The 3-5 score line reveals that technically there was no magic of the Cup at Clarence Park last Sunday. The Mighty Saints, underdogs for the day, could not achieve the cliché that is a ‘Cup upset’ and make it to the second round PROPER.
And yet there was something about the whole day itself that would have left Harry Potter feeling at home. On the pitch, under the supervision of tactical wizard and gaffer Ian Allinson the team produced a performance that charmed the crowd. Three perfectly taken goals, including the early opener by Junior Morias which beguiled the BBC viewers who voted it goal of the round.
Off the pitch, the game had clearly enchanted the local community, with a huge crowd of 3,473, encouraged no doubt by the thought of seeing some league opposition but also the efforts of so many to promote the fixture and the club’s speedy and wise response to the consternation that meet the initial ticket prices.
Managing a mass of people seven times bigger than your usual home crowd required those who, week in week out, contribute to a Clarence Park match day to conjure up something a bit special. Which of course they did, with their regular volunteer numbers boosted by youth team players and some of us who usually spend a bit too much time in the bar to be relied upon. There were additional turnstiles to operate (including a special fast track gate), temporary bars to set up (and therefore more beer to sell), posters with directions for the away fans to put up (and there was me without my lucky hammer), tickets for the seated areas to be checked and just generally more STUFF to do. There were no magic wands from what TLF saw, just a lot of effort, the occasional fraught moment and the usual bonhomie.
Not having been allocated a task, TLF was odd-job Fox, going where bid, until John decided to put me in charge of two youth team players, selling programmes. Turns out that 16/17 year olds who want to look cool are perhaps not as vocal and extrovert as forty-something women with daft hair who no longer cares – who knew!? Such was the quality of the TLF sales patter (and willingness to sell to men queuing for the loo)…or more likely the quality of the programme and the occasion that was leaving the punters spellbound, that our first box was soon dispensed and further supplies were sought. By kick-off we were out of programmes and our money belt was stuffed full of coins and notes.
I passed on this good news to John, who wanted to know, “so how many more did you take from the shop to sell?”
TLF hadn’t thought of that. Clearly still an amateur when it comes to the programme selling malarkey.
“So how are we meant to reconcile the programme sales?”
TLF is speechless and is starting to feel a bit like they do in the Boardroom in The Apprentice. I am waiting for John to morph into LordSugah and tell me, “You’re fired.” But he just shakes his head and strolls of to the next task on his to do list, which probably now includes the action, “don’t let TLF have anything to do with money – she is keen but a bit dozy where maths is concerned.”
TLF scuttles off for a restorative first pint of the day and the rest of the game. Our equaliser to make it 2-2 gives us hope but it just isn’t to be. And yet TLF can’t be gloomy – happy to see Clarence Park full and the generosity of so many who gave so much of their own time before, during and after the match.
That isn’t the magic of the Cup.
That is the magic of St Albans City FC.
Sorcerer’s Apprentice Fox
St Albans City 3 Carlisle Utd 5
Consumption: 1 pint of Stella (no time – busy working!) and 1 packet bacon fries
Programmes sold: Lots
“Get your souvenir programme heeeereeee!”