the real fa cup

Chertsey 1 Whitley Bay 1

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As I Tweeted after the game, this game annoyed me. Immensely. For several reasons. I wrote my original match report on the Sunday and it was, essentially, a hatchet job on the Chertsey fans. I thought better of publishing the match report and thought I’d give it a few days before having another go in a more balanced frame of mind. So I did a write up of only game action but that was pretty dull. Finally, I tried to do a mixture of the two and it was a furious ramble about the state of the modern game, which was a bit out of place and OTT. Also, in the mean time I read several reports of the game and all of them seemed slightly at odds with my impressions of it. According to both teams’ websites this was an exciting game so why was my impression so different?

It has to be said, it felt odd going to a game with my other half for the first time. This wasn’t one of the things that annoyed me but it definitely coloured my experience. Gone were the football comments, the game talk, I couldn’t quite ascertain how many of the situational and cultural reference points were or would be wasted. So I didn’t bother. This game was unlikely to hit the heights and the chances of it doing so were undermined with the other half’s Facebook update just before kick off that questioned why she was here at all. It was a joke but also a fair point, although also quite obvious as she is from Whitley Bay.

Secondly, the game really WAS pretty dire and this was the main problem. Neutrality at big, tight and tense games means that you don’t have the emotion and adrenal that both sets of fans do. Chertsey had the shoulder-chip inducing lack of history in the Vase to make this their ‘Cup Final’, as the bunting and balloons would hint. Whitley fans had the emotion of being cup holders to keep them goin. We had nothing. This neutrality often makes you view the game with cold eyes and a critical insight that means your view of the game is entirely different to the ‘fans’.

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There was also the added problem of having no reference point to the previous week/month/season’s performances of either side. Was this better or worse fayre than usual? At a guess, it looked like Chertsey were playing at about par and Whitley had a little more. That might be unfair but the respective write ups do hint at that.

Though the general quality on show here was poorer than recent games we’d seen, the players undoubtedly weren’t helped by the undulating and sticky pitch. Control was often heavy, passes inaccurate and shooting wayward, particularly the latter by the home side.

The first half was only notable for the early goals and my noting that Whitley’s no.4, Hodgson, looked like he would get sent off at some point. My theory was fairly flimsy but he had managed a few minor yet cynical fouls that he’d followed up with a cheeky smirk or wink at the linesman, as if playing some odd game of cat and mouse with authority. I am pretty sure the lino clocked this and I do wonder if he mentioned it to the ref at half time? What followed might suggest he did.

The Whitley fans were amusing, they indulged in some soft-southerner baiting, bigged themselves up like any good fans should and sung of nights out, ladies parts etc etc. In short, they were nice and balanced, as you’d hope, and their banter was on the humourous side.

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Chertsey on the other hand ploughed a defensive, insecure and aggressive furrow all the way through. They had a ‘no one likes us’ song like Millwall, although why anyone isn’t supposed to like them wasn’t apparent until after they’d been singing about this and flat caps for 20 minutes. They came out with so many northern (and some not even remotely northern, or accurate) stereotypes we lost count – flat cap, ‘we pay your benefits’, ‘dirty northern bastards’, something about the council not knowing they were down here or something … and many, many more, repeatedly. Banter is all part of football and the blowing of trumpets in the Whitley keeper’s ear when he was taking goal kicks was highly amusing. But, after 20 minutes or so of the same crass, inaccurate and tedious stereotypes being trotted out, it was not banter, it was constant and aggressive badgering.

The lack of warming ale might have been a factor and my decision to drive, thinking it would be both quicker and a nice drive in our now repaired English sports car, was just folly. I was wrong on all points. The beer, the fayre, the temperature, the lack of football’s cognescenti, they all accentuated the fan-watching aspect of the afternoon.

Could someone please tell me why Chertsey fans have such a chip on their shoulder? Do they have a beef with Whitley that wasn’t obvious? Was it just that due to a Sunday game, Chelsea Village were missing their idiots?

The second half of the game itself was equally as close as the first, in general. Early on came the decisive moment. Hodgson, got entangled and arms flailed. He found himself having his name taken. He didn’t appear to have done anything but, possibly thanks to his previous, he was deemed the guilty party. This may or may not have been the case but a few minutes later his little first-half smiles and winks seemed to come back to haunt him again when, after apparently being bundled over for a clear penalty, the ref told him to get up, reached for his pocket, booked him again and told him to leave the field. Harsh

I hate to say I told you so but I told you so. It was distinctly unfair on Whitley but if you dance with the devil etc etc. For the remainder of the half it was still pretty even but honours should go to Whitley for managing about a half hour with a disadvantage and not really being troubled.

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There were a few good saves by both keepers in the dying embers of normal time and again towards the death of extra time but for large periods of the first half of extra time Whitley were the better side. For the neutral, however, there were large chunks of this game where nothing happened.

So, what’s the conclusion then? I reckon I just saw the wrong game at the wrong time with the wrong accomplice. Not enough footy chat, not enough entertainment, slightly tedious crowd and the game affected by a poor reffing decision. And maybe all of this just made me a bit unreasonable and abit tetchy.

Full Time: Chertsey Town 1 Whitley Bay 1 TheRealFACupVase 0

Off to QPR v Ipswich tonight to either achieve the partisan feeling so lacking on Saturday or to try to be as objective again and see how rubbish the fayre actually is when watching my own team. Either way, sorry to Chertsey, although I suspect their brag of having super loyal fans will be sorely tested at Hillheads on Saturday for the replay. Attendance here: 617.

2 Comments
  1. Hi – I share your passion for the FA Cup early rounds, and am also a (relatively) recent convert to non league football. I also live in Chertsey and have been following (and writing about) my local club for a couple of years. I too was at the Whitley Bay game which was huge for the club, and there was a massive build up to the game. You are right – not many other teams in the Combined Counties League like Chertsey, rather unfairly in my opinion. They used to play at a higher level (so maybe portray some arrogance?) plus they have been splashing the cash the past couple of seasons, which fans from other teams take offence at. They are known locally as Chertski. I have only lived in Chertsey since 1997, and am a “Northerner” – I just think that the Northern/Southern banter is funny, in a naive sort of way. Alot of Chertsey folk think that Watford is ‘up North’!!Please come back and visit Chertsey, when there is only a crowd of 100, and I’d like to think you would have a better expperience.

  2. Damon Threadgold

    Hi Andy, thanks for your comments and thanks for the context about why Chertsey seem to think no one likes them. I think banter is essential for a game to have a good atmosphere but there is a line to be drawn between witty and varied banter and repeated, provocative hectoring – especially when the stereotypes are so lazy and hackneyed. Once or twice is funny, 120 minutes of the same ‘benefits’ song is frankly tedious and, if that’s representative of Chertsey’s output, we can see why no one likes them. Although that is very post-modern to be disliked for thinking people dislike you?? We won’t be avoiding Chertsey because of it but we’ve been twice this season anyway so won’t be back for a while. However, when we do, you’ll be our first port of call.

    Cheers, Damon.

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