It’s the stuff dreams are made of. The magic of the FA Cup. 18-year-old Mid-Cheshire College student Wayne Riley prodded home a late winner for Northwich Victoria, as they made a mockery of their league standing against League One side Charlton, some 80-odd places above them in the football pyramid.
ITV1 landed on their feet with this one. It was a classic cup tie, with a fairytale ending. Charlton were on a hiding to nothing really, and they threatened rarely. Northwich though played with such determination and spirit that even the most ardent Charlton fan couldn’t deny that they deserved victory.
Charlton ‘keeper Darren Randolph was seemingly going to deny the Vics the chance to progress, pulling off a wonderful one-handed save in the first half and somehow keeping the ball out of his goal in a mother of goal-mouth scrambles.
It was a shame to see some empty seats at Northwich’s Victora Stadium. It was surely a day the town could be proud of, and I would imagine that those empty seats will be filled come their second round clash with Lincoln City a fortnight on Saturday.
Their fans got behind them, and helped roar them home – even if the ITV production staff were no doubt cringing at chants of “you’re so sh1t it’s unbelievable” and “dirty southern b@stards”!
Ian Herring proved the Conference North’s answer to Rory Delap, and the ball seemed drawn to centre-back Mat Bailey’s head whenever the ball was pumped in to the box at either end.
It’s watching games like this that make me yearn for a team of reasonable quality in my hometown of Warrington. Rugby league is by far the sport of choice in my town, and it is my own personal preference, but there is nothing quite like the magic of the FA Cup. As Town languish in some obscure Northern League, it is perhaps not worth the £6 entry fee and two hours on a Saturday afternoon to watch them. If they were in Northwich’s league, I would be there every week. That may sound shallow, but it’s true.
Although I appreciate the passion of football as an impartial observer, it feels strange that I have never experienced quite the same passion myself.
I love rugby league, and while it probably means more to me than anything else in my life, the fact we are hindered by inefficient administration and a lack of coverage compared to the supposedly superior, middle-class, southern-orientated 15-man code, means that there’s very few people to share your passion with.
I’m proud to be from Warrington, I’m born and bred here. Sadly, my rugby league loyalties lie elsewhere, courtesy of my dad. So I’m missing an attachment to the place that well and truly is, and always will be, my home.
Maybe one day, I’ll be there at Cantilever Park, and my hometown passion for football will be ignited. But until then, I’ll remain in the shadows as an unattached and clubless football fanatic.