By Tony Attwood
Of course in the coming days there will be the usual half dozen or so articles on everything to do with Arsenal vs the Kingdom of Kev. Already I am sitting on a bizarre and eccentric review of the Kingdom by Billy the Dog, not to mention Dogface’s remarkable review of the referee…. arghhhhh Mike Dean.
Then there will be Phil’s team analysis, and after the game my view from block 99 (if you sit nearby you will be relieved to know that Jane has just lost her voice, and so block 99 will be a little quieter than usual this weekend), and then Walter’s commentary on The Dean’s behaviour and the Untold Injury review to wrap it up.
And a special bonus for myself and the unspeaking Jane – Walter and eighty five million Belgians are coming over for the match, so we’ll be sharing a warming cup of cocoa after the match among the roughs at the Clock End. (I may have not quite got the number of members of the Benelux Supporters Club who will be at the Clock End, but it is something like that).
But despite this wealth of material and detail (and you are really going to have to be on your toes to keep up with it) I am moved this Friday evening to push in something else. It is one of the luxuries of being the editor. While everyone else does tell me what to do, I never take any notice, and just carry on regardless.
But please, do not “bugger off” (as they say down the Pig and Trotsky). Stay here a moment and partake of this little extra. For here in England it is the weekend of the FA Cup Round 1.
In case you are not familiar with the nomenclature, the FA Cup starts with an extra preliminary round, and then has five extra knock out rounds to get to Round 1 – indeed if you know your Arsenal you will know that in the early days we regularly fell short in these prelim games.
Anyway, this weekend for the first time in what I suspect is quite a while my local team (I pass the ground on my way to work – it is about four miles from my house), Corby Town, is in the FA Cup first round. And this has an Arsenal connection, because in 2002 Eddie McGoldrick was the manager of the club. He played as a sub in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final win over Parma, and all told played 57 times for Arsenal, scoring one goal.
Anyway, Corby Town play in the sixth division (Conference North) and get crowds of 400 to 500. I don’t go that often because of my committments to Arsenal, but last time I went they had one stand, and three open flat sides (no terracing).
And this weekend in the FA Cup they are at home to Luton Town, who have a regular home gate of about 6000. I am not sure where everyone is going to fit.
Interestingly Corby Town is getting a new ground – right next door – being built by the Council. Stands on all sides, it looks rather good. I hope their recent rise up the leagues continues when they move to the stadium next summer (I think).
But that’s not all I want to mention on FA Cup Round 1 day. There is something else. A little further away in the opposite direction is Rushden and Diamonds – also in the first round of the cup. They were two tiny teams who were taken over by the Max Griggs shoe empire (maker of Doc Martens). He pumped millions into the new club and got them into the 3rd division (although the slipped back, and are now challenging for promotion back into the 4th).
And all of this is a prelude to US billionaire Robert Rich with has started pushing his fortune (or bits of it) into Bedlington Terriers.
He is the 488th richest man in the world apparently, and instead of buying some down and out team such as Liverpool he chose the team from the town where his ancestors came from in Northumberland – which is really the connection with Newcastle – and who are three leagues below Corby Town (Bedlington, not Newcastle).
Now this guy seems amazingly honest. Compared with the new owner of Liverpool who has made no promises whatsoever not to lumber the club with debt, and who still hasn’t paid off the stadium development debt, this fellow, Mr Rich, says, “I haven’t made any promises. Having said that, I would love to see them do well and let them challenge me to increase our participation.
“I want to help Bedlington Terriers. I’m still learning about British football, and I understand that if they do well on the field it can move up in divisions. If this is the dream the community has, I want to help. I don’t want to become an owner – I just want to help.”
His aim it seems is to take the club up four levels so they can play local rivals Blyth Spartans in the Conference.
The club secretary is quoted as saying, “The backing has relieved us of the immediate worries of scraping by. Even at our level, clubs can take some running. For a night match when we might only have 60 or so paying punters, we have to pay £50 for the floodlights and £200 for the officials.”
Now I have to say, I like this, just as I loved Mr Griggs formation of Rushden and Diamonds (to which I used to go of a saturday afternoon when post-divorce finances prohibited the retention of my season ticket at Arsenal). In the case of the Diamonds you could see the ground improve and improve, and the quality of the playing staff increased, but it was still a village team having fun.
I hope it works out for Bedlington Terriers and they do go up. I hope they get to play Corby Town in a few years. Yes this is an obscenely rich man from another country who knows nothing about football getting involved, but somehow, in a way I can’t readily define, this seems ok, while the situation at Ch’ls’a and M’nch’st’r C just doesn’t.
Just my bias, I’m sure, but it’s how it feels.
You might also like: The Oldest Man Ever to Play for Arsenal
- Arsenal History on Twitter @UntoldArsenal
- The Xmas present for the fan with a brain: Making the Arsenal: available from Amazon.co.uk but for a signed copy dedicated to whoever you want just order from the publishers (follow the link) and add details of the dedication wanted to your order.
- Arsenal History: the index
- Untold Arsenal on Facebook here
- Untold Arsenal Index: silly stuff, serious stuff, and stuff
- Arsenal Worldwide: supporting Arsenal from outside the UK
- Arsenal Independent Supporters Association show your support, be part of changing the club