the real fa cup

When Harry Met Dowie

Back in the summer of 1983 Sir Cliff Richard paid a surprise visit back to Cheshunt where he went to school as plain old Harry Webb. Whilst he was there he took a drive down Theobalds Lane on his way back to give the new M25 a bit of a spin. As we drove down the lane he saw a lonely chap on the side of the road, kicking a ball against the gates of Cheshunt FC whilst listening to his Sony Walkman. “The Young Ones today” Cliff said and thought nothing more to the chance encounter.*

Years later that boy would grow become one of the nations favourite “we don’t know what to do to stave off relegation” football managers. Step forward Iain Dowie. Back in 1983 a young Dowie was working for BAE nearby and playing for The Ambers at Cheshunt. He was destined to greater things. “One day you will score one of the greatest League Cup goals ever” his Mam used to say to him. And sure enough on a foul night in Cheshire October 1996 he rose majestically to power a header home in the tie between Stockport County and West Ham United. He had ended a long goal drought in front of the Sky TV cameras. The only problem is it was an own goal.

sam_03842.jpg Time is a great healer and I am sure Dowie senior would look at on his time at Cheshunt FC with great affection. His 34 games and 2 goals sealed his fate as a typical British centre-forward who essentially couldn’t score goals. One day both Dowie and Sir Cliff would be able to say they had “played” the Herning Indoor Arena, Denmark.

But today it wasn’t about Sir Cliff or even Dowie. It was all about Non League Football. With England doing their bit to boost the alcohol sales of Bulgaria by 300% in one evening, the Plastic Premier League took a break. Those professional footballers get tired easily you know. It’s hard training for a few hours and then spending the rest of the day in the bookies/golf course/massage parlours. So today was decreed by none other than Chris Waddle himself as Non League Day part 2. A day for all fans to get off their arses and turn SKY Sports off and find their local club. You know, that strange beaten up old ground you pass every day whilst listening to TalkSport pretending they actually know what football fans think. And as luck would have it, it was also FA Cup Preliminary Round. Sorry, slipped there – The FA Cup, as sponsored by Budweiser, Preliminary Round.

So somehow I found myself in Waltham Cross at 2.30pm on Saturday. I could turn right for Waltham Abbey v Ware, I could go straight on for Dunstable Town v Bethnal Green United but instead I have turned left and found myself outside The Stadium. Cheshunt FC like to be grand so no funny names for their ground. Say it like it is, is what we say.

sam_0382.jpg The opponents need no introduction. Southend Manor. You want more details? Sigh….Well, they were founded by Doris Metcalfe and we assume her husband Gil (that could be short for Gilbert or Gillian, in which case let’s not pry). They all live on a big manor in Southend and they are currently top of the Essex Senior League. There, that sums it up quite nicely.


Cheshunt 0 Southend Manor 0 – The Stadium – Saturday 3rd September 2011

If this game was being covered by BBC5 Live at the 22 minute point Alan Green would have summed it up when passing over to Darren Ferguson by saying something like “I’ve written one thing down – nice pie”.

IMG_8713.jpg BALLS…there that grabbed your attention. Or rather lack of them. One of the issues in having woodland surrounding three sides of your ground is that you will lose balls. With ten minutes to go panic was spreading throughout the Cheshunt admin people because they were down to their last ball. “Go and get the ladder and check on the roof Paul”. So Paul got the ladder, and reached up into the gutter and did indeed find a ball. Panic over everyone, stand down. None of that health and safety rubbish here at The Stadium.

IMG_8647.jpg So what happened in the preceding eighty minutes then? Not a lot really. SouthendManor’s keeper can thank his lucky stars that the Cheshunt forward wasn’t the paciest chap, otherwise his rash challenge outside the box in the first half would have been a straight red. The linesman on the near side was female and around five foot tall, which gave the impression she was about 12 years old. It is always amusing to see how players adapt their language to a female official. “Oi! Linesman how was that f…lipping offside?”

Just before half time Southend Manor went close when Max Kent saw his shot shave the post. So far this season their forward line had scored goals for fun but today their shooting boots must have been left by the seaside.

IMG_8705.jpg The second half didn’t deliver much in the way of action and here is where Twitter became my enemy as I saw goals flying in at the other games I had considered including 9 (NINE as the vidiprinter would have said) at Corinthian v Maidstone United. Cheshunt’s best performance in the FA Cup was in 1977 when they lost in the final qualifying round to Leatherhead, and you get the feeling that it may be another season before they can try and beat that. Southend Manor, in theory only sitting six places below their hosts looked the better team and in the replay on Tuesday will certainly fancy their chances of hosting either Romford or Royston.

*We have no physical proof this actual encounter took place, but a bloke in the pub told us it was true, so who are we to question. Mind you he also tried to sell us a unicorn so I am beginning to doubt him.

As if you didn’t know, the master of this piece is Stuart Fuller from the theballisround

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