Monday, 11 May 2015

17:50 Cattle Truck - Metropolitan Police FC Vs Merstham FC, Surrey Senior Cup Final 2015, Kingfield Stadium (06/05/15)

The day had started with torrential rain, and me having to shut the window at the foot of my bed, because I woke up to wet feet! The rain had been so severe, on and off all day, and it did cross my mind that the game might be called off, but I was reassured by the ever helpful @metpoliceFC, and our trip to Woking for the Surrey Senior Cup final was on.

I do the commute on the Monday to Friday gravy train like most people, Tom just hops on his scooter and zips to work in minutes, but I like along with all the other drones, have to get on the train and tube in the morning and make my way to work. The ordeal is lessened by having to set off at just before 7 o’clock, and the train not being too busy. For all the people who take the 17:50 train or should I say veal crate cattle truck, from Waterloo to Woking every day, I doth my cap to you, that was a truly horrendous experience, forced to be more intimate with a stranger, without even being bought a drink, then I would ever want to be again!

Once in Woking, it was a 5 minute cab ride to Kingfield Stadium, another ground ticked off the list of Game Of Thrones sounding football grounds, the home of Woking FC, the venue for tonight’s Surrey Senior Cup Final, Metropolitan Police FC (MP) Vs Merstham FC (MFC).

Once through the turnstile, £10 less in my wallet, and £2 less change in my pocket for entrance and a programme, and once past the burger van, with a few people tucking into Flintstone size portions of chips, we were greeted by perhaps one of the strangest football grounds we had ever been to.

It was like it was half finished, like someone had run out of money and could not afford to finish it. The end of the ground we came in was what you would expect from a Conference side ground, a covered terrace behind one goal, then a long uncovered terrace of a few steps along one side of the goal, opposite them were two barn like, covered all seated stands, one with a black corrugated roof, and one with a green one.

All of these things you might think are pretty run of the mill, what was wasn’t, and what was very out of keeping with the rest of the ground was the stand behind the goal at the far end of the ground. Imagine one of the stands of the Britannia stadium had been teleported from Staffordshire to Surrey, a huge modern all seated stand with bright red seats, and white ones making out WFC. Due to the expected numbers tonight it was closed, and was quite unnerving and atmosphere sapping as it loomed over everyone.

The players warmed up on the slick wet pitch, and it was a blustery overcast evening, with ominous clouds which threatened rain at any minute. Tom returned from the burger van with a £5 double burger, and quickly demolished it. I looked on in a mixture of disgust and awe.

The black and yellow of MFC is a lot more on show than the blue of MP, and the MFC fans seemed to be there in much better numbers. Perhaps the buzz of their recent playoff final victory, and the chance of crowning the season with another piece of silverware, had drawn out the fans on this far from pleasant evening.

A strange choice of euro dance music, with Sam and the Womp “Bom, Bom” my personal favourite and the banging of white inflatable sticks, which have been handed out to children on their way in, are every so often drowned out by the announcer on the PA telling you where you can and can’t stand this evening.

The players come out of the stand directly behind the clear Perspex dug outs, two red Calour gas flags whip around in the high wind. There are a high proportion of men in blazers here tonight, with lanyards around their necks, the who’s who of the surrey FA are out in force. The gaps in the wooden slatted tunnel, means you can catch a glimpse of the players getting ready to come out. Four kids, two
each in the stripes of each team lead out the players who line up, and shake the hands of a procession of blazered men, then each other’s.

 MP carry out a few sprint exercises on the side lines and look very focused on the game ahead
We take up position behind the goal, where the majority of MFC have taken up residence in front of a large yellow and black flag announcing “WE ARE MERSTHAM FC”, and are doing everything they can to create a bit of atmosphere, on what is after all a cup final.

MFC kick off in all red, and MP in an appropriate shade of dark blue, the grey clouds above start to drizzle and things are under way.

The first couple of chances go to MP and its pretty much one way traffic for the rest of the half. The gulf in skill is clear from the get go, and MP are calmer in possession, have a much better touch, and threaten MFC straight away. Two crosses one from the right, and one from the left cause problems in the MFC box. One is missed by the player sliding in, and the other finds the player at the back post, but he heads it straight into the keeper’s hands.

The game is scrappy, and one sided, but the MFC fans are making a racket and are doing all they can to lift, what is a bit of a flat occasion. One fan, perhaps in his 60’s walks to the edge of the pitch, and bangs on the hoarding, the fans in the stand respond to his rhythmical banging, “MERSTHAM”.

A burly security guard in a long yellow high vis jacket, starts to walk towards the man in his 60’s and he scurries back into the crowd. The majority of them chant at the guard, “we’re not in a library”, but like water off a ducks back, he walks back to lean against his post, and is totally unaffected by the barracking of the mob.

A man walks along the terrace, holding up programs like an usher at the theatre, “£2 for a good read”.
As soon as the man in his 60’s had disappeared in to the crowd, he emerges again, and at the moment he is the most entertaining thing. This time, to avoid the wrath of the sentry for standing where he shouldn’t, he decides to hop up and down, as he bangs the hoarding again, and shouts “I’m not standing, I’m hopping”, getting a laugh from his fellows in yellow and black, but a slight twitch from the security guard, which once again sends him scuttling back to safety.

MFC’s first chance is a free kick in a good position on the edge of the box, and whips up the fans, “COME ON MERSTHAM”, but it comes to nothing, and crashes against the wall. When the physio has to run on for an injured player they imitate an ambulance siren, “ne-nor-ne-nor”

On 31 minutes the game finally gets a goal, and it’s gone to MP and it’s the least they deserve, a far from riveting game, which has one of the ball boys pitch side on his phone rather than watching the match, is sparked into life, when a cross once again, finds an MP player unmarked and he hits a fine shot, back from where it came, across the goal, and it nestles in the corner on the net.

MFC fans for the first time have gone quiet, only the bang of the inflatable sticks can be heard, and the “trouble” making fan is nowhere to be seen.

The MP goal lifts MFC a little and their pace on the left is stretching the defence, and they are getting behind them with ease. Sadly for them this is undone quickly when a hand ball in the MFC area results in a penalty, and the resulting spot kick, is put away with ease. The final moment of the half is a big shout for an MFC penalty, but he has clearly slipped on the greasy surface, and the half finishes 2–0.

It’s been an underwhelming 45 minutes, and a drink, and a bit of shelter from the wind is much in need. “The Cardinals Bar” is hidden behind the two stands, and is reminiscent of where I used to go to Scouts. A long hall, with blue carpet floors, a few tables and chairs dotted around the edge, and a dance floor cut out at one end, replacing the carpet with parquet flooring. Some children dash about in the open space in the middle of the room, as mainly MFC fans huddle around tables, mumbling amongst themselves about the first half.

Consumed by that fuzzy haze you get when you are forced to drink your half time pint too quickly, and once we found our way back to the stand, through a warren of pathways, the teams are coming out to the most ironic of songs, considering the weather, “Walking on sunshine”.

Floodlights illuminate the Independence Day like clouds rolling in above, and do a great job in highlighting quite how odd the mega stand, with no one in, is.

MFC nearly score on the break, and start to show a bit of fight, and this wakes up their fans, and they sing on mass for the first time since the goal, “COME ON MERSTHAM, COME ON MERSTHAM” MP though are getting all the vital blocks, and are thwarting MFC attempts to get back in the match.

Almost half an hour into the second half, and the first glimpse of the MP fans, comes in someone on the opposite side of the ground banging the hoarding, and trying to get a song going. When MP make a sub, and their fans applaud the player coming off, MFC pipe up with “We forgot that you were here!”

Unfortunately the game has reverted back to the scrappy, niggly game just like the first half. MFC players are getting frustrated offer no threat and it is very stop and start free kicks are being dished out galore.

The old MFC fan is back, and has one last go at getting the crowd going, and in turn trying to inspire the team, but as things are going they would need a miracle. I think it has become more about winding up the security guard than anything else, starting at him as he bangs the metal, “COME ON MERSTHAM”, like a matador and a high viz bull, but the bull is not having any of it, and doesn’t move a muscle, there is ten minutes to go, and doing anything now, would just be a waste of time, so he lets the matador prat about.

Things are now moving at half speed, and the game is somewhat petering out. We have made our way behind the dug outs. The fact they are clear Perspex, and you can get up so close, it gives them a strange fish bowl feel, letting you peer in on the players and staff on the bench. Someone on the MP bench shouts to one of the ambling players, “Bradders liven up”, he turns and with a grin on his face says “fuck off” and the bench laugh.

A table has been set up, covered in a red table cloth, with the Surrey FA emblem on it, and the trophy, medals, and a large Children in Need type cheque for the winners.

Once the final whistle goes, they’re not exactly jubilant celebrations, but MP have deserved the win it never seemed in doubt.

The trophy table is carefully carried on to the pitch followed by the blazers brigade, who have come down from the stand to present the trophy. MFC players applaud their fans who have put on a good show tonight, but perhaps the exploits of the promotion play off had taken it out of them, and today’s match was one too many.

MFC graciously collect their runners up medals, then its MP’s turn, one of them has his child in his arms and holds another by the hand, the trophy for Man Of The Match is presented, and goes to MP number 6 Steve Sutherland.

Flash bulbs go off around us, as the captain lifts the cup, and then the players pose with their spoils. The grounds man has perhaps tired of their celebrations, and one set of the huge flood lights go off, plunging us in to darkness, one player says “They want us out”.

As we leave we can hear the team letting off steam in the changing room, and both managers are interviewed, both giving their side of the story.

MP Manager Jim Cooper talks with BBC Surrey on an old fashioned style microphone, like the ones used when Match of the Day was in black and white. He must have been posed a question regarding how such a competition is considered by the club and his reply is clear “we take this Cup very, very seriously”.

We are lucky to grab him for a few words, and I ask him how the current points deduction to Enfield Town FC, and potential change in league position into a playoff spot has affected the team, “preparations for the Cup Final have been distracted, due to the playoff nonsense” but he felt his team had served him well, and the game was won in the first half.

Considering MP lost this final last year to tonight’s host team 6-0, it must have been great to get the victory.

It would seem that at whatever level Cups have perhaps lost the gloss they once did, perhaps because there are too many or the recognition for winning them has been lost over time, and I’m sure in some people’s eyes, they are a little more than an unnecessary distraction. However, I feel, as I’m sure many others do, that they are an integral part of the fabric of footballs tradition, so I hope they continue to get the respect they deserve.

Congratulations to Metropolitan Police FC, winners of the Surrey Senior Cup Final 2015.


For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

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