the real fa cup

Musselmen Cling To Victory

DSC01947.JPG Non League Day, the FA Cup and Slough playing on a Sunday. A chance to go and support one of the numerous local clubs near my home. In fact the sheer amount of football clubs playing a decent level of football is just staggering. I can get to eight clubs who entered this years FA Cup on a Brighton day saver bus pass. Just how do they all survive?

After having tea with the local vicar three of us head for the train to Shoreham for a bit of FA Cup Extra Preliminary round action. Unfortunately, my powers of persuasion and pleading with people that this was Non League Day with no Premiership or Championship football excuses fell on mostly deaf ears, with ignored texts and feigning death. In the end it was only long term Albion season ticket holder Terry and his daughter who came along to Middle Road to watch the Musselmen take on Lancing.

Shoreham is one of those places just outside Brighton that I often just pass through. The high street, a mix of old and pedestrianised new is very pleasant with a view of the harbour and a chance for all sorts of food and beer sampling. Pity we picked the real ale old boozer that wouldn’t let kids in.

We arrived too late to buy a programme with a healthy looking crowd of over 120 including quite a few opposing fans. Not surprising, as you couldn’t get much more local than this (well you could if Shoreham played Southwick) and on bank holiday Monday this very same fixture had seen Shoreham lose 3-0. For the first 40 minutes it looked like it would go the same way then just before half time Shoreham’s Charlie Walker scored the only goal changing the whole dynamics of the game.

Confidence is a wonderful thing and the goal was just what Shoreham needed. They were a much better side in the second half missing plenty of chances to put the game to bed. In the end it stayed 1-0 and Shoreham pocked £1,500 for winning, on top of their £750 from the previous round and a 1st qualifying round tie with Thamesmead Town. Premiership clubs might not care for the competition but it matters a lot clubs further down the footballing pyramid.

DSC01972.JPG Brighton’s new ground and emerging strength is enticing people who haven’t thought about the Albion for years. This will know doubt affect the already sparse crowds at this level. To their credit the Albion were encouraging people to support Non League Day, I just think some of the smaller clubs could do a bit more to help themselves.

I know that’s easy said than done. The archetypal bloke behind the bar at Shoreham who has to put his hand to everything said about 10 people help run the club and the players just get expenses. They also have six other teams playing under their banner. But money is always tight and they have no shirt sponsorship. Shoreham struggled last season with crowds averaging about 50 and would have been relegated if they hadn’t been saved by ground grading regulations.

The club founded in 1892 have spent most of their time yo-yoing between Sussex County League One and Two (explaining to young Holly that they were only eight leagues below Brighton as she bounced off to play in the park outside!)

But these clubs play an important role in our communities and if for some reason you couldn’t make a trip to your local club during Non League Day, maybe next time switch off Sky and head down to see what’s happening down the road. You never know you might even enjoy yourself.

Warren Carter is @brightonrebel, a Slough Town fan exiled in Brighton. Read his Slough Town Soapbox here

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