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.

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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.


Email me: or follow me on Twitter @itsamberrambler