Saturday, January 5, 2013


Manchester City versus Watford in the FA Cup. Before nobody wanted to know the Cup That Cheers. Before Sky only televised live cup ties between United and Someone and Chelsea and Someone. Match of the Day cameras are present. Bit of John Motson on the video after the pub and The Leadmill if I remember to set the thing properly.

The Kippax is bubbling with expectation. Watford arrive with Elton John, Graham Taylor, Kenny Jackett, John Barnes and Tony Coton in tow. City supply Gordon Davies and a Jack Russell terrier for the fun. 

Halcyon Days. Boys in Tacchini clobber; away support dwarfed by the mass of slatted seats in the Platt Lane. The smell of wet burgers and fags everywhere. Simple Minds on the tannoy. Cracking football match, only partially ruined by the sight of Davies and Mark Lillis doing the hokey kokey to celebrate City's lead. Lillis's shorts ending just under his armpits. Scoreboard in the North Stand saying "H--p! boooo:y Tim f.*m Sale".

Mick McCarthy assuring the ref it wasn't a penalty with calm words and bristling moustache. Kenny Jacket's left foot swipe into the corner. Lillis tries the same and smacks the post. A replay at Vicarage Road the next Tuesday affording time enough for the local police to collect their helmets and the rest of us to day trip to Hertfordshire. Far too complicated these days.

A second replay the week after. Queues as long as the Great Wall of China in the freezing sleet and snow. Good job I slipped the sheepskin coat and the Ellesse trainers on. Hoping it's been worth the effort. How come it takes so long to put 27,000 in the ground? 15 minutes gone by the time we get in. Tch, that's paying on the gate for you! Mercifully we've not missed a goal. Kippax seems pretty full. Must be Swales and his tax avoidance schemes. No way the crowd's only 27,000. 

Watford score three in the 2nd half. Wish I'd not bothered now. Even the little dog on the pitch is faster than our attack. Reading or Bury in the 5th round. Could have been a cup quarter final. Ah bugger. And then there's Steve Kinsey. There'll be a fight about that on the bus back to Piccadilly.

Unreconstructed football experience. Still snowing outside. Huddled figures dart off down Claremont Road. I take a last look back at the towering floodlights, the rolls of barbed wire and pointy bits of glass on the tops of the perimetre walls. Brilliant. See you on Saturday for QPR.

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