Friday, 27 February 2009

A Cod, A Cow Bell And A Pie Hut

There is a rather peculiar, and extremely unbelievable, story doing the rounds this morning. I heard it on the radio at breakfast, and it is about a mobile phone that was found in the belly of a 25lb cod. A chap from Worthing, Sussex, lost his phone whilst walking his dog on the beach and it turned up a few weeks later, still in working order, inside a fish which had been caught by a local trawlerman. The phone and owner were reunited when the fisherman phoned a couple of numbers to trace the owner.

This kind of story surfaces every now and again, and I have to take it with a pinch of salt (no pun intended); the only national newspaper running this story is 'The Sun', so therein lies a clue to its authenticity. These are stories of chance; the 'million-to-one' occurrence. The pensioner reunited with his false teeth after losing them 25 years ago; the chance meeting of a long lost brother whilst on holiday in Outer Mongolia; that oil painting you picked up at the local car boot sale for a fiver which was actually painted by your Grandfather's Grandfather a couple of centuries ago. People generally love these stories and use them as evidence that there are 'other forces' moulding and shaping our lives. Luck, chance, fate; whatever you want to call it.

Of course, what makes them sound spectacular is that they are reported widely, discussed, passed on, talked about and devoured with relish. The stories gather a momentum of their own. What isn't reported are the 999,999 other times that this kind of thing doesn't happen.

I have felt for a few weeks now that fate has dealt me a very kind hand. I'm off to Glossop tomorrow, my place of birth, to watch North End take on Marske United. I am so excited about going back to Glossop, you just wouldn't believe; since the draw was made, I have often found myself saying "what were the chances of that happening" or "I can't quite believe that I've ended up at Glossop". Having no control whatsoever where this FA Vase journey would take me, I'm still pinching myself that it is sending me, rather excitedly, towards my home town.

513 teams entered the FA Vase this season, so the likelihood of me going to Glossop is not really a 'million-to-one' chance. But its not only a '513-to-one' chance either, because many other factors have a bearing. Regionalised earlier rounds meant that I would only see teams from down South in the early stages; the chances of seeing Glossop were naturally much slimmer than, say, Banstead Athletic. Glossop still had to go and win their regional games to get to this Quarter-Final, against some very strong Northern teams. But for me to see them at Surrey Street, they did have to be drawn out of the hat at home, after already being put on my 'path' of the draw when they were drawn to face Bitton AFC in the last round. So the chances of me ending up at Surrey Street, tomorrow, were rather slim.

But looking at all the entrants to this season's competition, I may well be writing the same thing if I had happened across some other teams on my way to Wembley. AFC Blackpool and AFC Fylde (I spent 3 years at polytechnic in the Fylde and Blackpool area); Wick (as in 'Wick To Wembley' from last season); Runcorn Linnets (where by brother used to live); Morpeth Town (near to where by brother now lives); Newton Abbot (where my sister lives); New Milton Town (where my family holiday every year)...and so on. A visit to any of those and the now worn out phrase of "what were the chances of that" would have been aired yet again.

Who knows? One thing I do know is that it promises to be a great occasion tomorrow. We are down to the last 8 teams already, only two more rounds to negotiate before a Wembley appearance.

Preparations up at Glossop have been ongoing all week. A large crowd is expected as recruitment efforts around the town and High Peak are stepped up; an extra turnstile will be open, the clubhouse (opening at 1pm) now has a temporary extension to house everyone and the number of programmes being printed has increased tenfold compared to a normal League game. Fans are being encouraged to bring flags and drums and make as much noise as possible. Likewise with the Marske United fans; they will be bringing at least one drum, a bugle and a cow bell. Yes, a cow bell.

It sounds as if there will be a great atmosphere in Surrey Street. A couple of rounds ago, Glossop dramatically beat Stewarts & Lloyds Corby with a very late winner and the 'old fashioned' atmosphere inside the ground that day was, by all accounts, fantastic. The defeated Northamptonshire club later wrote to Glossop to thank them for their marvellous hospitality and also to say that was one of the best games, for atmosphere, they had have ever played in.

The Glossop players have also been given time to prepare for the game. The Vodkat North West Counties League allowed them to postpone a scheduled midweek fixture ahead of tomorrow's match. Meanwhile, Marske United didn't have that luxury and had a tough game on Wednesday, winning 3-2 at Birtley Town after being 2-0 down. The Glossop players will run out a little fresher.

And finally, one great piece of news for me is that Glossop will have a Pie Hut at the game tomorrow. For someone who loves his pies, I'm delighted. I don't recall ever going to a ground that has had something called a 'Pie Hut'. Wonderful. What were the chances of that happening? I'm off now to phone my friends to pass on this excellent news. Now, where did I put my mobile...?

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