the real fa cup

The Joy Of Sixty

Despite the evidence to the contrary, it is still summer.

Our first chance to witness FA Cup action this season had been lost under a deluge at Cobham a fortnight ago but the forecast for Preliminary Round weekend was much more promising so we chose a game in Sussex, imagining rolling countryside, real ale and sunshine as we enjoyed the football.

Sadly our chosen side, Lingfield, share their ground with the local cricket team who take precedence and so they chose to switch their Preliminary Round tie to Corinthian Casuals’ King George’s Field in Tolworth. Undeterred, we stuck with our original plan and spent an hour or two on Friday researching pubs in the local area. The results, as they say, were disappointing.

As it turns out, of the five pubs in Tolworth listed on beerinthevening, 3 have closed down and the other two looked less than inviting. Beer in Wimbledon was the emergency substitute and turned out reasonably pleasant in spite of the antipodean sports bar we found ourselves in and the proliferation of Chelsea fans preparing themselves for the onslaught of Tony Pulis and his ogres.

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A short train ride and a serene and beautiful stroll along the side of the A3 later, passing a dilapidated bowling alley on the way and we had arrived at The Big Match. Although the locals (of which there were many – this is a very residential area) didn’t seem to think that it was quite so big and had stayed away in their droves. Were they all stuck indoors, desperately trying to retune their TV sets to pick up Sky Sports Saturday, a channel they could have sworn they had on there just the other day? Or were they simply not interested in their local side? Who knows, but one thing was certain and that was that our mighty band of four had swelled the crowd by more than 7% to a new realfacup record low crowd of 60 people! And a dog.

Yes, believe it or not, the old image that comes into one’s head when imagining poorly attended football matches was in plain evidence in Tolworth on Saturday as the game was witnessed, quite literally, by one man and his dog.

The first thing we noticed on arrival at Casuals’ ground was the fantastic array of colours that were on offer on the pitch. Casuals’ famous pink & chocolate shirts contrasted psychedelically with Lingfield’s red and yellow vertical stripes and the blue sky and gloriously green and lush playing surface made for a feast for the eyes. It was like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory the day Vivienne Westwood was asked to come in and design a new type of bubblegum for CBeebies.

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Once my subsequent headache had subsided I managed to focus on what was going on on the pitch. To the constant drone of the traffic on the nearby A3, Casuals played the ball around quite neatly and always seemed to have the away-from-home home side where they wanted them.

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Despite a mini-soap opera between right back Nsugba and Johnson on the right wing and a decent Lingfield shot from distance which Danny Broken in the Casuals goal had to tip round the post, Casuals always looked in control and their patience and neat build up was rewarded midway through the first half when a shot from the edge of the Lingfield penalty area was tipped onto the bar by diminutive keeper, Aaron White, only to be tapped into the empty net with ease by Reggie Savage.

Our half-time pint was interrupted by Mu Mann, one of the home side’s substitutes who was interested in what level of media coverage he might receive if he made it onto the pitch at some point. I promised him an extensive feature and left him to his chocolate bar, wondering whether a Snickers is the type of half-time snack that Premier League nutritionists recommend.

Having swapped wings to be near the dugouts for the second half, I was rewarded with some good coach/linesman exchanges, my particular favourite being the moment when a flag went up for offside from a Casuals goal kick. “You can’t be offside from a goal kick, lino”, was the call from Brian Adamson on the home bench. There followed a rather too long pause before the linesman replied “Errr, it was for a push”. Very convincing.

The second half was much like the first, Casuals with most of the possession but not much of a killer instinct up front to finish the job early. Lingfield created very few chances and rarely looked like causing an upset. The game was wrapped up eventually by Scott Hassell, getting in front of his man from a corner and heading in to make it 2-0, a goal which was captured on video by one of our group.

Lingfield huffed and puffed but never really created anything to worry the lads in pink and chocolate and the game petered out in the end, as we sheltered under the stand behind the goal due to the rain that had crept in whilst the game had played out.

The man and his dog went home happy and we returned to the train, knowing that looking for a pub in the local area would be a fruitless search.

It is truly a sad thing to see games like this being attended by such a small crowd. If anything, I would expect their attendances to go down as the autumn and winter draws in and you have to wonder how long a club can continue to trade when their gate receipts for a sunny day in the FA Cup only bring in £300.

Video courtesy of the Ubiquitous Taylor.

2 Comments
  1. Enjoyed listening to you guys on the two radio shows. I do exactly what you two do – but in the north. Any chance of a link? I have a link to your site on mine.

    Paul.

  2. Cheers Kirky, sorry for the delay. Yes, of course. Thanks, we may be back in podcast form in the near future.
    Damon

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