And so, a post with absolutely no literary impetus.
About this time of the year, for the last hundred and odd years (give or take the exceptional circumstances of a world war), football clubs of little or no pedigree have found themselves paired with more illustrious opponents in greatly anticipated ties of the First Round of the FA Cup. Along with the Third Round, when the so-called elite clubs from England’s cash-soaked top two divisions are involved, the atmosphere around matches set for this first weekend in November is the epitome of what journalists have often dubbed the romance of the Cup.
For the first time in twenty-three years my home-town club, Hyde United, have managed to reach the First Round, having dispatched five other teams en route through preliminary and qualifying rounds and find themselves with a tie this Friday, 3rd November, at their home ground of Ewen Fields against Milton Keynes Dons. Almost unbelievably, as an abrupt change from playing against fellow part-time non-leaguers in their current status as members of the Evo-Stik North, the Tigers, as they are affectionately known, will be taking on professional players from the English Football League One, that is to say, five divisions higher. It is a classic David and Goliath clash.
And not only that: the match is to be televised live on BBC 2, kick-off at 7.55pm. Excitement is rife, and not only in Hyde. A sell-out crowd of 3,500 fans is expected (ten times Hyde’s normal attendance) and the ground’s six turnstiles will be under severe pressure. The single tea and pie shop is to be supplemented with additional emergency catering outlets. It’s a ground I’ve been visiting on and off for the best part of fifty years but, as to this weekend’s fixture, I can only guess at the provision of toilet facilities.
Although the Tigers are in very good form it is hard to imagine they could take a scalp on Friday, but who knows? It’s eleven v eleven, as the manager might well remind his players before the kick-off. It could happen. And the romance could live on for another round.