F.A. Cup, 2008.
"SATURDAY 13th SEPTEMBER
Greensnet Forum: The Inane Drivel Guide to... Royston.
OOOOH ARRRRH YA?
“Are you local?”
It’s a shame that Royston, Hertfordshire bears no resemblance to Royston Vasey. (Royston Vasey is Chubby Brown’s given name.) Royston’s a parochial place, though. It’s Hertfordshire, Jim, but not as we know it. This may as well be East Anglia.
Like anywhere moderately pleasant, Royston has immigration problems. Unwanted Londoners continue to “Come over ’ere, taking our jobs and our women!” and are quite clearly to blame for a shocking decline in standards. In an event seen in some local circles as heralding the imminent arrival of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the town has elected two Liberal councillors to dilute the usual Tory contingent. However, Royston remains a proper Home Counties market town, with a proper market. “Sunday joint” means something more traditional in Royston than in most of the places Hendon visit in the Ryman Premier and those attending by car could probably do far worse than pick-up theirs in the town’s market.
One tradition’s almost gone. Willie Stephenson sent out Arctic Prince to win the Derby and Oxo to win the Grand National from Royston in the 1950s. These days, derby excitement is confined to playing pre-season friendlies against Baldock Town. One-time summer National Hunt king John Jenkins still trains nags of respectable ability on the Baldock Road, but he’s very unlikely to win the Grand National and I’ve more chance of winning the National Lottery tonight than Mr. Jenkins has of winning the Surrey Downhill Stakes, for immature colts and fillies, that’s staged at the wrong track, over the wrong distance and at the wrong time of year each June. There appear to be no other trainers in the vicinity these days.
Wikipedia is a notoriously unreliable source of information – just like these guides really. However, one section of its Royston entry tells you a lot. It lists seven notable Royston natives: one poet, one grammarian, one turbulent priest, one astronomer, one anatomical wax model-maker, the founder of English Presbyterianism and... wait for it... a bloke who translated the Bible into Mongolian. The most recent date of birth of the magnificent septet is 1806. This is a seriously cutting-edge place!
John Littlechild was a typical Royston native – doffing his cap sufficiently often to make DCI and be the first head of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch.
Just to prove that not all stereotypes are correct, even in Royston, the colourful Geoff Huffer, in turn an apprentice jockey, travelling head lad, drummer with Mungo Jerry, Royal Ascot winning trainer, chief Guns ’n’ Roses roadie, haulage contractor, liquor-smuggler, medium-term guest of Her Majesty and 2,000 Guineas-winner last year, is an atypical Royston native.
Royston has one notable place of interest – Royston Cave. This was unearthed in 1742. It’s a subterranean chamber with all sorts of religious and militaristic imagery cut into the walls and it clearly dates from several centuries before its rediscovery. Of course, like everything else remotely connected to theological mystery, the Royston Cave was definitely built by the Knights Templar in the 1200s.
As shown by the figures, the Templars were so advanced that they went around in full armour when everyone else was still in chain-mail. Copies of “The DaVinci Code” will be on sale at a reasonable price.
Personally, I’d consider this well worth a look. Sadly, it’s only open at weekends between 2:30 and 5pm. It’s also prone to flooding, so is not usually open after periods of heavy rain. Down the pub for a pre-match pint it is then.
Speaking of pubs, this will be the one game this term where our beer aficionado Snarling Mallard will have no difficulty finding a Real Ale outlet. In fact, I’d be surprised if he found a pub that doesn’t sell Real Ale.
Caravan Compatibility Co-Efficient: 0*
(*Although there was a slight pikey problem a couple of decades ago, the merest suggestion that anyone from Royston would be seen dead in a caravan is likely to be viewed as actionable.)
No great history here. The 1970s brought Hertfordshire County League success and a South Midlands Division One win. These remain their only notable pots. Royston did spend a decade in the lower depths of the Isthmian League from the mid-80s to the mid-90s but chose to resign after “improved” ground grading regulations saw their stadium labelled unfit for Isthmian consumption.
They’ve had eight managers since 1998. A moneybags chairman arrived last autumn and their attendances rose from a few early gates in the 20s to well over 100 for some games. Between early December and early February they won home matches by margins of 7-0, 4-1, 8-0, 4-0, 6-0 and 5-0, before the chairman swiftly gave up the chair and results returned to being merely good. They finished ten points adrift of Kentish Town in the final table. They still seem well-backed and look a club destined for bigger things.
People in Royston do not commit offences.
Spartan South Midlands Division One, three notches down from the Ryman Premier, is the division occupied by Amersham Town, where Hendon played pre-season. Royston are going well, picking up 13 points from six games so far. They’ve thumped Wembley 4-0 and won 3-1 at AFC Hayes (the former Brook House) in the FA Cup. They’ve also beaten Harpenden Town 4-0 and won 5-0 at Arlesey Athletic in the League. Their success appears to be based on attacking intent and they have two strikers with experience of life at a higher level in Craig Hammond and Ryan Lockett.
Anyone we know playing?
Ryan Lockett, who was at Borehamwood for a while. I saw his only start for Cambridge United, a Good Friday evening game in 2004 that just about did for York City’s Football League existence, and he looked a fair prospect. Ex-Spurs and Ireland winger Tony Galvin is a former manager and seems to be back on the coaching staff.
Who do you boo?
Boo? In Royston? Local by-laws allow any oik found guilty of anything so uncouth to be placed in the stocks on market day. The same goes for not doffing your cap to the local squire or failing to attend church on Sunday.
AT ROYSTON THEY BET...
I’m surprised they allow betting in Royston but there are apparently two branches of Ladbrokes in the town. Cyril Stein himself would never have allowed betting on anything as lowly as football at this level. However, Uncle Rupert’s lot have priced-up the cup games and have chalked the Crows at 11/2, Hendon at 4/9 and the draw at 11/4.
Tony Galento may almost have beaten Joe Louis for the Heavyweight Title, Andrew Castle may almost have beaten Mats Wilander at Wimbledon, Georgia may almost have beaten Ireland at the last Rugby World Cup... but Royston have as much chance of beating Hendon as Chubby Brown has of being the next chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality.
Powderpuff or not, Hendon are technically too good for this lot. Unless the visiting keeper gets sent off early and Royston have a lot of luck, this is a foregone conclusion.
Royston 1, Hendon 5.
A spooky start to the day. Since Paul Haigh’s removal from the paper, the first thing I read in the Racing Post each Saturday is Sir Clement Freud’s column.
Today, he relates a tale from some years ago. It involves Royston. Unavoidably en route between appointments in Westminster and his Fenland constituency in mid-afternoon, Sir Clement needed to find somewhere to watch a horse of his running. As post-time loomed, he was on the A10 near Royston.
He diverted into the town, found an almost deserted independent betting shop and settled down to see his nag in action. His vigil was rudely interrupted.
“This is a betting shop, not an effing viewing parlour!” exclaimed the one bloke behind the counter.
Sir Clement looked at the screens, noticed a greyhound race at Monmore was the next event to go off, grabbed a betting slip and had a £20 forecast on the dog in trap two to beat the dog in trap four. He was born on April 24th 1924 and twenty-four is his number at roulette... or random greyhound forecasts. Perhaps it was an open race, as the pair were big outsiders.
Presumably after some trouble in running, the duo duly came in first and second. The fuming cashier had to lock up temporarily and visit a bank to get Sir Clement’s winnings of more than £1,000.
I feel that tale might be embellished slightly. In the days when he was an MP, he’d have been hard pressed to find a betting shop with a TV, as it was illegal to have a TV on display in a betting shop. The manager at a Mecca I worked for in days of yore used to bring in a portable set for big meetings and keep it under the counter, but it was a sackable offence to allow punters so much as a glance: constituting, as it did, an act of encouragement to induce the poor schmoes to gamble – something Her Majesty’s Government would never have done in those unenlightened times.
Nowadays, I half expect to see MPs flogging scratchcards outside the St Stephen’s Entrance every time I pass the Palace of Westminster; gambling being an exciting “leisure activity”, which, as with most “industries” deregulated and supported by adherents of the Blairite Creed, has the benefit of allowing vast sums of money to be made, without any wealth being created, with no risks being taken and with scarcely any work being done.
Off course “bookmakers” these days may as well be civil servants for all the work they do and for all the exposure they have to the Real World of capitalism and market forces. If I were running the country, they would be civil servants, as off-course betting shops would be a government monopoly.
Mind you, Sir Clement doesn’t say he was an MP when the episode occurred; merely that he was dashing to his constituency, so perhaps it was relatively recent event.
A day out. A new town to visit, a new ground to experience and a warm, sunny day. The magic of the FA Cup.
There’s certainly some magic somewhere. Football fans, and everyone else, are often delayed by engineering works on our decrepit rail network. However, today sees passengers for Royston receive a better than normal service, thanks to engineering works.
How’s that? Well, Royston is normally served by a stopping commuter train but it gets an express service today. The track between Royston and Cambridge is being worked on, so the London to Cambridge express shuttle terminates at Royston. Very handy. The type of diversity about which I have no complaints. Grim-faced, Cambridge-bound travellers exit Royston station and head for the replacement bus service.
I’ve arrived early. I head for the town centre, in search of a pub, the ground and Clement Freud’s betting shop. The betting shop has gone, as there are no independents in the town. Perhaps the manager got a job on the railways. He sounded well suited to that. I soon track down the ground, which looks very nice. The main church is moderately interesting. There are a few fairly decent pubs. The tour of Royston doesn’t take long.
I always make a point of buying local newspapers when watching games in isolated places.
“Sheep killed in accident on ‘lethal’ A505”, announces the front page headline in the weekly Royston Crow. A big picture of a crane retrieving a livestock container dominates the page and the relevant farmer gets a picture as well. The Royston Crow devotes the whole of the back page to a preview of this afternoon’s game.
The larger Buntingford & Royston Mercury (Established 1772 – let’s get those colonies in the Americas back now!) limits its excitement to a “Crows to face World Cup star” headline on an inside page, for a piece centred on the match report of Royston’s 3-1 loss at Stony Stratford. I can’t see Bontcho lining up this afternoon.
Royston’s possession of the “Wembley to Wembley” torch means there are journalists all over the shop as I return to the ground at 2:15. The well-kitted-out TV crew is apparently from a station in South Africa and they’ve been following players and coaches of both clubs during the week. There appear to be as many grizzled veterans as young wannabes in the substantial press corps. I have two shots at the golden goal. My luck appears to be out. Forty-eight and sixty are going to be far too high.
In common with most people of my social class who have endured significant personal experience of dealing with Her Majesty’s Metropolitan Filth, I am uncomfortably close to endorsing the belief that the only good Metropolitan Police officer is a dead Metropolitan Police officer. There are only two beneficial uses I can think of for a live one: vivisection and target practice.
I’m not generally keen on police officers eyeing me up. There are, however, exceptions to every rule. As I walk around the pleasant ground, I notice that there’s a big bloke in a red shirt on the pitch, putting keeper Berkley Laurencin through his paces over in the far corner of the ground. He gives me a wave as I round the far corner flag. This is a serious double-take. Richard Wilmot of the Hertfordshire Constabulary, Hendon’s Player of the year in 2006/07 and pretty darned close to being the best keeper in the Ryman Premier is wearing a Hendon goalkeeping shirt. I’m flabbergasted. Cambridge City, the club he joined in the summer, are in FA Cup action today, so what’s he doing here?
He’s left Cambridge City and rejoined Hendon. A slight disagreement over his style of play with the manager, who’s a friend and work colleague, followed by no fewer than three mistakes in two games, all three of which led to goals, meant a parting of the ways. The two late concessions against Mangotsfield, in a home game Cambridge City dominated, were especially galling.
He has a few aches but he is match fit. He’s honest enough to admit that he moved primarily because he was getting a few quid more at Cambridge, but he lives in north Hertfordshire and I know he’d rather be driving around the Midlands or going along the M4 than negotiating London traffic or the M25 on trips to the South Coast. He’s not in the XI today but he won’t have come back to take part in pre-match warm-ups.
I begin my report: “Hendon’s travelling supporters witnessed a display of consummate professionalism, conducted with thoroughness and panache, at Garden Walk this afternoon. But that’s quite enough of describing Richard Wilmot’s warm-up and his performance of putting Berkley Laurencin through his paces.”
There wasn’t to be much professionalism by anyone in a green shirt for the rest of the afternoon.
Both the Crow and the Mercury reported Royston manager Paul Attwell as being scathing in his opinions of the team’s performance at Stony Stratford last week. He wields the axe and opts for an interesting team selection and tactical plan. Boasting two livewire strikers with experience at a much higher level, Mr. Attwell, to the astonishment of all and sundry, elects to drop the pair. I suppose either one or both of Craig Hammond and Ryan Lockett might have been carrying an injury.
The Crows line up with Will Turl as a lone striker. Lone? He could have been on loan at another club and still not been much further away from his nearest team-mate than he was for most of the opening quarter. For a biggish number nine, Turl was technically impressive but he’d have needed to be international class to bring a colleague into the game when the nearest white shirt to him was usually thirty yards to his rear whenever he received the ball.
What made this masterplan all the more extraordinary was the absence of gorillas, thugs or industrial-strength challenges from a neat and skilful Royston side. There doesn’t appear to be much point in sticking ten men behind the ball and then attempting to play football against a team from three divisions up the Pyramid, though it should be pointed out that their skipper, Allan Reid, was absent. Reid, allegedly a no-nonsense defender, is apparently a squaddie and his regiment shipped out to Germany at short notice.
All in all, Mr. Attwell made four changes from the XI that surrendered their unbeaten record against Stony Stratford.
Hendon make only one change from the team beaten by Dover on Tuesday, with Daggers loanee Kayan Kalipha replacing James Bent at centre-forward. Bent isn’t in the squad, which features seven substitutes under the ridiculous FA Cup rule that is indicative of the over-staffing that’s so popular in all walks of life these days. Recession? What recession?
Sunny afternoon, not much wind, lovely ground, grass quite long but a nice pitch and a decent crowd – officially in excess of 300 but with the press contingent presumably not counted in that tally. Away we go on the road to the Illuminated Arch.
Both teams are playing with just one man up front. Although the real policeman isn’t in the Hendon team, both sides deploy a policeman in front of the back-four. James Burgess has the temperament to make a wonderful policeman – so long as the role’s in a remake of “A Clockwork Orange” – and he fills the holding position in the new 4-1-4-1 formation.
Regardless of either personnel changes or complex formations, this ought to be as one-sided as Tony Blair v. George Washington in a lying competition.
Hendon are soon on the attack and young Kayan eludes centre-half James Babbage, darting through on keeper Richard Barlow but dragging a disappointing shot wide. Hendon win a free-kick in a good position and Sam Byfield beats the wall, only to see Barlow swoop low to his left and fist the ball wide for a corner.
It’s not all one-way traffic. Jamie Busby is caught in possession by the industrious Will Turl who, having won the ball for himself in a relatively deep position, finds a white shirt within radar range. He advances and feeds lefty Luke Robins but the winger fires wide.
It takes almost thirteen minutes for Hendon to gain the lead. A blocked shot falls nicely for Charlie Mapes, just to the right of the penalty spot, and he takes a touch before blasting a low drive past the exposed Barlow. One-nil and all set fair.
Things then begin to go very slightly pear-shaped. James Burgess goes to ground on the edge of the Hendon box and blocks a shot at close range with his hands. The referee waves away the Town appeals for a penalty. Not quite a stonewall job, but I expected the man in black to either point to the spot or award a free-kick almost on the 18-yard line. Hendon begin to give the ball away in the middle third and players begin to chip away at each other and chirp at the referee.
As Turl is still up top on his own, with no sign of support, and Royston are looking about as threatening as a community officer armed with nothing more than an ASBO, this is all a bit unnecessary. Kevin Maclaren and Lubo Guentchev manage to commit clumsy fouls in the centre circle within two seconds of each other, thwarting the ref’s plan to play advantage after the first one. The referee waves a yellow card at Maclaren minor. Lefty Robins, a victim of one of those fouls, soon tests Berkley Laurencin with a 25-yard free-kick.
Hendon go back up the park and win a corner. Charlie Mapes and Sam Byfield do their snazzy little routine by the flag and Sam darts crablike across the field to the D. Sam is dispossessed, Crows midfielder Tom Malins breaks away on a sixty-yard run and only Turl’s unsuccessful attempt to take down an admittedly difficult centre, twelve yards out, prevents him having a free hit at Berkley’s goal.
Mr. McCann is not pleased.
The natives aren’t best pleased either. There were serious murmurings when the home team was announced and some Royston fans are now venting their frustrations quite loudly. Hendon look to be there for the taking, yet the chasm of thirty yards between Turl and his nearest colleague shows no sign of being closed.
Hendon at last rouse themselves. They neatly work Kalipha into a fair shooting position, but he has an airshot! I’m confident Trevor Brooking would have spotted a nasty bobble, had he been reviewing the incident for TV, but I just saw a Hale Irwin job. Buzza has a low shot tipped wide for a corner by Barlow, again getting down well to his left.
Hendon win a free-kick, ten yards outside the box. Charlie caresses it into Barlow’s top right corner. Great strike. Two-nil. Two minutes later, Lubo dances through the inside-right channel and finishes past Barlow with a low drive from eight yards. Three-nil.
Things still aren’t hunky-dory, though. Craig Vargas picks up a yellow, as much for kicking the ball away as anything else. Charlie joins him in the book for offering some unwanted advice to the referee. Two stupid bookings, when three-nil up, against a team from three divisions down the Pyramid. The discipline needs to be sorted out. After what has been comfortably their worst forty-five minutes of the season so far, Hendon go off three to the good and wondering how they did it.
The fact that Royston’s marking was often as accurate as that currently being displayed by boxing judges at the Olympics has nothing to do with it.
Halftime sees a huge number of crows making an awful racket from the field over the back. The Crows fans in the ground aren’t placated by the halftime introduction of Craig Hammond, who replaces the pretty but lightweight and ineffective Ross Collins. “A fat lot of good that’s going to do us now!” opines one native. It’s hard not to agree.
Hendon start the second half well. Byfield goes through on Barlow, who comes out towards the edge of his box and blocks a low drive at a range of about two yards.
Kalipha fires a shot wide of the keeper’s top left corner. To say that Kalipha is looking unimpressive is an understatement. Miriam Margolyes would be more convincing as Miss World than young Kayan is as a centre-forward.
Seeing me taking notes, one of the beat journos offers a comment: “Their centre-half’s probably no better than the average big, ugly number five at their level, but your striker’s making him look like Franco Baresi.”
It’s hard to disagree. Kalipha looked OK in Tuesday’s cameo but he’s an embarrassment here. He’s playing against a team six divisions below the Daggers and isn’t getting a sniff. I have to wonder whether he’s fasting for Ramadan. Maybe he’s been injured and isn’t match fit. Whatever the excuse, judged on this display, he can’t be on the books at a professional club.
At the other end, Hammond just fails to get his forehead over a far-post cross from a free-kick and his header sails wide. Turl flicks a tame shot that Berkley gathers.
The match appears to be over nine minutes after the interval. Busby manages to hold off both centre-halves, Cain and Babbage, as he bursts through the middle. Clear on the advancing Barlow, he finishes with aplomb from just inside the box. Four-nil. I stopped paying much attention from then on. So did a lot of other people in green shirts, including those on the field.
Hendon make a double substitution midway through the half. I hadn’t written down the subs, due to the lack of a team sheet as much as anything else, but Danny Dyer was apparently listed as wearing nineteen. The bloke who came on with Rakki Hudson was short, stocky, black, right-footed, with a short haircut and ran quite like Danny Dyer. I assumed it was Dyer, though he had the eighteen shirt on. It’s a while before anyone notices that the sub has a fairly round head and is sporting a tidily trimmed moustache. It isn’t Danny Dyer.
Apparently this was a new signing named Festus Mansaray. Festus is a common moniker in Nigeria, but Mansaray is a surname generally found well north of Lagos. Anyhow, the man’s from Hayes & Yeading, was on the books at Leicester and he looks okay. Maclaren and Mapes were the men to go off. Burgess drops into the back four. Arron Welch replaces the valiant Turl for Royston. Rakki almost scores immediately, bursting through on the right and being denied from six yards out by a brave save from Barlow.
Within seconds, Royston grab a consolation. It’s comical. Berkley gets debatably pulled for picking-up what the ref deems a backpass, six yards or so out and well to the right of his posts. Very harsh. Naively, the young keeper puts the ball down and retreats towards his goal. I think it was Hammond who unsportingly drove the resulting free-kick across a very sparsely-populated goalmouth before Berkley had retreated more than a couple of yards, but it was definitely Marc Leach who spectacularly sliced home the own goal from what looked about six yards out, with a couple of white shirts coming in behind him. Ouch! If you’re going to do something like that, do it at four-nil. Berkley will learn.
Royston soon strike again. Luke Robins goes on a solo dribble, ghosting past about five green shirts with the ball on his left peg, jinking away from Berkley and rolling the ball home. The visiting dugout is close to combustion. Four-two and still more than twenty minutes to play.
Hendon, clearly stung, storm back up the park. Lubo puts a free-kick from an A1 position well over the bar, with Charlie gnashing his teeth on the bench. Sam delicately attempts a lob for Barlow’s top right corner but the backpedalling keeper tips the ball over. Leach hits the bar with a header from the corner. The sub, Mr. Mansaray I assume, though it might have been Dyer for all the attention I was paying by this stage, fires in a shot from a narrow angle that has Barlow scrambling to claw the ball over his crossbar once more. Four decent chances inside four minutes.
Royston still look dangerous, with Hendon not seeming keen to leave a foot in or overexert themselves. Robins has a shot saved. Right-back Lewis Endacott hits a low shot that strikes a big divot and fortunately skips five feet off the ground but straight into Berkley’s gloves.
Mansaray goes past Michael Debnam and keeper Barlow inside the box. Wide of the posts, he greedily refuses to square for the unmarked Kalipha and loses the ball. Kalipha is displeased. Another small, dark and handsome sub arrives, this one for Craig Vargas. Probably Danny Dyer... but possibly not. Berkley has to catch a cross-shot underneath his bar before things go a bit awry with two minutes to play.
A loose fifty-fifty ball near the centre-circle sees Busby lunge with a Royston player. The ball is there to be won, but the home player gets there first. Buzza is a little high with his aim and most certainly does leave a foot in: noisily catching the Hertfordshire man. It sounded worse than it was, but it was, at best, very clumsy. An inquiry ensues and a red card is flashed.
Wise after the event, but should Buzza really have been diving in there with three minutes left in a cup tie and a two-goal lead? Hendon are a few midfielders down already and could do without a suspension. The injured Crows player, Conor DeLacy, is chaired off.
Berkley has one scramble to deal with before the final whistle sounds and Hendon are comfortably through to the next round. They’ll have to play a good deal better than this to get any further.
Result: Royston 2 (Leach o.g. 65, Robins 69), Hendon 4 (Mapes 13, 37, Guentchev 39, Busby 54).
Team: Berkley Laurencin, Kevin Maclaren, Craig Vargas, Marc Leach, Mark Kirby, Jamie Busby, Lubo Guentchev, James Burgess, Kayan Kalipha, Charlie Mapes, Sam Byfield. Subs – Rakki Hudson, Festus Mansaray, Danny Dyer.
This really was poor. The team looked so disjointed they could have been diagnosed with rickets. Losing streak or not, Hendon haven’t previously turned in a bad performance this season. Today’s display was the worst since a debacle at Harlow in January, when the hosts had their keeper carried off after twenty minutes, brought on a kid who looked about twelve, played garbage and won 3-1 – meaning we had to endure their air-raid siren going off three times. The stat count shows a nineteen-twelve lead for Hendon on goal attempts and a nine-two advantage on corners. It also shows that Royston had nineteen free-kicks to Hendon’s twelve, which is indicative of Hendon’s lack of control, as is a four-zero card tally.
Manager Attwell looks uneasy as he enters the clubhouse after the game. Well he might. The mood in the clubhouse is generally one of honour being satisfied in a good game, but one or two locals are muttering darkly. Regardless of the claptrap to the contrary spouted in the popular press, it’s rare that a manager can be held primarily responsible for a team’s defeat. Today was probably an exception.
It was a dire performance from the boss as regards selection and tactics. Teams at this level do not adopt a policy of concentrating on the league. The FA’s prizemoney fund will dole out a sum for winning this game that’s equivalent to what Royston would take at the gate in four home matches and that’s not to be sniffed at.
Still, on this display, I’d be pretty surprised if Royston don’t win their division comfortably. It’s a nice town and they seem a decent club. Good luck to them. Mr. Attwell hovers near the door but slowly gets into the post-match swing, nipping outside now and then for a word with the odd remaining journalist. He shagged up, but he looks as if he’s learned a lesson.
On the TV, Chelsea are playing Manchester City. City score early through a Robinho free-kick, much to the amusement of many of the watching Hendon players and much to the chagrin of Gary McCann, who’s an avid Chelsea fan. The poor managerial bug seems to have travelled quickly from the Royston dressing room to Manchester. Harvey Keitel’s line as Winston Wolf in “Pulp Fiction” springs to mind: “Let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks just yet, gentlemen.” Anyone would think City had just won the European Cup.
Sparky needed to be off that bench, screaming at his players to concentrate and get that first tackle in. In fairness, perhaps he was, but the cameras don’t show him doing it.
It’s one of those moments when I can almost see the attraction of watching a match whilst sitting in front of a Betfair screen. It should be obvious to any idiot that Chelsea are likely to get a pretty good chance to equalise within a couple of minutes, but the in-running prices will simply reflect City’s advantage. Chelsea kick-off, some sleepy City defending duly presents them with a chance at a second ball after about ninety seconds and the ball ends up in the Sky Blues’ net. How do people pay good money to watch these morons? I got rid of Sky in 1997 and I won’t be getting it back.
Watching the pros appears to have cheered the players and management up a fair bit. All the Hendon fans in the clubhouse are booked on the team coach going back. The call to board the coach goes up, everyone else in green departs and I’m on my own.
My curiosity isn’t sufficient to keep me in the bar watching City v. Chelsea, so I finish my third pint and trek back to the station; walking through a town centre which isn’t exactly a hive of activity.
Unlike in London, the people I view through pub windows having dinner probably won’t be regurgitating their meals on the pavements outside in a few hours from now.
The Underground train from King’s Cross is delayed. Drinking alcohol on the tube is verboten these days and a wino has been spotted taking a swig of something moderately poisonous. I count six London Underground staff, two pay-as-you-go Community Bozos and a British Transport Police officer. I didn’t spot any United Nations blue helmets, but I’m sure they must have been somewhere in the background and I’d assume at least one ombudsman and a couple of employees of Messrs. Scheister, Conmann, Weasel & Partners were amongst the enthralled assembly in plain clothes.
The wino is successfully removed and another step on the road to New Labour’s sterile and inoffensive utopia has been successfully taken.
Back home and it’s time for a donation. The plan for the player sponsorship scheme was for Board members to hang back and wait for other fans to have their pick of their favourite players. The scheme has gone well, with almost every player now sponsored. I decide it’s time to step forward and I opt to sponsor the young left-back Fred Yebuah, who was on the bench several times in the first fortnight but who appears to have dropped down the pecking order. He seems a decent lad, if slightly lacking in the confidence department and a bit more lacking than that in the right foot department."
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