Gerry Smith

Another world

May 04, 2013 11:44 PM EST

One of those days. Bound to be. Tickets for the FA Vase Final at Wembley delivered to my home.  

Yes, said Phil, I'll make sure he gets them, as he collected them in my absence. And left with them pretty sharpish. This is Southend 2013.

No matter. Southend Manor wrap up their campaign in the Essex Senior League today.  

Whilst in the glamour and glitz of the Premier League, up to eight sides can still be relegated, losing their precious multi-millions. This game, however, is eight divisions below that, with two clubs playing for pride only.

The visitors today are another Manor, of the Eton variety from East London. A nomadic club, they currently groundshare at the exotically named Capershotts.  Where they visited today, however, dripped with history.  

Next to Southend Manor is the cricket pitch where Don Bradman's 1948 'Invincibles' smashed over 700 runs in a day. In a phyrric victory, though, Essex bowled them out, the only team to do that to a side generally considered as Australia's greatest ever.

That, though, was the summer sport. The winter sport, football, was still on the cards. Just to remind myself and the 90 other paying customers, the storm clouds gathered as the yellow shirted home side and red visitors reluctantly made their way onto the pitch 10 minutes late. They'd rather be anywhere but Southchurch Park Arena, it seemed.

We chortled, though, at the prospect of Phil on his trip to Wembley. One call to the FA and the tickets were invalidated. He'd be in the company of the Met Police by now, explaining why he tried to enter the stadium with stolen tickets.  

If the players thought it would be a long afternoon, Phil's was going to be an age.

As the rain began to fall on the long-grassed bobbly patch called a football pitch, the teams settled down.  A few minutes in and a Southend defender is surrounded by a couple of Eton attackers, facing side on.  He pirouettes 270 degrees, bamboozling his markers, and lays the ball forward. Let's go home now, we've had our six pounds worth, we won't see better than that all afternoon. Brilliant.

Of course we don't though. The crowd is swelled by a number of people from local rivals Great Wakering Rovers, without a game today, including coach Rico, thankfully a guy that makes me look slim in comparison. He's always good value and we start to chat rather than watch.  

It's not especially uncommon with me, that. Which is possibly at odds with when radio reports have to be compiled. I quickly learned, though, that if you're on the radio, so long as you get the score right, the rest doesn't really matter. The score is the only thing listeners want to know.  The rest is just flotsam and jetsom.

 Anyway, I digress. Unfolding on the pitch on the end of season panto was the hero and villain.Gary Paterson is well known in non-league circles. Built like Thomas Brolin after a weekend in a curry and doughnut emporium, but quick and a natural eye for goal. Within the first 10 minutes, he's given a run at goal. Lethal. Southend Manor 1-0  Eton Manor.

Then just before half time, ouch. Pato loses the ball. He shouts an obscenity to himself, chases after the ball, desperate to atone for the error.  An offside flag goes up just as the ball reaches the edge of the Eton area. The ref blows.  

Too late. Paterson clatters into the Eton Manor defender, and also headbutts his knee. Immediately the medics come on, there's handbags.  Gary Paterson gets a red card. The Eton defender is stretchered off with an ambulance called for.

Talk turns to the tackle, if he really meant it, and from me, joy that Hearts are winning. While all this is going on, there's a delightful dink from inside the area and Southend Manor are 2-0 up in the rain and thunder and lightning and sun. You could be in Inverness with weather like this.  Looking at the graffiti covered metal stand, and the forks of lightning, I wished I was.

The second half passes in a blur of Southend Manor goals,despite being down to 10 men, the sun eventually coming out, and chat about all sorts of things. I chuckle at how brown in colour the Newcastle fans trousers must now be hearing about Wigan Athletic goals.  

The break-up of JLS is discussed in depth, along with the assertion that the Bay City Rollers was a bet rather than a boy band.  A bet on how ugly a bloke could be and still have teenyboppers slavering over them. Yep, this is football Essex Senior League style.

The teams come off with a resounding Southend Manor will to a wave of apathy.  Attention among Great Wakering Rovers supporters there was already next season. An earnest, serious chat with coach Rico ended with a suggestion from me that Rovers change their name to Inter Wakering so that they can have an ESL derby with London Bari.

 At Wembley, Spennymoor Town lifted the FA Vase, with possibly Phil being lifted on an altogether different basis.  I, too, felt strangely lifted.  8 leagues below the Premier, the game is still alive and kicking. Forget the Invincibles and the cricket next door, today was a good day to be at the football at Southchurch Park. Oh yes.