“Sutton United will play Arsenal in the next round of the FA Cup!”
These words came from the mouth of TV presenter Jake Humphrey during the draw for the Fifth Round of this years FA Cup. To any team outside of England’s top division, Arsenal at home is a mouth watering tie, so you can imagine just how ecstatic the fans, the players and the management of Sutton United were when Robbie Savage pulled out ball No. 8. For those who aren’t aware, Sutton compete in the fifth tier of English football, which is made up of both full-time and part-time clubs, of which Sutton are the latter. Now in my 23 years of life on this earth, I have to say it’s the biggest ‘David vs. Goliath’ tie that I’ve known.
Before a date is even confirmed for the fixture, instantly, every football fan around the globe presumes Arsenal have themselves a place in the quarter-final. There’s not a chance that the little semi professional club can upset one of England’s elite sides, is there? Probably not. But nevertheless, the Sutton players have earned their right to take on the North London giants and lets not forget, the FA Cup has seen some funny old results over the years.
The game is then picked for coverage on BBC. Now to most people, this is fantastic. The chance to watch a complete mismatch whilst they put their feet up on a Monday evening after a long day at work and in fairness, it puts some much desired TV money into the Non League club. However, all of the hard work that them players have put in to get to that stage of the competition and the shift they put in each and every Saturday in the league is about to be forgotten for the two hour running time that the BBC have given them.
In the build up to the game, social media was already taking the limelight away from the heroics of the Sutton United players, by making the whole event about their substitute goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach, Wayne Shaw. (pictured below) For the record, I’m not claiming that Shaw shouldn’t be in the headlines, he’s just as much a part of the success as every other person involved with the club, but it was to the point of almost ridiculing not only him, but the club and the level of football that they compete at.
The biggest day in the history of Sutton United inevitably arrived and almost instantly, it started. The same thing the BBC and ITV do during a fixture between a world famous side and a lesser known opposition. The condescending comments and remarks during the pre-match coverage and during the game in the direction of Sutton United was enough to make you cringe. They seem to make it their duty to completely play down the careers of these footballers by highlighting their day jobs and then painting them as star struck fans who have by chance been given this opportunity. Them lads do the exact same job as their illustrious counterparts. They train each week and play 90 minutes worth of football, just like Arsenal, to which the victor is awarded the exact same amount of points. The fact that they do work other jobs alongside playing doesn’t make them less significant, it shows their love for the game of football.
To top it off, the publicity stunt nearing the end of the game was so forced, it’s baffling how so many people have bought it. If you didn’t watch the game, minutes after Sutton had made their third and final substitution, Wayne Shaw was seen delving into a pie whilst standing in the dugout watching the remaining minutes of the match. The act was evidently something he’d been paid to do so that they could have another dig at Non League football. The whole of social media lapped it up, as the commentators pretty much ridiculed Shaw and rounded off their attempt to play down the biggest night in the history of Sutton United Football Club.
For those that don’t watch football below the Football League or if you’re not well educated on the standard, don’t buy into the utter nonsense that the media want you to believe. I personally know and socialise with many players at Sutton’s level and below and the work that those guys put into their game is no joke. The unprofessional attitude of those in the media who try and undo all their hours of graft is shameful. They care just as much, if not more, about football than your heroes of the Premier League.