The View from the Bar 

So, it’s been a strange start to the season. Not the first time I’ve written that, I’m sure, although this season has certainly been stranger than most. League form has been disappointing, as far as results go, although the actual performances have been very encouraging (apart perhaps from last Saturday, where we started well on top against a shaky looking side, but were always going to struggle after a dubious early red and then gifting them a goal). The cups have definitely brought a bit more cheer thus far (hopefully to continue today), which in itself is a bit of a novelty after recent seasons, but obviously the strangest thing has been playing under the daunting cloud of Covid. It has been heartening and impressive how everyone has adapted to the requirements and restrictions quite rightly placed on us, although I’m somewhat less chuffed about having to swan around in a dayglo tabard at home games, and forego my regular spot at the back of the stand. I haven’t seen anywhere near a full game yet, and haven’t seen many goals either (although I guess that’s also true for most of you, thinking about it…)

More frustration off the pitch last week, when I was outbid on an RAOC v Cowes programme from the preliminary round of the FA Cup in 1946. I really wanted this one (but then, I really want any that aren’t in the collection yet), and this one has never come up before, as far as I’m aware. And no-one else would want a programme this obscure, right? Wrong – someone came in with a winning bid just shy of £25 a full two seconds before the end of the ten day auction. If I find out it was one of you lot… (unless it’s going to be my Christmas present, in which case, thank you very much, and well played on your snipey auction strategy). In slightly better news, I did pick up a Gold Cup semi programme (v. Ryde, at Newport) from 1948 not long ago, so the collection is still growing… At some point I am hoping to host a memorabilia day here at Westwood, to give people a chance to see some of the club collection and hopefully draw a few more interesting bits out of the woodwork, but in the current circumstances that’ll probably have to wait a while, given the countless hordes who would doubtless be clamouring to attend…

Since our F.A. Cup defeat to Weston it has been interesting to note that, had we managed to stay in, our run of home draws would have continued.  In the second qualifying round they edged through on penalties at home against Swindon Supermarine, and have been handed another home tie against Larkhall Athletic in the third qualifying round. As usual, I’ll try and chart what would have been our path to Wembley as the season progresses. One day I’m determined to actually follow that journey to Wembley game-by-game in person – one of my favourite football books as a kid was when Brian James did exactly that with ‘Journey to Wembley’ – I reckon it’s about time for an update to the genre.

Speaking of the F.A. Cup, massive congratulations to Christchurch, who having already disposed of Dorchester, landed a place in the third qualifying round with a stunning win on penalties against Gloucester City, and now have a home tie against Dulwich Hamlet on Tuesday to look forward to. I understand this game’s going to be watchable on the BBC somewhere or another, so that’ll be worth seeking out.

But back to the other road to Wembley, now. As is often the case, we can say that one of the joys of the F.A. Vase is the chance to meet and play against teams from outside your own league, and as far as I can tell this is the first time Cowes and Pagham have ever crossed paths. It looks like they’ve had a pretty good start to the season, and are currently on a run of four straight wins, so it looks like we’re in for a tough time today. The Vase often seems to bring out the best in us though, and has provided more than a few happy memories over the past twenty years or so. Let’s hope for more today.

Weather permitting, Cowes Ladies are due to be at home again tomorrow – well worth coming up and giving them your support. Their first ever competitive match at Westwood a couple of weeks back ended with a hard-fought and well-deserved 2-1 victory over Fleet Town.

Oh yeah, and we’re thinking of organising a collection to buy John McKie a television, as he clearly needs to find another form of entertainment to keep himself busy. In possibly-related news, child #5 is on the way – congratulations John!

Anyway, back to the matter in hand (clearly not something John’s ever said…) Whatever the result today – win, lose or draw (after 90 minutes), enjoy the game, and most of all, stay safe.