FA Cup retains its charm in more modest surroundings | Sean Ingle

06 November 2016 16:05
For clubs lower down the league pyramid, the FA Cup can still provide the magical feeling of football for football’s sakeWhat value does a lower-league football club provide to a small town? It was something to mull over on Saturday morning during a scenic ramble from Merstham train station to the town’s football ground for the club’s first round FA Cup tie against Oxford United. The previous day I had spoken to Richard Baxter, the club’s secretary, who happens to be my sister-in-law’s father. “Many people who live in the town still don’t know where the club is,” he sighed. The size of the 1,920 crowd, 10 times the normal gate, suggested quite a few had decided their local side meant something after all.Merstham fans came hoping for a fairytale. They left with a degree in football realpolitik. Every mistake they made was punished as the gap of 94 places from Ryman Premier League to League One proved an unbridgeable chasm. Refreshingly, even a 5-0 defeat hardly seemed to matter. For there was something else in the air, something not always apparent in the Premier League: civic pride coupled with a simple desire to enjoy the experience. You heard it in the excitable cheers every time Merstham entered their opponent’s penalty area, in the discordant – and yes, annoying – burps of the vuvuzelas, and at the lingering standing ovation the team received at the finish. Related: FA Cup first round: the minnows’ stories, from Westfields to Merstham Related: FA Cup roundup: Westfields denied historic victory and MK Dons rattled Continue reading......read full article

Source: TheGuardian