the real fa cup

In Kent We Trust – FA Cup 2Q

 

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What a splendid week for Cup football and the Underdog. Of course, the media thirst for these giant killings is big, the thirst from fans is big but too much slaking can drown you, it’s not a good thing. If you get shocks week in week out, presumably, the occurrence becomes common and less interesting and the last vestiges of romance in the Cups could disappear.

So, are we saying NO MORE SHOCKS this weekend? Well, no, not just yet but we firmly believe you have to balance out the ying of shock with the yang of a good old fashioned humping.

Margate .v. Kingstonian – 3pm Saturday.

Like lots of good Londoners years before us, we’re leaving behind the travails of the Smoke and heading for Margate, faded heritage English seaside resort, to watch them play Kingstonian.  And which of these clubs will provide the shock or massive humping this weekend?  Err, neither, probably. At this moment in time Margate and Kingstonian are tough to separate. Kingstonian are a bit higher up the Ryman Premier League but the Kraken of Margate seems to be awaking and they’ve won 4 on the spin, much to the surprise of everyone in the Universe, or Thanet as it is otherwise known.

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After being booted out of ‘The Conference’ in 2004 because of the ongoing ground redevelopment farrago, Margate have been tottering around like a drunken tourist who has just got off the Waltzer. A scrape or two with the relegation devil and flirting perilously with the grim reaper of the HMRC, Margate appeared to have a footballing death wish. The Gate have, so far, narrowly avoided the Taxman’s scythe and escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth. Even if funds are still tight, the team, at least, have picked themselves up off the pavement in recent weeks with four wins on the spin – a feat so unusual that even Margate fanatic Jeremy Jacobs has “no idea” when it last happened. And with the mascot with one of the best play-on-words in football, MARGATOR, things are looking up for.

Margate have a very decent FA Cup pedigree, they’ve seen off QPR and Crystal Palace in the past and have got to the hallowed ground of the 3rd Round twice. They beat Leyton Orient in 2002 and got squeezed out 2-1 in 1997 by Kevin Keegan’s Fulham. Kingstonian are no mugs either.  As recently as the 1994/5 FA Cup, on the way to the 2nd Round Proper, they knocked out Brighton and, indeed, Margate. Six years later they beat Brentford and Southend before first drawing with and then losing to Bristol City, who needed a very late winner to despatch the Ks. Defeated play off finalists last year, Kingstonian would, only a few weeks ago, been keen favourites in this all-Ryman Premier League tear up but Margate’s mighty, if still brief,  resurgence provides new possibilities.

Margate’s Sierra Leone international Ishmail Kamara looks to be out injured, although is apparently still in with a chance, but ex-Gill James Pinnock looks like starting. Margate’s recent success has been thanks to a solid backline marshalled superbly by veteran defender and player coach John Keister, who’s having something of an Indian summer. After narrowly beating Margate at Kingsmeadow in the league a month ago, the Ks have since been sent packing twice by Kent sides after failing to convert chances or turn possession into meaningful final ball. That changed against Hendon in their last game and Dean Lodge could be key to unlocking Margate’s miserly defence.

I’m sure he wouldn’t thank us for drawing attention to him instead of the team but you can’t argue with the fact a lot more people not familiar with non-league football will be interested by the fact that famous commentator Martin Tyler is a coach at Kingstonian.

We’re going to stick our neck out and say Margate are going to sneak this but we’d be equally as happy for it to go the other way or even be an entertaining draw so we can go and watch the second instalment at Kingsmeadow, presumably on Tuesday?

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Colwyn Bay v Guiseley
One of just three Welsh teams operating in the English non-league system, Colwyn Bay had to fight the league of Wales in court on several occasions for leave to remain in the Northern Premier League.

The Welsh FA eventually got round to setting up the League of Wales and, mindful of the fact they couldn’t persuade Cardiff, Wrexham or Swansea to ditch the lucrative potential of the English leagues, they set about banning Welsh non-league sides from playing in English non-league competition.

The vast majority either wanted in to the League of Wales or acquiesced at some point soon after but three clubs, Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Town and Newport County fought it hard. Eventually, in 1995, the ‘outcasts’ won their case and the Seagulls won the right to return to Wales to stage their home games after three years in exile in Northwich and Ellesmere Port.

Managed by Dave ‘Long Throw’ Challinor, Bay will be up against some stiff opposition in Blue Square North’s Guiseley. Not only are Guiseley in the league above Colwyn Bay, they are also currently fifth. Guiseley made us chuckle by including “Opposition Own Goal” as one of their listed forwards on their website. Looks like there’s been a few.

Swindon Supermarine v Weymouth
For us, this tie encapsulates the different paths clubs can take. Whether those paths lead to success or failure is a moot point but when you consider Supermarine are currently mid table in the Zamaretto Premier and Weymouth are bottom, have been deducted 10 points for going into administration and, as we write, have yet to get into credit in the points column, I guess there’s an argument for austerity.

Weymouth have had eight managers in the last two turbulent years, Supermarine have had one, in  fact Mark Collier has been in charge for 6 years.  Weymouth were reportedly £30million in debt at one stage in the last few years, Supermarine were not.  The Terras’ Ian Hutchinson  is currently ‘enjoying’ his second spell at the helm in those two years. His first ended when he was sacked in January by chairman George Rolls and restarted in April when the same chairman re-employed him. Obviously. Promoted to the Conference in 2006 with an astonishing £20k a week wage bill the Terras racked up some Premier League debts before being sold, re-sold, relegated, entered into administration and the final ignominy of having so little money they couldn’t even pay the TV licence. The debt is alleged to be below a million now and things have settled down but as the superb 200% might have said in the past, if there’s a day of the week with the word ‘day’ in then it must be time for a crisis at Weymouth.

The two sides drew 0-0 at Weymouth a month ago and both sides have struggled to score since. The home side, though, have also not conceded too many and haven’t lost for 7 games. Swindon Supermarine were born of a merger about 20 years ago and the Supermarine half of the name belongs to the Supermarine Spitfire arm of the Vickers company who built the iconic World War II fighter planes. Those planes, ironically, played a major part in patrolling the skies over Weymouth during the Battle of Britain.

It would be wrong to say that Supermarine have fewer money troubles than Weymouth or any other non-league club at present but, in comparison, they do at least appear to cut their cloth accordingly rather than rattle up debts.  They nearly folded as recently as June but this was simply because they didn’t believe they could raise enough funding to see them through the season. A new committee was born, finance was secured, the manager was re-employed and off they went. 

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Billericay v Concord Rangers
Another all Ryman Premier League game, we are spoiling you. You can look at this game in two ways. Firstly, the two sides are so evenly matched that they have the same number of points and the same goal difference and are separated only by the fact that Concord have scored and conceded more. This could point to a very tight and ultimately replayed fixture. Most of the games we saw when Ricay manager Craig Edwards was boss of Dulwich Hamlet were tight affairs and this should be no different.

On the other hand, the vast majority of Billericay’s points have come at home, while the vast majority of Concord’s points have come away. Oh, hang on, that’s exactly the same thing innit, cancelling each other out. Tsk. So, in fact something has to give for this not to be the most nailed on draw in the country.

Perhaps contrary to popular belief we have not seen every side in the Ryman play and these are two of them we’ve yet to encounter but, when we do, we want it to be in the presence of the Billericay Norwegian supporters club. Set up in 1997, the club came about thanks to a quirk of fate that saw some pernickety Valerenga fans get moody about not being able to get the seats they wanted at a match between Chelsea v Leeds. In a fit of pique they decided to go elsewhere and ended up, we don’t know how, at New Lodge and saw Billericay play Leatherhead.

Smitten with not only what they saw but also the warmth with which they were received, the supporters club now venture over to Essex about three times a year on a jolly and on one occasion even brought with them a 32 piece choir that entertained the crowd at half time and, after the match, in the club bar. We’re definitely up for a visit when they come over next, which will be … in the meantime you have to visit their photo page, it’s cracking.

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Like most Essex sides Concord’s first team contains a few former West Ham youth players. One of these, Tony Stokes, came to Concord via a spell at a Hungarian team with which I was obsessed in the early 80s. Former UEFA Cup finalists Ujpesti, or Ujpest Dozsa as I knew them back then were an exotic side whose name, between the ages of 10 and 12, I could not stop repeating over and over again to any other young lad who would listen.  Aside from that I knew nothing about them, they seemed ethereal.

Another former Hammer, Bertie Brayley, won the FA Youth Cup in 1999 and has played for no fewer than seven of Essex’s best non-league clubs. He also represented the England Learning Disabilities team at the World Championships. This was a team we’d never heard of before. A bit of research later … England were World Champions in 2004!!!  Bertie played for the side in the 2006 games where England lost in the Quarter Finals to Saudi Arabia.

To qualify for this team players have to have been in receipt of special education or employment between the ages of 0-18 and have an IQ below 75, as determined by the World Health Organisation. Can’t trace the team having played this year, although on the FA site you will find recent games by the England Cerebral Palsy team

If you want to find yourself an FA Cup game to go to then click here for the FA’s full list of fixtures. If you want some inspiration then why not go to ITV’s FA Cup page and have a look at the highlights or our previews and review from previous rounds.

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