When Sutton Met Coventry

As the trains wend their way out of central London towards Surrey, one could be forgiven for missing Sutton in amongst the ever-expanding suburbia. These days, it’s quite difficult to make out where London stops and Surrey starts, and it’s even more difficult to make out Gander Green Lane it amongst it all. Gander Green Lane is the home of Sutton United, a club that fit many of the boxes of the stereotype of the non-league giant-killer. Big ground with open terrace? Check. Unusual coloured kit (the club itself tends to call it “amber and chocolate” but the rest of the world knows it as “yellow and brown”)? Check. Yet Sutton United were responsible for possibly the greatest single FA Cup giant-killing of all time, when they biffed Coventry City on the nose in 1989. Sutton’s reputation prior to the 1988/89 season was of being non-league football’s nearly men. They had been members of the Athenian League until 1963, when they joined the Isthmian League. They had played at Wembley three times, in 1963 (losing to Wimbledon in the FA Amateur Cup Final), in 1969 (when they lost the FA Amateur Cup Final to North Shields) and in 1981, when they lost the FA Trophy Final against Bishops Stortford. They made an impression in the national press in 1970, when they made the FA Cup Fourth Round. They managed...

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