Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sporting Khalsa 1-3 FC United of Manchester

It's a sultry summer's evening in mid August. I'm stood on the banks of the River Trent, close to Nottingham city centre, with The Taxman watching Dunkirk FC in the Midland League. The visitors are wearing yellow shirts and blue shorts. We are left open-mouthed and aghast at the quality of their football in the first 30 minutes. They see efforts thump the woodwork, or tipped over the bar, as they spurn chance after chance.

The visitor's manager is a tall, blonde-haired fella called Ian Rowe. He stands with his head in hands, wallowing in self pity, as Dunkirk hit the back of the onion bag three times in 10 minutes. The game has gone for Sporting Khalsa. I make a mental note to check them out again. I can't forget that spell-binding 30 minutes of beautiful football. I clock the result of the return fixture on Twitter at their joint. They win comfortably 4-0. I'm not in the least surprised.

Fast forward to the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round draw on Colin Murray's TalkSPORT radio show. The pundits eugolise over some mouth-watering ties that have been pulled out of the famous velvet bag. I check to see who are the lowest ranked team left in the Cup. I can't believe my eyes when I see who it is, and who they are playing: Sporting Khalsa v FC United of Manchester. Book me in Danno.

It's my first blog of the season. There are reasons for this, that I can't really share with you. My blog has always featured my family. They were major players in the cast. I live in Nottingham now. Murphy the budgie has been released on a Bosman, and has been reunited with Sticky Palms. I meet regularly with Sticky jnr and 'The Skipper.' I've even put the tracksuit back on as joint-manager at Clifton U19s in the Midland Floodlit League. Life goes on. We move forward.

The week has been a whirlwind. I've been in Stockport and Birmingham on business for most of it. There's some light entertainment on Thursday evening. Dafty and I watch stand-up Mancunian comedian Justin Moorhouse. in Loughborough Town Hall. There are less in attendance than your average Midland League game. He has us in stitches, though. On Friday evening, I have a few swift jars in the Royal Children, the Bear and Lace and the Crafty Crow, near to Nottingham Castle.

It's Saturday morning, and I can already hear my little lad (Murphy) whistling his head off to 'For Your Love' by The Yardbirds on the Brian Matthew's Sound of the 60s show on Radio 2.  Murphy loves Brian. He even sent him an 87th birthday card in September.

I'm in town with Ms Moon. We're in Luvyababes fancy dress shop in Nottingham's Victoria Centre. Piers is having an Halloween bash next Saturday, and I need to make an effort. I see a guy in there who looks like Lord Sutch from the Raving Monster Loony Party.

We're soon sailing down the A38 on our way to Willenhall, in the Black Country, as the dark clouds roll in from the west. The Four Tops and Frankie Valli are on Smooth Radio. It's tipping it down with rain as we park outside the Aspray Arena. Allan 'Sniffer' Clarke of  'Dirty Leeds' was born in Willenhall. He is the second ever worst manager of my team, Lincoln City. Only to be topped by that buffoon Chris Sutton.

Sporting Khalsa emerged from a group of Sikh lads who used to have a kick-around on the local park in Willenhall They have left no stone unturned on their big day. Both sets of supporters have fan zones with huge marquees erected. It's £8 on the gate and £2 for a programme. They usually print 20 programmes for home games, today they will sell 1000. I notice a trestle table, tucked away in the corner of the Khalsa marquee, selling memorabilia, T-Shirts and scarves. £12,500 is up for grabs for today's winners. Both teams have turned down the chance for this game to be shown on a BBC football app.

Many FC United fans have dropped into Dudley, just down the road, to pay their respects to Busby Babe, Duncan Edwards, who lost his life in the Munich Air Disaster of 1958 at the age of 21. There is a statue of Edwards in Dudley town centre.

Everyone is so friendly and obliging. I have a bottle of a cider, Ms Moon has a Kenco coffee. We both wolf down a portion of homemade curry and rice at a bargain £3 a pop. We've two hours to kill, as I wanted to witness the build up. We squeeze past a dozing security guard and sneak into the FC United end. Their marquee is packed to the rafters with folk.

There's a break in the clouds. We walk from under the covered stand and lean on the wall, as the players go through the motions of endless drills. Everything is bubbling up nicely. The Khalsa PA guy is banging out some serious Club Classics from a Wendy house across the far side of the ground.

Suddenly there's a commotion near the players' tunnel. Youths begin to clash. Punches are thrown and dustbins hurled. The scenes are ugly and alien to the Non League game I adore. A couple of guys the size of Cee Lo Green and Wes Morgan restore order. Some of the youths were masked and hooded. Rumours sweep around the ground that they are infiltrators from Wolverhampton Wanderers.

FC United are a club that fascinate me. They have made a stand against the Glazer family, who have made watching Manchester United unaffordable to the working classes. I get gassing to an FC fan who is draped in a red, white and black scarf. He actually lives ten minutes down the road in Brownhills near Walsall. He watches FC home and away.

I've only seen FC play once, back in 2010 at Stocksbridge Steels near Sheffield. A 23 year old Jamie Vardy should have been playing that day, but was suspended. What a find he would have been, if I'd clocked him that day. FC flags fluttering in the breeze add a picture to the scene. A TV cameraman from China is filming the game today. It's to be shown on Chinese National TV.

Drummers lead both teams onto the pitch. The atmosphere is electric. It's something you rarely encounter in Non League. The crowd has swelled to over 2000. It would have been probably been more had Wolves and Walsall not been at home today.

Nerves get the better of Khalsa in the early stages, as they let FC bully them and boss the game. I love the Khalsa 10 jacket Marvin Nisbett. He was the stand-out player at Dunkirk, and looks the business today. He has a deft touch, low sense of gravity, a spring in his step and covers the ground like a gazelle.

FC's pressure finally pays off with Luke Ashworth heading home from a corner. On 41 minutes Greg Daniels mugs Tesfa Robinson before lobbing the 'keeper to make it 2-0. FC United's fans are rapturous. They begin to chant KC and The Sunshine Band 1976 hit "That's the Way I Like It .. Aha Aha." I love FC's back catalogue of songs. They are anti-Glazer and anti-Sky to the tunes of 'Dirty Old Town' and 'Anarchy in the UK.'

FC are showboating in the second half. Khalsa have a never say die attitude. The game turns on its head with two substitutions. Khalsa manager Ian Rowe shows tactical nous. The ineffective 7 jacket is replaced by No.14, who looks a unit. My man Marvin is moved down the middle, and plays on the shoulder.

FC fail to clear a corner, Robinson sweeps home the loose ball. It leads to a wonderful grand finale. Khalsa can't get on the end of some dangerous crosses. FC break and former Liverpool youth player Craig Lindfield put the game to bed, and FC United into the live draw on BBC 2 on Monday evening.

It's been a wonderful spectatcle, superbly organised by the good folk of community supported Sporting Khalsa. I'll be back to watch both. For now I'll draw breath on another exciting day in Non League football.

Attendance: 2252


dudsey said...

Nice to have you back Mr P. Remember hearing the Fcum Fans belting out 'Dirty Old Town' at 'The NMG'...thought it was quality and very heartfelt. Take care Pal.!!

Unknown said...

I got caught up in a bit of trouble after the match too. As you say it seemed to be either Wolves or Walsall hooligans out for a fight. Disappointing that such people see football as a vehicle for their ignorance. Khalsa were impressive and I could see them running Hereford close if they can take advantage of their game in hand.