The Alan Boon Cup, 4th Round – Met Police FC v Lewes FC
Wednesday, 7th December 2011, 7.45pm
Metropolitan Police (Imber Court) Sports Club
Distance 2 miles, Attendance 121
There are fans, fans that like to vent. I’m not talking about those who enjoy the odd spot of spontaneous laughter or comment about those performing in front of them. I’m talking about the persistently angry, shouty bloke* with a penchant for industrial bile; the one who just knows better, who wants to be the centre of attention, who isn’t satisfied unless his side wins every game, and who isn’t afraid to let the rest of us listen to these pearls of wisdom ad infinitum. If said fans were to be believed, they are not just the jack of all trades but total masters of them; running football clubs, cutting grass and painting the lines, picking the team, operating in the transfer market, scoring goals whilst being nailed by a psycho defender, officiating matches, making half time tea, and almost certainly coaching and managing better than those employed by their clubs (they’ve probably played Football Manager and won, so it MUST be true). And, they, are, EVERYWHERE… in every bloody ground in the country.
At Vicarage Road I sit within earshot of a few such bores, and to be honest their attempts to “encourage” our team to win are driving me to despair. I wouldn’t mind but, without going into their poor sentence construction and pronunciation, on almost every count they’re generally wrong. The positive side is that eventually such buffoons always get their comeuppance, and a cloud lifts for all around; some will cheer, but most will just relax with wry smile on their faces. It was this very feeling of satisfaction that I experienced at a recent Watford Fans Forum, when one of the game’s true gentlemen, Graham Taylor, admonished those that were stepping out of line. Do I like that!
The staggering difference in watching non league football is that not once have I come across the same level of arrogance. Yes, the old grumblers are there (thankfully), and the sweary managers prevail (one last night will take some beating), and there are fans who disagree with officials (my brother), but in general the whole level of vitriol just isn’t there. It’s not that fans don’t care, but probably more to do with their closer affinity with realism. The reason this is playing on my mind? A rare sighting of the lesser spotted Albert Jarrett, at Imber Court last night.
as no-one could use the photocopier this was the only version of the team sheet I was shown (courtesy of a chap doing commentary on the game)
I can’t really remember Jarrett’s time at my club, but for some his name will probably bring forth mirth, and for others, anger about our then manager. New to the premier league in 2006, Watford made a few signings, one of which was a unknown nippy winger on trial from Brighton. He did fine in pre-season, was offered a one year contract, and even came on as sub for Tommy Smith against Bolton in September, and then… nothing. By February he was gone, out on loan, never really to return. For me, seeing almost** every former Hornet is quite a pleasure. Unless they’re playing Watford I really like to see them doing well. True last night his appearance prompted some less than complementary murmuring from an Aldershot fan behind us, but nothing awful certainly not aggressive, and not the calibre experienced weekly in the professional game.
It was fascinating. For well over an hour Jarrett hid beneath a thick coat in the dugout, even throughout the interval. He only warmed up moments before coming on as sub late in the game (he’s got age on his side I suppose). Starting on the left wing, he proved he still had pace, and even put over a few good crosses. He still wasn’t the greatest but it was immediately clear to me why fans abusing players just seems so utterly ridiculous. I’m not faster than him. I’m not fitter than him. And even on a good day and a fine dose of luck, I can’t control a ball as well as him… If ever we needed it here was irrefutable proof that Albert in footballing terms is easily a step ahead of me. There wasn’t the same gulf on the pitch but Lewes, in general, were also one step ahead of The Met. Despite their league positions, from kick-off to the final whistle they never really looked like losing. The Rooks totally owned the opening exchanges and deservedly went ahead through Paul Booth on the 15th minute. Even when Jerome Walker drew the local constabulary level it was against the run of play. At his stage a friend and I joked about the possibility of distracting policemen during a penalty shoot-out but in truth Lewes were so far on top this opportunity was never going to happen. This pattern of play continued for the rest of the half, ending with Lewes going in 2-1 up after Alex Stavrinou had netted the second. It had been entertaining and the fans were content to a point. The only complaint, all half, had been the suggestion that the ref was “too close to see” a Met handball in the penalty area (is that possible, being too close to see something?).
I’d love to say in the second period the game proceeded in an orderly fashion too (I know, cheap shot) but really apart from the random attacks/attempts from both teams the goals dried up and the game eventually petered out, and all without any abuse from the fans. At the final whistle there was even a pleasing absence of booing. The best team had won and with handshakes all round Lewes were through to the quarter final of the cup. Of course, due to the heavy police presence, heckling players probably isn’t really de rigueur at Imber Court, but really we all knew, deep down, that the players might not be setting the world alight but they were better than all of us in the stand. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying The Alan Boon Cup and now that Jarrett, and Lewes, are a step closer to lifting the trophy I’ll be watching out for them.
As I left the ground I realised I’d found no answers to the important questions I’d had. Were there other forces teams playing at a reasonable level? Do The Met have a fan base other than family & friends? Was it a coincidence that the linesman looked like the centre back? Could I talk to someone about that speeding ticket I got last year? And were the burgers really as good as Graham Yapp claimed? Instead what I had found were fans that found no need to taunt those playing. One’s that would empathise with Graham Taylor’s view: Booing does not help. It won’t make your players perform better… It’s not the Watford way.
(*it’s not always men, **no I won’t name the remainder)