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Sweet FA Cup – To Plymouth and beyond!

6 years ago

A group of Newcastle fans came up with a win/win idea, to reinvigorate their love affair with the FA Cup, whilst at the same time raising valuable funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Coinciding with the kick-off of the Premier League on Saturday 16 August, the FA Cup also started on that Saturday with the Extra Preliminary round, the first of fourteen stages of the 143 year old famous Cup competition, with the fourteenth obviously being the final at Wembley.

The four friends (Wayne Soulsby, Mac Crawford, Pete Hind and Malcolm Larkin) started at Newcastle Benfield v Penrith AFC (whoever won that tie, Malcolm and as many of his friends as possible would go and watch in the next round, then the winner of that tie and so on – all the way to the final). They are paying for all of their own travel and costs, with any monies raised going directly to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Malcolm updates us on the latest leg of the journey…

To the ends of the earth and…well umm Plymouth?

Wow, what a few weeks we’ve had, the nomadic life of every game being an away one!! Shortly after the last round took place we kinda got into the groove of what we needed to do.

Yes we knew we would be travelling when we first started this journey but even the most hardened away fans commented about what a trek around the country we were making. We decided after the draw that if we were gonna get to Plymouth it was going to be a trip to remember.

I set about using my twitter skills in a way only I know how… and within a few hours we were talking to Chris Webb, the president of Plymouth Argyle. Chris was an amazing chap and offered to help us in any way he could.

Within hours he had posted on the Argyle fans forum asking them to support our cause. Within the next 24 hrs the money we had raised had doubled and the messages of support we were getting from the Green army were brilliant.

On our last trip to Manchester, Mac and myself visited the Football Museum and we both desperately wanted to arrange something with AFC Fylde to get photos taken with the trophy itself. With only days to go before the trip to Plymouth, I managed to get the National Football Museum to allow us take photos of the cup outside of its case. The downside was only myself and new recruit Chris could make it to Manchester on the Thursday, easy for Chris as he lives there!

I had to go to work Thursday for a half day shift, I’ve managed to use a lot of my holidays doing this stuff, having a Friday off before games just seemed like a good idea and I managed to get work to allow me to have the half day Thursday at the last minute. They have been very supportive since day one of this ‘little’ adventure.

It seemed weird travelling on coach down to Manchester on my own, but free wifi and an electric socket that worked, plus twitter, passed the time.

I met Chris at the bus station and off we went to the Football Museum to meet Dave Challinor, manager of AFC Fylde and an absolute gentleman, who did not seem put out by us dragging him away from pre-game commitments to come and pose for a few photos with the cup.

The museum staff were really helpful and even nudged us to actually hold the cup (with white gloves of course!) – a memory that will stay with us both for a long time to come I’m sure.

I stayed overnight in a hostel in Manchester, sharing a room with 11 other strangers. Weird waking up not realising where the heck you are and who are all these people in my room! I had a chat with a few of the chaps in the lounge area and managed to convince them to put BBC Radio Newcastle on the speakers so we could listen to Pete and Mac talk about our journey. Did really well too, Mac managed to get all the team names right!

Chris and Pete couldn’t make the trip to Plymouth this time around due to a wedding and work commitments. However, Sandy (our new designated driver lol) and Mac met up with myself on Friday afternoon. The plan being to stay in a hotel Friday and drive down with the AFC Fylde fans on the Saturday morning.

We got up 5am on Saturday to head to Kirkham and meet the Fylde fans, who I have to admit were the friendliest bunch of fans ever. They even had a brave Argyle fan (with home strip on) on their coach… I drew the short straw sitting next to him on both legs there and back!

It rained all the way down as we set off at about 7am arriving at Plymouth around half one in the afternoon. I certainly got goosebumps once we approached the ground.

We took some photos with the Fylde fans before being told we were expected at the FAN Fest. This for those who don’t know is a sight to behold. Situated at the ground it was started when Argyle started to struggle financially, they charge fans £5 to enter and for that you get a beer and a pasty! The money raised went to pay for extra equipment for the club and to pay the wages for the staff you don’t usually think about, that keep the club going.

We entered the tent and within minutes everyone knew who we were and why we were there, we were given a standing ovation and applause, I was nearly in tears – totally overwhelmed by the reception. We were asked to speak on stage and I acknowledged the help and support all of the fans/teams we had visited had given us.

The Green Taverners, as they are known, have their own box at the ground and myself, Mac and Sandy were invited to join them to watch the game. Obviously we have to try and stay neutral but there was a small part of me rooting AFC Fylde on to a historic win. Which was made that little bit more difficult by being surrounded by the opposition.

Argyle made a difficult job of dispatching their non-league opponents, both goals coming from corners. Fylde put on a brave show and can leave the ground with their heads held high. Fylde defended deep and kept their shape for the opening part of the first half, restricting Argyle to few chances. On the 28th minute Peter Hartley got on the score sheet from a corner as he rose higher than anyone else and the centre-back sent a glancing header into the Fylde net.

Fylde seemed to be buoyed by this and the game became a lot more open. Richie Allen (the hat-trick hero from Kings Lynn last round) came agonisingly close on the 38th minute. Michael Barnes for Fylde stood out as one of the better in the game, making good runs and crossing from the right. Allen again going close to scoring after the goalkeeper misjudged the bounce of the ball. You always sensed whoever got the next goal would probably carry the momentum, to either win the game or bring a replay back at AFC Fylde.

Plymouth scored the 2nd which all but ended the tie as a competition on the 69th minute, scoring from another corner, this time Marvin Morgan getting the plaudits. Fylde did press harder but couldn’t get the breakthrough their players or diehard 104 fans yearned for. A disappointing result for AFC Fylde, but from what we’ve seen so far of the club, their ambition and set-up, it won’t be long till the team realise their ambition of being a league club by 2022!

An attendance of 5,153 is a long way away from our first game of this FA Cup adventure where there were 55, and as the attendances grow, so does our overall mileage travelling to each game.

The journey back was a little quieter than on the way down and the Plymouth fan didn’t get too much ribbing. We finally got back to Newcastle at around 3am, absolutely knackered – a proper away trip was had by all.

Then we await our next opponents in this adventure. I was invited to watch the draw with the Blyth Spartan fans at their home ground and secretly hoping for a tie a little further north. The Blyth gang hitting the roof as they were drawn against Hartlepool, with only myself continuing to watch the draw after that point.

Alas we are going to either Crewe Alexandra or Sheffield United once they have replayed. Which to be fair is about halfway between Newcastle and Plymouth!

UPDATE: I have decided I’m going to travel down to Plymouth Argyle first… and travel with the fans up to wherever we are playing at next.

The decision to do this was down to a little wind-up I received at getting a closer draw to home ha ha! Let the fun and games begin.

Please remember we are doing this all in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. Everything you donate goes directly to them! We are paying for our own travel and tickets to the games.

You can also donate via Justgiving text, simply text FACP76 followed by £1, £2, £5 or £10 to 70070.

We will be keeping people updated with our journey on and via twitter @sweetfacup


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