the real fa cup

And The 2009 Winners Are …

therealfacup annual awards is on its way in the next few weeks … here’s a look at what happened last year …

OK folks, this season’s Real FA Cup is officially over. Curtains. The last non-league side is out … and few genuinely small clubs remain, in fact only Notts County really, if they still exist when you read this. We’ll keep an eye on the rest of the tournoi, and might even comment, but that is essentially it for us for this season so it’s time to find out who this year’s winners are and celebrate the season that was.

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Winning is most definitely relative in our world, of course, but who are this year’s FA Cup winners? Well, we are, AHHHHH, as you good, good people have ‘hit’ us nearly 18,000 times since August! 400 of you even follow our additional ramblings on Twitter. And 1200 of you took the time to vote in our polls over the course of the season (yes, we’re surprised at that amount too), although in this round of voting most of you appear to have been Wealdstone or Ilkeston fans. Ah well, such is the problem with online Polls.

We wish we had some rosettes, a stage and a guest speaker for this bit. If we did, our rosettes would be blue, our stage would be at salubrious music venue the Borderline and our guest speaker would be Dartford’s Camp Café Host (see Darts/Clarets match report) LINK HERE

Best Player: This was a fairly well populated category, a number of players have caught our wandering and fickle eye. Sanchez Ming of Dulwich Hamlet was our MoM against Sevenoaks, although clearly not his manager’s as he only made the bench for the replay. Marcel Jones of Enfield 1894 impressed us against Broxbourne with his dancing feet. Jack King of Farnborough, Ryan Ashe of Wealdstone and Danny Forrest of Crawley all impressed with, respectively, their style, passing and energy. Actually, all of them could also get the nod for their shooting and reading of the game. Sam Duncum of Ilkeston deserves more than a mention for scaring the bejaysus out of Cambridge defenders, even when his team were second best for large chunks of the game.

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For us, however, Danny Kedwell of AFC Wimbledon probably put in the best all round shift that we saw during the Cup run, rarely does one man’s performance and effort epitomise a team’s but his did. However, Danny only came third in the online poll while the winner garnered 52% of the vote to second place Sam Duncum’s 39%. The winner scored two cracking goals against then League 2 high flyers Rotherham and we’re overjoyed to announce that Wealdstone playmaker and all round good guy, Ryan Ashe, is the 2010 Real FA Cup Player Of The Season!

Best Game: This wouldn’t have been easy for us to choose because we saw quite a few good games, to be fair. Enfield and Broxbourne gave us some great passing that belied their status in the pyramid. Ashford Town (Middx) and Hendon served up a corking finale and penalty shoot out. Farnborough and Hastings was a great summery day out and quite a battle. Dartford and Chelmsford was a funny, drunken day out but with the added bonus of a cracking game, loads of goals and a ridiculous missed sitter. The aforementioned Danny Kedwell served up a treat at Kingsmeadow where Crawley should have been 2 goals to the good but then got humped by ten man AFC in the second half.

But the award goes to the team who managed to mobilise the most fans to vote, again, we said cynically but with tongue in cheek. It was a very decent game, it had a good atmosphere, it had as many fans as you are likely to see down the Vale, it had some cracking goals, a cameraman perched on the roof and a sublime chip from Real FA Cup interviewee and Player Of The Season, Ryan Ashe. What more could you want? A cupset would have been nice but let’s not be picky. 2010 Real FA Cup Game Of The Season is Wealdstone 2 Rotherham 3.

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A few more esoteric awards before we go on. Best Ice Cream goes to Farnborough, so big we took a photo of it and it’s become our most linked-to photo via Google!?!? Best Miss goes to Rob Edmans of Chelmsford City, so bad we devoted a whole article to it. Best Burger was at Wembley FC, so cheap we thought it was wrong – and it was served by the oldest couple we’ve ever seen working a football tea bar. Fair play to you folks. Weirdest question goes to the hooded chav in Dartford who asked us if we were actors. Oddly, one of us is.

Best Ground: We have loved Dulwich Hamlet’s main stand and massive bar for a couple of years now, we enjoyed the ambience and tradition of Hampton & Richmond Borough’s quaint and homely patchwork stands (not to mention its local boozers) and we were intrigued by the big ideas of Farnborough’s electronic scoreboard and massive new stand. We were also baffled by Sevenoaks’ strange see through fence and overlooking hill that rendered paying entry almost pointless for anyone wanting to watch the game. We did pay, though. We foolishly left in an ‘other’ option on this vote and feared an influx of Wealdstone fans might swing this one too but, no, only the enthusiastic Ilkestonites chose to big up their New Manor Ground. But it wasn’t enough.

As a model of how to go about building a new non-league ground, it is our opinion that you cannot get much better than a ground that provides basic shelter for proles and toffs alike, has an iconic piece of artwork, a quote from Big Ron, a decent bar and a good view. The ground might have been built with a bit of money but the club and architects did not just go for size, they also made sure it packed in some enviro cred and some decent aesthetics for the whole crowd. The winner, of course, is the much vaunted Princes Park, home of Dartford FC. This would have been our choice too so congrats.

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That’s three quarters of the Polls catered for, only one left. But there are a few other mentions we think are deserved. These are not necessarily teams who we’ve seen but teams who have been talking points in the wider football community over the course of the early FA Cup rounds. Firstly, we have to mention Paulton Rovers. They got a fair way in glorious fashion before serving themselves up as fodder for the Canary revival. Staines deserve a mention for running Millwall close and Northwich similarly for slaying Charlton. Both these teams provided some mid season cheer for fans and pundits alike. A final thought for Ashford Town of Middlesex who not only suffered the agony of FA Cup penalty defeat to Hendon but also suffering another shoot out defeat only a week later, grim!

There were also quite a few teams who went a long way, in relative terms. A few managed to play in 4 or 5 rounds of the FA Cup and, although there are a few teams who could better that in the continuing FA Cup, the odds on Leeds or Southampton getting to the semi finals are, we would have thought, fairly slim. The eventual winner of the FA Cup will have played in 6 rounds and it is well worthwhile putting the 6 round achievement in context. Two teams have already done that so, in all ways but lifting the actual cup or beating the best teams in the country, heh, two teams have already ‘won’ the Cup. Lowestoft Town started in the Preliminary Round and got to the 1st Round proper for the first time in 32 years, where they only just lost to Wrexham. Belying the notion that the Cup is dead, Lowestoft’s attendances outmuscled their league attendances in every round except the Preliminary Round, a stage they’ve passed in 6 of the last 7 seasons so maybe the fans are getting a bit laissez faire about it. In the 3rd qualifying round they tripled their average attendance and it was around double for most of the run!

Actually, Lowestoft share this magnificent honour with another team who played in 6 rounds but this team played in more games and also have the distinction of being the last team to get knocked out who started right from the very start in the Extra Preliminary Round. This team didn’t really endear themselves to us early on – and indeed us to them. Firstly, we got them confused with the Mighty Ducks, our honest, careless, preview mistake. SORRY. Then we laughed at their central defender who had a hilariously bandaged head before the game had even started. During the game they were dogged but unconvincing and got out of jail with a barely deserved late equaliser. We then bottled traversing the Chilterns and the Aylesbury Vale to get to the replay, which we still regret.

Aylesbury started the FA Cup at the same time we did, at the very start, and got to the heady heights of the 4th Qualifying round, so we now have a soft spot for them. They got further than any other team except Lowestoft and played 9 (Nine) games, which is unlikely to be beaten in this year’s Cup. As much as any team in this tournament will win the cup, Aylesbury can perhaps quantitatively say, they have already.

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Most Helpful Club: This is perhaps a wishy washy award but also a qualitative counterpoint to the quantitative win of Aylesbury. Our winners here are a very lowly side but, before we get to them, a special mention must go to Howard Krais and Wealdstone, Andy Walker and Wembley and AFC Wimbledon. But, for amusingly pandering to our burgeoning ego by describing us as ‘media partners’, and for being encouraging, helpful and generous, this accolade goes specifically to Martyn Guest. and Richard Mann but more generally to BASILDON UNITED!

I am, myself, going to vomit as I tell you that all these teams, fans and players are WINNERS of this year’s real FA Cup. [wipes bile from lips] It’s true though, all of these things mean the Cup is great. They involve, largely, experiences we could not have had at Premier or Championship games, nor, most likely, at League 1, 2 or Blue Square Premier games. However, objectively, we have noted, you have voted and, overall, your team of the tournament winners are:


1. Wealdstone 53%
2. Aylesbury 27%
3. Lowestoft Town 7%
4. Forest Green Rovers 4%

That is more or less it from us on the FA Cup for this season, the ingrates of the top two tiers can have their version of the Cup, the one they think is devalued, the one they have devalued, yet the one they think they own. We say ‘they’ but it is also ‘their’ fans and the hacks who do it down. It’s also us and other fans. We all seem to moan about viewing unglamorous ties, yet fans don’t turn up when Premier Lge plays Premier Lge. Even when there is an upset these days (Reading over Liverpool, Leeds over Man Utd), the media emphasis is always on the failings of the higher team, it is very rare that the achievement of the underdog is celebrated. It MUST be the failure of the ‘better’ team.

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As self-righteous and pompous as that most obviously is, without the teams from the top two tiers the Cup would arguably be nothing. They are the teams that the non-league teams strive to face. However, what THEY constantly forget is that without the little teams the FA Cup is just the Carling Cup – and THEY wouldn’t want that now, would THEY? Without the big boys the FA Cup is just the FA Trophy or FA Vase and the little guys wouldn’t want that, would they?

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