Starting to believe again – my distant life with the Cardinals

Sole Searching: Giuseppe Sole brings up a ton of goals for the Cards in the FA Cup tie against Boreham Wood, and seeks out No.1 fan, Bruno (Photo: David Holmes)

Sole Searching: Giuseppe Sole brings up a ton of goals for the Cards in the FA Cup tie against Boreham Wood, and seeks out No.1 fan, Bruno (Photo: David Holmes)

Now we’re a third of the way through the season, there’s a real sense of belief in the ranks around and about Woking FC.

And if nothing else, the fact that we now have 30 league points to our name should save us from a couple more months of the gaffer talking about that ‘magic 50’ safety margin.

With belief comes expectation of course, but we’ve been there before, and whatever goes down on the message boards and amid a mountain of social media hype, I can’t see Garry Hill and Steve Thompson getting above themselves.

After our win at Altrincham on October 11th, the Cards boss told BBC Surrey’s Gary Smith in the press box that we were turning half time ‘nil-nils into victories’. And he had a point (or three, I suppose).

That hadn’t been the case from the start, and a few times this term we’d bossed possession only to be punished for not tucking chances away.

There was that little blip from mid-September too, two defeats in the West Country followed by a near-miss against Kiddie.

But maybe we needed that at the time, so we could take stock and remove a bit of the increasing pressure.

Set-piece Specialist: Giuseppe Sole leads the charge after his home winner against Nuneaton Town (Photo: David Holmes)

Set-piece Specialist: Giuseppe Sole leads the charge after his home winner against Nuneaton Town (Photo: David Holmes)

We might have left it late to see off spirited Nuneaton in our next fixture, but those are the games you remember, and not just because of Giuseppe Sole’s fine decider.

I was listening in on the internet at the time, and Jon Howick and John Moore’s commentary made the occasion.

It had already been noted at my place in Leyland that the Two Jo(h)ns’ excitement levels were on another level that evening. And then came that super-sweet free-kick.

The fact that we seemed to have a deranged referee on the night just added to it all. Quality entertainment.

That proved to be the launch-pad for my next two games in attendance, with the Cards back on my North-West patch.

Even then there was a worry that Southport and Altrincham weren’t overly-successful hunting grounds for us. But we overcame.

Thoughts of Haig Avenue for many of us send a shiver down the spine – including those of us on the doorstep, for this is my ‘as near to home as possible’ fixture.

Yet this time we bagged all six points at Haig Avenue and Moss Lane, and with the autumn winds already blowing, we were up to second place, albeit with a lot of tricky fixtures ahead.

What’s more, there were even rumours that the BT Sports TV fraternity had started to remember who we were.

Dynamic Deano: Woking's Dean Morgan unleashes a killer second at Altrincham (Photo: David Holmes)

Dynamic Deano: Woking’s Dean Morgan unleashes a killer second at Altrincham (Photo: David Holmes)

Garry was not to be over-awed, mind, telling us that Saint Thommo and his good self would ‘just go about our job properly and the right way and hopefully get as many points as we can’.

There was also something about finding that elusive ‘consistency’ and reckoning he had ‘the best 18 players Woking have had in their squad for a long time’.

Things were definitely moving in the right direction, and we were doing it all the right way too.

Sure, there was the odd hiccup and mistake. That’s what you get at our level. But there was no panic, with plenty of playing to feet rather than a compulsion to put a target on free-scoring Scott Rendell’s forehead.

From Joe ‘The Beast’ McNerney and co’s coolness at the back to assured play-making shifts from Josh Payne and Joey Jones – a revelation in that role – and a fine run of form from Gez and Scottie up front, we were getting it right.

Returned loanee Jack Marriott was struggling to make his previous impact, but Kevin Betsy was back in the picture again, with lots of service from the likes of Chris Arthur and John Goddard. We were a pleasure to watch at times.

The season started too early for me, and I was on the Isle of Wight with my girls when we won on the first day at Alfreton.

In fact, I failed to see any goals on my first Cards outing of the season, when I made it down for the Macclesfield home game in mid-August.

Lying Low: Ross Worner takes it easy during his man of the match return match in the home win over Chester (Photo: David Holmes)

Lying Low: Ross Worner takes it easy during his man of the match return match in the home win over Chester (Photo: David Holmes)

But we at least kept a clean sheet. And that was before the return of Ross Worner, on loan from latest club Wimbledon.

Incidentally, I can’t pretend I’m a talent scout, but Ross’ first starring role for me was as a wedding guest at my big sister’s wedding back in the summer of ’91.

That said, at 20 months old, it’s fair to say his dribbling was more promising than his handling at that stage.

Anyway, a fortnight later I witnessed a triumphant return to the Racecourse Ground – with Aaron Howe on form between the sticks – as dynamic Dean Morgan sealed our victory in style after hotshot Rendell first put us in front against fancied Wrexham.

Summer was still on the mind then, and we celebrated with a stop-over and a ride on the Llangollen Railway the following day. Full steam ahead, you could say.

That followed our 6-1 drubbing of Dover and led to three more wins, including that momentous victory at Aldershot, of course.

Oh Giuseppe, what can I say? You certainly pick your moments.

Great Scott: Wrexham attempt to give Cards hot-shot Scott Rendell close supervision at the Racecourse Ground (Photo: David Holmes)

Great Scott: Wrexham attempt to give Cards hot-shot Scott Rendell close supervision at the Racecourse Ground (Photo: David Holmes)

Someone upstairs was clearly looking over us, and despite a mighty downpour soaking us in seconds at Haig Avenue while I queued for a cuppa with my bro-in-law and niece on my next outing five weeks after Wrexham, we didn’t need thawing out that day.

We even saw the sun shine – yes, at Southport, possibly for the first time since we got burned to a crisp on the open terrace on an early trip in the mid-’90s.

There were a lot of footballing highlights too, not least Gez’s latest wonder free-kick, prompting one Cards fan to ask, ‘Ain’t you got the internet?’ to the Sandgrounders’ crestfallen keeper and defence.

I even got to take my coat off at Alty the following week, although it was to avoid suffocation as I was crammed into a glass box alongside Cards legends Mooro and Sicknote, roving radio star Gary Smith, and a local reporter.

It wasn’t all roses, and my car failed me on the way, this reporter confined to a top speed of 50 on the M6 save for the odd downhill stretch.

Coming back it was even worse, increasingly-worrying messages appearing on my dashboard, loosely translated as ‘slow down for Wigan’ or ‘you’re going home in an AA tow-truck’.

But I made it, and a brief look at the Conference top-flight table after I’d stepped out from behind the sofa following Dr Who made for further great viewing.

As it was , that was the Citroen C4’s last Woking-related journey, but I can now confirm that the new-to-us Wyatt carrier got off to a winning start, transporting us safely to our slim FA Cup fourth-qualifying round home victory over Boreham Wood.

I’ll gloss over the poor display in our 3-1 home defeat to Telford the previous weekend, and only passing Bucks fans will feel aggrieved by that omission.

Thumbs Up: Garry Hill gives the Woking faithful his verdict at Alty (Photo: David Holmes)

Thumbs Up: Garry Hill gives the Woking faithful his verdict at Alty (Photo: David Holmes)

But while the first half display on my birthday was pretty lack-lustre, there was enough magic in that second half to send us home happy.

As it was, we missed the first 20 minutes anyway, having been sat on the M25 watching the planes flying over at Heathrow for far too long.

It was a rare occasion when the better half and my girls showed up at Kingfield too, and none of them asked to leave early, I might add.

They even half-inched my phone at one point to ask for my birthday dedication to be repeated, on account of our late arrival.

More to the point, Gez’s opening header to bring up an amazing 100 career goals for the Cards, plus his follow-up strike to ultimately clinch the tie, made sure it was a match to remember.

The fact that our battling Conference South opposition pulled one back in between just added to the drama.

And in the absence of my former Wubble Yoo compadre Simon Bell, I felt the need to give a trademark cry of ‘CONCENTRATE!’ after we scored our second, which we thankfully then did.

Wrexham away was hardly the prize we wanted of course, but we’ll see. It’s there for the taking if we really want to get the national headlines again.

What’s more, that means we have two straight Sunday matches with televised coverage for our next Northern forays, albeit via S4C and BT Sport.

I’m hoping to be on hand for both, and for the home clash with leaders Barnet and ‘Mad Dog’ Martin Allen, while my annual Tyneside trek for the Gateshead game is not far off either.

In the meantime, there are always those BBC Surrey internet commentaries to help get me by.

Cultured Company: Cardinal Tales marks the occasion of Giuseppe Sole's three-figure haul (Copyright: Mark Doyle)

Cultured Company: Cardinal Tales marks the occasion of Giuseppe Sole’s three-figure haul (Copyright: Mark Doyle)

Where we might go from here remains to be seen. But – whisper it, if you must – I really think I’m enjoying this season.

Will we still be knocking on the door by Christmas? I’ll stick my neck out and say I don’t doubt it. And maybe this really is our year.

OK, you can come out again now. The bloke with the foolish optimistic predictions is now leaving the building.

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About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/writewyattuk/ and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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One Response to Starting to believe again – my distant life with the Cardinals

  1. Pingback: Liberty Way, above and beyond – my continuing travels with Woking FC | writewyattuk

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