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Sweet FA Cup – Newcastle to Sheffield via a bus full of Liverpool fans in Plymouth

6 years ago
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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…

Where on earth do I begin!

Just after travelling back from Plymouth (who’d beaten Fylde), we were awaiting the replay between Sheffield United v Crewe Alexandra… Obviously either would be an improvement distance wise on the previous round, you’d think, right?

Wrong! A mate (why do I call these people friends, they are nothing but mean to me!!) bet me (a donation to the cause) that I wouldn’t be so committed to completing the journey if I had to go to the team I was following and travel with their fans to the game… well challenge accepted! I did stipulate that it was for this round only and it was because I had a three day weekend already booked in…

So glutton for punishment, I left Newcastle on the Thursday to travel to London and then on to Plymouth, stay overnight and then travel with the away fans up to Sheffield, where I’d meet the rest of the gang and head home to Newcastle after the game.

Although a few of the Plymouth fans actually assumed I’d be travelling back with them and go back to Newcastle from there… silly people, to be fair I was probably only a bet away from pulling a stunt like that.

The trip to London was pretty uneventful, then I caught the bus from London to Plymouth and lo and behold for the 6 hour journey I was opposite a Geordie! God we get around don’t we.

Arriving in Plymouth, with a serious case of DVT and a yearning for a cold beverage! Within a few minutes I realised I’d organised everything in Plymouth except somewhere to stay! Very bright idea… walked to the city cenrer and within a few minutes spotted this chap who was dressed up warm wearing an NUFC hat and scarf…Jeff and his mate James both from Newcastle… Geordies. I swear, it’s like costa del sol bumping into your neighbour.

Chatting with the two lads, learnt they were down in Plymouth working on the docks, lack of work up here set them on a path all the way down Plymouth and I just happened to bump into the nicest pair of blokes when I wasn’t even meant to be there! Doing this journey, not knowing a soul at the places you’re going to and bumping into friends along the way, has been the biggest thrill so far. After a long night out in Plymouth and boy what an experience that was…getting up to meet the fans at Home Park at 7am didn’t seem so thrilling, but knew I needed to be there, I arrived at Home park at 6am (better an hour early than a minute late my Grandad used to say).

There was a coach already pulled in, I spoke to one of the lads and commented that we weren’t meant to leave until 7am. He assured me no no it’s 6, so I got on the bus, then found myself surrounded by Liverpool fans (IN PLYMOUTH?! what is wrong with this world), got off the bus sheepishly… and awaited our coach.

Arriving at Sheffield, I met up with the rest of the gang and entered the away end. Spirited from the start, albeit was just the crowd… the first 45 minutes was not one to write home about. For what the first half lacked in incident was made up for in the first 15 minutes of the second halfm within that time the referee Gary Sutton gave not one, not two, but three penalties, none of which seemed justified.

The first penalty came for Plymouth and Reuben Reid stepped up to the spot and sidefooted the ball two foot past the right hand post, to say it was horrid is an understatement.

The second penalty came when Ben Purrington was adjudged to have pulled down Mark McNulty when through on goal. After watching the replays on TV later, the incident itself took place outside of the box, and secondly the player Purrington was not sent off, two baffling decisions that even today I’m still scratching my head. Ex-Evertonian Jose Baxter stepped up and slotted home for Sheffield United. He scored his second of the game five minutes later when Jamie Murphy was brought down in the area and then the referee even booked the wrong player.

The Blades wrapped it up in the 89th minute to make it 3-0 on the day. One thing that disappointed us all even more so than the dire first half was the attendance, a little over 7000. Granted more than we have seen at a game to date but 7000 fans in a stadium with a capacity of over 30000 makes for more of a wake than a party atmosphere.

With the adulation of the first round gone, and waiting in the wings for the big guns coming up in the third round, the second round of the FA Cup seemed more of a “oh god do we have to go through this” kind of atmosphere despite attempts from the away fans to wind up the home support. Next up at home for Sheffield is Southampton in the League cup, hopefully that will give the fans a taste of cup atmosphere and make things a bit more lively.

So Monday came, and while an invite down to Hull (why was it in an aquarium? Even Mark Chapman seemed uncomfortable trying to connect the big fish coming into the competition with scenes of various fish in the background) to watch the third round live seemed like an exciting proposition, circumstances meant I revisited Blyth Spartans to watch the third round live with their fans. I’m becoming quite attached to the outfit from Northumberland.

Blyth drew Birmingham City at home, Newcastle drew Leicester City away and Gateshead have an away tie at WBA… and finally QPR came out of the hat to host Sheffield United. A game which has been moved to the Sunday due to QPR playing on the 1st Jan.

Yet again another half decent trek from Newcastle, let’s hope the hangover isn’t too bad eh!

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 www.justgiving.com/sweetfacup and via twitter @sweetfacup

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