The last few weeks have been fun. Even the majority of the not-so-fun bits have been more fun than most things in the last few years.
After enjoying the trip to Brightlingsea (a set of words not normally spoken or written), it was off up to Macclesfield Town for our FA Cup First Round tie. Rosey and I (well, it was just “I” as I pestered Rosey into starting our journey early) decided to begin the trek to Cheshire on Thursday night, it was my wish to get the M25 bit out of the way so we could have as close to a stress-free trip on Friday, Rosey wasn’t so up for that, went with it anyway and slept as well as I did that night… We chose the wrong hotel. Ibis Budget hotels, or at least this one at the M40 services in Beaconsfield, are budget for a reason. We were right to not expect much, but the bed ranks right up there in the top five of uncomfortable beds – it was small for a double bed, it was extraordinarily hard, I think that when we left on the Friday morning, it was the earliest that we had ever willingly left a hotel. My back hurt, my neck hurt, things I didn’t even know I had joined in and hurt as well. We should have carried on to the Oxford services on the M40 to bunk for the night, we’ll do precisely that next time.
We arrived in Macclesfield mid-afternoon on Friday. Reports of catastrophic flooding in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire were extremely worrisome, reports of a possible impending strike by Macclesfield Town players were also worrisome. It’s been common knowledge that the people in charge of the Silkmen haven’t exactly been forthcoming in paying people at the correct time – football authorities get some unnecessary flak sometimes, but quite why they have allowed this situation to fester for so long (and quite why players, etc., willingly join such a football club) is actually beyond my comprehension. Anyway, after the umpteenth non-payment, the players decided to threaten industrial action.
This put the whole weekend into some kind of quandary. Would K’s be playing Macclesfield’s first team, would they be playing the reserves or youth team (though I don’t believe they have a reserves team), would the game go ahead at all? And then if it did, would the weather intervene anyway? That wasn’t the nicest feeling, to be taking two days off work for what might have been absolutely nothing. Friday evening I was allowed to announce that the game would definitely go ahead, so at least we had that. But we didn’t know precisely who we’d be playing, and indeed that honestly would be the case until the team sheets were swapped at around 11.45am on Sunday. There was this inkling that it would be the Macclesfield youth team with some loan players, but these things have a habit of sorting themselves out before the proverbial hits the fan.
Friday night dinner at the hotel in Macclesfield – a very comfortable Premier Inn just a mile or so from Moss Rose – was excellent, and stereotypically northern. Yorkshire pudding chicken wrap with chips, garden peas and gravy. It was heavenly.
Saturday morning nearly started early – switched on television to check rugby league score, saw that GB were not doing well, so went back to sleep. Rosey and I did something touristic – we went off to Jodrell Bank, and it was superb. Cheap entrance, plenty of things to look at, kids would adore it with loads of interactive things to play with regardless of whether you learned anything from it or not, it is an outstanding place to visit. Too much money spent on books in the shop later (and a cuddly toy dalmatian found in a Co-op near the hotel entering the family), it was back to the hotel to start worrying about the game itself. I wasn’t too sure of any other results, either in the top league or the FA Cup, let’s be honest I didn’t care.
Sunday was game day. And it still feels very strange. Oh so good, but strange.
The people behind the scenes at Macclesfield Town were really very nice, they went out of their way to make us feel welcome at Moss Rose, nothing was too much for them, they were and are a credit to their football club. The situation at the club is hurting them, this is absolutely clear, and I recognised it from previous personal experiences. They deserve so much better.
It was clear when we arrived at the ground and looked at the team sheets that we were playing their youth team with some loan players. My heart didn’t flip with joy at the thought, my attitude was that regardless of that, we were still visiting a team three divisions above us and we would be in for a hard game. Entering the gladiators’ pit, there was the surreal sight of small pockets of Macclesfield supporters around the ground (a threatened and frankly understandable boycott coming to fruition) and one corner of the ground not quite jam packed but really rather full of Kingstonian supporters. To say that at least 90% of the noise inside the Moss Rose that afternoon came from that corner may be an understatement.
The game itself turned out to be glorious, but me being me, I was never that comfortable until our fourth goal. Fourth goal! In a match against a Football League club at their place, and I’m writing about our fourth goal! This is crazy. The first goal was beautiful, seven minutes into the game, Rob Tolfrey’s goal kick was actually a pinpoint, brutally accurate, long pass to an onrushing Dan Hector, who ran on to goal and slid it past the goalkeeper. I have not seen many better passes live at a football match, and what a wonderful time for Dan Hector to finally get his just desserts and score his first goal for the K’s – his comeback from injury earlier in the season has been one of the big catalysts for our upturn in form.
I will admit, I don’t remember too much of the game after that, emotionally it got a bit fraught. Louie Theophanous scoring our second goal just four minutes later, then the worry as the young Silkmen put some pressure on us just before half time. There was still enough respect from me for the Macclesfield players to believe that they could come back – not a knock on the Kingstonian players, but I’m still not used to our guys being good. Dan Bennett’s goal two minutes into the second half and then Louie’s second goal with twenty minutes left sealed the game. Celebrations were starting early in the Kingstonian corner. I was busy watching both the game and looking around the ground in a desperate attempt to take this all in. At the end of the game, whilst the Kingstonian corner went mental with the Kingstonian team (and why not?), us in the prawn sandwich section were either sitting or standing just trying to absorb the enormity of what had happened.
OK, there will be this asterisk in a lot of people’s minds given the apparent strength of the Macclesfield team, but to be brutal, that’s not our problem. Beat what’s in front of you, you can’t control who is in the opposition, you still have to worry about controlling yourself in the occasion. And it was an even more unusual occasion in the sense that here we were, a non-league team playing a club three leagues above them, at their ground, and we were favourites to win the game. It’s actually quite a scary thought, and just imagine the flak we would get if we lost, so there must of been immense pressure on our guys to perform. If there was this pressure, it didn’t show.
As for the Macclesfield Town players, I believe most of them made their senior debuts in this game – they were an absolute credit to their club, the few people that stayed around when they walked off the pitch gave them much applause (as did we), and they darn well deserved it.
The people in the boardroom at Moss Rose were as magnanimous after the game as they were friendly and welcoming before it. I certainly had to pop to the little boys’ room to wipe away some tears and silently do some whooping, something I desperately didn’t want to do in front of our esteemed and respected hosts.
We eventually made our way outside the ground, wished everyone we could see from the club well and genuinely hoped that something good was going to come out of their situation (like a responsible owner, though that was left unsaid), and then I was approached by a young lad, who was with a group of young lads. I was still slightly dazed with all that was going on, and this lad asked “What are you with that rubbish team?”
I didn’t hear the “rubbish team” bit. “Press officer”, I said (I don’t like the official title of “Communications officer” but can’t think of anything better, communicating is something I’m not very good at sometimes). I couldn’t quite see him properly as I needed to dry my eyes a little more.
“Oh, you know that was a rubbish team?”
This was confusing the doings out of me, all I could reply with was another “Eh?” We’d won 4-0 and I was getting accused of being with a rubbish team. Once I cleared my head, I said “you mean the rubbish team that just won four-nil?”
“You only played against teenagers.”
“I don’t care,” I interjected as he continued to rabbit on, “I’ve waited nineteen years for this moment, not letting anything get in the way.” A kind of “sorry mate, I’m way too busy feeling happy to give two hoots about what you’re waffling on about,” but a bit more polite.
With that, I bumbled away. Little blighters, don’t you just love ’em? Back to the hotel, followed Liverpool’s wonderful win over Manchester City on the interweb (jeez, what a weekend!), tried to watch the NFL on my tablet using Premier Inn’s Ultimate Wi-Fi connection (which ain’t that good – Washington didn’t play this week, which made it a very successful week for the horrendously awful Redskins) and then proceeded not to sleep well that night. The journey home on Monday was l-o-n-g (the weather held all weekend, which was surprising given all the forecasts, though there was hail on the windscreen on Monday morning), thanks to the M6 installing a “smart” motorway, whatever the heck that is – maybe a smart motorway is one the empties just before we get to it…
I wish we’d have been able to go to Blackfield and Langley on Wednesday, despite the foul weather, but we wouldn’t have been able to get enough time off work in order to get there. That was almost a bigger win for us than Macclesfield – there always seems to be a let down after big occasions like our FA Cup tie, but Hayden and the guys didn’t let that happen, and it was with much joy when I saw the goals coming up on Footballwebpages. We seem to be on another cup run, they’re quite fun. Whilst our focus is now on two difficult home league games, against Lewes tomorrow and Enfield Town on Wednesday, I hope these cup runs can continue a little longer, they’re rather memorable and entertaining.