It is this sort of situation that makes the FA Cup so great. Yeading’s reward for what was, by all accounts, something of a thuggish display (they managed eight yellow cards and two red cards, before you start accusing me of bias here)? A trip to Nottingham Forest in the First Round proper. Rats. The First Round draw was made on Saturday tea-time, and it threw up even more interesting ties than usual. All police over-time in Wales will be cancelled on the weekend of the 11th November, because Newport County have been drawn at home to Swansea City. There’s a long and complicated story of aggro between supporters of the three “big” South Wales clubs, and the only way to guarantee as little trouble as possible would be to play it at six in the morning on a pitch in a prison, or something. Other choice ties will pitch Oxford United against Wycombe Wanders, Farsley Celtic against the most loathed team outside the Premiership, Franchise FC, Kettering vs Oldham, and Havant & Waterlooville vs Millwall.
There was also a full programme of League football yesterday afternoon. I did catch the last half hour of Newcastle vs Charlton, and the booing that the Newcastle team got when the full-time whistle went was the loudest I’ve heard for quite some time. To be completely fair (not something I’m very good at, but I’m learning), Newcastle weren’t completely awful, but the post-match interviews, which featured two or three of their players whining about how unlucky they’d been was a pretty damning indictment of the stench of self-delusion that is currently wafting around St James Park. As for Glenn Roeder… when, exactly, did he become a great coach? He had that fairly dismal spell in charge at West Ham, took Watford into the First Division play-offs over a decade ago, and… that’s about it. Newcastle have fought tooth and nail for him to left in charge at St James Park without his UEFA coaching badges, and I’m wondering exactly why this might be. On the basis of what I saw today, I doubt that he’ll still be there come the end of the season.
The gulf between the elite and the rest was best summed up by events at the Reebok Stadium, where Manchester United made a mockery of Bolton’s claim to be Champions League material. This is, to me, how one-sided it has all become. We can, at least, be grateful that Arsenal seem to be continuing to stumble when we all think they’re back to their awesome best. Robin Van Persie rescued a point for them at home to Everton yesterday afternoon, after which Arsene Wenger, the self-appointed Moral Guardian Of Attractive And Entertaining Football, complained that Everton put ten men behind the ball after they took the lead. Arsenal’s belief that they are somehow the guardians of the heart and soul of football grows ever more galling with each passing week, even more so when one considers the desperately dull but effective team that won them two championships in three years in the late 1980s. Such selective memories.
Finally, and I do try to not end these posts on a downer, more sad news. The Luton Town player Sol Davis suffered a stroke yesterday afternoon, whilst en route to Ipswich for this afternoon’s League match. Perhaps, Luton lost 5-0. I’m sure you’ll join with me in wishing him a complete and speedy recovery.