The Barber goes Romanian

Over the FA Cup weekend just gone I went to two ties in the Preliminary Round: Redhill v Horsham YMCA (0-0) on Saturday and FC Romania v Heybridge Swifts (2-1) on Sunday. 

That has brought me up to 452 FA Cup matches, the first at Crystal Palace when I was in short trousers, and I have replays tonight and tomorrow night.

Redhill was my choice for Saturday because my mum, 86 next week, is in nearby East Surrey Hospital after breaking her hip. 

The Reds have only reached the First Round Proper once in their 120-year history, losing 6-1 at Norwich City in 1957, and the Isthmian League Division One South side are a little bit fortunate to still be in this season’s competition.

Redhill play out a goalless draw with Horsham YMCA

Opponents Horsham YMCA, a level lower in the Sussex County League’s Division One, had plenty of chances to win the contest in the second half. But the Reds came close themselves in the second minute of stoppage time.  

A YMCA defender in front of goal miscued a clearance high into the air and as the spinning ball dropped under the bar, several players stretched for it. 

I was less than ten feet away and thought the Reds sub got a clean header but the ref saw it as a foul on the ‘keeper. 

FC Romania, a team of Romanian players living over here, were formed in 2006. 

They play in the Essex Senior League and share Cheshunt FC’s ground in Theobalds Lane, about ten minutes’ walk from Theobalds Grove station on the London Liverpool Street to Hertford North line. 

I got there early, at about 2pm, but one of the stands was already full of people speaking Romanian. In front of that stand were two huge Romanian flags.

Heybridge Swifts, from a level above, were quickly into their stride and took a fourth-minute lead – but the home defence proved to be impregnable after that, with the ‘keeper having an outstanding game. 

FC Romania in action against Heybridge Swifts

FC Romania were 2-1 up the break and what proved to be the winner came when their player prodded the ball home as he fell following a tackle from behind.

Midway through the second half the home side’s No.4 was red-carded and Swifts were awarded a spot-kick as a result of his misdemeanour. 

But the ‘keeper saved it with his legs and played like a hero for the rest of one of the best FA Cup ties I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a few!

I read a fascinating book over the weekend – “George Raynor: The Greatest Coach England Never Had” by Ashley Hyne, recently published by The History Press and less than a tenner. 

Raynor, a Yorkshireman, coached the Swedish national team to Olympic Gold in 1948 and to the World Cup Final in 1958 (they lost 5-2 to Brazil) but ended up scratching a living coaching Skegness Town in the Midland League.

David Barber, aka ‘The Barber’, joined The FA as assistant to Sir Alf Ramsey in the International Department after the Mexico World Cup in 1970 and has been its Historian for the past 35 years. 

He has attended 6,689 football matches at all levels and still retains his enthusiasm!

Follow The Barber Twitter: @thebarberfan