Post Extra-Preliminary and Preliminary Round Reports.

No pies for Swifts

I should say right at the start that following a bit I did about Ian’s Big Fat FA Cup Fundraising Challenge on BBC Hereford and Worcester, the directors of Stourport Swifts paid the biggest donation so far into my Just Giving account. That’s a measure of how welcoming a club the Swifts are.

In which I discuss some difficulties pertaining to event documentation

August 6th, 2022, Emirates FA Cup, Extra-Preliminary Round, Old School Lane, Hereford.

Hereford Pegasus 0, Stourport Swifts 6. Att. 73

Pie 9/10

On the face of it, Ian’s Big Fat FA Cup Fundraising Challenge is an easy event to adequately document. Starting with the extra-preliminary round on August the 6th, 2022, at least one of the event participants aims to follow the winners of each ‘game’ all the way to Wembley, in June 2023. The ‘game’ consists of three parts; a) getting to the ground, having a pie etc, b) a football match between two teams hoping to progress to the next round of the Emirates FA Cup, and c) the journey home. There are a finite number of ‘games’; 14 in total.

Well and good. A smartphone, or series of smartphones, should be able to document each game, I felt, whether it be for stills, or soundclips, or video recording. And I still feel that, in different hands than mine, the thing must be possible.

I made my first mistake even before we left Presteigne on August 6th, a fiery hot day. There were five of us; myself, Glenn Duggan, Kristian Lovett, Eleanor Marchant and Dan Wiggins. Glenn is a Villa season-ticket holder, and a cold-eyed reader of a game. Kristian, aged 20, is a walking encycopedia of the world game; and, what’s more, had actually played for Hereford Pegs a few years before. Ellie and Dan were there to have a cold beer in the sun, and pass comment on the whole cultural situation.

We were to go from Presteigne to Old School Lane, the home of Hereford Pegasus, to see them take on Stourport Swifts in the Extra-Preliminary Round. The choice of where to see the first game was crucial, of course. It’s the only desicion the event participants can take. After this first game, only the FA Cup draw decides the route participants must take to the Final. If, for example, we’d chosen Hereford Lads Club vs Hanley Town, we would be careering down a different path.

Clearly, rigourous documentation was called for, and I decided that the best thing to do was to film the participants before they got into Glenn’s car for the 45 minute drive to Hereford. I pressed record, held up my smartphone, gave a never-to-be remembered witty and cogent explanation of Ian’s Big Fat FA Cup Fundraising Challenge, and asked the participants to give us a chorus of ‘We’re On Our Way to Wembley.’ So there is no proper selfie of the five of us giving a thumbs up before the first moment of the first ‘game.’ I expect you’ve seen a few in your time, we all have, but this void where a selfie should be causes unease and instability right at the start of the event. Without such a selfie, did the event really take place?

Throughout the course of the ‘game’, I filmed the participants several times. I filmed the clubhouse, and, of course, highlights of the match. So confident was I in my hitherto untested skills as a videographer, that I only took one still photograph, that of the pie, which appears at the top of my previous post. It was when I returned home that I fully realised that the videography skills I’d hoped would magic into my brain had failed to materialise. Oh, the clips are on my phone, all right. They’re blurry and shit, but they’re there. But how I get them off my phone, I have no idea. And even if I did, what then? I don’t know how to edit videos. The question arises; Why The Fuck Did I Think I Could?

And so a very pleasant summer Saturday with family and friends exists now only in the memory, as so many summer Saturday’s; except that, in this case, there is a photo of a pie. What better way to immortalise the occasion, then, than to use the ‘pie’ at Hereford Pegasus, (cost three pounds), as the basic unit of currency on my Just Giving page. Wherever participants are taken by the FA Cup draw, or choosing to pop a few pies into the metaphorical microwave that is my Just Giving page, a part of Hereford Pegasus will come with us.

August 20th, 2022, Emirates FA Cup, Preliminary Round, Walshes Meadow, Stourport

Stourport Swifts 1, Racing Club Warwick 0. Att. 203

Pie N/A

Having realised my inability to film anything, sound recordings seemed like the way forward. After all, I am supposed to be a radio man, trained as a presenter by long experience in the field with Radio Four. How different can commentating on a football match be from talking to an old gentleman in his shed about sticks, I reasoned. For this next ‘game’, the participants were Glenn Duggan, Kristian Lovatt and Richard Gennis. Once again, we were to go in Glenn’s car – once again, I failed to take a selfie on departure, but this is less complex than the non-existant Hereford Pegasus selfie, in that I did manage to get a photo of us arriving at Walshes Meadow, as Glenn got a bloke to take a photo. This is why it’s the only succesful photo here – because I didn’t take it.

L-R, KL, IM, RG, GD

There is clearly much to discuss in the photo, but perhaps this isn’t the place, though it should be noted that this is the last photo of me during the event in a t-shirt other than the well-known green Macmillan Cancer Support one. Mine arrived 20 minutes after we set out.

After this, the photos become less useful. In the sprauncy clubhouse, three large televisions cranked out Spurs v Wolves in the early kick-off game. At the back of the room was an area cordoned off by velvet ropes, in which tea, sandwiches and biscuits awaited a lucky few. On finding out that there are no pies to be had at Walshes Meadow, but only cheese or ham rolls, with a bit of onion in a bowl if you wanted, I almost wept. It was a good roll, but it wasn’t a pie, as you’ll see from the photo.

Outside the clubhouse behind the corner flag, there was a large and useful smoking area. What most struck participants was the picnic area directly behind the goal. ‘I expect they get twatted during the game,’ said Richard, and we all agreed it seemed likely.

Hoping the ball doesn’t go wide

We made our way to the Main Stand. We’d all prefer to stand, obvs, but the cruel passing of time dictates that sit we must. There were a number of small boys gathered behind the goal opposite the picnic area. They had an England banner out on the railings, and it quickly became obvious that they saw themselves as the Racing Club Warwick InterCity Firm. ‘Shall we go up behind them? asked Richard. Eagle-eyed viewers may spot them in the far distance here.

Racing Club Warwick Massive

Upon taking our seats, the first thing that caught the eye was the linesman. No one could be more opposed than I to body-shaming. I am myself a large man, due to the hormones and pies. In any other situation, I would display nothing but fellow feeling, and would condemn anyone who pointed out and laughed at a body which deviated in some way from a norm defined by the ‘market’.

But come on! This is the football!

Much fitter than me, though.

It was a good game, hard fought, with plenty of good football. Both sides had excellent keepers, who both made Premiership standard saves. The 65th minute goal was a good’un, and Racing Club Warwick never quite looked beaten, even though the Swifts had pretty much run the second half. Sadly though, a few elements in the crowd caused ill-odour. The Racing Club Warwick InterCity Firm didn’t just chant at the Swifts, they were for all intents and purposes the ballboys behind that goal, and they’d run after the ball as it rolled down the hill towards the adjacent cricket field, and carry it back up, and offer it to a Swifts player, and then chuck it over the players head. There were 12 of them, ranging in age from 8 to 13, and they constituted what are know in football as ‘a bunch of little c****.’ In ten years time they’ll be off on England away games, smashing up lovely European cities. But today they are merely cute, and remind me of me and my pals at Walton and Hersham away.

Jeering youth development programme

The other somewhat sour note was provided by participant Richard Gennis, who only knows one way to be at the football, and that’s the right way. It’s the rest of us who fall short. Having followed for his whole life Glasgow’s third club, Queen’s Park, he is inured to life at the bottom. Walshe’s Meadow called forth misty-eyed recollections of how shite Stenhousmuir’s ground is, and tales of dreadful but proper and highly amusing high jinks in the lower Scottish divisions.

Since the event demands that participants support whichever team won the last game (and the extra-preliminary round was therefore the only round in which participants can remain neutral), Richard became for the afternoon a fanatical Swifts supporter, who made his views known in no uncertain terms, to the great amusement of three thirteen year old Swifts fans sitting in the row in front. They particularly liked it when Richard shouted in a voice that could be heard in Bewdley that the Racing Club Warwick winger ‘went down like a bag of shite.’ The officials, as you’d hope, came in for a great deal of Richard’s opprobrium. Problems arose, however, when it became clear that Richard was SO fanatical a Swifts fan, that he’d turned into one of those old sods who, having been following the club for so many long unrewarded years, feel entitled to heckle their own side. Richard, given that he’d only learned that morning that we were supporting the Swifts had not perhaps earned the right, but this didn’t seem to concern him. In a larger ground than Walshe’s Meadow, Richard yelling abuse at the Swifts number eight, a hard-working firebrand midfielder in the mould of Alan Ball, telling him he should have shouted for the ball, might have gone unheard. But in this case the Number Eight heard all too well (as how could he not, given the propensity of shouted Glaswegian to travel), and he came up the sideline, and explained that Richard’s criticism was unwelcome.

As the game ended, the teams had a bit of a scrap. It happens. There’s a bit of needle between the two clubs, both of whom wanted the win. They’re Midland League rivals, and had met only the week before, when Racing Club Warwick won 1-0. These things happen. So in this next inadequate photo, I’d like to draw your attention not to the unfortunate situation on the pitch, but to the hedge.

Battle of the Hedge

That’s some hedge, I think you’ll agree. It runs the length of the pitch opposite the stand. It’s there to stop balls flying into the River Severn, which is right behind it. Before the hedge, a man was employed to patrol the river in a canoe to pick up errant balls. Now the balls just get stuck in the hedge, and a man with a ladder gets to pick them from the foliage. So the hedge is a good thing, but if it hadn’t been there, as I told my fellow participants on the sound recording, you could see Stourport Fairground and the entrance to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, the canal junction to which Stourport owes its existence. It was once an important river port, the greatest of the towns the canals built. Also, sans hedge, you might have been able to spot the Tontine Hotel. ‘A tontine, ‘ I pointed out to my friends on the sound commentary I made,’ is an insurance scheme whereby the last person alive gets all the cash.’

The sound commentary is full of gems of this nature. I managed to get the clips off my phone, which I regard as progress. But Audacity refuses to recognise them, so I can’t edit them in any meaningful way. So what I have is fifteen clips mostly of blokes going ‘Shite’ and ‘OOOF’ and ‘Good Ball’, and ‘What’s the matter with you?’, and so on. There are a few good bits, but you can only hear me, because waving your smartphone at someone doesn’t pick up anything except Richard shouting at the referee. I’ve spared you a dump of unedited moaning blokes.

So the soundclips have been a washout. And, let’s face it, the photos aren’t much better. There needs to be a technical makeover before the First Qualifying Round in a few weeks, when the Swifts take on their next opponents, whoever they may be. All is not lost. Glenn is a man who can take great photos. I can get a bit of training, and an external mic. I can sort out the problem with Audacity. I’ve got until the weekend of September the 2nd to get it right, or better anyway. And next time, I’ll be wearing my green Macmillan Cancer Support T shirt.

We didn’t hang about after the game, mostly because we were concerned the the Swift’s number 8 might seek Richard out, and lamp him one. As we hurried back to the car, I noticed this graffitti on the wall of the abandoned warehouse that overlooks the car park at Walshes Meadow, from which we can all learn an important life lesson.

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