the net, giving Nelson no chance. But we can all be expert penalty takers from the safety of the stands.

Any rate, who am I to talk about penalty taking?

Back in 1982 I was a promising striker plying my trade in West Sutton Little League's reserve pool. At that stage of my career I wasn't even good enough to play for a team in the league's Intermediate Division but I had lofty ambitions. I had dreams of making my mark in the Premier Division before being snapped up by Barrie Williams to play for my beloved Sutton United.

West Sutton Little League's Premier Division had some pretty decent sides such as Viron Aces, B&T Wanderers, National Nippers and Leyswood Athletic. I wanted a taste of the big time, so I set about terrorising defenders in the reserve pool. Well, we all have to start somewhere.

It was early on in the season on a blistering hot day when the Bibs versus Skins match entered it's final throws with the scores locked at 8-8.

I had already scored twice when I received a needle-threading pass to put me through on goal. As I ran towards the Bibs' goalkeeper I had my heel clipped by a desperate defender and the referee awarded a penalty. It was just like the pass from Paul Gasgoine to Gary Lineker which led to England's third and winning goal against Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup quarter-final.

Once I'd got up off the ground I had a grin on my face like a Cheshire cat.

There were high-pitched shrieks of unbridled joy from my Skins team-mates who couldn't contain their delight at the thought of winning by the odd goal in 17. In my mind's eye I envisaged being carried off the pitch on the shoulders of my team-mates, rather like Bobby Moore after the 1966 World Cup Final.

All I had to do was score the penalty.

I placed the red and white-panelled leather football carefully down where the referee had paced out the position of an imaginary penalty spot. I stared at the goalkeeper with sweat dripping down my face. I took five paces back and prepared to take the most important penalty of my life.

I ran up and smashed it with my right Dunlop boot with moulded studs. The goalkeeper flung himself to his left and pushed the ball onto the traffic cone which acted as his left-hand post. The cone went tumbling away, the ball rolled off and nestled by someone's garden fence and the referee deemed the ball hadn't crossed the imaginary goal line by shouting 'NO GOAL!'

With those words ringing in my ears, I sank to my knees and my bottom lip started to quiver.

I was then acutely aware of the high-pitched shrieks from the Bibs boys who all ran to congratulate their heroic goalkeeper. It was just like that scene from Escape to Victory where Sylvester Stallone saves a late penalty from that nasty German man.

What I am trying to say is that, unlike many of those Chelsea fans who surrounded me last Sunday, I don't feel I am in a position to tell Leroy Griffiths how to take a penalty. Sadly, two goals from Jeff Hughes were enough to send County through to a Third Round tie at Doncaster Rovers.

The life of a football mascot isn't easy you know. Take Sutton's very own Jenny the Giraffe for example. On her big day poor old Jen had her hoofs stepped on by chart-topper Bob the Builder, a cheerleading troupe, Tim Vine and, of course, the BBAYIFF. But, just like the Sutton team, I thought the old girl put in an excellent shift. I also think those Sutton fans who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for our big date with the TV cameras deserve a pat on the back too.
Poor show: I ordered Lucky Morph to down a
pint of  Young's Special in one after the game,
but he failed, he did it in two before bolting
off to the loo faster than Ballyregan Bob.

I'll be honest, my own mascot, Lucky Morph, proved a bit of a let down on Sutton's big day and was severely reprimanded in the boozer after the game.

At the final whistle I stood and applauded Paul Doswell and the boys with my hands high above my head and, with tears welling up in my eyes, I sung 'We're Proud of You, We're Proud of You, We're Proud of You, We're Proud...' to the tune of Old Lang Syne, all by myself. Many of the Chelsea fans who were leaving in their droves just looked at me in bemusement.

The drinking session which followed was made all the better when the chaps from the Real FA Cup showed up. However, the resulting hangover has to be up there in my list of Top Ten Worst Monday Morning Hangovers in History.

I knew I had recovered from that post-match Sunday sozzle session when, while walking through Carshalton Beeches on Tuesday morning, I found myself whistling the theme tune to Rugby Special, the much-loved BBC rugby show which used to be presented by Nigel Starmer-Smith.

If I whistle that tune then I know that everything is tickety-boo and I am back on track. If you are ever feeling a bit under the weather then just think of this clip, which comes courtesy of Brixham Rugby Club. The theme tune, entitled Holy Mackerell, is just so uplifting.

So, our defeat to Notts County means we are now left to concentrate on the Blue Square South and the Surrey Senior Cup.

On Tuesday night the Amber and Chocolates excelled themselves by beating not one, but two towns in one game when they edged past Epsom and Ewell in the Surrey Senior Cup 1-0. Kyle Vassell got the late goal to set up a home tie with Godalming Town.

Our next two league games are going to be as tough as they come, Woking and Welling United. It's obviously important to regain our focus on the league now that all the hullabaloo surrounding the Notts County game has died down. Yep, that's the last we'll see of Tony Rains and Matthew Hanlan for another year.

Whether we win or lose at Woking, me and Lucky Morph will be on the booze as we aim to add a new entry to my list of Top Ten Worst Sunday Morning Hangovers in History.


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