the real fa cup

Sutton Bogged Down

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Picture, if you will, the photo on the front cover of Jeff Perkins’ ‘A Tale of Two Uniteds’. Jack Charlton. Less a footballer, more a post-war schoolboy confused by why his neighbour won’t give his ball back. Picture, again, if you will, this man below on the right. His name is Cashley and he’s a professional idiot.

This Saturday morning a collective male eyebrow was raised at the sight of the latest instalment of Cole’s world tour of faintly haggard bottle blondes. That Ashley chooses to shmoozes with this bevy of provincial hairdressers is perhaps indicative of his notorious lack of class. It is perhaps an example of the bullet-proof psyche modern footballers seem to have developed.

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It would be pious to condemn Cole too much, we’re all fallible, he is simply one half of our example of the glorious contrasts in football. The life of a top footballer now is so at odds with Wor Jackie and, more pertinently today, the man pictured behind him, Sutton United’s Peter Drabwell.

Chelsea’s maverick sinistra is sorted, he has no worries, he is set for life, he can act with impunity in every sphere. Jack and Peter’s peers, on the other hand, were not so lucky. In their day a mistimed tackle or an unfortunate incident could so easily have seen serious injury, loss of career and loss of livelihood, even for well known professionals.

Football’s not the same, money runs football, it’s not a game anymore … yadda yadda yadda … Not more of this bleating about the state of the modern game? Well, no. We’ve just started reading the aforementioned book and it genuinely does bring a lump to your throat and shows the stark reality of how football has changed. The point being, we liked the sound of the book, it was FA Cup related and this weekend we had no cup football to view and our man at Sutton United was going to furnish us with a copy. So, we went to meet him and watch the U’s play Tooting & Mitcham.

Once in Mitcham we snuck into a local hovel to watch the sodom and gomorrah show on Sky Italia Tutti Bella dodgy live feed. Much to our amusement, Moyesyey was delivering a substitution masterclass to old Mr Injury Time and his bunch of ludicrants. Then we realised this meant Chelsea would win the league. Bollocks.

Leaving lager land we crossed the River Wandle with it’s picturesque riverbank houses and through the bankside trees appeared the impressive home of the Terrors. Imperial Fields is a cracking little stadium that T&M physio Denis Lawton told us was actually yet to be completed. Big plans are afoot here, another main stand is to go up facing the current one and the increasingly famous Bog End is to be expanded while the bog behind it is to be transformed into a 3G training pitch.

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Our man from Sutton is Gerard Mills, or MIllsy as he first introduced himself to us via the conduit of the i.n.t.e.r.n.e.t. We tiptoed across the red carpet towards the centre circle where, with mic in hand, Millsy presented us with our golden, hand crafted copy of Jeff Perkins’ tome. We bowed, took our bounty with gratitude, held it aloft to the cheering crowd and retired to the edge of the impressive massed bank of away fans. This actually happened but is top secret, off-piste realfacup information so you probably won’t read about it elsewhere.

As this game kicked off Tooting & Mitcham and Sutton Utd were separated only by goal difference and the terrifying fractured line that separates the end of season play off lottery from another season in the same division.

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With form, line ups and previous localish derbyish knowledge aquired from Millsy, we watched as Sutton tore into Tooting’s poor home form. The bulk of possession was yellow and bar one smartly saved counter attack, the early chances went the away side’s way.

Matt Hann was scythed down on the left, the ref played advantage and Gargan failed to connect 3 yards out. Should have been 1-0 Sutton but the hack also served to warm up the niggles. A few minutes later Quarm clipped a ball through the Terrors defence, Charlie Taylor ran on to it and Dave King tipped his shot round the post.

As the half hour approached and the hard but mostly fair challenges continued to fly, Tooting finally started getting in to the game. The wick turned up further when Tooting’s former Carshalton defender Colin ‘Mad Dog’ Hartburn and Sutton’s James Norwood started slapping each other. ‘Told you’ said Millsy, confirming his pre-match prediction that Hartburn would at least get booked and probably sent off.

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A bit of even ebb and flow preceded the sucker punch the Sutton faithful had feared their lack of goals might bring when Simon Parker, a teacher by profession like Peter Drabwell, found himself in space on the right and slotted comfortably past Scriven.

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Sutton had an instant chance to reply but Gargan again failed to convert Taylor’s lay off. Quarm got booked for a late tackle and it was half time. ‘2-1’ said Millsy confidently as he sloped off to the boardroom and we ambled to the bar.

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Nice bar. Limited booze. Certainly not the Hogs Back T.E.A advertised in the programme, were we in the right bar? MASSIVE Stellingvision on the wall. I fairly promptly tipped my generic lager on the floor. Twat. Got another. But at least Ipswich were winning. I wonder who will get the equaliser” quipped Ryan. The spillage made us late. The beer Hitlers wouldn’t let us out of the bar to watch the second half start so we watched from the door where we could see one penalty box. It was riveting. Four minutes of watching Scriven amble around his area. Blinding.

The second half was a corker. 58 mins – Ball over the top, looked like Hann was through, looked like Mad Dog caught him, second yellow, first red. Millsy spot on. Tooting down to ten.

The resultant free kick was played down the left, Norwood cut inside and took a tumble. It looked a blatant dive, the ref just waved play on. Paul Vines wasn’t happy and had a bit of a foot-stamping paddy in protest at the perceived dive. Nothing happened.

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A man down and Tooting were getting worse. They were OK in the first half but ‘only by attrition’, Ryan pointed out. I actually thought they should glimpses of some nice play, they just look woefully shy of confidence. ‘The lino looks like a woman’ added Ryan, almost exactly as I was thinking exactly the same thing. It was the menopausal, short, grey hair gave it away.

It was fairly consistent pressure from Sutton now and I was looking for some arty photos and musing that Tooting were ‘actually defending quite well’ just as comedy defending presented Gargan with a half chance that he frapped into the corner.

Tooting & Mitcham 1 Sutton Utd 1

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There was only going to be one winner. Mann haired down the right, burst into the box and was floored (above left). Stone wall, nailed on, definite penalty. Not according to hermaphralino. Not according to the whistler Eric Mackrell. Definitely something fishy about that decision. Sorry.

With time running out Gargan rapped the post with a chance easier than he’d scored but harder than he’d already missed. Millsy had a better view, he said it looked like it was going wide. A point gained for T&M, two points dropped for Sutton but the Gambians looked better equipped to make the play offs. Indeed, having written this while watching Manchester City .v. Liverpool bore the country to death, I have to wonder whether both of these non-league players are that much worse than their richer counterparts.

Cheers to Gerard for the book, we owe him a drink or two when we finally make it down to Gander Green Lane. We’ve only just got hold of Jeff Perkins book but from what we’ve read we recommend you get hold of one. We’d also like to thank Denis Lawton for his few words as we caught a cheeky tab by the dugout.

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