Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sutton United blog: Sam's goals pay the Rents

Click here to visit the new Amber Rambler blog.

Crikey, what an eventful week it’s been. I’m not sure where to start.

Let's see, we had the much-anticipated FA Cup meeting between Milton Keynes and Wimbledon, there were shocks aplenty in the Surrey Senior Cup and my beloved Amber and Chocolates have managed to string two competitive wins together for the first time since early March.

Hold on to your hats for a whirlwind round-up of these three crucial elements from the game we all love...

In what was the most over-hyped FA Cup Second Round clash ever, Wimbledon took on Franchise FC at Stadium MK.

Sadly, the Vulture Club beat the Crazy Gang 2-1 thanks to an injury time fluke and football fans around the globe over let out a collective sigh of disappointment - well, those with soul did anyway.

Like many supporters, I was gutted for the Dons. They put in a performance to be proud of in a match which was beamed live to the nation on ITV. For those of us who had to follow the events on Twitter, the match was just as nail-biting and Tweets from far and wide entertaining.

I was glad to see Jack Midson's goal for the Dons sparked a pitch invasion.

It reminded me of the time they came to Gander Green Lane in 2005 and dumped us out of the Surrey Senior Cup at the semi-final stage. Their fans were so delirious with joy they ran on to the pitch in celebration at the final whistle. My, how times have changed.

The importance of that game was such that we even had to hire an extra two - yes TWO - burger vans.

The climax to the Cup clash at Stadium MK was exciting. Wimbledon could have claimed a famous victory themselves but Steven Gregory failed to convert a one-on-one chance seconds before his side conceded that gut-wrenching goal from Jon Otsemobor.

The result shows just how cruel the Cup can be - dashing dreams as well as harbouring them. Now the Dons need to roll up their sleeves and concentrate on maintaining their hard-earned League status under the stewardship of their new boss Neal Ardley.

Any rate, let's move on to clubs who did actually cause a cup upset...

Hats off to Lingfield, Corinthian Casuals and Dorking Wanderers who swept aside Tooting and Mitcham, Kingstonian and Walton and Hersham respectively in the second round of the Surrey Senior Cup.

Lingfield and Dorking deserve particular praise for beating two towns in one match. That's can't have been easy.

Commiserations to Badshot Lea, who lived up to their name and slipped out of the competition 2-0 having made a mountain out of Molesey.

Sutton prepare to take their bow in this season’s competition on Tuesday night when Whyteleafe visit the hostile surrounds of Stadio Gander Green Lane.

By hostile I mean it'll be flippin' freezing and it'll take a brave soul to swap a nice comfortable armchair and the delights of Great Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo to go to that one.

This week, Portillo enjoys a trip from Edinburgh to Kircaldy. I don't think the Sutton to West Sutton line is on his radar, but if it's on yours then you're a braver man than me.
Much has happened since Sutton actually managed to string two successive wins together.

We've had the European Championships, the Olympics, a guy jumping to earth from the edge of space, Glasgow Rangers being demoted to the Scottish equivalent of the Combined Counties League and the turmoil at Truro City has knocked Coronation Street of its perch as Britain's longest running soap opera.

Similarly, Carshalton Pathetic have been nominated for the Best Newcomer Award at this year’s British Soap Opera Awards.

Last Saturday the Amber and Chocolates earned a much-needed league win by crushing Staines 4-1 in their own back yard.

I followed the match from the cosy confines of a lovely little pub.

I was glued to Twitter as Tommy Kavanagh, Craig Dundas and super Sammy Rents (2) did the damage.

The boys followed it up on Tuesday night with a 1-0 triumph at Maidenhead to keep our FA Trophy dreams alive. Thank crikey.

Jinking jester Harry Ottoway was Sutton’s floppy-haired hero and his strike caused celebrations the like of which have never before been witnessed in my kitchen. My regulation bedtime cup of cocoa has rarely tasted so good.

Today is match day and the Amber and Chocolates take on Dorchester who find themselves slap-bang in the middle of the Blue Square South table.

The Magpies were recently been dumped out of the FA Cup and Trophy by Luton Town, so it will be nice if we can compound their misery with our third win on the road in a week.

If any of the lads are reading this heading to Dorset in their zooped-up Ford Cortinas or Fiat Pandas then let me leave you with this little ray of positivity...


Friday, 23 November 2012

Sutton United blog: FA Trophy dreams

I have just spent an excruciating half an hour of my life at the barbers.

I will hold my hands up and admit that I've been in dire need of a trim for about a month now, as friends and colleagues have been politely pointing out.

And sure enough, as I approached the doors of the barbers, my hair had been blown all over the place. Or, as famous Norwegian football commentator Bjørge Lillelien might say:'“Lord Nelson! Lord Beaverbrook! Sir Winston Churchill! Sir Anthony Eden! Clement Attlee! Henry Cooper! Lady Diana! Maggie Thatcher, Amber Rambler - can you hear me, Amber Rambler! Your barnet took one hell of a beating! Your barnet took one hell of a beating!"

It was true, by the time I arrived I looked like Helena Bonham Carter.

All was going well as I closed the door behind me to be greeted by Duncan, the middle-aged portly chap with scissors in hand.

But, his rather overtly feminine reply threw me somewhat and as I swept the hair from my eyes I realised I was in the presence of a beautiful blonde crumpet.

Rather like my beloved Sutton United at the moment, I realised I needed to raise my game.

Gone would be reassuring conversations about holiday destinations, beer and football. I'd need to dig deep and utilise what little X Factor, TOWIE and I'm a Celebrity knowledge I had to get me through this brief encounter.

I could cope with that. No problem.

Trouble was, from the moment I sat down I realised I had an unsightly red spot on my nose the size of Carshalton. It was primed and ready for bursting.

With my hair sticking up like antlers, I felt like Rudolph's doppleganger.

If I could see the spot then I was damn sure she could, and if she could then so could my colleagues who I'd spent all day with. Why the hell couldn't they have pointed it out. I would have done the same for them.

Well, maybe not.

Worse was to follow.

Once I'd been given the snip, she got the clippers out to attend to those hard to reach hairs that grubby guys like me tend to neglect. However, one of my guilty pleasures is ear hair, I love the stuff and can't grow enough of it.

I have been nuturing some ear hair for a while now and in moments of crisis I stroke it and it calms me down. You should try it.

The trouble was, she found it. I knew that would happen and broke out into a cold sweat as she approached my ears.

To her credit, she didn't mention it. But if I could have had a window into her mind then I'm sure the thought 'This Amber guy is a filthy swine' would have been swimming around in her blonde bonce at some stage. And who can blame her.

I felt dirty, a bit like Stig of the Dump.

There's nothing worse is there, than being unmasked as a typical bloke. Nothing worse I tell you.

Actually, may be there is.

Being eaten by a shark would have to be up there, even though that'd be over in a few brief moments. Granted, it'll hurt a bit, but it'll be over swiftly.

The point of all this preamble is that it's time my team smartened their act up and remembered just who they really are.

Imagine this. If the Amber and Chocolates lose at Maidenhead in the FA Trophy on Saturday then there's very little for us fans to look forward to until pre-season next season.

Flip me, July is eight months away which is long time in one's footballing life. By then I fully expect Chelsea to have used at least five more poor souls to keep the bench warm for Pep Guardiola to come and save the day.

I bet John Hollins is waiting for his phone to ring any moment.

Why do clubs (Chelsea, really) feel the need to do that - have a 'name' in charge. Roberto Di Matteo deserved a bit longer, but his problem is that his name doesn't fall into the A-lister category.

When Sutton appointed Paul Doswell as their new manager in 2008 I didn't have a clue who he was and that was no bad thing at all. In fact, it was quite exciting, a bit like buying a new Subbuteo team when you were a kid.

I did a little research and discovered we had only gone and appointed the 2006 BBC South Sports Award winner as our new supremo. That's totes amazeballs, as my blonde barber might say.

It's a bit like Chelsea appointing BBC Sports Personality of the Year nominees Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis as manager. Just a bit.

Dos, Dozzy, Super Dos, the Dosatron, the Dosmeister General, Paul  has given us four great years and we've been riding a crest of a wave since he joined us. Until now.

We’ve had FA Cup runs, a league title and play-off spots – ahhhhh, spots, I am having flashbacks to the barbers – and now, perhaps it’s time for a decent tilt at the Trophy.

Our league position of 20th is desperate. It’s nothing a string of wins wouldn’t sort out but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen any time soon. We’ve been sloppy in defence, wasteful in attack and confidence is low.

We may have the like of Kevin Scriven, Gareth Gwillim, Harry Beautyman, Craig Dundas, Anthony Riviere and Craig Watkins in our ranks - all of whom are good players – but if we don’t raise our game soon then we could find ourselves in a relegation scrap towards the end of the season.

I think back to last year when we played Kettering Town in the FA Cup First Round. At that stage I felt we could beat anyone. Watkins played as if he wore rocket-propelled boots, Beautyman performed as if he had a point to prove and goalkeeper extraordinaire Scriven looked like he could save anything, even a split atom.

Regaining our self belief would go a long way to setting us on the right path. Ever the optimist, I’d like to think the path would lead us to Wembley, or at least the latter stages of the competition.

The Trophy offers a timely distraction. Maidenhead won’t be easy, but if we’re going to Wembley then we’ll have to roll up our sleeves and do it the hard way.

The Magpies are flying high  in 16th place in Blue Square South table, we can only cast an envious glance in their direction.

But it’s Trophy football, anything can happen. After  learning a few harsh lessons at the barbers I’ve managed to get my act together and I’m sure Sutton can too, starting by bursting Maidenhead’s bubble.

Come on you Amber and Chocolates!


FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @itsamberrambler


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Sutton United blog: Dreams of Blue Square South success

I had a dream the other day that my old headmistress, Mrs Cox, was playing as a roving left winger for Sutton United.

It proved to be an inspirational move by Paul Doswell to introduce 90-year-old Mrs Cox into the fray as she weaved her magic and left defenders trailing in her wake.
When Kezie Ibe latched onto a particularly impressive delivery to secure Sutton a 3-1 success over Borussia Dortmund in a crucial Blue Square South encounter the pair of them embraced and ran to the fans at the Gander Green Lane end of the ground.
The Sutton faithful were in raptures and surged towards the elated players, much like the Kop used to when Keegan and Toshack were at their deadliest.
Ibe ruffled Cox’s blue rinse and the old girl was in a dreamland of her own when Craig Dundas and the rest of the boys joined the bundle by the barriers.
I occasionally see Mrs Cox walking down Sutton High Street, fending off pick-pockets and chavs with her walking stick.
But in my dream she threw her stick aside and virtually turned into a modern day Micky Stephens - the Sutton wing maestro of the 1980s - to create chance after chance for the United attack.
It was Mrs Cox’s finest performance since she took to the stage to start a rendition of Auld Lang Syne just before we broke up for the school Christmas holidays back in 1981.
Her performance against the German giants made her name the first Doswell would write on his teamsheet every week and endeared her to the Sutton fans forevermore.
In fact, the club named the main stand at the Borough Sports Ground The Mrs Cox Stand after her legendary displays. It was a wonderful gesture from Bruce Elliot and the board.
I used to love watching Micky Stephens play for the Amber and Chocolates.
He was the artist of the team. He could run at defenders and send over enticing crosses for the likes of Paul McKinnon, Lenny Dennis and Micky Joyce to convert or fluff, depending on if their luck was in.
There's no doubt about it, we need someone inspirational like Stephens or Mrs Cox to ignite our season.
My dream came hot on the heels of Sutton’s latest display, a 1-1 with Havant and Waterlooville.
The first half was as woeful a my half-time pint at the Plough.
I know, I know, I was asking for trouble. The place isn’t so much a pub as a drop-in centre for West Sutton’s dopey, dazed or confused.
In my case, I was driven to such drastic measures as going to one of the borough's worst boozers by Simon Downer’s own goal just before the interval.
An old man who was stood near me on the terraces just turned around, looked at me and buried his head in his heads whilst shaking his head. It was enough to turn anyone to booze, so off I popped across the road for a pint of Stella.
Anyway, after 20 minutes I returned to the match full of gas and otimism for a better second half - it's amazing what a pint of Stella can do.
And so it proved. Sutton attacked in search of an equaliser which duly came from Dundas, despite three players' best efforts to miss from one yard out.
The lads had better luck missing the target for the remainder of the game as the Hawks, who showed very little in the way of attacking intent - most unhawk-like - held on for the draw.
Well, a point is a point, I guess, and beggars can’t be choosers. All we need to do is string six or seven wins together and all will be forgiven.
In my dreams...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sutton United Blog: Boreham Wood and biscuits

There are few things more disheartening in life than letting a much-anticipated custard cream biscuit slip from your grasp and watching it plonk straight into your mid-morning cup of coffee.
The whole regrettable episode is over in a second, but the shock, bitterness and self-loathing which follows lingers for the rest of the day.

That's the problem with a heavy multi-layered biscuit such as the custard cream, lose your grip during the dunking process and the dream  is over.

The emergency response time is very short and before you know it, biscuit debris has ruined the drink which was meant to kick-start your day.

You're better off sticking with a good old Rich Tea biscuit where a quick in-and-out is an easy enough method to perfect. 
My coffee, which soon resembled sick in a mug, was a write-off, and so was the performance by my beloved Amber and Chocolates at Boreham Wood on Monday night.
The 3-0 reverse suffered at the hands of the Hertfordshire side, in which our defence disintegrated almost as fast as my soggy treat, has far-reaching consequences for me personally; I’ve got no option but to keep a low profile down the pub on Friday night.
I have already conjured up a list of suitable subjects to throw into conversation for when the dreaded 'football chat' rears its ugly head.
There's the Paralympics, X Factor, the up-coming Sutton and Croydon Beer Festival and impending holidays.
I'll even throw 'who's you favourite Spice Girl' into the mix if it means I don't have to talk about football.
Just for the record, I’m an Emma Bunton kind of guy, although I must confess to recently taking a shine to Mel C.
Inevitably someone will ask 'hey Amber, how are Sutton getting on this year?'
I wouldn't mind, but it'll be my mate Dave - a Manchester United fan of 30 years standing who's yet to visit Old Trafford - who'll ask me the question and then proceed to take the micky.
If the situation gets too tricky, then I'll reach for my iPhone and show the guys a picture of my niece’s new kitten, Monty.
As if our start to the season wasn’t bad enough, my football battery is running low to be honest, and it appears it isn’t just me who's feeling this way.
Not only are crowds down, generally speaking, across the board (just 59  people turned up last weekend to witness Walton Casuals take a point from pacesetting Crawley Down Gatwick in Ryman South – SHOCKING) , but the boys in amber and chocolate are playing as if traumatised by their own biscuit nightmares.
They maybe training at the plush facilities at Surrey Sports Park down in Guildford, but if the custard creams aren't up to scratch then we could be in for a long hard season.

What if the lads aren't into custard creams at all? What if they prefer Jammie Dodgers but nobody knows this vital piece of information? I think the authorities need to hold a thorough investigation before we go any further.

The importance of the humble biscuit in boosting morale on a daily basis should not go overlooked.
It's difficult for me to really comment on performances because I've only been to one game so far - the 2-2 draw with Dover -  but from what I can gather the lads have yet to really put in a decent 90 minutes.
A good first half here and an average second half there, isn't going to get us very far.
The defeat at Boreham Wood has set the alarm bells ringing louder than a cop car careering round the Sutton one way system.
Unless it's absolutely necessary I don’t like to focus on negatives. I'll leave that to the message board miseries who like to dwell on the bad stuff.
I still think it's too early to call for radical changes. I trust Paul Doswell to sort it out. He's ambitious and has spent a lot of time transforming our club on and off the pitch.  
We're bound to get a few bad results here and there.  I just hope the drive and passion of some of the players matches that of the manager sometime soon... like the next game.
Doswell's record in football management is just as impressive as my own.

During the long hot summer of 1984, following relegation to the Fourth Division, Southend United announced that a 12 year old rookie would be taking over as manager from the great Bobby Moore who had been relieved of his duties.
It was a move which shocked the world Subbuteo to its very foundations but reaped dividends for the bold board members who appointed me as I masterminded SUFC's rise through the divisions, taking them to heights they'd never reached before. Just like Doswell did at Eastleigh.

Having been instrumental in leading the Spitfires from the Wessex League to the Blue Square South Dos then switched to Sutton, a club stuck in a rut at the time of his arrival. 

He's delivered the goods at Gander Green Lane too, earning a league title, three FA Cup runs and three play-off finishes. I wouldn't bet against him landing a top-five spot once again this year, despite our poor start.
There are many fans of other clubs who cast an envious glance at what’s been happening at Sutton in recent seasons. We should have the utmost faith in our leader, just like the the Southend fans did with me. You ask them about the 1984/85 season – the season Amber Rambler led them out of the doldrums, through the divisions and into Europe.
One saving grace this term is it's still early enough in the season to pull it around. If the Amber and Chocolates can string a couple of wins together then things will start to look brighter once again. Weston-super-Mare seems like as good a place as any to start.
It has to be said, the result at Boreham Wood was a bit of an eye-opener.
When the scoreline filtered through I felt like drowning my sorrows and reached for my four-pack of Tennent's Super (9%) - not ideal for a Monday night, or any other night for that matter.

But my spirits were lifted by the appearance of the Banbury United avatar on my Twitter timeline and suddenly the world didn't seem such a bad place, so I settled on supping just the one can of Super.
Often it's the simple things in life which give you the most pleasure. So, here it is, I hope it has the same calming effect on you as it did with me.
There’s no need to push the panic button or reach for the emergency four-pack just yet.
Keep the faith and buy a packet of Rich Tea biscuits. You won't regret it.


Email me at or be a Twit with me @itsamberrambler

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Sutton United blog: Kevin Scriven, Rick Wakeman and Evel Knievel

I hadn't allowed myself the luxury of even considering watching my beloved Amber and Chocolates in the Blue Square South play-offs until last Saturday's match at Salisbury was over.

We may have lost the big match 3-1, we may have had our goalkeeper sent off and we may have limped over the finish line like two tubby tearaways tied together for a junior school three-legged race, but thank crikey, at least we got there.

As that wise old sage Bornatotter said on the fans' forum: 'It's better to limp into the play-offs than limp out of them.'

Kevin Scriven, the Sutton goalkeeper, is my hero. I love the guy.

If all the goalkeepers in Sutton United's 114-year history were to gather at Gander Gander Green Lane for the Great Goalkeeper-Off (excuse the pun, Kev), then Scrivs, Scrivo, Super Scriv, Kevin, Super Kev, Kevo - whatever you'd like to call him - would win the contest hands down (puntastic).

Attendees at the event would include such illustrious names as Dave Collier, Ron Fearon, Gareth Howells, Trevor Roffey, Phil Wilson, Dave Roffey, Les Cleevley, Chris Vagg, Doug Hatcher, Andy Iga, Andy Harris, Rick Collyer, Nicky Sullivan, Wayne Shaw, Fitrzroy McCaulsky and Tony Rains.

Yes, you heard. Tony Rains.

Rains may be better know for his defensive capabilities, but he is elligible for the Great Goalkeeper-Off after his heroic effort at Colchester in 1991 when he took over from the injured Sullivan after something like 15 seconds of the match.

Yes, you heard. Fifteen seconds.

Sutton lost that GM Vauxhall Conference match 1-0 but Rains won many admirers for his performance between the sticks.

However, as great as Super Scrivo is, he's not quite as good as Rick Collyer's beard.

For those who don't know what Rick Collyer looked like in goal for Sutton in the early 1980s (possibly late 70s too?), imagine a young Rick Wakemen swapping his colourful prog-rock attire for a green goalkeeping jersey and dispensing with such new-fangled pieces of equipment as gloves.

Rick Collyer did not need goalkeeping gloves - he was proper old school - although one of life's great unanswered questions, to me at least, will always be: Is it Rick Collier or Rick Collyer?

For the purposes of today's post, it's Collyer.

Any rate, Kevo's dismissal at Salisbury means he'll be inelligible to play for the Amber and Chocolates in the big play-off semi-final second-leg.


However, turning up to such a big occasion without the Scrivertron is no worse than turning up to the school football trials without your football boots on a wet and windy afternoon in September 1981.

That's exactly what I did.

I felt like a right berk.

In my first year since the much-anticipated transfer from infant to junior school I was keen to prove myself at the higher level after having a relatively fruitful few years kicking an airflow ball around the playground.

But my dreams were put on hold when I rummaged through my kit bag to find my shirt and shorts, but no socks or boots. 

I was crestfallen.

There was only one thing for it - blame mum.

Despite having a quivering bottom lip, I managed to put a brave face on the situation.

I went through my usual pre-match routine, putting my white shorts on first, followed by my blue shirt, then my socks and boots, all while chewing a Curly Wurly.

I am being a bit liberal with the truth because I didn't have to put my socks on, I just kept my grey school socks on. No sooner did I pull them up than they fell back down again, but it didn't matter because some of the best players of the day wore their socks down around their ankles.

I had no boots either, of course.

Wearing slip-on shoes as part of a football kit just feels plain wrong - a bit like wearing your school uniform on mufty day. To the eyes of my fellow footballing hopefuls, it looked bloody stupid too.

In their minds, they'd already written me off. They didn't have to worry about Amber Rambler making the school team because he was the sad lad who forgot his kit.

I was a laughing stock.

Any rate, I took to the near water-logged school playing field in my slip-ons, which on such a terrible surface were as much use as a glass hammer.

For me, the football trial turned out to be a trial in more ways than one, but I used my slippery slip-ons to make some great sliding tackles before belting the ball upfield.

By the final whistle I was caked in mud and ready to head home where I could forget about the whole regretful episode by watching other kids making fools of themselves on We Are The Champions.

An hour later I'd swapped my slip-ons for a good old pair of plimsolls and was riding my Chopper bike up and down the road when I couldn't believe my eyes.

The sports teacher, lets call him Mr Sporty, was walking up the road in his Bukta tracksuit with the glamorous history mistress. I think Mr Sporty was looking to get sporty with her once that evening's episode of Crossroads had finished.

I was slightly embarrassed to see them holding hands but I soon forgot all about it when Mr Sporty - who was still wearing his whistle round his neck - said: 'Hello young Rambler, you're in the team for next week's big match. You made some great tackles today.'

I couldn't believe it. I rode off faster than Evel Knievel and even pulled a celebratory wheelie before arriving home to let mum know she was off the hook.

That school football trial was a triumph over disaster and is something that Paul Doswell, Scrivvy and the boys can take heart from during the play-offs.

So long as Kevin Scrivener is in goal for Sutton United on the day of the Blue Square South play-off final then we can all sleep easy knowing we're in safe hands.

Chin up Kelvin lad, we still love you.

EMAIL ME: or FOLLOW ME on Twitter @itsamberrambler

Friday, 6 April 2012

Sutton United in the Anglo-Italian Cup

Every now and then I meet up with my mate Corky for a pint and a good old chinwag at the Old Bank in Sutton.

To be honest we're not very good at wagging our chins. We don't really like talking, meaning we're not a patch on champion chin-waggers Jimmy Hill, Glenn Quagmire or Dick Dastardly.

Hang on, you never see Jimmy Hill and Dick Dastardly in the same room, do you? Someone really needs to look into that.

Any rate, hot topics up for discussion between Corky and I are usually as follows: Work, sport, work, work, sport and why our lives have failed to meet our expectations.

We then resort to slagging off all those people in the pub who have the temerity to actually be enjoying themselves, including that woman whose silly hairstyle makes her a dead ringer for Cruella de Vil.

Yes, me and Corky are a right bundle of laughs. We're up there with tooth ache, Gripper Stebson and tetanus jabs.

Within ten minutes of meeting we're
normally exhausted from trying to think
of something to talk about which means
long periods of awkward silence while we
swig beer and look out the window at the crumpet queueing to get into one of
Sutton's premier nightspots, Revolution.

The silence is punctuated every now and then by token efforts at conversation which might include rugby, snooker, darts and our favourite queueing crumpets.

Yes, it's fascinating stuff.

I promise I won't use the term crumpet again. Well, not in this post.

Any rate, for 30 seconds at least, a raging debate normally ensues as to which code of rugby is best, union or league. I can't mention I prefer rugby union without Corky shutting me up mid-sentence with a ferocious defence of the league code.

Then we go back to staring out the window at the chavvy totty tottering towards Revs where they hope to pull a rat-faced lad wearing a pink Yves Saint Laurent
T-shirt with the collar turned up.

Failing that, a lad in a Lonsdale T-shirt will suffice.

I've been to one rugby union match in my life but was too hungover to enjoy it.

The closest I've ever come to watching rugby league came when Sutton played at Runcorn in the late 1980s where, at the final whistle and before we'd bearly had chance to leave their old Canal Street home, the football goalposts were literally moved by the groundsman and his team to make way for their rugby league equivalent.

You see, Runcorn FC shared their ground with Runcorn Highfield RLFC.

The story of Runcorn Highfield and sport in the Merseyside town in general, is very sad indeed. Like so many sporting clubs they suffered great financial hardship and ended up folding. In the case of the rugby team, it appears what should have been their greatest moment proved to be their downfall.

There is hope though. The town now has TWO football teams - Runcorn Linnets and Runcorn Town - and the two go head-to-head this Monday in the North-West Counties League to see who can earn local bragging rights.

One irony is that Highfield ended up moving to Sutton. Want to know what the hell I'm on about? Click here.

I miss Runcorn as a non-league force, although my memories of Canal Street include torrential rain, the amber and chocolates getting thrashed, and former Sutton boss Keith Blunt having a blazing row with some of his own - and I use this term loosely here - supporters at the tunnel behind the goal.

Any rate, if rugby league was like this then perhaps Corky might have a point...

I mention all this rugby malarky because it's helping to calm my nerves ahead of Sutton's big Easter schedule when they will slug it out with Bromley and Dover.

They are massive matches for all the teams involved. Bromley are battling to beat the dreaded drop, Dover are chasing Chelmsford, and Sutton, meanwhile, are fully focused on celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Anglo-Italian Cup adventures this Saturday.

Yes, that's right, come to Gander Green Lane for our Italian-themed bout with Bromley with your sunglasses resting on you gelled-back hair, a tight pair of jeans, a copy of Corriere dello Sport tucked under your arm and a pastille-coloured jumper draped over your shoulders - as expertly demontrated by Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air - in celebration of the time our club won European silverware.

Sutton beat Chieti in that first final before going on to lose two more against Triestina (1980) and Modena (1982).

A very good account of Sutton's Italian trips was recently written by the chaps at the Real FA Cup. If you haven't read it already then click here.

To get you in the mood for the big event I thought I'd leave you with some footage from Triestina's recent 1-1 draw with FC Sudtirol in which a crowd of 1,426 witnessed one of the worst kick-offs in history.

On the plus side, Sudtirol's stadium appears to be in one of the most picturesque locations you could imagine.


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Monday, 2 April 2012

Sutton United blog: John Rains, Terry McDermott and Paul Doswell

Much has happened since I last jotted a few lines about all matters Sutton United, so I am going to make up for lost time and have a bit of a catch up.

Just pretend you're spending five minutes with one of those red-faced old soaks you get talking to in one of Sutton's two Wetherspoons pubs.

The Amber and Chocolates have played 22 matches since my last post in December, losing only three - to Woking, Eastleigh and Dartford.

They've consolidated their place in the Blue Square South play-off positions and progressed to within 17 minutes of the Surrey Senior Cup Final before the lights at Corinthian Casuals literally went out.

Yes, we've come a long way since Paul Doswell's first league game in charge of Sutton back at Harlow on August 16, 2008. We've secured two Ryman Premier League play-off finishes and a league title as well as three FA Cup runs, and look set to land a play-off berth yet again, despite the step up a level.

Doswell is God in my eyes. He literally can't get any higher praise than that.

Since my last post players have come and gone and a true club legend, John Rains, has sadly passed away.

I took an instant liking to Rainsy when I first started watching the Amber and Chocolates back in 1980.

Not only was he club captain - making him a figure to respect without question - but he also sported a fantastic bushy moustache and would soon be the latest entrant into my autograph book which included Diana Dorrs after her visit to Allders department store in Sutton.

Other noteable entrants over the years were as follows: The Wimbledon squad of 1986, magician Ali Bongo, QPR's legendary goalkeeper Peter Hucker and my mate Steve from across the road who set aside a whole page for himself then simply wrote 'To Amber Rambler, from Steve'.

I was desperate to grow a moustache like JR but I was still at an age where Action Man, Kiss Chase and Atari games consoles where higher up my list of my priorities.

To be honest, I still love to play Kiss Chase when I get the chance.

Any rate, all my heroes during those formative years sported moustaches. Here, in no particular order, is a rundown of my hairy heroes:

10 Bruce Grobelaar
9 Phil Defreitas
8 Ian Botham
7 Graeme Souness
6 Cliff Thorburn
5 Alan Lamb
4 Tom Selleck
3 Chewbacca
2 Ian Botham
1 Terry McDermott

I also liked John Cleese, Matthew Kelly and Ricardo Montez who played the Spanish student in 1970s sitcom Mind Your Language.

In later years I took a shine to US talk show host Montel Williams, he was cooler than cool, but there was no denying that Terry McDermott was my number one.

I couldn't believe my luck when my new-found team had a player who was as close in looks to McDermott as I could get.

Apart from Swap Shop minx Maggie Philbin, crime-cracking crumpet Glynis Barber of Dempsey and Makepeace, and Hollywood hottie Farah Fawcett-Majors, I loved Terry McDermott.

Fall in love with him yourself by watching these two video clips. The footage may be a bit dodgy but marvel at the Kop crowd surge when he scores his first goal and watch out for a wonder goal at Tottenham.

Terry McDermott had class, a gold chain, a perm and a bushy moustache - what more do you want from a player?

Oooh, before I move on, here's another classic McDermott goal in the list of contenders for the 1980/81 goal of the season competition - the season John Rains entered my world.

John Rains had class, a perm, a gold chain and a big bushy moustache, meaning he ticked as many boxes for me as the Liverpool legend, and better still, he was captain of my local team.

Sadly the perm wasn't a permanent fixture for JR but his class most definitely was.

I have a lot to thank him for, not least the time he made the 278.54 mile journey home (according to the RAC) from Scarborough in 1987 more bearable by nicking a late leveller for Sutton in an FA Trophy clash just as I had given up hope and was edging towards the exit with my hands in my pockets.

Rainsy's goal allowed me to dream about Wembley for a bit longer which was great because I wanted the Amber and Chocolates to get to the famous Twin Towers above all else.

Sutton lost the replay a few days later but at least the journey home only took 15 minutes.

JR typified the Sutton team of the 1980s - the team I grew up with. He led the side out at Wembley in 1981 and led them into uncharted territory in the GM Vauxhall Conference. He was strong, vocal, a great defender, a handy striker and the kind of guy a manager like Barrie Williams would build his team around before the big man himself went on to build Sutton teams of his own, notably in 1999 and 2005.

We'll all miss Rainsy and his moustache.

Since Sutton played Notts County I have to confess I've only seen three games, and one of them was Godalming Town v Walton Casuals.
As I stagger out of the clubhouse for the
second half all eyes are on Godalming Town's
game with Walton Casuals who, I was told,
had just scored twice.

Walton won 2-0 with goals in the 46th and 50th minutes. Unfortunately I missed both of them while finishing a pint of John Smiths in the clubhouse.

I did see Sutton's win over Havant and Waterlooville (2-0) and the draw (1-1) against Eastbourne Borough but the latter was a test of endurance that Bear Grylls would have been proud of.

I watched the game wearing a pair of wet socks after I'd walked onto a soaking bathroom floor before dashing off to get the bus to Gander Green Lane. It was only once I was on the bus that I realised the extent to which my socks were sopping.

I really don't recommend it to the thrill-seekers among you, it's not a pleasant experience. Stick to base jumping or wingsuit flying.

Not sure what wingsuit flying is? Google it. You'll all be at it soon.

The Amber and Chocolates have responded well to their 6-1 demolition at Dartford with two consecutive clean sheets to keep the points tally ticking over.

Two 0-0 draws at both Welling and Hampton and Richmond are not to be sniffed at, even if they did make for two relatively boring Saturday afternoons following proceedings on Twitter.

We're at the business end of the season now and we'll soon find out what the team that Dos built is made of. If you ask me, they've done bloody well so far.


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