From Gazza at Lutterworth, to taking my 5-year-old to his first ever football game at Staveley Miners Welfare, to Basford, where my Sydney-based mate got a refresher course on grass roots, well, 3G in Basford’s case, football…the start of my FA Cup Quest has been interesting.
I’ll start with Gazza. I decided to start at Lutterworth Town as they were hosting Heanor Town, the town of my birth. It was also Lutterworth’s inaugural appearance in the FA Cup.
As I arrived, the place was alive, with music playing through loud speakers and a general buzz around the compact little ground, which, incidentally, had a new stand, due to be opened by a very special guest…unbeknown to me. Until, that is, I made my way into the clubhouse for a pint. I could hear laughter, and people were clambering around a doorway, rubber necking at something, or someone. That someone turned out to be none other than football legend Paul Gascoigne, who was the special guest in charge of opening the new stand.
Gazza was talking to the players, telling tales in his own inimitable style, and as he made his way out of the adjoining room and through the clubhouse, he shook the hand of everyone who offered it. Total class on his part. See my Twitter timeline for pics.
So having met a legend, I then watched Lutterworth make a little bit of history, as they went on to beat Heanor 2-1, to record their first ever FA Cup victory.
So, two weeks later, I followed them to Staveley Miners Welfare. Staveley is near Chesterfield, just a 25-minute drive from where I live, and with the missus out, my babysitting duties for my 5-year-old son included taking him along to the game. It was his first ever game. Not that he was bothered about what was happening on the pitch, even though it was a corker of a game. He was more concerned about the half-time chips I’d promised him. Meanwhile, Staveley were just too good for Lutterworth, and ended up 3-0 winners.
The next round delivered a first for my FA Cup or indeed Trophy Quests: Friday night football, accompanied by my mate from Down Under.
Staveley had been drawn away at Basford, a small Notts-based club with big ambitions. On a nippy late summer/early autumn evening, and on a 3G pitch, this Notts-Derbyshire derby was an absolute belter. Despite Basford going down to 10 men early on, after former Nottingham Forest midfielder Matt Thornhill deliberately handled the ball in his area (it was more of a cracking save than simply handling the ball), the game ebbed and flowed with both sides producing decent displays. At 2-0 to Staveley, it was Basford who were applying the pressure, and they deservedly got themselves back in the game. At that point, 2-2 looked possible. But after a second home player saw red, Staveley clinched a 3-1 win and a place in the next round late on.
At the time of writing, ahead of the fourth fixture in the Cup, the Second Round Qualifying tie between Staveley and Guiseley, I’m setting up a GoFundMe page. This is something I should have done on my first quest but never got around to it. It’s in aid of my friend Mark, who used to join me on this Quest. He has an incurable brain tumour, and after being given 7 years to live back in 2007, he’s on borrowed time but is hanging on in there. He recently had to have operations to reduce a build-up of fluid on his brain and he’s no longer got the strength to join me on my road to Wembley.
So, in his honour, I shall try and raise as much money as I can for brain tumour charities as I plot my route to Wembley, relying on the generosity of clubs and players for this worthy cause. There’s more of this on the link below.