The cup runneth over…

Well…one FA Cup win is, for us, a cup run…certainly in recent years.

Seriously, though, folks, that was as difficult an FA Cup tie as I expected. I thought that overall we would play better (arguably we only started to play well once we got our first goal), and, had Walton Casuals been able to put away one of their numerous chance with the score goalless, then we would have been in trouble.

Despite a few scares, though, our defence did very well, Simon Cooper and Ollie Cook are beginning to show why they did so well at Merstham, and Rob Tolfrey, in game number 499 as a Kingstonian player, was my man of the match with a string of fine saves and other catches. It was against the run of the play that we opened the scoring, the Stags not dealing with a corner and Ollie Cook slamming the ball home from close range, but our second goal was an absolute delight. There are times when you forget Dan Bennett is playing, he is a frustrating player to watch at the best of times, and Sunday wasn’t his greatest day, but the pass he produced to feed Louie Theophanous was exquisite, pinpoint, glorious. It split the Casuals defence into pieces, Louie dashed on to the ball and expertly slid it past the keeper. A goal not becoming what was a bit of an ugly game, but a goal very fit to win an important cup tie.

It was the first time since December 2018 that we’ve actually managed a two-game winning streak, in current climes this is quite satisfying, and add to that two clean sheets as well, which is always nice. And, ultimately, it was nice to have won a game in which at times we struggled quite a bit, too often in the recent past we looked ok until the opposition actually attacked back, but this time we stood firm, and that is very pleasing indeed. I just need to work out how to cheer goals again, I seem to have forgotten…

Last night, it was back to King George’s Field to watch my first under 18s game in a couple of years, as we faced hosts Corinthian-Casuals in the FA Youth Cup Preliminary Round. Before I get to the game itself, I think some words needs to come off my chest, so to speak.

Now, even though it was absolutely, completely and utterly out of my hands, one of my regrets with the under 18s team is how it went from top class to even less than bottom class almost overnight when internal politics ensured that everything that was built was utterly razed to the ground and we went from two-time league champions to the only reason as to why we didn’t finish 11th was because there were ten in the division. We went from a glorious FA Youth Cup run that only ended at Aldershot when the Shots scored in the 90th minute, and a league title win gained at no less an epic venue as Gander Green Lane, to leaving a match thinking that losing 0-7 or 1-8 wasn’t actually that bad a result.

I do understand some of the reasons why this happened, the feeling was that some parents objected to money going towards this team when their sons weren’t getting a look in to actually playing, but let’s face some facts here – their sons weren’t getting a look in because they weren’t good enough, they weren’t coached well enough and they just weren’t even close to being of the standard that we would have required had we even had a second team in the Isthmian Youth League, and that showed week after week after week when they played in the team the year after our second league title win. Only a couple of goalkeepers were in my mind worthy of their places, and they must have been as shell shocked as me every time the sixth or seventh goal went in, one of them was given a Player of the Year award from me even though he shipped over a hundred goals, he seriously kept the scores down in every game he played.

The ensuing two or maybe three seasons, I can’t actually remember how many, left their scars on me. I still remember leaving some ground in the middle of nowhere not that far from either Fleet or Farnborough (probably right in between, but there were faded Farnborough North End FC signs around the place), I’d missed a first team home game to cover this Under 18s match, we started with ten men, the eleventh turned up at half time, we got eight or nine stuffed past us by Woking for the umpteenth heavy thrashing of that campaign, I got into the car as Rosey graciously gave me a lift to and from the match, and I just broke down and cried. I never cry when we lose, I just get peed off, but this was the result of so much build-up that something just gave out in me. I think the first team actually won that night and it didn’t mean anything to me.

The people that caused it are no longer connected with Kingstonian or Kingstonian Youth and, no doubt, don’t give a **** about it, with some thinking how wonderful a job they did. What they actually did was screw a hard working, extremely proud and somewhat energetic (yes, even energetic!) under 18s secretary (and a succession of managers and coaches who were left with absolutely nothing to work with, not made to feel in any way welcome, quite the opposite in fact, and did their absolute best) into the bloody ground, and the Isthmian Youth League team left shattered and a shell of its former self. As you can tell, I am still bitter and I didn’t deserve the treatment I was given by these people, I get annoyed that I even think about these people because I just have zero respect and time for them. As a result, I still feel hesitant when it comes to even simply watching under 18s games, even though some of my very best memories at Kingstonian will always be from this team.

Now, after that major rant, and believe me, I reined it in, I can report that the Isthmian U18s look to be in the best shape since Ian Brady, Mark Dunne, the very much missed Tim McKenna and me took a ride on the rollercoaster that gave us two league titles, a county cup final victory and a wonderful FA Youth Cup run (they were great days). I arrived early at King George’s Field, and was immediately taken by the professionalism of the coaching staff and indeed the players. These players have, I believe, mostly graduated from the Sunday ranks at Kingstonian Youth, proving right there that players can progress if they are good enough. And these lads looked to be good last night, and I can only praise what I saw all around, apart from the training tops colour – they have out Borussia Dortmunded Borussia Dortmund with the dayglo yellow look, you definitely don’t need floodlights with those things being worn, I think I may still have an afterimage in my left eye…

It’s fair to say that we had much the better team, though in defence of the Corinthian-Casuals lads, I understand their season hasn’t started yet so to play in an FA Youth Cup game for your opener is a tall task. Three goals in either half did the trick for the K’s, it would have been quite a few more but the Corinthian-Casuals goalkeeper was seriously brilliant, this result has come hot on the heels of a 5-0 win in their opener against Tooting and Mitcham United. It’s only the start of the season, but already you can see the job done by Stephen Drewett and the rest, this has taken a few years but hopefully the high quality work they’ve put in may begin to be rewarded, not only with results but players progressing to the first team squad. The lads looked professional, they seemed switched on at all times, they looked like they were enjoying it but were business-like when they needed to be, they looked like they were part of an important club and not a rag tag outfit like we were in my final years as hon sec (not Bobtail as he had been put in a stew). I think things are looking up. I’m hoping to go to Thursday’s League Cup game at Colliers Wood United against Dorking Wanderers, but all depends on my progress writing the first team programme for Saturday, and whether I can overcome the aforementioned hesitancy.

It’s new opponents for K’s this week, always an interesting moment as Bowers and Pitsea come to visit. That’s going to be a very hard game, they’re used to winning after coming close to promotion two seasons ago and walloping the entire division last season, and they’ve not had a bad start. I think the first team is beginning to get it together, I still have one or two concerns, but we have a couple of key players back from unavailability, so I’m confident that we’re capable of getting all three points, but that of course depends on how well we play. Now…must try to look happy at games…

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