In an astonishing show of preparedness, I’m doing this preview of the FA Cup Second Round a full week before the fixtures are played. I find this preferable to the paradox of Terminator-esque proportions that resulted from me writing the First Round preview before the games were played, but it only being published afterwards – and I’m sure you do to.
All eyes of course will be on Salford City, mainly because the BBC forces us to look at them in some dastardly Clockwork Orange style plan. Except it isn’t dastardly, as it fulfils a number of key roles; it provides us romantic types with a possible shock to view, it gives fans of a non-league club exposure they rarely get on national television.
It also means a football presenter other than Jeff Stelling can talk about Hartlepool – Salford’s opponents – and it gives the conspiracy nuts who are convinced there is a Manchester United bias more fuel for their Carling-fuelled pub theories. Everybody wins, except the team who loses. So probably Salford.
I pride myself on knowing more about non-league clubs than those profiled in Beeb documentaries however, so let’s talk Whitehawk. From a part of Brighton described as a “shithole” (by my girlfriend, who is from those parts), they have had an interesting recent history.
They may be in the national semi-conscious for beating Lincoln City 5-3 on their First Round debut, and for having a trip to League Two Dagenham and Redbridge upcoming. They are also notable for playing at the nicely named Enclosed Ground, and are one of those non-league clubs who have enjoyed a recent surge with three promotions in four seasons, between 2010 and 2013.
They have however been blighted by match fixing scandal. A defender at the club, Michael Boateng, was one of three men jailed in June last year for fixing non-league games. Another player, Hakeem Adelakum, was acquitted.
Nothing was suggested to say they had fixed Whitehawk games, and the club itself faced no punishment. It is good, however, that it is no longer most famous for having a crook in its back four, but for a best-ever cup run.
Another non-league club that catches the eye is Chesham United. They won away to League Two Bristol Rovers – who play three tiers higher – and now travel to cup specialists Bradford City. It is a well known fact that Chesham have 43-year-old Barry Hayles playing up front. To give the uneducated an idea of Hayles’ career, it is maybe just best to list his former clubs. *deep breath*
Willesden Hawkeye. Stevenage. Bristol Rovers. Fulham. Sheffield United. Millwall. Plymouth Argyle. Leicester City. Cheltenham Town. Truro City. St. Albans City. Truro City again. Arlesey Town. Truro City again. Now Chesham. He has also represented three countries – England (as a C international), Cayman Islands, and Jamaica.
That’s a career which encompasses 782 appearances and 251 goals (so far), across the top eight divisions of English football, and the length of the country from Yorkshire to Cornwall. His full first name is Barrington too. I can’t wait to see him face Arsenal in round three.