Monday 11 March 2019

He Was Born Ready - Canterbury City FC Vs Biggleswade FC, FA Vase Quarter-Final, Salters Lane (24/02/19)

I started my day by biting my bottom lip so violently, while I finished off my muesli, that I thought I was due my second hospital visit of 2019, how was your morning?

Considering it is a Sunday, as I get in my car I’m breaking my number one rule of making sure this day is all about doing fuck all. I’m not religious by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve taken the whole ‘day of rest’ thing very literally and my seventh day normally consists of disappointing over hyped football matches on the TV and at a push, a trip to the supermarket for some fresh pineapple slices.

However, as football in daylight has been in pretty short supply this season, because of Tom’s rota at work. I’m prepared in this instance to ignore my beliefs and head east to collect Tom. I know I say it every single time, but Spurs new stadium is looking particularly resplendent. Glistening in the unseasonably delightful sun, like something out of Metropolis, it looks magnificent. The sky is a hazy shade of pale blue, the daffodils are out and there is not a cloud in sight.

Talking of Tottenham, and Tom has a bit of the Tim Sherwood about him, in his shiny black gilet. He then goes all Iceman, replacing his everyday glasses with a pair of Ray Bans. The armless outfit he has chosen, as ridiculous as it is, may come in handy at some point today. It may be clear and sunny, more sunny than its been in months, but there is still a noticeable chill in the air, and we all know how much Tom likes a good old moan, when the mercury starts to fall.

We're really not going very far today, we wouldn't want to stray too far from home, considering Tom’s strict Sunday roast eating time. It's a mere hop over the Thames Estuary via the Queen Elizabeth Bridge into Kent and we have barely enough time to discuss quite how much we both like a boot fair, after seeing a sea of cars in a field to one side of the motorway and of course a little bit of obligatory stag chat.

There is little to no activity other than a man in a high viz jacket and what looks like the bar staff having one last fag, sitting on the steps of the clubhouse sunning themselves, when I make the tight left turn into the car park of Salters Lane. Home to Bostik League side Faversham Town, it is not they who we are here to see today, but their lodgers Canterbury City FC (CC).

This though is about to change quite dramatically, because barely out of the car and having decided I will wear my coat, after much deliberation, the large pockets are handy, but I might regret it, I am already starting to ever so slightly overheat, “three coaches” Tom counts, have just arrived. Backed up in the narrow lane leading to the ground, their arrival sends the single steward into overdrive, one has to abort its attempt to come in the way we did and is directed through another gate, “fuck driving a coach” says Tom puffing out his cheeks.

Once inside the passengers quickly disembark and the green and white clad fans of CC’s FA Vase Quarter-Final opponents, Biggleswade FC (BFC), introduce themselves to this sleepy corner of Kent.

Although they have not had to travel that much further than us, some are clearly delighted to be off the coach, one doing a very fine Ric Flair impression as he steps down onto terra firma. Shouts of “green army” and “Wembley” go up, and their air horn gets its first outing of the day. Green and white flags are soon being worn over the shoulders of some, and one fans tells us he reckons there is about “one hundred and fifty” of them. Rowdy, boisterous maybe. Going by the amount of them holding a bottle or can as they climb down off their respective coach, many have been enjoying the staple of every good away day, a beer or two and why not, after today whoever gets through, are only two games from Wembley Stadium.

“It looks like a dodgy old truck stop” says one of the BFC fans, not exactly impressed by what they see. They bypass the bar and instead ask the mildly dazed man in the high viz, for directions to the nearest pub.

It is Baddiel and Skinner singing what I think is their France 98 re-release of Three Lions that is playing around the ground, which is a mish mash of the old and the new. One side you have the long tiled roofed main stand, with a mixture of terracing and seats, which has a considerable amount of coffee table book character about it, however opposite you have what turns out to be the changing rooms, which look a bit like a Soviet era apartment block.

“People are taking their seats already” points out Tom, those not heading to the local watering hole, including the air horn wrangler who not long through the turnstile gives it a blast, which in turn provokes more shouts of “green army”, are not taking any chances and are securing their spot early doors.

Those coming in arrive instantly pitch side, with not much room to swing a cat, someone has still managed to erect a small table with a mixture of club merchandise, programmes, actual paper ones which is nice, after my recent drought, and on their very own table, which looks like its been pinched from the clubhouse are the prizes for the raffle. No feat of physical exersion required today, just two strips of brightly coloured paper tickets and the pipe dream of getting my hands on a six pack of Spitfire, some Lindt chocolates or a bumper box of Fox biscuits.

The grill and tea bar, which has a PSV pennant hanging on its wall, at one end of the main stand, protected by a flimsy black net from stray balls, is already very busy. Where we normally arrive and the lights are not even on yet, Salters Lane is already a hive of activity. Tom’s quick scan of the menu, leaves him happy, “onion rings” he highlights.

Taking full advantage of the fine weather, the BFC players are relaxing in the sun, teas in hand around the home dugout. Talking to Martyn CC’s General Secretary, he makes an interesting point, that they have played the “team top of their league” in every round so far. If they are going to make it to Wembley, it looks like they are going to do it the toughest way possible.

Despite the the growing crowd, the ground is still relatively quite, the sound system is struggling a bit and the music has a considerable echo. Two competing flags have been hoisted behind the same goal, a CC one is fastened to a nearby fence, the green and white BFC one that reads “We Are FC” is draped over the railing around the pitch.

Although we are being treated to a few contemporary hits over the speakers, by the sounds of it there is a chance that the BFC players won’t be able to listen to any in their changing room. The club physio frantically tries to find the teams coach driver, because as she explains one of the players has “left” their “speaker on the coach”. On investigation it turns out the driver has joined the hoards heading for the pub, which leaves a few people with quizzical looks on their faces.

“No pressure on us” says the CC manger coolly, BFC are the high fliers in their league, you could maybe even go as far as calling the home side underdogs, but it wouldn't be by much. It’s now the referee and his assistants turn to enjoy a bit of the good weather, they are pretending to inspect the pitch, but they clearly just like everyone else want to soak up as much vitamin D as possible.

There may well be no “pressure” on CC today, but as Martyn tells me they are somewhat under strength, due to two very unfortunate injuries to “two big players” both “centre backs”. Neither of whom will be available for selection today because of a bit of a knock or a strain, but a “fractured cheek and eye socket” for one and “bleeding on the brain” after a “bang to the head” for the other.

Having his head turned like a certain man in a much overused meme, Tom is very impressed by the look of one person's burger, wrapped in red and white cheque paper. I’m not sure what caught his eye
more, the oozing cheese or the fact it had “lettuce” in it.

Tom commandeers the tiny press table to enjoy his food, I plonk myself down next to him on one of the cool stone steps of the terrace but not before I let a man by eating chips from a paper cone. Along from us and the BFC invasion in full swing, the front row of the small seated section is almost exclusively occupied by an older clientele, who by the looks of it have shunned the chance of some onion rings and have dived headlong into their pack lunches.

The single turnstile is constantly tickling, the “green army” are back form the pub, suitably lubricated, and are causing a bit of a backlog outside and somewhat of a non league phenomenon, a queue to get in. The referee and his assistants have had a costume change and are warming up in very FIFA 19 looking yellow tops. It’s busy, and only getting busier. More BFC flags are going up all around the ground, which is bathed half in shade, half in sun.

Each with their own white flag in hand, featuring the CC club badge, a man in a CC club tie organises the troop of flag bearers into two straight ish lines either side of the entrance to the pitch between the dugouts, in preparation of the players arrival. My flag fetish is taking a bit of a battering as I notice even more have gone up in the time I watched Tom hoover up his burger. What is probably the best one on show, joins the other CC example on the same fence behind the goal. A deep shade of maroon, it has the the Kent Invicta horse at it's middle, with CC one side of it and FC the other, which is clearly a bit of a DIY job.

There is a real sense of nervous energy amongst the crowd, people look like they are not quite sure what to do with themselves. A blast of the air horn and a shout of “come on Biggleswade” pierces the tension for a moment, but it’s only fleeting. Kick off is imminent and the numbers coming in don’t look like letting up anytime soon.

Emerging from a pair of red doors at the top of a gentle slope, at one end of the eastern block monstrosity the players click clack their way along the paved path to a chorus of cheers, offerings of encouragement and blasts of the now almost constant air horn. The flag fliers do a grand job, not overdoing it, not over exaggerated, we’ve just scored a goal at the Emirates silliness here, they get the motion of their flags just right.

There are high fives and huddles and then the BFC captain with his shock of ginger hair, almost takes out one linesman's eye with a wayward toss of the coin, catching it just in time before the fourth official, yes a fourth official in a non league game, all of whom are also wearing “Britney mics”, as Tom always calls them, has to be wheeled on as a replacement.

In the moments before kick off, one could be mistaken for thinking BFC were the home side, it is their fans making all the noise, it is their fans nearly all in club's colours that have filled nearly every seat and every space in the main stand. It is what looks like members of their youth team, in matching green jackets who are pounding the hoardings behind the goal opposite us, where another flag has been raised on its back wall.

The game less than five minutes old and BFC show off some of that slick passing we were treated to, when we saw them recently in a league fixture. It results in the first shot of the match and it's an early warning sign for the home team. The saved attempt only riles up the already excitable BFC fans further, “come on Biggleswade” they chant.

Always intrigued by songs to unusual tunes and I love a bit of ingenuity among football fans, such as the Pink Floyd inspired number at Hadley recently, however I’m not sure how I feel about the latest BFC number to the tune of the Internet sensation, brain rotter of almost every parent in existence, Baby Shark. I just wish I could work out what the lyrics were.

Two minutes after hitting the target, BFC go one better and take the lead. A ball out wide which is their go to, is lashed into the six yard box and bundled in, sending the place into pandemonium.

Heading straight for the mosh pit of green and white that's surged towards the barrier, the players meet them for a full blown bundle. Such is the exuberance of the celebrations or maybe because of the shoddy workmanship of the person who constructed the barrier, there is a sharp intake of breath as it collapses under the weight of the crowd, sending the fans crashing to the ground.

“That could halt the game” says Tom with more than a hint of concern in his voice. Thankfully all is well, and people are quickly picking up those who fell, and the barrier is hoisted back into position. Far too happy, some who went down, look to almost bounce straight back up. The whole place is a blur of green and white, the singing now even louder “Biggleswade, Biggleswade”.

I have the niggling feeling, that it might be a long day for CC.

The BFC fans are in full voice, everywhere I look. Most songs start from the lot behind the goal, and soon filter out among those scattered wherever there is space. A booming rendition of “green army” comes after the latest attempt to distract the CC keeper as he takes a goal kick, “you're shit-aaaaaaaaa”.

CC look mildly overwhelmed. Admittedly the speed in which BFC are moving the ball about, in combination with the early goal, would be enough to make any in team, in the words of Danny Dyer, “head wobble”. Perhaps they're preoccupied by the frequent blasts of the airhorn, the reminder from the BFC fans that its “one nil to the mighty greens” or maybe it's that song to the tune of Baby Shark which has reared its slightly odd head again.

With the sun absolutely beaming, I’m so glad I ditched my coat back in the car, but I wish I had a big green foam hand like one BFC fan, who uses it to shield her eyes. I’m currently watching the match with one eye closed, half turned away from the pitch, doing my best to keep up with what is going on.

Around us excited screams emanate every time BFC go forward. When one player is only a fraction away from connecting with a header, it gets a sizable “ohhhh” from the travelling fans who are living every moment vicariously through their eleven players.

The problem with Tom eating pre kick off, his reasoning for doing so today being the expected large crowd, and he did want to spend the second half queueing for food, which was a sensible strategy, but it means twenty minutes into the half and he’s hungry again. “Mmmmmm Frazzles” he says with an air of the Cookie Monetary about him. I’m not sure if the nearby ladies bacon flavoured corn snacks are safe.

“Biggleswade up the tempo” demands one of their players, the frantic pace of the first quarter of an hour or so has dropped off, suiting the much larger home side, who have certainly started to grow into the match after their shaky start, but who are still unable to get to grips with the sheer speed in which BFC play their football.

One thing that has definitely not slowed, is the rate one BFC fan is whirling his scarf above his head,
he is in danger of turning into Air Wolf and the regularity in which the songs from the BFC supporters, “green army” keep coming.

Not only has the referee got a “Britney mic” he is a referee who has had a second outfit change. Gone are the bright yellow tops from the warm up, he’s now in a more traditional black number, he also has strapped to his hip something you only normally see in the top flight, and not at this level, “ohh he’s got spray” says Tom.

There is only a Gazza at Wembley Vs Germany amount of distance between the flying long haired CC player at the back post, from reaching the diagonal ball into the box, away from the home side levelling.

Where as CC are compact and narrow, BFC are fluid and free flowing, they love spraying the ball out wide. In a near repeat of their goal, this time the ball in from the right is cut out just in time, however they go close from the resulting corner, which is quickly taken, one player in the box rises to head it, but it's a straightforward catch for the keeper. The attempt inspires more shouts of “green army” and a sizable “ohhhhh” as the neon pink CC keeper, clutches the ball to his chest.

A CC injury in the BFC box brings about a momentary stop to the game. “Ohh he’s spraying his arse” says Tom in his best Kenneth Williams voice, as the CC player clearly in some discomfort is treated. I’m happy to report that the player whose bum received the clod spray is soon back up and the game is back underway.

As the minutes tick by, CC start to carve out a small foothold in the match. If I was the BFC manger I might think my team had missed a trick, having looked close to overrunning CC in the opening minutes, they maybe could be at fault for not being more ruthless. However CC have hung on and their physical prowess is starting to show. Barrelling his way through midfield, the Captain Jack haired CC player, passes one BFC midfielder, then another and he's into the box. Will he be able to cap his lung busting run with a goal? The answer is a definitive no. The culmination of the counterattack is frankly a disappointment, a pea roller of a strike. “That was a weak shot” laughs Tom, with the ball still in motion, bobbling along the floor.

Angry shouts of “off, off, off” are somewhat contrary to Tom’s opinion that there was nothing wrong with the admittedly strong, but ultimately fair CC challenge, “looked like a good tackle”. The referee reaches for his pocket very quickly, which is never a good sign, but only produces a yellow, which get a textbook panto gasp from the BFC fans. Not sure what all the fuss was about, Tom thought it worth reiterating for whoever might be listening, that he didn't see anything wrong in it, “I thought it was a good tackle”.

Frazzles in one hand, the other held above her head to keep the sun out of her eyes, Frazzle lady is currently the most vocal home fan here. She has no qualms in telling the team what's on her mind, “stop giving it away” she heckles. She does though not come close to the intensity of one of the home players, who looks like his head is close to popping when he screams at his team mates to “squeeze” their opponents.

Millimetres over the bar, a BFC snapshot goes very close to doubling their lead. The fact that it ends up careering into the crowd behind the goal, does little to knock their spirits, the BFC fans are unflappable, and just crack out another song. Someone who could do with a smidgen of their energy, is Tom, who despite all the action is yawning. Tired I ask him, surmising he might have been at a East London gin party last night, but he simply explains that it’s because its “Sunday”.

I really want to get on board with the Baby Shark chant, like I said I’m a big one for exotic song choices, rather than your standard tunes you hear everywhere, but this might just be one step too far, there is just something very unnerving about it. Curling another shot just over, BFC once again showcase the calibre of football they are capable of. Neat and precise it carves CC open, the fans react to just how close it was, “ahhhhhhh”.

Only minutes left of normal time and the CC fans have finally something to get excited about, very excited. “Get in there” shouts one of them, after what looked like a speculative shot from the edge of the box, a swing of the boot after a bit of head tennis, goes up and down so quickly it well and truly catches out the back peddling BFC keeper. Lying on his front, propped up on his elbows, he can only glare, the ball now in the back of the net, the CC players charging off to celebrate.

The announcement of the scorers name over the PA is so garbled, it doesn't bode well for the half time raffle. Like every set of fans after conceding should do, instead of letting their heads drop, they sing even louder, almost in an attempt to say 'yeah we're not bothered', “green army, green army”. Such is the lack of any kind of singing coming from the home fans, BFC’s dish out the ultimate insult, “shall we sing a song for you?”.

Just as it had started, the half ends in pretty much the same fashion, frantic. A tale of two goalmouth scrambles one at each end of the pitch and a thunderbolt of a CC free kick. It's CC up first in the six yard box, but the ball just won't fall for them and it's cleared. Their free kick follows shortly afters, “the big mans taking it” says Tom, one of CC’s many “big men”, has cracked it so hard, Tom quite rightly points out that it, “sounded like it hurt” when it thudded into the wall.

“Come on City” shouts Frazzle lady, as BFC nearly crash home their second, seconds before the half time whistle. Beside herself, she will want a stiff drink to go with whatever tuck shop snack she has left.

It is so quiet once the players have departed, considering how noisy it just was only moments ago, it's verging on the eerie. Taking into account the sun, the blue sky, and it being a Sunday afternoon, if it wasn't for the poodle in the CC scarf and the intermittent sound of the PA, who as Tom points out “I think there is something wrong with his mic” as he currently sounds like a rap song being played on the morning drive time slot, one might forget they were at a semi final of a major cup competition at all.

Although we don’t technically change ends, more sides. Moving away from from the light and Frazzle lady and into the dark, where there is still condensation on the barrier around the pitch. There is of course a change of ends, the kind of which any frequenter of non league football would have become accustomed to, performed by the two sets of fans, flags and all. The “green army” get their first taste of the sun, and have a new and hopefully more solid bit of hoarding to wallop for the second half.

The return of the teams, brings more shouts from the frenetic BFC fans, “green army”. I can’t hear
Frazzle woman, now we’ve moved, but I’m sure she is contributing to the first bit of genuine noise from the home fans today, as someone thumps out a beat on the same bit of fence that collapsed before. Those around him I’m sure tentative about getting their non league lean on, “City, City, City”.

Buoyed by the late equaliser and whatever was said behind the changing room door, CC have come out meaning business and before I think either of us have got comfortable and used to the vast change in temperature, the BFC defence has been breached, as one away fan put it, “he’s in” and in the blink of an eye, CC are now ahead. The scorer pumping his fist races for the corner flag, leaping into the air, twisting as he does. He lands facing his onrushing team mates, all but the keeper, who is now sporting a black baseball cap, because of the ever present sun.

Erupting from the bench, the CC coach's and substitutes rush to the edge of the pitch. For the first time the BFC end is quite, and a few more lines of “come on City, come on City” ring outs. One BFC supporter attempts to get until now the always active fans going again, “green army” but he gets no reply.

As we witnessed when we first saw BFC play, just a couple of weeks ago, they are a resilient bunch, with a tenacity that means they are not prone to giving up and they are soon threatening the CC goal with a rasping shot on the half volley that the CC keeper can only beat away. Their fans share similar traits, and are soon back singing. They also possess a fair level of ingenuity too, one has sussed out the best way to circumnavigate the FA’s rules of no booze pitch side, the chalkboard sign at the entrance to the clubhouse not a sufficient deterrent, he has made a cloak out of his programme, to shield his pint from prying eyes.

Nearly every member of the CC bench is on their feet, anxiously watching on as BFC do everything they can do, deservedly in my opinion, to get back into the game.

“Oh shit” gasps a BFC fan, the player in green at the back post so close to connecting with the lofted free kick. “Better organsiation” barks the CC bench to the defence. CC by my reckoning have had two shots and two goals. BFC have had far more attacking intent since the start and have their tails up.

Behind the goal, the sun now obscuring their view, as it was ours in the first half, the main reason for our move, despite sun worshipping Tom’s protests, one BFC fan demands his fellow supporters “lift it”, when he doesn't get the response he desires, he takes it to the next level, “fucking louder” and they dutifully respond, more out of fear I imagine, than anything else.

BFC’s captain, the sonic haired number 7, is on a one man mission to get his team level. He has not stopped, he is close to running himself into the ground. He has the stamina of Dirk Kuyt in FIFA. Looking up after another of his selfless runs he sees no one up in support and is eventually dispossessed. “Where are we?” he screams, breathing deeply, looking for his teammates to show just a fraction of the endeavour that he is. He is truly leading from the front.

Despite the efforts of their very own Capo, the BFC fans have fallen quiet once more, the cries of “green army” are few and far between now. They have every reason to be positive mind, there is still a big chunk of the game left to play, and although CC are showing are bit more than just being simply physical, their team still look the far more the better side.

On one of their few forays forward, coming up on twenty five minutes on the clock, the CC attack culminates with their fans piping up with shouts of “off, off, off”. They are convinced the BFC defender is due a red card after a foul on the edge of his box, but the referee explains he was not the last man. The resulting free kick is in a prime position for a shot on goal, which has been somewhat of a rarity for the home team, is as one home fan put it “rubbish”. High, well, well, high, it's over the stand and heading into the car park, my car's windscreen more in danger, than the goal ever was.

With the game edging slowly towards its conclusion, CC show just how proficient in the dark arts they are, they would call it ‘game management’, but they're not fooling anyone. A quiet word from the CC keeper after one ball boys eagerness in giving the ball to BFC, allowed them to quickly take their throw in, which almost caught the home defence out, he asks for them to be instructed to “slow it down”.

Off goes the special ball boy envoy, to relay to his fellow ball retainers the instructions from the manager. I have to admit I didn't notice what was afoot, until Tom brought it to my attention, that the envoy is not just telling the other boys in blue shirts, some of whom on the sunny side of the pitch are reclining and basking in the sun to simply “slow it down” but are being told to leave the pitch all together.

A bullet header from a CC player is blocked as it sails towards the BFC goal. Not resting on their laurels, the visitors display the raw pace their side possess with an instant and rapid counter attack, but nothing comes of it. It is though not lost on the CC bench that they are still more than able to hurt them, and they ask for “more pressure” on the ball, to try and stem the all green menace.

Once again we are spoilt with not just one, but two non league dogs today. You would think the quota had been reached with the poodle in a scarf, but he or she has a rival, a much, much smaller rival, in a green and white jacket.

Staring at the linesman, half hunched over, not wanting to stand up, as that would mean he would have to acknowledge reality, the BFC captain, begs him with his eyes to lift his flag. In doing so it would exonerate the fact that he made the distance Gazza was away from the ball look vast, in comparison to just how close he was to the ball over the top, his run timed to perfection, he probably felt the ball bush the end of his toe, but he just couldn't control it.

“It’s so cold” shudders Tom, the shades have come off and I can see him looking longingly at those still in the sun, some who I think wish they had a bit of factor ten with them. “Fucking make some noise” screams the increasingly irate BFC capo, but he gets nothing. Time is slowly but surely slipping away from the visitors, and I imagine there is an overwhelming sensation of ‘we don't deserve to go out like this’ among the BFC supporters. Their team have been the far more attack minded and I’m not sure CC have not shot on target since their second goal.

If BFC want to score, they are going to have to be a bit more composed. They more than have the ability, but the stress is starting to show. Ten minutes left to go and a ball from the right, takes a deflection, teeing up two players on the edge of the box. They both shape up to hit it, but look to get in each others way, when one finally gets something on it, its wild and over.

BFC’s latest attack, prompts the CC managers to ask for “more talking” from his team.

Away fans shouts have turned from upbeat to pleading, “come on Biggleswade” says one, without any of the gusto of before. It’s only a remarkable BFC tackle that stops them going further behind. “Fucking superb” comments someone on the BFC bench after what just might have been a game changing moment.

“Keep the pressure up” insists one BFC fan, and they do just that, its attack after attack. Down in the six yard box, sonic hair is clattered to the ground, in an attempt to get on the end of a bobbled pass into the CC area, which again he just can’t reach. Flat on his back, he is attended to. The CC bench tells the fourth official that “seven goes down all the time” and he is to make the referee “aware”, however he looks in real pain and I don't think he was trying anything iffy and after limping off, he doesn't return. The BFC captain and arguably their best players day is done.

Into the final five and CC get a rare chance on goal but its headed wide. Their keeper still in his cap, will probably blame the sun for his horrific attempt to gather the ball, that sends home fans blood pressure through the roof. Fumbling it, he flaps at it, knocking it only as far as the edge of the box, where a BFC player attempts to lob him, but its wide. This does little to help the feeling of panic, that I’m sure is flowing through both the home and away fans.

The BFC supporters can sense one last chance, so their noise level peaks one last time. Both benches ask the fourth official “how long?” is left. CC are well and truly pinned back, being roared on by their supporters back to their best. It’s getting a bit last ditch, a flying salmon like clearance is the only thing between the BFC player heading in the raking diagonal ball into the box and CC holding onto their slim lead.

With his head rarely out of his hands, the CC manager seems momentarily lifted by the board showing four minutes of added time, he tells his players, as if they didn't know, they are a “big four”. Long four might have been a better way to describe them, CC are camped in their own half, two quickfire BFC corners only bring more anxiety. “Keep going” shouts one BFC fan as their cup exit gets ever nearer. The home fans now applaud every stray BFC pass and every time the ball goes out of play, as loudly as they did the two goals.

“Two left” says the fourth official in his thick north east accent. The CC bench hand over a slip for a substitute, more ‘game management’. “Take your time” says someone in the crowd to the intended departing player, no need to rush. The CC manager attempts to get the referees attention, but the fourth official stops him in his tracks. The new player is still in the dugout, not even changed, “he’s not ready” he explains and as the substitute hurriedly puts his jersey on, someone from within the shade of the dugouts replies, “he was born ready”.

Classy is what you might call the actions of the CC manger come the final whistle, his players and the fans of course explode into scenes of jumping, frolicking and punching the air and in the case of the remaining substitutes sprinting onto the pitch. “Is he having a heart attack?” says one player half joking, CC’s manager looks for a moment like he can't catch his breath, surrounded by members of his staff, he struggles to get free of them to take a breath.

Maybe it was the occasion catching up with him, being all cool and collected for so long, can't last forever, he looks choked up. However before he joins the players on the pitch, most of whom who have lept in to the crowd, he takes the time to shake the hands of the BFC manger in his long black
coat and players still rooted to the spot in or around the dugout, the realisation of the result slowly dawning on them, near enough turning each and every one to stone.

Loosing is shit, loosing in a quarterfinal is shit, but you can loose badly and you can loose well in my opinion, BFC can hold their heads up high today. Their fans did the club proud, one was on the pitch at full time holding the We Are FC flag proudly above his head and the players even more so. Staying behind they clapped each and every player, some with tears in their eyes, off the field. I'm not sure they could have given anything else. As they say, they left it all out there.

Winning is great, wining in a quarter final is even better. It's CC who march on to the semi finals, now just two games away from an afternoon under the arch. They battled, they scrapped, they scored a stunner, they did what was necessary on the day to secure the win, however it wasn't pretty and I'm sure they couldn't give a damn.

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