Old Sarum & The Purple Tweenie

FA Cup, 1st Round Proper – Salisbury City FC v Arlesey Town FC
Saturday, 12th November 2011, 3.15pm
Raymond McEnhill Stadium
Distance 78 miles, Attendance 1298
I love that phrase, “FA Cup, 1st Round Proper”… Who the hell came up with that misnomer? This season I’ve been to twelve FA Cup matches. They were all contested between FA registered teams, by the official rules, on regulation-size pitches, with the correct number of players, and officiated by (mostly capable) able-bodied officials. Yet somehow in our world of fanfares and clamour for money and celebrity they aren’t afforded the same status. Does this make these games improper? It’s tragic. To add to the issue; before this round I cannot remember a single game being shown live on TV. Yes Budweiser did their really great facebook match on the first night of the competition, but that was three months ago and I cannot even remember a single highlights show on free-to-air television since then. Of course, once the big boys join in you’ll be lucky not to have you game moved for television. Let’s not forget that this is the cup the FA’s own website bill as “the world’s greatest cup competition” yet worryingly some teams are seen to make it greater than others, and the fans aren’t treated much better.
Three seasons ago Plymouth Argyle drew Watford at home in the Quarter Final of this great competition. Sadly being the least fashionable teams left in The Cup their game was moved to Sunday evening for television; A time when there was no public transport returning to London after the game. So on a school night the FA and the TV moguls, one can assume, wanted fans to drive a 9 hour round trip to see the game. I still have my ticket, but I didn’t go. My brother has a photo of my empty seat.
Dear FA, when trying to change the perceptions of others, may I suggest leading from the front might be the way forward?

I started this journey by chance, but it has reignited my love affair both with football and the FA Cup. No I cannot get enough of it. I’m pouring over the Non League Paper for fixtures (as other papers don’t seem to have noticed it’s started), calculating journeys, and reading blogs and team websites for advice. It’s intoxicating. Salisbury City had been on my radar for some weeks. A reasonably easy journey from the capital, a beautiful area of the country and a new ground to tick off with National Heritage sites on its doorstep. I could really kill two birds with one stone. Taking the opportunity on a fine sunny day I set off down the M3 past some old haunts and found my way towards Salisbury Plain. Having seen Stonehenge, many times, I was on my way to Old Sarum. The mighty Iron Age hill fort was where the first cathedral once stood and the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark.” This was a welcome respite after a long drive, and a great chance to soak up history older than the FA Cup, and the stunning views across the countryside, the new city of Salisbury, and The Ray Mac Stadium, which was to be my final stop.

As it was Remembrance Weekend soldiers were to be leading out the teams and the minutes silence, so getting in early seemed important. Sadly not every had the same thoughts and kick-off was delayed to ensure no-one missed the start (something that wouldn’t happen in the higher echelons I suspect). At the ground the staff were friendly and organised, parking us up on the pitches next door within easy walk of the turnstiles. Before entering I collected a team sheet, and was stunned to see David Perpetuini named for the opposition; a player that once graced the premier league with Watford still going despite the wishes of some of our fans. Interestingly the Purple Tweenie seemed a much more responsible character than when I’d seen him a decade earlier though couldn’t influence the outcome in his team’s favour. Inside the well looked after and welcoming ground, the game was beyond Arlesey Town’s grasp for most of the 90 minutes and the 3-1 final score line was exactly what The Whites deserved. Whilst the final goal will take some plaudits there was a first half curling shot from the edge of the box which struck the Arlesey crossbar. The skill involved… well lets just say that had it have been one of our overpaid premier league “stars”, Lineker and crew would’ve been pawing over it for weeks. Well done to Salisbury (the whole city) and thanks for a wonderful day out.

Right, now where to for the next “proper”game?
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