Cups, coats and C.R.A.P.

Another weekend of high-octane fare in League Two where no quarter was either asked or given.

This week my travelog landed at Victoria Road, home to Dagenham and Redbridge (Both of them? - Ed.).

Thoroughly entertaining it was too, even though the purists may not have seen it as such.

Got to hand it to the Daggers, and particularly their manager John Still, for what they continue to achieve on a limited budget.

John’s the original wily old fox, protesting his lack of funds whilst making hay with what he’s got, forever making meals out of scraps.

His team are a credit to him: long on endeavour, fitness and a never-say-die attitude (while prone on the ground, midfielder Stuart Thurgood tackled an opponent with his head!), and not short of ability either.

John works the non-league scene, which he knows outstandingly well.

And on the evidence of Saturday’s game against a Port Vale side that also played its part, he's found one or two assets as well.

If their high-tempo direct style occasionally has its detractors from the more snobbish fraternity, you can’t help but admire a template that buys in on the cheap, and sells at a profit.

He doesn’t make it easy for many managers in more favourable financial positions, who I’m sure are often assailed by their chairmen as to "why we can’t be like Dagenham?"

There’s no easy answer to that, but he’s proof positive that nice guys can do well.

And as I’m now sat on the outside looking in, with no real allegiance, I wouldn’t mind seeing them trying their luck in League One, possibly going to places like Norwich, Leeds and Charlton.

At its most compelling, football can be a great leveller, and there’s always an appeal for the neutral in seeing the big clubs humbled by opponents of more modest means.

Which brings things neatly to this week’s FA Cup First Round.

It’s all relative of course – though Leeds and Charlton, for example, will always be box office at this stage of the competition – but the chance to tweak the nose of the great and good while earning a financially lucrative day out in the process is motivation enough to turn the average part-timer into the inspired football genius of their imagination.

None more so than Paulton Rovers FC of the Zamaretto Division One South & West, who this weekend entertain Norwich City – Delia Smith et al.

Now, I’ve made my home in Bristol for most of the last 10 years on and off, and although I’m clearly not the last word in non-league football, the revelation that they hailed from a small village just outside Bristol was news to me (they weren’t referring to Cardiff were they?).

In a first for this column, I even did some “research” - a quick AA check revealing Paulton to be a mere 16 miles away from chez Onuora. 

Even a quick look on the club’s website didn’t reveal too much, other than it’s been in existence since 1881 and this is the furthest they’ve got to in the competition since losing 1-0 to Crewe Alexandra in 1906 (told you I’ve got time on my hands, didn’t I?).

I do know however, that any kind of result would effectively bankroll the club for many years to come (if prudently managed, that is), and a win itself would represent a seismic shock guaranteed to make legends of all concerned.

Such is the enduring appeal, and a chance to make the Match of the Day highlights for years to come, the FA Cup will always have a special place in football, making a star out of many players (Roy Essandoh take a bow!) and, bizarrely, John Motson’s sheepskin coat.

However, I understand it’s not been plain sailing for either in the intervening years.

Roy had his obligatory five minutes of fame before drifting rudderless back into the non-league scene; the sheepskin, after a once-glittering career, has fallen on hard times and is now reduced to appearing in panto.

I know the feeling, mate. Not the panto, I might add, but...

Paulton’s bitter rivals from Division One South and West Southern League, are the unfortunately-named Castle Rangers Amateur Publicans.

Their unfortunate acronym has prevented them from scaling the heights of their near neighbours and foes, but they’re on the look out for a new manager, and I’m off to apply.

It must be a garrison town: after speaking to the club secretary, one Colonel Mustard, I’ve been told to look out for the British Artillery Regiment office.

Now even though my satnav is telling me she doesn’t know any such place - she’s tired and got a headache - I’m convinced she’s wrong.

And besides, I’m desperate.

I want what Mottyr’s coat once had: top billing on MOTD, sponsorship deals with Farah jeans and to be on first name terms with Jimmy Hill’s chin. Ah, halcyon days, my friends.

(Younger readers can ignore the last half of this column and go straight to next week’s, entitled “How I went from C.R.A.P. to the Premiership in one glorious week.”)

Good luck to all this weekend. I’m off to lie down and resolve to keep up to date with my medication!

“Nurse, sorry, love, can you pass me the smelling salts!”


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