the real fa cup

Bzzz Off

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Today we learned some things. Wasps are lads, they’re laddy lads, they have spiky hair with too much product, they wear camp t-shirts, they fancy your bird. Wasps love beer. Wasps love pie. Wasps love football stadiums. Now, apart from the ill-starred first podcast trial, we’re not generally sweary types. Its good for effect but not punctuation. But, FUCK ME, Arundel has loads of wasps. Every fucking where. The Hailsham bench can vouch for us.

‘At the end of the day, we wuz dun by them bluddy wasps, all over us they were, we just couldn’t handle ’em and the pressure told’. RAID. Arundel needs RAID. Aside from that, a jolly day was had.

So, realfacup contingent = 4. Train tickets a mere £11, good work Bodger. Weather = Sun. Rain. Sun. Rain. Sun. Rain. As we ambled through the gates of Arundel’s Norman castle we overheard the tail end of a conversation of two people striding the other way. It went “… well, I’m not paying £17, that’s just ridiculous”. They must have been talking about a gig or something, it doesn’t cost £17 to get into a castle. “SEVENTEEN POUNDS” shrieked the sign above the ticket office. “Let’s go to the Cathedral” said I. “Seventeen quid” said someone”.

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“It’s not £17” said an officious gent with a clip board. “It’s £16”, he added, with what we thought was a glint in his eye. We laughed. He didn’t. Bye. Culture is one thing, £17 worth of culture requires a woman’s presence, a glass of tawny and a cigar.

The RC Cathedral was very prim and I discovered the 16th Duke of Norfolk was called Bernard. Simply Bernard. Arundel, if you’ve never been, is rather nice. In some ways a bit too nice, Truman Show nice. The pub was village. The beer garden was ‘prize winning’, presumably for services to paving and adequately put together tables. This is sounding a bit negative, it’s not intended to be, we live in Brixton, this is unusual and we’re out of our comfort zone by being too comfortable.

This was where we met the first wave of waspz. We know wasps love beer. They can be waved away, they drift around etc. It turns out wasps love pie too. And, fair play to them it is pie, they would not leave it alone. I am no wasp fearing panty waist but when one divebombs your fork as it’s entering your mouth, you tend not to coo or stroke it like a friendly bee. Especially the sixth time.

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I sense you nodding off now. OK, we went to the game. Prior to the game we were treated to some eighties soul over a tinny tannoy. I liked it, I’m 38. No one else did, their music taste is cooler and younger. That is, until Wacko’s ‘Thriller’ came on. Occasional realfacup guest Swiss Tony ventured that all teams should take to the field to ‘Thriller’. I imagined Ipswich and Norwich taking to the Portman Road pitch in unison doing the prancing hand movements, you know the bit in the breakdown where Jacko’s leading his band of ghouls? I may have accidentally said some of this out loud.

It had been nice until five minutes before kick off when it caned it down. What a lovely smell, sweet, close cropped summer grass. *Ahem*. The game started as an FA Cup game should, a bit frenetic, the wet pitch already proving slippery and skiddy. Arundel’s keeper was tested from distance very early and dealt with it well. Hailsham’s net minder fielded a similar effort.

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The Stringers seemed basic, stodgy and lacking in final ball or penultimate ball. Arundel, on the other hand, seemed to play a very exotic 3-1-4-2 with Rob Grove a very deep lying midfielder. It worked remarkably well and while other viewers moaned at the rather scrappy opening, I was watching the back two units like a hawk. Not something I tend to bother doing too often but I found this fascinating. The wide men switched wings and dragged Hailsham all over the shop, creating openings without much testing the keeper. We forgot the team sheet so I’ve no idea who 2 and 8 were but they were the wide men in the middle 4 and switched wings at seemingly opportune moments.

Then wasp wave two commenced.

The local teenagers got it first, many of them had opted for Wham tribute act chic (courtesy Swiss Tony) finned hair, pastel t-shirts, three quarter length shorts and espadrilles but this did not diminish their swatting skills. A wasp was hit, it spiralled down, fuselage pierced but alive. There was a mad scramble to finish it off. “STAMP IT” was the simple but urgent battle cry. We all laughed. The ref’s whistle went. Penalty. Ahhrgghh, we missed it.

1-0 Arundel.

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The game continued in much the same damp vein. Just before half time another skidder came at the Arundel keeper, he misjudged it and just about bundled it past the post. “Get them white boots off” shouted either George or Andrew, not sure which, at the keeper. Someone chuckled. You see, the keeper had white boots on but he hadn’t dealt with the ball very well and the humour was in the fact that someone wearing poncy white boots should perhaps be a little bit better at judging …. (drifts)

We had noticed the ref and linos warming up pre-match and noted the shock of white hair and slight paunch. We had to check it out, which meant standing next to the dugouts. The Hailsham manager was a dry, controlled but ascerbic Scot wit. “Give him an Oscar” he said, with a calm emotionless steeliness, when an Arundel player threw himself to the floor. Yep, it really was Father Jack and he had his flag up for a foul.

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Wave three of the Luftwaspa descended. Half a dozen grown men getting increasingly wound up at the buzzing the buzzies were dishing out. We moved to the other side of the dugout. The Hailsham assistant emerged with hands flailing above his head, the rest of the bench shuffled and looked above them or waved their hands. Father Jack smiled benevolently. We photographed him. We photographed him like a spurned lover hanging around outside the flat of his beloved in the days before he finally kills her. Too much?

The buzzing was continuing on the field, Arundel were playing some lovely football in the returning sun. Two goals followed for 3-0. The first was a tidy little backheel round the blindside of defence and keeper, reminiscent of my nearly departed Spanish beau Pablo Counago versus Charlton in 2007. The second an incisive move straight through the middle via two swift exchanges of passes and a neat finish. Game over.

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Another was added and Hailsham got a consolation, which I captured in arty-blurred-through-goal-net fashion attained while trying to avoid wasps. We didn’t hang around for chats or tea, just checked the scores via Jeff Stelling in the club house and then buzzed off back to the relative calm of old London town.

Bernard would be happy.

8 Comments
  1. Love the pic of the lino.

  2. ‘Father Jack’ running the line is Dave John, one of the most popular referees in the Sussex County League

  3. Damon Threadgold

    Cheers David. He was a great lino and seemed to really enjoy the game as well. Love the look, obviously. The programme said he was called Paul John I think, is that wrong?

    Damon.

  4. Another top notch report….We didn’t have wasps up north but we did create a wacky races style game with Ladybirds….now for the replays

  5. Sorry, I meant Paul John … but you’ll know doubt meet Dave John if you visit Hassocks FC. In fact you won’t be able to miss him! Like Arundel, a beautifully scenic Sussex ground (be sure to visit Jack & Jill windmills if you do)

  6. Wasps are bad. But moths, MOTHS, they can fuck off and die. Evil dive bombing bastards.

  7. Wasn’t the lino the estranged father in 80s sitcom Bread?

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