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Worthington Cup 1st Round 1st Leg, 22/8/00
Cheltenham Town
Can we have our vouchers back?
By Martin Blanc

As my Gran (1902-84) could have slotted home her hat-trick to put Cheltenham Ladies College 3-0 up after twenty minutes at the Vicarage (they wouldn't have missed the chances her male counterparts squandered, I tell you), my mind started to wander about the meaning of cup competitions.

At least the big clubs have their methodology figured out, namely, we're not interested, we don't need you. If we need a cup, we'll organise one, ta, and then turn it into a league anyway, just to iron out the chances of any fluke one-off results and consequent loss of revenues.

Watford, on the other hand, seem the worst sort of passive-aggressives: we're here, all right, but we don't want to play, we'll go through the motions, nothing's wrong, go away, just leave us alone. So in spite of being selected and presumably trained up for battles psychological and physical, we actually looked like the Third Division rabble, the back four making pigs-in-the-middle of our midfield trio, having just one tactic of getting it wide, which rarely worked anyway, but even when it did, with no Wooter to sweep majestically towards the box, our every attack was closed down quicker than C&anp;A.

I'd run dry on cup competitions by this point. Moved on to bigger life questions. Should I have married someone else? Of course not, my wife's amazing, and we have the most beautiful daughter in the world...but there were these two girls before my wife. Perhaps the question was, could I have married someone else? Yeah, probably. Which is lucky, really. Shows you're not the last biscuit in the packet. No matter. My wife could have married plenty of other people, she's quite a catch, and then where would I have been? The first half had ended, and the booing - last heard in the corresponding fixture last season, vs Wigan, for your information - resonated once more.

So where was Chris Day going in such a hurry? He'd overtaken me on the way to the ground, in his soft-top Beemer with the DAY registration plate, and I'm no slouch at the wheel. To the ground? Hope he brought his Walkman, or a good book. Wish I had. Maybe he's prepared to give it a season, let Alec retire, let Espen get bored, and step back up to bat. Smarter than he looks? Has to be...

Second half started with the focus that tragically only Helguson being on the pitch can generate. But that soon evaporated under the floodlights, and he was doing his never-mind-Palmer-I'm-playing-every-position-in-one-game number. At which point, I remember losing it...

...They did look like they could run and run, footballers are so fit these days, that pre-season training must have done them the world of good. Charlie Miller's coming on, much to the surprise of young Gudmundsson, he's only been on since half-time. And Charlie, bless him. He's fantastic, wish he could get his head straight. Charlie's such a gifted boy, I do hope he doesn't go to Stenhousemuir or wherever it was supposed to be, you know, one of those shortbread-and-nougat outfits, and he really put his shoulder to the wheel, not like some of these players these days, you know, they just turn up for the dosh, don't they, oh I know, but then Watford, I mean, he couldn't make a difference by himself, not tonight, could he, and I was drinking in the pub where Tommy Smith's dad drinks, really? It's all a bit like sliced white bread, this game, you know, very unfilling...and no last-minute reprieve, of course, more likely for Cheltenham to finally put one away, and more booing...what shall I have for my dinner...

Reports, you see, tend to be written in the style the game was played. Can't help it, just the way it is. And honestly, this game was one to make old farts of us all.