The View from the Bar

Art’noon all! So, here it is – only another fifteen hours of football to go and we’re at Wembley! Yep, it’s a long road from here, but it’s the road to Wembley nonetheless, and that always adds a certain frisson of excitement to proceedings. Last season we had another reminder that the F.A. Vase really is a competition that, given a fair wind and a decent run, anyone could potentially win, even a humble little club such as ourselves. Having previously seen Wessex League clubs Wimborne, Winchester City and Sholing lift the Vase, last May Thatcham Town – another former Wessex side we’ve been very familiar with over the years – were victorious at Wembley. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were a massive thorn in Thatcham’s side, seemingly beating them whenever circumstances suggested we shouldn’t (which was most seasons, truth be told). Not many present will ever forget our epic 6-4 win at Waterside Park in the F.A. Cup in 1999, for example although, having written that down, it’s a bit scary to think it was tipping twenty years ago…

One of the great pleasures of the F.A. Vase is competing against sides from outside your own league, and today we welcome Westbury United for our first ever encounter. We’ve had mixed fortunes against teams from the Western League over the years, but all the matches have had one thing in common, as they’ve all been proper tough encounters. Today looks certain to be no different, since Westbury apparently haven’t lost a match in about fifteen years (okay, since last December actually, although that doesn’t really make the task any less daunting). Whatever the outcome today, we hope all our visitors from Wiltshire enjoy their visit to the Island and have a safe trip home after the game.

Last week’s clash with Team Solent was hardly a classic, but in a match where neither side seemed to properly get into gear we did well to come out on top and, after an even first hour we could have felt pretty hard-done-by if we hadn’t claimed the points in the closing stages. It was gritty rather than pretty, but that made the three points no less welcome, and moved us up to the heady heights of second in the league. Great stuff, and enjoyed by another excellent crowd well into three figures. Hopefully we’ll keep that up today, both on and off the pitch, and into next Saturday when Portland come-a visiting.

Away from the Wessex Premier and the first Island derby of the season on Bank Holiday Monday saw Vics claim a point in their visit to Newport. I didn’t get to the game and haven’t heard a whole lot about it, but it looks a decent point for our friends across the river, even if a glance at the table suggests anything but a win could be considered disappointing against the Island’s third-ranked team. Ho ho. In fairness, it looks like Newport and Vics will have an entertaining tussle this year, with the former looking to regain their Premier Division status and the latter boasting their best side in years. I think only one team are guaranteed to come up this season, although if circumstances play out favourably as league numbers continue to get reshuffled it could be two. It’s a long way off, but how exciting would it be to see all three Island sides back in the same division? (It nearly happened at the end of last year, but maybe best we don’t dwell on that…)

Talking of that lot from up the road, our Reserves continue their rash of early-season home games on Tuesday evening when we they welcome Newport Reserves to Westwood. Keep an ear out today for the kick-off time, as I wasn’t paying attention when it was being discussed last week, but it’s a game not to be missed for sure, and could well be the only time this season we get to see a Cowes side in action against Newport.

Now, don’t all come running at once, but it looks like we have a vacancy for a poster distributor or two, since one of the long-time pavement pounders who drops the match posters in at business around Cowes and Gurnard seems to be missing in action this year. It’s only every few weeks, and a bit of exercise never hurts (well, it can do, but you know what I mean…) If you think you could help out with the Cowes town or Gurnard ends of distribution (or both if you’re feeling energetic), please give me a shout today. Some extra help really would be massively appreciated.

Back to the matter in hand for now though, and that glimmer of glory that the F.A. Vase brings with it. It’s a long road, for sure, but then every journey starts with a single step. Be loud, be proud, and enjoy the game.

Toby.

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