No live football for me this weekend, so I find myself watching the BBC1 TV broadcast of a gutsy Second Round FA Cup tie between part-timers Harrogate Railway Athletic of the Unibond League One North and Football League Two strugglers Mansfield Town (founded in 1897 as the Mansfield Wesleyans). All mud, mouth and mix-ball, but good fun for that, and with no little skill. Mansfield are cruising to a 3-1 win as I scribe, so they can banish memories of their humiliation against minnows Stockton in the same competition in, er, 1952. (As I write this, Harrogate claw another goal back. The curse of Barrow strikes again!)
Talking of which: when I was a kid, growing up in Chiswick and then Kew, my parents had friends with the surname 'Mansfield', which meant that Barrow versus the Stags fixtures became an occasion for friendly rivalry - well, between the two young boys, anyway. Barrow sadly dropped out of the League in 1972, at the expense of Hereford United. They currently have a supporters' wall project - and as I think of them as my third team, along with Southall, I might contribute. It would give me great pleasure if they could make it back to the Blue Square Premier and full League status eventually, and I really ought to make a trip to Holker Street, Barrow-in-Furness, at some point. Maybe a journey break on the way up to Dumbarton.
Meanwhile, Mansfield have secured a 3-2 win against a Harrogate side described as "excellent" by Mark Lawrenson (for once, I agree with him) and are now heading for a Third Round away tie against Brighton (my abode for a few years until 2003).
Talking of football at the grassroots, last weekend I took in a game at Heavitree Social United, down the road from me and in the Devon and Exeter League Premier. The whole glorious story ('On a winger and a prayer') is told in the forthcoming issue of the Heavitree & District News. I'll post it here when it's published.