the real fa cup

Don’t Dream It’s Over

Hendon 3 Lewes 0

Number 63 … Lewes …. will play ….. number 33 … Portsmouth.

It had been a long week working and playing hard in New York.  Sleep had been at a premium thanks to a combination time zones, jet lag and a variety of American IPA’s so I looked forward to my return home to TBIR towers, my big bed and proper time.  After all, we invented time didn’t we?  So, when I was rudely interrupted in my dreams of the FA Cup 1st Round draw by two cats using my head as a scratching post.  I could hardly have been more excited for my trip to North West London.  Wemberlee, Wemberlee, We’re the famous Lewes FC and we were going to Wemberlee.

You would be hard-pressed to find much information or acknowledgement that Hendon FC still play at Vale Farm in Wembley now that the Budweiser Bucks have arrived into the Non League game.  Well, let’s rephrase that.  Now that the Budweiser Bucks had arrived at Wembley FC.  We all have our own opinion of whether it is good or bad for the game but it was clear to see on arrival that significant money has been spent on painting the ground (red), refurbishing the bar (red) and replacing the advertising boards around the pitch (red).  I bet Ryman Premier League tenants Hendon must love playing at home.

As our train chugged through Stonebridge Park tube we could almost touch the stadium.  This was literally, and well, literally the closest we would ever get to playing at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup.  We were confident of taking the £4,500 prize fund as well as taking one more step towards a 1st Round tie with Pompey.  Hendon were having an average start to their Ryman Premier campaign, just as Lewes were, but this was the FA Cup and we were the famous Lewes and we had arrived at Wemberlee.

The FA Cup (with Budweiser) is quite an ironic title really at Wembley FC these days.  The FA Cup (surrounded by Budwesier although whilst you can buy a Budwesier in the bar you cannot drink a Budweiser whilst watching the FA Cup (with Budweiser)) – the world’s premier domestic cup competition.  Completely devalued.

Bland, weak and underwhelming.  Three words that could describe the beer, but in this instance it summed up the performance of the Rooks perfectly.  Hendon deserved their win, their £4,500 and their dream of a 1st Round game against Pompey. A goal in the last minute of the first half, coupled with two second half strikes may have flattered the Greens but there is absolutely no doubt they were the better team.  As they scored the final goal in injury time the players ran to the corner of the pitch where they celebrated in front of the small sign announcing that Hendon FC actually did play here after all.

So now the Rooks have a free weekend.  Perhaps a team-building trip to Camber Sands, or Drusillas Park with its Lemurland encounter instead of a chance of winning £7,500 in prize money.  Who wants a cup run anyway …

Words and pictures by Stuart Fuller, head honcho of encyclopaedic website The Ball Is Round.

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