I MAY have missed out on an FA Cup first round giantkilling hat-trick at Braintree in midweek, but a Non-League boy-done-good in Tranmere Rovers colours made the trip to Cressing Road worthwhile.
Speaking to Iron chairman Lee Harding on the morning of the game, spirits were high; especially after I informed him I’d already been at Chelmsford and Dorchester for their slaying of Colchester and Plymouth respectively.
“Good things come in threes,” he replied hopefully down the phone, before explaining what the presence of the ITV cameras could do for his Blue Square Bet Premier part-timers, and not just with the 68,000 pounds live broadcast fee.
“They’ve sold the rights to 64 countries around the world,” he added. “We’ve got a couple of fans in Australia who will be watching on ESPN over their breakfast.
“The profile and publicity Braintree Town Football Club are getting just for having a kickabout in front of a few hundred people on a patch of grass in Essex is just priceless.”
What proved worth its weight in gold for League One leaders Tranmere, however, was midfielder Andy Robinson. The 32-year-old former Cammell Laird man might not have scored – he left Joe Thompson, former Vauxhall loanee Cole Stockton and Max Power to do that.
But Robinson, who started out playing Sunday League football on Merseyside and has the body shape of someone still there, treated the game as if it might be his last.
He showed the desire that earned him five years at Swansea, a couple at Leeds and then his move to Prenton Park to play for his hometown club (who first took a chance on him back in 2002 without giving him game time) and cajoled every last drop of sweat out of his young colleagues.
Braintree have a few prospects of their own who, manager Alan Devonshire hopes, will have looked at the likes of Robinson treating the less-than-glamorous trip as professionally as he possibly could, and learned from it.
“We have done well and the players can learn a lot from the game, and who they’ve played against,” said Devonshire.
“It’s shown them that they are still young and if they keep going, carry on learning, there might be a chance for them to go and get into the League.
“I still believe there are three or four of my players who could go and do that. We just have to wait and see how they progress and look after themselves outside of football, being as we’re only part-time.
“People can get better just like that. In six months, a lot can happen. Someone can take on board what I’m saying and push on, and that’s what I’d like to see.”
Midfielder Kenny Davis, the Town captain, certainly looks to be regaining the form that made him England C’s player of last season, while striker Dan Holman’s low centre of gravity and ability to get shots away on the turn would not have gone unnoticed to watching scouts, as well as the worldwide audience.
“We get scouts coming down to Braintree all the time, because they know we are a young side,” said Devonshire. “There have been no offers or anything like that, but I’m sure there will be.
“I lost four at the end of last year, so I’m sure this year I’ll lose a few more. But that’s the nature of the beast I’m afraid at a part-time club.”
They aren’t quite as young as the pitch invader who showed a clean pair of heels in injury-time. “He had his moment of glory but he should have been at home in bed by that time,” laughed Devonshire, recalling the schoolboy’s sprint.
After the fanfare of the Cup, the ex-West Ham and England man now has his serious head back on and is targeting a run of his own away from the drop zone.
Shaking off the ‘Second Season Syndrome’ that so badly affected Bath City last term is top of his agenda, and his lads have to learn quick.
With two wins and a draw from their last four league games prior to visiting Grimsby? yesterday, their form suggests that, like the Stereophonics once sang, they’ve had ‘Just Enough Education to Perform’!
Diamond Del-Boy Has Left A Proud Legacy
ON THURSDAY I played with my kids more than usual, lay with them a bit longer after their bedtime stories.
The reason? I’d received a text that morning from Steve Newing, manager of Enfield Town, informing me that his old co-boss Del Deanus’ courageous five-year fight with Motor Neurone Disease had come to an end.
When my Ware side were competing for promotion in the 2007-08 Ryman One North, Edgware Town were one of our main rivals. Steve and Del were in charge, and by the time we met in a winner-takes-all shoot-out for a place in the play-offs on the final day of the season, Del’s illness was starting to show. So too was the humour he would display to the end.
We won and I had to buy the beer, but Del was laughing at himself for not being able to hold his pint glass properly, his fingers having lost their grip.
Over the intervening period he lost the ability to do anything else other than communicate by blinking and raising his eyebrows. Oh yeah, and father children with wife Emma!
Little Megan will be three on Christmas Eve, while Edward arrived on November 3 to continue the family name and, hopefully, the ex-Tottenham and England schoolboy’s footballing legacy.
A month ago I texted Del, mentioning him ‘not losing the ability to hit the target’. Quick as a blink to operate his computer, he replied saying that with MND, two parts of his body remained sharp: “The brain and THAT!”
He died aged 38, having maybe not been able to play the game he loved with his kids, but having passed on genes of a truly remarkable football character. RIP Del-Boy.