The View from the Bar 

I can remember as a teenager at school, someone would bring in a little pocket radio and we’d crowd around, listening for the F.A. Cup draw. Of course, back then we were waiting for the third round or onwards, and Cowes weren’t even entering the F.A. Cup at the time (not that we’d have made it into the radio-worthy rounds if we were, but hey…), but although it’s a bit different these days (clicking the F.A. web page repeatedly waiting for it to refresh and give details of the draw) it does conjure similar excitement all the same. Such as it was yesterday, hoping for a home draw, either against a ‘big’ club, or someone who looked (on paper at least) to be beatable.

And, well, we got one of those (we’ll find out about the other on Tuesday): Weston Super Mare – a National League (or Conference, in old money) side just eighteen months ago. Definitely one of the biggest sides in our regional section of the draw. Of course, given what’s going on in the world we should be glad there’s football to watch at all, but it’s a shame we couldn’t have drawn them under more ‘normal’ circumstances, as a Saturday game with no restrictions probably would have seen a couple of hundred away fans making the trip and doubtless a good turnout from the local contingent too. As it is there’ll likely be very few visitors making the long trip midweek from the Somerset coast, but hopefully, maybe, just maybe that’ll work in our favour. You never know…

And I reckon there’ll still be a good turnout from the local contingent, although it’s definitely going to be a night for getting here early, what with the 300 limit on crowds. We’ve had some great gates already this season, but haven’t had to crack out the ‘Ground Full’ signs yet. I’ve a feeling we might next Tuesday.

I was worried on Saturday that the game was going to go to penalties and I’d end up missing the final outcome (as, for one reason or another, I have a strict 5pm curfew on Saturdays). Legendary Cowes fan Ian was good enough to take time out from yarning about Road Sea with one of the visiting Hamble committee and promise to keep me updated in that eventuality. Well, he said he’d text me the scores, but not necessarily which teams they applied to. Thankfully that wasn’t necessary in the end. Although I’ve had to forsake my beloved spot up the back of the stand this season for the dubious glory of roaming the ground in a dayglo yellow tabard, it does have some advantages. It was during one of my (probably lingering slightly too long) visits to Country Corner that Jimmy wriggled his way into the box before being felled, and Ewan subsequently strolled up to coolly dispatch the resultant spot-kick. I have to say it was great to, for once, hear the roar exhaled from the stand as the ball hit the back of the net – it really was impressive – and a couple of people who at the time were going about their business in other parts of Cowes have mentioned hearing it to me. This makes me enormously happy – there’s no better way of reminding the townsfolk of our presence than the cheers of the crowd echoing around the town, pricking up ears and prompting the notion that ‘hey, there’s something important happening up there…’

Speaking of Hamble for a sec, I have to say what a great bunch they are. We’ve always been warmly received at their place, and they brought a good few to Westwood on Saturday who were nothing but a credit to their club, and our level of football in general.

Anyway, before we get to next Tuesday there’s two more home cup ties to enjoy, starting tonight against Brockenhurst in the League Cup, then on Saturday against Devizes in the ever-so-slightly more tangible road to Wembley that is the F.A. Vase. Devizes have been hit hard by ongoing events, having had their first few fixtures postponed as the team had to isolate following a number of Covid-positive cases, and Saturday is due to be their first competitive match of the season. Strange times indeed, but times we have to make the most of. After so long hardly seeing anyone, seeing you all up here on a matchday is truly marvellous. I do love this place.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot – about 8 o’clock on Saturday evening my phone beeped and I looked down to see I’d got a text from Ian. “Cowes won, 1-0 on penalties”. Made me smile.

Enjoy the game, and win or lose, stay safe.

       Toby.

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