The way the match started took us by surprise. We exchanged a look which spoke volumes. It was one of those moments for which the footballing book of clichés was conceived. The home side kicked off, a long ball forward, three runners breaking from midfield, bewilderment and confusion shaking the visitor’s defence, a leg outstretched in the mêlée, the keeper beaten. Less than a minute played, the score was already one nil.
Surely we were in for a rare feast of goals. If the hapless defending and powerful, direct running of the home side were to be repeated a few more times this could be an embarrassing trip north for the Wells City team.
Little did we suspect as we glanced knowingly at one another that thanks to some truly inspired keeping from the splendidly named Ed Baldy in the home goal mouth, we had, in fact, already witnessed the decisive moment. The result would be one nil, Odd Down had secured the points in the first seconds of the match and in truth never threatened the visitor’s goal again. Nor did they need to.
There were some nice touches, some bruising tackles, one moment which nearly resulted in fisticuffs and we strolled home feeling our six pounds had been well spent.
We are both Arsenal fans but for the day we had decided to go along and support my companion’s local team. And you’ll never guess what? The experience, despite over ninety minutes without a sniff of another goal, was easily the most enjoyable football related afternoon I can remember for many years.
After the howling insanity which followed what was no more than a disappointing result last week, returning to the simple pleasure of football for football’s sake was the perfect antidote. It made me realise how little I now care for the ridiculous overblown pomposity of Sky’s Premier League and its attendant hysteria. I’ve had enough. I’ll never stop caring about Arsenal, that thorn is sunk too deep to be easily pulled, but I can’t be arsed with all of the bullshit that goes with it any more.
Thank goodness then for non league involvement this evening. Thank goodness for the eccentricity of the FA Cup which can still throw up Sutton United versus Arsenal in an important competition and with a quarter final place at stake. This game at least feels somewhat removed from the usual fandangle and hyperbole that has all but poisoned any hope of enjoyment in the Murdoch Money Go Round.
I suppose I’m referring to the much vaunted ‘magic’ of the FA Cup and my God we could do with someone to wave a wand and give everyone back a little perspective in these febrile days of shameful self flagellation. With one non league side already through and destined to face the winner of tonight’s tie there is certainly enough romance for softies like me to reaffirm our love for this venerable competition.
Lincoln, I imagine, are torn between which outcome suits them best. If Sutton do to us what they did to Burnley then they will face non league opposition in the quarter finals and have the best possible chance to progress to an historic Wembley semi. If we manage to avoid being the fall guy in the biggest upset in the history of the tournament then they get to visit the Emirates – one of the greatest away days for any team. It’s win win for them really given the way the draw has panned out. If they do face Sutton and beat them they would probably meet Chelsea, Man City or Millwall. One of those they will fancy beating and the other two they’d be happy to share a pitch with. It’s fascinating stuff and whatever the outcome this has been a wonderfully unpredictable competition.
I assume we will see a similar side to that which last played in the FA Cup. This isn’t weakening our team as a mark of disrespect to either the opposition nor the tournament. This is realpolitik in an age where footballers are like racehorses brought to a level of fitness so taut that they are at once fast and powerful, and yet balanced on a knife edge with every fibre and sinew stretched to near breaking point. With vital league matches and a huge return game in the Champion’s League on the near horizon players have to be managed, rested and rotated.
Anyway, as much as I want to win, it’s just another football match and the nonsense I’ve witnessed in the aftermath of the Bayern game has made me ever more determined not to get sucked into the debate nor the histrionics surrounding it. Shout and moan all you like and the circus will roll on regardless. You had just as well demand an actor get sacked from the film you’re watching in the cinema as demand this player be sold or that manager brought in. Either way you’re living in La La Land if you think your voice matters.
Positive or negative fans have a simple choice; watch the game, or don’t watch the game. It will happen either way and it won’t notice you. Unless you come and watch Odd Down FC’s next home fixture against Longwell Green Sports. The attendance would then go from fifty to fifty one and I can guarantee your voice would get heard. I wouldn’t yell abuse at any of the players mind you. They’re big lads, and I don’t think they’d be quite as restrained as the Premier League stars you swear at on Twitter.