Soapbox: Blyth spirit


On a cold night in Northumberland, Pete Sixsmith hoped to see a fairytale come true for Blyth Spartans and make them our FA Cup fourth round opponents. Oh well. Sadly, though it went to script, it was not a fairytale script. So we get Blackburn yet again……

It’s a corny headline
but it really does sum up what happened at Croft Park last night.

The Spartans (289 fewer of them than those in the film) put up a really spirited and hard working performance against the kind of Blackburn side that one associates with visits to the Hetton Centre rather than the Stadium of Light.

Stadium of Light it is on the 24th, much to the disappointment of our Chief Executive.

Had the impossible happened and Spartans won he would have been rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of a 40,000+ gate, a visit from Setanta and lots and lots of publicity for the club.

Instead we get Blackburn Bloody Rovers again, with their miserable away following and Fat Sam chewing away in the visitors’ dugout. I’d rather have had Harry Dunn preening his luxuriant moustache!

I got a ticket for the game from the aforementioned Harry. I have been known to share the odd pint with him in The Sportsman at Canney Hill, and now that the latest landlord has reintroduced cask beers (Hobgoblin is the house beer) it has been no great hardship to call in more frequently.

Blyth have done really well in the cup (don’t mention the league!) and this run has set them up for the next couple of years. They beat a very poor Bournemouth side to reach this round, and when the draw was made on Sunday I can imagine that their treasurer thought that all his birthdays had come at once – if they could get over the hump that was Blackburn Rovers.

It was a bitterly cold night as I bagged the last parking place in the side streets just off Plessey Road. Temperatures of -1 made me reluctant to get out of the car, but I had been told to get there early if I wanted a good stand.

By 7.15pm the ground was filling up nicely and there was a real atmosphere. Cigarette smoke rising from the packed ranks of 13-year-olds behind the goals and the hilarious drunken antics of a man with a megaphone who thought that the height of Wildean wit was to shout “You can stick your Betty’s Hotpot up you’re a***” at the 85 Blackburn fans in the ground. All this while wearing a rubber reindeer mask.

Ah, the spirit of the FA Cup. The man stood next to me was bitterly disappointed that Paul Robinson wasn’t playing because he wanted to “abuse him, like, cos hees mistake in Croatia meant that we didn’t qualify for the UEFA cup, like”.

The Rovers XI was just that; the kind of team they would put out in a pre season friendly at Fleetwood or Bamber Bridge. They were thoroughly professional and did the job that Allardyce told them to.

He knew that the chances of an upset were so remote that he could go into this game without one regular first choice player. He had Roberts and Andrews on the bench in case he needed to retrieve a disastrous situation, but his squad players were good enough.

As for Blyth, they played above themselves. They could have adopted a gung-ho attitude and been hammered by 5 or 6 as Blackburn picked them off. Instead, they kept it tight, did exactly what their moustachioed managerial maestro had told them to do and acted like true professionals.

The goal was a good free kick, given after Villaneuva went to ground five yards closer to goal than from where the foul actually occurred. “Cheat”, said the would-be Robinson baiter. “Nah,” said his mate, “just clever.”

So, the Rovers come rolling into town once again. So far, they have won and drawn at the Stadium, so the law of averages suggests that we will win. I don’t imagine that Big Sam has a romantic bone in his body, so I can see him taking little or no interest in winning it.

He knows that Premier League survival is essential if Blackburn are to continue as a successful club. The FA Cup is a frippery and we all know that Big Sam doesn’t do frippery. Would have been nice to play Blyth though…..

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