the real fa cup

Up For The Cup?

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The FA Cup? We are. Of course. Naturally. It’s what we do. The World Cup was draining, not physically because we couldn’t get a game for some reason, but alcoholically it took us to the precipice, dangled us over the edge by the ankles and told us to act our age not our IQ.

So, after a couple of weeks R&R taking in some relaxing worldwide heritage sites, WE ARE BACK!

The 2010-11 FA Cup is imminent and is one of the oldest institutions in world football, 139 years old this year, so it is. It always used to be the highlight, and culmination of, the footballing season. Like Liverpool’s Premier League title chances, the FA Cup has seen better days and its relevance is now questioned in an age where pan-European club competition is de rigeur and the seemingly irresistible ‘glamour’ of the Premier League is like a gaudy pied piper for impressionable chavs. Or zeitgeisty, for the middle class. But we still love it, the FA Cup that is, because clubs don’t need a vast fortune to participate in it, fans don’t need to break the bank to follow it and it is as much about punching above your weight for as long as possible as it is about actually winning the thing.

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It’s a long, long journey from start to finish though and 700+ clubs will slog it out this year. Our winners from last year were Aylesbury, they started at the start, they got 6 rounds in and played 9 games before being knocked out in the 4th Qualifying round. We did ponder starting there this year but such was their success they’re not even in the very first round this time! They kick off with the next lot at Preliminary Round stage, so we must choose another.

After mild consideration, some head scratching, looking at photos, taking hints and throwing numbers into a hat, we came up with Arundel v Hailsham Town. We’ve never been to Arundel but are acutely aware it is best known in sporting circles for its picturesque cricket pitch and matches between the Duke of Norfolk’s XI and various invitational sides.

Football fan’s friend, Google Maps, seem to suggest the football pitch is of equal quaint appeal and most suitable for summer afternoons. Also, friends of therealfacup leapt to assure us that it was a ground worthy of visit. Stuart Fuller nodded in appreciation while Danny Last got all misty eyed recalling his finest goal scored on that very ground. How could we turn it down when it had been bigged up so lucidly?

Of course, these early games are not well attended, not by the standard football measurement of thousands anyway. But for us this is part of the appeal. To be reading this you are, presumably, a football fan? For most of the next 9 months you’re going to be cold, possibly wet, sitting next to someone you hate and, result dependent, possibly miserable. The FA Cup detour is almost ‘no-lose’. You get to watch a lot of footy when it’s warm and sunny not restricted by seating, you don’t really care who wins, you meet some hard working folk who live for their local clubs, you don’t have to pay much to get in and, on the whole, you get to watch an entertaining game not stifled by fear of defeat.

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I say you don’t really care who wins but, although we here at therealfacup try to be impartial, quite frequently partiality goes out the window mid-game. That said, so far, neither of us have been to either Arundel or Hailsham so they are level pegging. Arundel sounds nice, with a quaint river, some nice villagey pubs and it’s relatively easy to get to from London. Hailsham sounds less aesthetically appealing but not a steaming hovel.

As far as I can ascertain neither team has any direct or indirect footballing link to anyone who we have previously encountered or liked/disliked in football. Both teams are in the Sussex County League Division 1 so, on the surface, this appears to be a routine league game. Arundel beat Hailsham thrice last term but not by much although, perhaps ominously, prior to last year’s blip of 12th Arundel finished in the top 3 in three consecutive seasons. Hailsham didn’t, so it looks like the hosts have the recent form edge.

Neither team has exactly caused the FA Cup’s loins to stir. The hosts manage the 2nd Qualifying Round on occasion while the visitors have managed one round further on a couple of occasions. Hailsham had a purple patch in the late 80s/early 90s when they got to the 3rd Qualifying Round in successive seasons and the 5th round of the Vase.

A final thought is that you shouldn’t leave this game early to catch the train. Hailsham have apparently come back from 4-0 down in the FA Cup and imploded from 3-1 up to lose to our old chums Dulwich Hamlet so it aint over ’til it’s over.

Saturday August 14th 3pm at Arundel FC We have been told it’s £5 but that is currently TBC.

And while we’re here, why not have a squint at Non League Day. Get involved and remember (or discover) what else is out there when your allegedly BIG team isn’t playing.

2 Comments
  1. All the cool kids will be sampling the pies at Glossop North End. But you be sure to have fun with out us, y’hear.

  2. Damon Threadgold

    Of course they will but we’ll struggle through down South with fish and chips. Be careful now.

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