"Where's Fashanu?" asks two year old Little Miss Sunshine, as the players emerge for the second half.
You see, Saturday saw me take my daughter to her first football match. I thought that it would be a bit of an ask to hold her attention for so long - Curious George being the only thing that can come close to such a task normally, and to be honest, I expected a NONONONONONONO! tantrum to erupt and bring proceedings to a close before half time. But they didn't. The only moan that she did have, was about the lack of John Fashanu. She understands that Fash is her favourite footballer. She just doesn't understand that he doesn't play for Chatham, much in the same way that (randomly) Bono doesn't live in our road, and when a car door shuts outside, its not him coming to see us. Quite randomly, my two and a half year old daughter's favourite celebrities are John Fashanu and Bono. I plead guilty on the first charge, thanks to this act of genius by Chris Morris (probably the only Chris Morris sketch its safe to share with a two year old)
but the Bono thing is not, not, the responsibility of either parent. So please don't call the authorities. The long shot is that she had a great time at the game. She liked that there were "benches" to sit on, she liked that there was a busy bar, and she liked that everyone shouts and claps. She actually watched the game for the most part, and she was particularly pleased with the curiously Irish (not a racist term, a genuine pleasure in parts of Co Mayo, that I have seen with my own eyes and a with a third party present, and I hold Irish citizenship so its OK in a very Guardian Commentisfree way) meal of Chips and Milk. She liked the floodlights, and she liked the fact that the "doctor" came on when people "fell over". She liked the collected merits of the afternoon so much, that she asked after if she could come again.
Given how poor Chatham were, its just as well she has no real understanding of the actual football, or she wouldn't be so keen to come back. It was not an excellent advert for what is otherwise an excellent community asset. AFC Sudbury did the important things very well, with a quick and skilful front line, and an ancient, almost immobile centre half who more than made up for his girth and years by being the best player on the pitch. Said centre half, James Smith, actually isn't ancient. He's just 26. And, like all wannabe gutter journos, I've discovered this as I'm writing the post. Unlike said press scum, I've decided to keep it in. Actually, I'm a bit shocked. What I'm not shocked to learn is that he was in the Ebbsfleet United side that won the FA Trophy at Wembley in 2008, and was capped at that time for the England C side. Don't get me started on the lack of an England B team, the perennial home of countless Paul Allens, but Smith, three and a half season's ago, played for England C. And at Wembley. What an idiot your correspondent feels to have his story collapse all around him. If I was better at HTML, I'd go back and put a "strikethrough" gag over the earlier parts of this paragraph. But the blog's always been about honesty. The point remains however though - he was the best player out there. He is though, girthy. If that's a word (which the Google Chrome spellchecker suggests it isn't).
Sudbury, on a run of 5 defeats in 6, had, like Chatham, gone three weather enforced weeks without a game. Chatham gaffer Kevin Watson had the squad training at his school (where he works) in the Gym to keep fit. A good move. Fitness wasn't an issue, but match sharpness was. Chatham never settled, and misplaced too many passes. The normally reliable Lloyd Blackman had a poor game leading the line. Matt Newman the same. At the back, Kessy Metitiri played well. Roberts, in Goal, could do nothing for any of the three Sudbury scored. Their first, a rebound follow up from a needlessly conceded penalty in the 16th minute showed nothing other than the taker Baker was quicker in to the box than any of the Chatham defence. The second was a great header at the far post on the end of one of those balls that defied gravity for what was a time more disconcerting than the fact that it defied gravity. And the third, in stoppage time, was a belter, Dave Wareham running at pace and letting fly from the edge of the box with a driven shot across the box.
Chatham also had reason to feel hard done by, when a stamp on Brad Potter in the opening stages went unpunished. Had Sudbury been reduced to 10 men, things might have been different. They might not. It was a pretty lacklustre performance from Chatham, some occasional gusto, some occasional guts, but not enough go.
Still, there's always next week - a trip to Essex to play Heybridge Swifts. I had originally, some time ago, planned to go to this as a "classy" away trip. Swifts play in Maldon, on the nice part of the Essex Coast, and there's a lock on the basin with very cheap, outside a pair of pubs camping. And then, quite rightly, someone told me camping in February, off the North Sea, would not be a good idea. And they would probably be right.