I’ve been with Kingstonian FC since May 2001. Since then, as I’ve mentioned before, the FA Cup was something other people experienced. Until this year. And, by ‘eck, it was fun.
First port of call with this bit of chaotic scribbling goes to Hayden and the players. I wrote on more than one occasion that I just wanted them to give everything, and if it wasn’t enough, then congratulations to the opponents for they will have earned their win. Our players gave everything on Saturday against AFC Fylde. Not a single player needs to look at themselves in the mirror and berate themselves for their efforts, because they were all outstanding. It would have been easy to fold like a pack of cards after the Coasters’ second goal on the stroke of half time, but the Kingstonian players never did – the game, already highly competitive in the first half, continued in that vein and if we’d have got a goal back sometime in the second half then the place would have erupted and we’ve had have had one mega finish on our hands. We didn’t get that first goal, and our opponents, although made to work mighty hard, were worthy winners.
AFC Fylde got to the National League play-off final and won the FA Trophy last season for a simple reason – they’re darn good. It was an education watching a National League team close up, and it was pleasing to see how well we competed. We just didn’t have enough oomph in the penalty area (and their keeper made some fine saves), we made a couple of mistakes too many at the back and got punished for it. The game was close on the day, but you could see the difference that two levels of football makes. Nothing for us to be ashamed of, plenty to be proud of.
I will feel a little bit jealous of AFC Fylde when the cup draw is made tonight, but nowhere near as jealous as in other years. I’ve tasted some FA Cup glory at last now, it’s an acquired but eventually thoroughly acceptable taste, I have felt how good it feels to be part of a non-league club competing amongst some bigger names (we got further than Sunderland, for crying out loud!), and I will be pleased for the Coasters if they get the glamorous tie that they deserve.
It was, to say the least, a thoroughly long day. And for some people, even longer than that. When Rosey and I got to the ground, at around 10.30am, the place was already a hive of activity. The BBC were all over the place, working their backsides off for the Football Focus programme. It was amazing looking at how much work and effort and equipment goes into that programme, it’s a pity in a way that I don’t watch it. I can’t watch it – I’m usually either at a game or travelling towards one…
It seemed that on the day it mostly went very well, nothing from my vantage point went badly or even somewhat wrong, a testament to the preparations that the club made for the day. If an issue came up, it was either worked around or fixed with the minimum of fuss. All the press people around me were completely professional and seemed understanding of the restrictions that a small ground can cause. No-one moaned to me about anything, again if there was a problem it was sorted or worked around. I will admit to feeling very anxious of the day, I wasn’t sure that I was going to cope with a big crowd and a big occasion, but there was never a moment in which that anxiety was justified; I thought I did ok on the microphone, no major errors, and I was mightily proud of the programme that we produced.
I’ve been doing programmes now for over twenty years, I think this was the first one that I can look at and think that it was a job really, really well done. It was made so much easier to compile by my contributors, who all did a brilliant job doing what they did and doing it early enough to make sure that there was no panic towards the deadline. Thanks to all my contributors, who were (and always are) superb in what they do, also to Ben Harris from CreativeDesign for doing a cracking one-off cover that was a throwback to our mid-1990s cup exploits, and to EKA Services, our printers who worked overtime to get the programmes printed. One heck of a big effort from everyone, thank you so much for making the programme so good.
I think I can retire happy now. But not just yet. I’m having fun again at Kingstonian matches, I’d quite like to continue having fun. I won’t be at Folkestone as it’s almost impossible for me to get there in midweek (and I’m physically shattered from the weekend), which is a shame as Folkestone’s ground is one of my favourites to visit despite our useless historical record there, but I’m looking forward to a duo of games against Merstham – separate programmes, by the way, whilst I understand the reasoning for double programmes, I’m not a fan and won’t be going down that road myself – one league game and one league cup game, both at King George’s Field.
In the meantime, I’ll be in a dark corner trying to calm down if you need me…