Friday, 19 of August 2011. Seven goals against Birtley Town. And a win in the FA Cup. Thought I should mention it, as we haven’t won an FA Cup tie since. Never mind three lions on a shirt and Jules Rimet still gleaming, this feels like thirty years of hurt to me, or near enough anyway. I don’t expect to be rocking up to Wembley to see RCA v Chelsea in the final anytime soon, but I would like to see us get past the middle of August in the FA’s premier competition one of these days. We do always seem to get tough ties mind, poor old Birtley excepted, and we are bad starters most seasons I know but even so, even so....
View from the cemetery
This certainly feels like it has been a long old season, and another postponement the other night at Seaham doesn’t help matters. And today's opponents must be feeling it even more. Morpeth will still have twelve games to play after today and before their trip to Wembley, and most of them at home on what is, to be fair, looking like a pretty battered surface. They will be hoping to get through it all in one piece and fit to do themselves and the league justice against Hereford. I reckon they will be OK though. Nothing like a day out to the big city to revive your juices. Even though I am generally very conservative in matters of football it does seem to make the case for smaller leagues which the FA supposedly hope to implement on coming years. Four games fewer doesn’t seem much in August, but by now it looks a lot. So bring it on I say. Looks like we are going to have some change this season anyway, with a few clubs supposedly qualified to enter the league, which makes it look bleak for Stokesley in particular, which is a shame. A few years back they were flying. And at the right time of year if the football is poor you can always nip round the other side and watch the cricket. And Bishops might get their wish to go the other way as the FA get the old cherrypicker out. It will undoubtedly end in tears, but there they go.
Well, it's very entertaining at least. Four games of defeat after defeat, and then a victory, who knows what to expect next? A hard fought victory at that, the score line made more comfortable by Hopey’s late couple of goals, but before that it was all hands to the pump as the terriers of Bedlington kept biting our ankles. Bit of a mix of metaphors, but you had to be there to see it. Sadly for them it is starting to look like those in the bottom three places now will still be there at the end of things. They are all fighting to be sure, as we know, but so are those just above them, and with a good few points in hand. Be a shock to see clubs like Bedlington and Durham in the second division, but we can’t worry about that. So never mind, on we stumble, only a quarter of a season to go.
But at least things are relatively rosy overall. It's been an exciting season, and whatever our little ups and downs now, we can always cheer ourselves up by reminding ourselves that they aren’t anything like so bad as they are for our friends over the water, or, even worse, the battalions of the damned further north.
Tough in the middle innit? What a run of games, who saw that coming? Well, maybe it will focus minds now, there is still a long way to go. Twelve games, lot to play for, and forty one points isn’t enough, that’s for sure.
Some bad luck amongst the various problems, it's true, lots of woodwork hit and some unfortunate dismissals, but one way or another we just can’t get started at the moment. It's a tough life when you give teams an early start. Let's get through the first twenty then have a look is what I recommend. Still, wouldn’t want it to be boring would we? On we go.
It all seems to be getting a bit wearisome. This long, long season is taking its toll. Maybe it's when you get a warmer afternoon, or maybe it's when the floodlights don’t go on at half time, but there always comes a time in every season when thoughts drift away from the game in front of you and turn to a summer in the sun and plans for next season. There is of course a certain type of football fan who says that they can’t stand the close season and think only of August when it all starts again. That's not me. Apart from tennis fortnight, my views on the Wimbledon shenanigans being well known - see below - I look forward to summer sport. Cricket, golf, the Derby and Royal Ascot, what's not to like is my view. I used to love it when football had a full four month close season and footballers could go off and ply their summer trade. Steve Ogrizovic the Coventry and elsewhere goalkeeper was probably the last in a long line of real double professionals, following the likes of Chis Balderstone, Willie Watson and Denis Compton, but many a cricket club had a pro footballer as their professional, and the local football clubs were always turning out sides to play in charity and challenge matches over the summer. Raich Carter was a dab hand by all accounts. Could our lads field a cricket team do you think? Jon Wightman is a noted bowler but I don’t know of any others. I may be wrong. And none of them would make a jockey....
Fresh from the battle of Washington your correspondent rejoins the fray, exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure. Fifteen minutes of injury time, fantastic, hardly an unblacked eye on the pitch. Goals, bookings, sendings off, accidental, ahem, clashes, incidents galore and at the end a victory, super duper.
It felt a bit like the current squad versus the old boys with no less than eight former RCA players starting for Washy, and a few of us were apprehensive, but in the end the judgement of your management team was upheld, although personally it was a pleasure to be reminded what a footballing one off Joe Walton is. A force of nature, enraged with the opposition, his own team and the world in equal measure. We were clearly the better side, or so I hear, although a failure to convert opportunities made it closer than it should have been. Football in fairly short supply, but plenty of effort and endeavour. A proper derby match in fact, a real good curtain raiser for the event next week, complete with the obligatory annoying kid in the mag shirt shouting stupidities throughout. Where do they get them from?
In Europe or out? I don’t know, and I don’t give political advice, other than to always look for the ulterior motive and beware of the very confident. I suppose that is giving political advice. Anyway, Europe is not something which is likely to worry us in a football sense, unless we ever get round to this end of season tour abroad that is sometimes mooted. I will give my apologies. Not that I haven’t enjoyed the odd football tour in my time. Very odd in a couple of cases.
We once took our Sunday side to play a couple of games down in Leicestershire, one in a pretty little village, just outside the town where we were staying. Late on the first evening, while seeking some sustenance of an oriental variety, we spotted a headline on the back page of the local evening paper which said that the Cossacks, our boldy named opponents the following morning, were hosting, and I quote, “a crack northern outfit.” This came as something of a surprise to the northern outfit in question, as most of us were nine or ten pints in by this time and choosing between the chow mein and the curry to complete the evening, the local young ladies having proved not as accommodating as we had fondly hoped. And we had just finished second bottom of the Sunday league third division.