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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
FA Cup Trail:
FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round, 26/10/02
Grays Athletic 1(1)
Team: Team: 1. Melvin Capleton 2. Steve Robinson 3. Jason Broom 4. Peter Smith 5. Ben Lewis 6. Wayne Burnett 7. Adam Miller 8. Allan McLeod 9. Aaron McLean 10. Wayne Vaughan 11. Andy Douglas
Scorers: Vaughan 3
Stevenage Borough 2(2)
Team: 1. Mark Westfield 2. Simon Travis 3. Stuart Fraser 5. Jason Goodliffe 6. Robin Trott 7. Simon Wormull 9. Kirk Jackson 12. Richard Howell 15. Louis Riddle 22. Richard Pacquette 24. Michael Blackwood
Scorer: Trott 18, Jackson 34

Referee: N. Perkin
Crowd: 760 (official)
Conditions: Windy, dry, sunny periods, cold

Entry: 7 adults, 4 concessions, free for Under 11s accompanied by an adult
Programme: 1.50 for 20 page full colour outer on gloss + 28 page b/w photocopied inner on matt, with one staple
Refreshments: Twix, Mars, Snickers, 40p each from kiosk
Distance travelled: 154 miles (lengthy returning deviation through north London - M25 closed)

"An elaborate theory"
By Baz Barry
 
For some time now I have been concocting an elaborate theory about footballers and their names. Its conclusions are that some footballers' names work and some don't, with an additional link between a footballer's name and his position on the park.

Names like Michael Owen and Tommy Mooney have an uncomplicated ring about them that fits in the ear with the ease of the certain stardom that they've achieved. Others names are just doomed to failure. Take Bertrand Bossu, Mickey Droy, and Devon White, for example. No doubt the successful names sound comfortable because of their naturally evolved familiarity and I wouldn't be surprised if there are good and bad combinations of the right and wrong number of syllables. But regardless, part of my theory is Michael Owen would have not had so much success and adulation if he'd emerged on the scene as Mike Owen or Mick Owen or even Mickey Owen. Would Tommy Mooney have been such a legend if he'd been called Tom Mooney? I doubt it.

My research goes deeper.

There appears to exist a pattern between a footballer's name, their position on the pitch and the way they play. Goalkeepers, being mad showmen, either have an admirable surname or an exotic, unusual Christian name, or both. Central defenders invariable have uncomplicated names reflecting the way they should play. Sean Dyche, Neil Cox, Steve Sims, Steve Terry. Strikers are the ones who get the glory, receive the adulation and have names, always memorable, that trip off the tongue. Midfielders' names fall between the two, because they are neither defenders nor forwards. In fact, I would argue that you can tell whether a midfielder is attack-minded or defensive by just looking at his name.

Obviously there are holes in the theory when you come across Tommy Smith playing fullback for Liverpool and centre forward for Watford. Or Darren Ward playing in goal for Forest and as centre-half for Millwall. But overall I'm happy with my thoughts. And if you reverse the process there's added strength to my theory. You would never have a striker called Neil Cox and rarely have a central defender called Andy Douglas, the perfect forward's name for the Grays goal machine.

Looking at the names of the two teams who played on Saturday and you'll see both Grays and Stevenage Borough fall into this pattern. The Grays goalie is called Melvin (unusual), the centre backs are Pete Smith and Ben Lewis (short, uncomplicated), the attacking midfielder is Wayne Burnett (semi-elaborate) shadowed by his defensive midfielder Adam Miller (solid), and the three strikers are Wayne Vaughan, Aaron McClean and Andy Douglas (all flowing, all memorable).

Stevenage Borough's forwards were the classically named Kirk Jackson and Richard Pacquette, prompted by Louis Riddle (I wonder if he has a brother called Jimmy?) with Robert Howell holding in front of Robin Trott and Jason Goodliffe (okay, he's an exception). And these names are not familiar, so that's shot down that part of my own counter-argument.

Lastly, the theory goes that there are certain Christian names that do belong in football and others that don't.

Footballers with Christian names like David, Paul, Alan, Michael and Tommy are professionally successful but you don't come across many stars called Simon, Stuart, Jason, Robin, Wayne and Louis. And if you're called Gerard, you've got no chance.

By looking at this second list, you will see this accounts for half the players on show on Saturday. Which is why, I would argue, they are playing non-league football and not professional. And why their teams are in the non-leagues. And why the Grays player-manager is mistaken in seemingly spending his 26,000 FA Cup winnings on signing midfielder Wayne Burnett (once of Blackburn, Huddersfield and Grimsby) and substitute Jason Dozzell (once of Ipswich and Spurs and Colchester).

Burnett was making his third appearance for the Blues and he did look the part. He was full of clever spins, making a yard of space enabling him to ping clever balls forwards and sideways. His choice of pass was equally impressive, knowing when to lay the ball off and when to cut loose. He created the opening goal with a simple ball into the channel releasing Douglas whose cross/shot was bundled in at the back post by Vaughan. Two good chances followed in quick succession for Grays, one producing a wonder save by the Stevenage keeper.

Bizarrely, my fellow FA Cup Trailist Dave and I both found ourselves rooting for the home team, even though we had no attraction to Grays the team and a growing dislike of Grays the place. With such a lively start, we hoped the makings of an exciting tussle would unfold but gradually Stevenage strangled most of the creativity from the game. From an isolated corner an unmarked Rob Trott (the suitably named centre-half) headed the equalizer and a minute later Stevenage hit the post. Grays were rattled and lost their way. Kirk Jackson (the suitable named number nine) scored what was to be the winner after a good mazy run by Blackwood.

In anticipation of what was double their normal crowd, the Grays club had arranged for an extra bar in the clubhouse and an extra kiosk serving sweets and soft drinks. Just as well because the queues at the single tea-bar were prohibitive. Having visited the bar to get the half-time scores we returned to find the two sets of opposing fans had somehow swapped ends in what must be a very British, traditional and pre-ordained osmosis.

I am pleased to report that about this time the boy with his bicycle made his appearance.

Despite being strangely subdued Grays made a fist of pushing for a second goal in the second half, with McClean, in particular, being guilty of an amazing missed header. Mark Stimpson came on to redress the imbalance in midfield and Jason Dozzell appeared up front as a fourth striker. This is the same Dozzell who apparently (according to the Torygraph) was the Wayne Rooney of his day, scoring on his Ipswich debut in the top division at an age ten months younger than the current upstart. After ten years at Ipswich, his 1.9m transfer to Spurs was a predictable (Christian name Jason, remember) disaster and after a month back at Ipswich he moved to Northampton then Colchester then Canvey Island. Nowadays he looks and plays like a PE teacher from a trendy Inner London secondary school.

The game petered out to a close punctuated only by Vaughan being sent off for a second bookable offence, a blatant dive in the penalty area.

As we drove out of Grays for the last time, we were confronted with the news that the M25 was closed near Cheshunt. Instead of going south around the M25 the long way, we mistakenly chose a route through parts of North East London that until now I'd only seen on the front of tube trains. Not an experience to be repeated.

Stevenage, 20,000 to the good, are at home in the next round against Hastings of the Dr Martens Premiere League, who after drawing 0-0 at home on Saturday thumped Kettering ("The Poppies" no less) 5-0 away in the reply the other night. The First Round Proper is in a fortnight's time, the day before Watford are at home to Ipswich.

We'll be there. Come and join us. It can only get better. The Big Boys are coming.