The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Archive for the ‘FA Cup’ Category

Taking the Harrowgate Railway

Posted by steigs on December 5, 2007

The most enjoyable game I’ve seen lately was the second round FA Cup match between those giants of Mansfield Town (third division) and Harrowgate Railway (lower level than that!).  The early FA Cup rounds, like the initial rounds of our NCAA tourney, are all about the upset, the one day in the sun for small-town or low-budget underdogs.  Harrowgate Railway certainly qualify.

The game, broadcast here on FSC, was in atrocious conditions, rain, mud everywhere.  The camera was frequently spotted with water.  And yet the stadium (if it merits the name) was full and the crowd boisterous.  Harrowgate lived up to their part of the bargain, going down 2-0 but refusing to give up.  It ended 3-2 to Mansfield but not before a few nervous last minutes for them.

My friend D. watched the whole thing as well, fascinated by the glimpse at small-time English football.  Some of his observations (from an e-mail he sent me):

1. I didn’t know that “Railway” were part-timers – but I liked when the
announcer mentioned they were mostly “students and some businessmen”.  Sure enough, it had the same flavor as the city coed league I used to play on here in
Tucson. Also, it kind of had that Mystery Alaska feel to it (if you ever saw
that movie). I also thought of Slapshot, only because of the two strikers for
Mansfield who were brothers. The Hanson brothers they were not, although they
seemed to reek havoc on Railway.
2. Not sure where Harrogate is exactly, although they (or the area) are big
enough to have two teams – Harrogate Town AND Harrogate Railway. Maybe here’s aclu e: they were happy to brag that they had gotten farther than Leeds Utd in
the FA Cup – so I’m guessing the Midlands.
3. What the hell is their mascot? I saw him in the stands a couple of times –
can’t decide if he’s a Gopher or a Beaver. I’m hoping for a Gopher. I’m gonna
have to go look this up.
4. As usual, the local advertising is cool. I enjoyed the sign for the family
butchers. Quaint.
5. Microphones were close enough to the crowd that I could hear lots and lots
of individual voices, although I never understood a word they said. Although I
did hear someone singing “Jingle Bells” at one point. Also, the crowd is close
enough that they can pat the backs of players/buddies on throw-ins. (and this
actually happened)
6. Enjoyed the blaring horn everytime the Mansfield goalie had a kick. Also,
turns out, he was a Muggle. (Harry Potter joke)
7. Someone behind one of the goals had a freakin’ Confederate Flag! I think
this was the ultimate weirdness.

And now it’s on to the 3rd round, where Mansfield get to take their turn as the romantic underdog — versus Brighton.  Meanwhile, I’ll be hoping that Havant & Waterlooville (what an English name!) can pull off another upset, after knocking out Notts County…


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