One of the only advantages of being an Arsenal fan brought up in Surrey is that in the event we draw Sutton in the FA Cup I actually know where Sutton is. It’s not an advantage that makes up for my annoyingly arduous journey to and from the Emirates but it’s something.
I actually don’t live too far away from Sutton now, and it’s well annoying that I can’t get a ticket to the game because the allocation of 14 fans has been taken up by the super keen away scheme brigade. As many of you know, there’s fewer things more annoying when you’re chatting with Gooners in a pub on Holloway Road and someone asks if you have a season ticket, and you say yes and return the question, and they don’t even say yes they just say “On the Away Scheme” followed by a pause as they wait for you to mentally accept they’re a bigger fan than you. Well guess what you smarmy clowns, guess who has to travel away to Sutton days after enduring the annual mauling in Munich? (I’m kidding, much love to you away lot, you’re awesome).
Anyway look, Sutton isn’t exactly the jewel in the crown of Surrey. Growing up, it was basically a place where a brown boy like me was likely to get the P word from some Reebok Classics on a bike whilst I was playing football in the park. When you compare it to surrounding places like Kingston, Wimbledon and Esher then Sutton’s a bit like the 2nd cousin that accepted a cigarette when she was 12 and then somehow ended up with a baby at 16. I am exaggerating a bit but only just a little. There’s actually some very good schools in the surrounding area for what it’s worth.
I feel a bit sorry for Sutton United because the AFC Wimbledon story basically meant that no-one gives a shit about any other lower league teams in the area. For the last few years whenever a football fan in South West had a Bovril craving they’d make a trip to AFC Wimbledon in Kingsmeadow, Sutton’s never really got a look in. Now Dulwich Hamlets have established themselves as probably, arguably, definitely the coolest football club in Britain, Sutton United are even more screwed. So anyway you gotta feel happy for them drawing Arsenal. The biggest thing that happened to Sutton United in recent years is getting Holiday Inn to sponsor their away kit a few years back but this tie against Arsenal has given them some time in the limelight.
Credit where credit’s due right, I mean they’ve done amazingly well to get to where they are in the FA Cup. Their captain is a part-time builder, that’s mental. I guess that’s the biggest thing both clubs have in common, both club captains cannot be described as full-time footballers. To be honest, even calling BFG a part-time footballer is probably being generous. Another connection that’s really interesting is the number of players they have who used to be on our books. Craig Eastmond is the stand-out one you’d have to say, I mean this guy genuinely was being talked about as having a potential career at Arsenal. I remember him playing a few times and thinking he was pretty decent, it seemed like Wenger rated him. He was part of the FA Youth Cup winning side back in ’09. I was actually at the home leg of the final against Liverpool at the Emirates where we spanked them and I remember thinking Sanchez Watt was gonna go on to win the Ballon D’Or. It’s amazing how the majority of those players never played once in the Premier League for anyone. Anyway, Jack Jebb, Roarie Deacon and Jeffrey Monakana aka “The guy who was Jeff before our current Jeff” are the other three who were in our academy. I don’t think there’s anyone else? It’s nice to see some alumni still playing football even at this level as let’s be honest, if you were in Arsenal’s academy as a teenager you were probably dreaming about the day when you yourself could travel to teams like Bayern Munich in Europe and get ripped to shreds, as opposed to going away to a team called Guiseley in Bradford and losing 2-1 which is something that actually happened to Sutton on Tuesday night.
Brings me on to how Sutton are doing at the moment. Look I’m not gonna lie, I don’t follow Sutton, and I haven’t ever seen them play, so what I’m saying is what I’m told by Google. However, it tells me they haven’t been in good form to say the least. Before losing to Ludovic Guiseley, they lost to the famous exponents of total(ly direct) football Solihull Moors, and before that they got absolutely battered away at Arsenal’s close allies Boreham Wood. That being said, those three losses were all away. Seems like the last time they lost at home was in November to Dover…. 6-0. Note that Dover have a guy called Ricky Miller who’s literally almost scored twice as many goals as anyone else in the division – 27. What’s equally interesting is that despite that stat Dover are actually only 6th in the table because their defence is hilarious.
Sutton are 17th in the National League, currently sandwiched between Braintree and Torquay. The more and more I look at it, the more and more Sutton just look really pants away but spanking against Dover aside they look pretty solid at home which is the wrong way round as far as we’re concerned. But come on, if Dover can beat them 6-0 then we must have nothing to be concerned about surely. I’ve actually watched Dover play in the flesh before, and I genuinely think maybe only one or two of their players could get in our team (based on the fact that they seem like they would be ok with the idea of trying to close down Robben if he was cutting in onto his left foot).
The flipside though to their recent form is that maybe all they’ve been thinking about lately is the Arsenal game. Maybe no-one wanted to risk getting injured before the game so haven’t been giving 100%. It’s possible. So if that’s the case then we could be in for a ride this weekend. To be honest they’ll be up for it whatever the case right, I mean genuinely for many of their players this could be the biggest, most high profile game they ever play in their lives. Likewise with the fans, I mean this is huge for them so they’ll be right behind their team. It could be an interesting atmosphere for our boys to deal with but actually given the performance against Bayern maybe some of the boys will just be a lot more comfortable they’re playing against a side closer to their level.
One thing is for sure though. Their reserve goalkeeper who was getting some press coverage is a helluva unit, he makes Troy Deeney look like an athlete. If you’ve not seen him before, his name is Wayne Shaw. As much as his size suggests you don’t wanna mess with him, he’s apparently a lovely chap who does loads for the community, so good for him. As warm hearted as he may be though, let’s pray that he doesn’t get on the pitch and clean out one of our powderpuff clan when claiming a corner. Given our players’ respective abilities to get injured and stay injured, one would fear that a collision with this dude would probably add a name to the list of Arsenal alumni ending their careers in Sutton.