WUP 8.4

First published in November ’10 in WUP, my reaction to a shocking FA Cup draw, as Dons fans had to face the prospect of facing Them for the first time. Also, a round up of first round action where FCUM hit the headlines…

The blog post I refer to in the second paragraph can be read here.

I think all of us are going to remember where we were when ball five and ball thirteen somehow made their way out of the hat together, in the same manner everyone remembers where they were when JR was shot… sitting in front of the TV like everybody else… For me it was a very surreal moment, I’ve only ever felt like that before once a few years back, when I momentarily thought my finger was off after an incident involving a pen knife and an uncooperative tin of hot dogs. Fortunately my finger was at worst only mildly mutilated, and went on to make a full recovery… and AFC Wimbledon will too. Of course, thanks to the wonders of modern technology you got to read my thoughts on the draw mere hours after it happened, thanks to what at the time was just my feelings and initial reaction spilling forth onto a blank document, but went on to become the most widely read and influential few hundred words in Anonymous Don history… all two years of it. In fact the only post that to date has garnered more attention was a series of six photographs – no text – published shortly after the Hampton away game.

Some might say it was because I caught the zeitgeist. Others will say it had more to do with rival Dons bloggers being on holiday at the time. But for 48 hours, the usual handful of visitors a day were replaced by thousands worldwide as the post was linked from guestbook to message board, website to word of mouth. Which of course, rapidly raised the profile of the blog. Or should I say, rapidly inflated my ego to the point my head almost exploded. With so many people viewing, someone influential was bound to spot it sooner or later, or so I thought… and it all came to a head on Tuesday when I found myself being interviewed by Paxman on Newsnight giving my opinion on the whole gory episode, confidently batting off Paxo’s naive attempts to play Devils Advocate… in my head, of course, all in my head, as I walked to work that morning. Naturally, once the average football fans attention span moved elsewhere everything died down again, leaving me to get on with enjoying writing about football rather than staring at a rapidly increasing blog stats page.

Of course, by the time you get around to reading this article, the whole sorry situation could have blown over, as ITV sheepishly prepare to show the Ebbsfleet v Stevenage game. If it hasn’t, I would imagine there is a bit of a strange atmosphere at that Kettering game… But it does at least mean I am sort of justified in ignoring the whole sorry process from this point on. There was so much more to First Round weekend than the draw. Starting of course on Friday night at Spotland. Our friends up at FCUM had what looked like a plum tie, a great night out at a rival much further up the football pyramid – like us at Millwall last year you get the impression despite the relative league status the visitors were probably the bigger side. Football should have done the talking, to be honest I thought ESPN were having a laugh when they chose it as their Friday night game… we all knew FCUM would put up a decent battle in front of their army of fans, but it had 2-0 home win written all over it. Oh me of little faith.

It turned out to be one of those games that reaffirms your faith in the FA Cup. After I finally found a suspect website capable of streaming the match with sufficient quality to actually be able to spot the current official FA Cup ball… which truly is awful by the way. It’s apparently orange, but so dull there is a real possibility that irony will intervene, shall we see a second round game halted as the players cannot spot the ball amidst the mud on a threadbare pitch, forcing the referee to call for a white ball? Watching the Southport-Sheffield Wednesday game I found its barely more visible on a standard television set. What a cock-up, I’m sure ESPN and ITV were delighted with the decision… although ITV have been doing their very best to turn people off their football coverage for years now, I smell a conspiracy… Of course FCUM were accused of hypocrisy over their decision to switch their game to Friday night for TV, absolute nonsense of course… I was depressed but sadly not surprised to read isolated comments from other northern non-league sides along the lines of FCUM being disliked due to the perception they feel they ‘invented non-league football’… where have we heard comments such as these before? It’s nice to know jealousy is alive and well lower down the pyramid.

Unlike either of our encounters with League sides, FCUM got their moment of glory thanks to an almighty cock-up from the Rochdale keeper. It was one of those incidents you expect the referee to blow his whistle, and we all know the law is the goalkeeper should be in control of the ball, from the replay it appeared to be a very rare example of a goalkeeper having both hands touching the ball but NOT being in control of it. As Norton tapped in to the open net, you do wonder whether the referee might have had the four thousand or so FCUM fans behind him weighing on his mind as he decided whether or not to make a decision! Their victory, when confirmed, also led to another of those FA Cup traditions sadly lost to security madness over the last few years… the non-League clubs fans coming onto the field to chair their players back to the tunnel, and imagine if we ever did that – we would get hammered from all sides, including a sizeable minority within our own club!

While we were playing out possibly the worst cup tie of the weekend, the First Round was creating drama and excitement wherever you looked. The big story, certainly the one that struck me immediately when I got home, was Dover’s victory at Gillingham. The back story made it all the more sweet for Dover, I’m sure Andy Hessenthaler feels a bit of a wally right now… Dover are a club on the up, but I’m not sure this really signals a swing in power in Kent football, however if Gillingham continue to remain in the doldrums and Dover their impressive recovery of late, this could be a League fixture in a few years time. Another BSS club doing well were Woking, with Brighton top of League One they pulled out what should have been the hardest possible draw for them, but escaped with a replay. With a three division gap between the clubs, if you thought we were frustrated after the Ebbsfleet game imagine how Brighton fans must have felt…

Of course, the two games mentioned above must have been all the more sweet considering ITV deemed there no chance of an upset on either of them, instead sending their teams to Fleetwood (who didn’t quite manage it) and Harrow (who battled well but were always looking to make up too much of a gap). THe first round highlights package i just about the only highlights show I can remember when about a three-quarters of the way through it finally happens – you lose the will to watch any more football (especially if you do Match of the Day and flicked to the Football League Show during the adverts…). Fortunately, this year, ITV catered for this by screening the Dons highlights at the very moment that feeling kicks in – glad we could be of use for something on First Round day…

I never tire of telling people how much the FA Cup still means to me, and I presume it matters as much to all of you of a similar age (I was ten years old that hot May afternoon at Wembley in ’88). I can only hope by the time you read this we are still involved in the competition, and cross our fingers that we are looking forward to a tie next week that all of us can enjoy.

Further WUP articles can be found in the Features Index

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