Episode 19: The Winning Post

20140519-102109.jpgWe made it to the cup final and what a fantastic day we had too! This podcast marks the climax of the Cup Runnings adventure (for this season, at least) and we got to see a terrific game of football in an electric atmosphere at one of the world’s greatest football stadiums. If we’d managed to blag a couple of cakes then it would have been a perfect day out.

Massive thanks to everybody who has helped and supported us on our journey. You haven’t heard the last of us yet though. We hope you’ll enjoy our book which will be out in late summer and Andy will be touring a stand-up comedy show of our story too. Drop us a line or follow us on @CupRunnings for further info. Cheers!

Arsenal vs Hull – The Final Countdown

Wowsers, what an absolutely incredible day and a wonderful way to end the Cup Runnings adventure after 19 games. There have been tantrums, tears and far too many drives to Crawley Town but a day out at the FA Cup Final made it all worthwhile in the end.

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We’ll reveal all in the book of course, but thankfully tickets proved relatively straight forward and we found ourselves back on the road for another trip to Wembley. It’s comfortably one of the best stadiums either of us has been to and as much as the semi finals being held there isn’t ideal, it’s hard to grumble at two visits to one of the most famous grounds in football.

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The day itself passed almost in a blur. One of us travelled by bus, one by train, the latter was stupidly late but we were still in plenty of time to soak up the pre-match atmosphere on Wembley Way. Once inside the Hull end the place was absolutely jumping and it was impossible not to get carried away and help cheer them on, not that they needed it.

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As some around us were still taking their seats the underdogs stole an early lead through James Chester then doubled their tally just a few minutes later when Curtis Davies drove the ball home smartly from a tight angle. Alex Bruce also had an effort cleared off the line and the yellow side of Wembley was in absolute dreamland. That was dented a little when Cazorla buried a free kick after quarter of an hour but Hull were impressive with the ball and good value for their lead at half time.

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The second 45 was a different story though as Arsenal pressed and deservedly equalised through Laurent Koscielny and it then looked ominous for City. The Gunners continued to press and were unlucky not to go ahead before their 109th minute strike from Aaron Ramsey, having hit the bar and forced numerous good saves from McGregor in the Hull goal.

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Hull did have one late chance through Aluko but in truth by that point it was undeserved. Arsenal had been the better side and were deserved winners. Our seats in the Hull end meant we could barely see The Gunners lift the old trophy aloft, but saw it gleaming away as it made its way pitchside and took our cue to head off and reflect on our day and the Cup Runnings adventure.

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It’s been a wonderful experience overall, and the chance to attend an FA Cup Final made every trauma worthwhile in my eyes. Yes we might have had to drive to Crawley twice for the same bloody game, but when a day like this at Wembley is the reward then I’d be back on the road to Sussex in a heartbeat. Abide With Me, the national anthems, the pageantry. It’s a spectacular occasion.

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We’ll soon be releasing a book which chronicles the adventure in more detail, keep an eye on our Twitter feed (twitter.com/CupRunnings) for pre-order details. Or, if you’d like to see a stand-up comedy show re-telling the tale, Andy will be doing this. More information will be available via his website (www.andyfury.co.uk) and Twitter (@andyfury). The first date is at Newcastle Comedy Festival (www.jesterval.co.uk) on Saturday 7th June. Obviously it’s a 3pm start.

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For now though, all that remains is for us both to thank everyone who has helped us along the way. Without wanting to get soppy, it’s been genuinely spine-tingling to see people looking out for two idiots that had no right to such help. From cake-baking to tickets, people have come up trumps and we’ll both be forever in your debt.

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Congratulations to Arsenal on their win too, but a huge well done to the thousands of people up and down the country working tirelessly to make sure the FA Cup and football itself still has something magic about it.

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Arsenal vs Wigan – It’s Harry Carry For Wigan After Pre-Match Hare Krishna

Our first visit to Wembley on the Cup Runnings adventure and after drawing Arsenal in the last round, it was the second of three visits to North London to complete our quest.

There’s no denying Wembley is a terrific venue. It dominates the skyline from miles around and whilst I’m not entirely won over by the arch at the expense of the Twin Towers, it’s an impressive sight and sends a shiver up your spine as soon as you exit the Tube.

One good thing is the retention of Wembley Way. It may be modified to fit in with the rebuild of the stadium but there’s no finer sight in football than fans streaming in all in the same direction and although it’s probably the best way to file that many people in, the architects deserve some credit for retaining in.

The pre-match atmosphere was brilliant. We headed round to the Wigan end after a kindly chap called Phil Keane managed to help us with a pair of tickets when we thought it was going to be a struggle. Their fans were in good voice, encouraged by some Hare Krishnas who were welcomed and then over run by pissed up fans joining in. It was a surreal but brilliant start to the day.

Once inside we soaked up our surrounds. It’s easy to forget how big Wembley is but once inside seeing 90,000 bright red seats really rams it home: the place is enormous. It’s a toss up for me as to whether they beat Arsenal to the nicer concourses, but at £6 for a hot dog it’s safe to say we didn’t spend a lot of time there anyway!

As for the game, a dull first half quickly sparked into life. A penalty on the hour mark meant Wigan took the lead through Jordi Gomez. They’d started to press their Premiership opposition and it was deserved reward but sparked a previous lacklustre Arsenal into life.

They started to press and rattled the woodwork a couple of times with the excellent Steven Crainey also clearing one effort off the line. Just as we started to dream of a final that should be straightforward enough ticket-wise, Per Mertesacker bundled home Gibbs’s scuffed shot and the scores were level with ten minutes to go.

Extra time saw Arsenal continue to press although Wigan had their own chances and it was only a lack of a real goalscorer that probably prevented them from winning. Fortune had a poor game up front and it was left to midfielder Nick Powell to scuff a great chance wide at the death to take the game to penalties.

As Sunderland fans we spent several years watching Steve Caldwell frustrate and disappoint us and his brother Gary was no different. Having come on as a substitute he’d done okay during the game but hit a poor first penalty at Fabianski and an equally poor second Wigan penalty from Jack Collison meant Arsenal were in the driving seat.

The Gunners finished the job off spectacularly, with excellent spot kicks competently dispatched by Arteta, Kallstrom, Giroud and Carzola, meaning a return to Wembley and wonderful opportunity for Arsene Wenger to end his trophy drought.

Wigan were a fantastic match and massive credit to themselves. Their fans may have been small in number but sang throughout (even if their “we know what we are, FA Cup champions, we know what we are” chant is incredibly grating to the neutral) and we saw no real sign of trouble apart from two old ladies behind us bickering amongst themselves.

So a cracking day out under the arch at Wembley and we’ll be back in May to see Arsenal take on Hull in the last game of our adventure. It seems a lifetime ago that we were stood in the rain at Tow Law’s Ironworks Road, yet it’s flashed by in the blink of an eye.

See you at Wembley (again).

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Episode 18 – Arsenal vs Wigan

Hello and welcome to Episode 18 of Cup Runnings. If you’re wondering where Episode 17 is, it’ll appear at some point, but it’s basically Andy on his own in his bedroom talking about how okay the Emirates was. As for this episode, we’re at Wembley for Arsenal vs Wigan and a tense game that saw David take on Goliath and have a real go. You probably know the result anyway but we’ll not reveal it just incase, and instead tell you to listen in and enjoy some of the sounds of Wembley.

Arsenal vs Everton – We’re Going To Wemberleeee!

With the Cup Runnings team temporarily down to one person it was an unusual trip down to the Emirates today.

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A 12.45 kick off for the television cameras meant departing Newcastle on a bus at 1.40am on Saturday morning, arriving into the capital not long after 8am.

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With it being such an early kick off it felt slightly wrong to head straight to a pub, even if I wasn’t on driving duty for once, so I instead took in the surrounds of Arsenal including a brief trip to their past.

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The Gunners’ former home Highbury has been converted into housing and it’s possible (although probably not encouraged) to wander in and have a look. It’s possibly the best use for a former football stadium (yes, even better than just building an Asda on them) and well worth a visit.

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As for the Emirates, what a ground. It’s plastered from head to toe in reminders of the club’s past and although the stadium is a bit more special than your average new build anyway, it stands out for sure. Padded seats throughout the ground top it off lovely! As for the obligatory Cup Runnings mug – we were spoilt for choice!

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As for the game? There was a real worry that this might have ended back up in Liverpool. Arsenal went 1-0 up within the first five minutes through Mesut Ozil sweeping home Cazorla’s through ball. However against the run of play, Romelu Lukaku bundled home after Kevin Mirallas bumbled the ball towards him. That rocked Arsenal and it looked like it might fizzle out.

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However, both sets of fans were great value and in a terrific atmosphere (albeit with a disappointing amount of flares in the Everton end) the second half really sprang to life, with Arsenal firing three times to take them to the semi final.

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Giroud scored twice and Arteta added a penalty (after a retake) and Everton’s cup dream was over. As for us/we/me, it’s off to Wembley after many tears, tantrums and trips to Crawley. They say it’s a long road and it’s proving very much to be the case.

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From a Cup Runnings point of view it’s been a mixed day. Sad to see a great club like Everton now out, sad to see our team unnecessarily reduced to one member and sad that I’m going to have to spend seven hours on a Megabus getting home.

On the plus side, at least it wasn’t Crawley.

 

AF

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We’re Getting The Band Back Together!

“Football isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.”

The last couple of weeks have taught us at Cup Runnings that that’s absolute shit. Going into the Arsenal vs Everton game this weekend we were pretty much ready to pack in.

I’d sacked Mark off in a petulant act of defiance. It turns out there’s only so many times you can drive to Crawley and back before snapping. It turns out in my case that’s twice.

Frustrations at a variety of things led me to throwing the towel in – spite led me to continuing the journey to Arsenal at the weekend. That and the small matter of having forked out £76 for the fucker.

Nevertheless, it’s safe to say we had a massive falling out. That led to various name calling, threats and nonsense being spouted from both sides. And essentially, sticking 15 years of friendship on the line over a game that neither of us could really give a shite about.

For that, I’m sorry, especially as we’ve built up a loyal following over the last seven months. If we’ve tested your patience over the last few days then I owe you an apology. The same goes to Mark.

It’s been a strange few days. The road to Wembley temporarily had roadworks (and very nearly waterworks) and as has been the case almost from day one, not as straightforward as it should have been.

On the plus side, I’ve managed to not lose a friend. Oh and tickets for Wigan at Wembley should (famous last words) be a doddle.

We’ll both see you there in April.

Andy

Episode 16 – Everton vs Swansea City

Welcome to Episode 16 of Cup Runnings which is one of our favourites to date! We found ourselves in Liverpool and so ended up going a little bit Brookside crazy. We ditched our usual theme tune from So What Robot and ended up paying homage to one of Merseyside’s most famous exports. As well as visiting the set of the TV show we managed to find time to interview Everton legend Graeme Sharp, rising pop starlet Jennifer Jewell and also Goodison’s Fan Zone MC Graeme White. Thanks for listening and get yourself on iTunes to buy Jennifer’s single!

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Everton vs Swansea – Tricky Toffee Pudding

After a load of long mid-week journeys it’s safe to say we had a spring in our steps at this one. As well as Everton vs Swansea being a nice-sounding tie between two teams who play good football, it was also played in broad daylight!

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In fact, it wasn’t until we were some way into our three hour drive home that we noticed any darkness whatsoever. There were plenty of nice anomalies surrounding this game. Garry Monk’s first cup game in charge of the visitors (only his third ever game as a manager to be fair), Roberto Martinez hosting his former club and a debut for Everton’s giant centre forward Lacina Traore.

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Indeed, after we dragged our backsides outside of the comfort of Everton’s FanZone (Chang beer and all) and into Goodison Park, it was the 6ft 8ins striker who opened the scoring with a cheeky back heel just three minutes into the game. Everton continued to press and play quick, attractive football and we felt at this point that the various long distance hikes to Crawley and enduring bores like Stamford vs Hednesford had all been worth it.

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However, Swansea started to get into it a little bit. They certainly didn’t get on top, but they settled into the pace of the game and Jonathan de Guzman equalised with a header that nobody saw coming on the 15 minute mark. That seemed to rattle the home side who then struggled to break The Swans down and as the first period fizzled out we weren’t ruling out a draw.

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Everton did little to help our fears of a midweek 12-hour round trip to Swansea for a replay until an inspired substitution from Roberto Martinez. Off came Traore and the impressive Ross Barkley and on came Leon Osman and Steven Naismith. The former kept things ticking nicely in the centre of midfield whilst the latter capitalised on a poor Neil Taylor backpass to put The Toffees back in front and then won a penalty which Leighton Baines coolly finished to put them 3-1 up.

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It ended that way which was a relief to us for all of ten minutes when the next round was drawn. Everton would be away to the winner of Arsenal vs Liverpool. So either facing the hassle of trying to find tickets for a Merseyside derby or at one of the hardest grounds in the country to get tickets for. We visited the set (now just a normal street where people live) of Brookside to wile away some time while that game was on and got our hopes up for a mouth-watering derby.

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As has been our luck we got one of the two Southern teams left in the draw and so we’ll be visiting the Emirates in three weeks time. Many thanks to Everton legend Graeme Sharp for chatting to us for the podcast, likewise Liverpool’s pop sensation Jennifer Jewell and everyone else at Everton that was supportive, friendly and helpful. A cracking day out, a good game of football, it’s just a shame about the draw for the next round!

 

 

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Episode 15: Birmingham City v Swansea City

20140126-090614.jpgA tale of two Cities this time around as we finally get to see another game on a Saturday afternoon, though the weather had a pretty good crack at landing us with another abandonment. There’s all the usual nonsense from the pair of us, a cutting-edge interview with a man in a cowboy hat and the latest in current affairs from Hednesford Town’s John Disney. Enjoy.