Book Review: The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism by John Barnes

Growing up in the nineties and coming to football in the new millennium, I had the impression – naively – that racism in the beautiful game was a thing of the past, that it was consigned to an era of hooligans and hostility and would nary tarnish the sport again. How wrong, how ignorant, I was. Two decades into that new millennium and football – and society – is still marred by disgusting instances of racism. Who can forget the way three of England’s heroes of summer 2021 were racially vilified after defeat to Italy on penalties in the Euros? When the vitriol spewed out, for many it was shocking; but, sadly, for many others, there was also a degree of inevitability. The real questions over age, experience and game time which should have been central to the analysis of that penalty defeat, as well as a celebration of England’s best tournament since 1966 which should have rounded off the Euros, were lost to racist abuse and discrimination that proved just how endemic racism is in society and, consequently, football. It has never gone away, as John Barnes points out in his book The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism as he spotlights these uncomfortable truths and debunks myths about progress and equality.

Books by footballers tend to be in a certain vein: autobiographies discussing their life in and around the game. Whilst some books in recent times have begun to tackle more difficult subjects and footballers have also begun to speak out more on social and welfare issues, Barnes’ book represents a significant departure. He may be a former footballer – and one of the best of all time for England and Liverpool – and this book may touch on football, but this is a book of social and political commentary by a man who has experienced and understands racism first-hand. It is hard-hitting, frank and, as the title suggests, uncomfortable, as Barnes really gets to grips with and tackles one of the biggest social problems in history. Anyone expecting a football-focused commentary or reflection specifically on racism in football will find something rather different as Barnes offers a much more nuanced perspective, looking at football not as the problem but rather probing instead the environment and society that shapes those that go on to racially abuse others, be it in football stadiums, in the supermarket or any other place or space. Indeed, Barnes scrutinises the social and political roots that have fixed discrimination firmly into society, making racism both endemic and ingrained and superficial efforts to challenge it largely fruitless.

Barnes offers a thoroughly thought-provoking and engaging perspective and readers will certainly be made to question, challenge and confront their own beliefs and opinions. Even when there may be stances the reader takes issue with, Barnes, to borrow his own phrase, does not shy away from ‘putting his head above the parapet’. Nor does he avoid taking the counterargument in some existing debates. He confronts the issue of racism head on and in doing so seeks to ‘open up the discussion’. And there are without doubt some really interesting, thoughtful and challenging points throughout that force the reader to engage. Indeed, I found myself thinking a lot about the idea of social conditioning and unconscious bias and querying the role of the individual, in as much as whilst society may shape and condition a person, there comes a point when each person knows right from and wrong and has the power to shape themselves. There are no quick and simple answers to the questions posed in this book or, indeed, the challenge of racism, but what the book does is continue the discussion and engage others.

Interestingly, at one point in the book, Barnes writes, ‘there are three types of people: people who are racists and know it, people who are racist but don’t know or think they are… and people who aren’t racist at all… The people who belong to the first group don’t care and won’t suddenly have an epiphany to stop being racist… the people in the second group don’t actually think they’re racist so they feel it doesn’t apply to them… Finally the people in the third group don’t need to change as they have no racial bias to start with… so overall nothing changes.’ It’s a somewhat depressing thought that those people who would most benefit from this book are those who are the least likely to be changed by it; but there is no question that people who do read it will benefit from doing so. Will this book end racism? No. That goes beyond the capability of any single book, any single person or any single reform. But can it play a part in changing the perceptions of society? Absolutely. Racism has no place in society and no place in our beautiful game and hopefully one day the colour of a player’s shirt will be the only colour that matters.

(Publisher: Headline. October 2021. Hardcover: 320 pages)


Jade Craddock


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Book Review: The Charlton Men by Paul Breen

The Charlton Men by Paul Breen is the first part of a fictional trilogy set in South East London. Although this is classified as fiction, the backdrops to this first book are the real events of 2011 in terms of the London riots and Charlton Athletic FC’s 2011/12 season in League One.

Set against this are the fictional characters Lance and Fergus. Lance is a Londoner and life-long Charlton Athletic supporter who was in the army in Afghanistan, but having returned to London now finds himself working as a caretaker in a block of flats. Fergus is from Ireland and moves to London and becomes a resident in the flats where Lance works. The flats prove to be a vehicle to introducing other characters as the book unfolds, with other residents ‘Merlin’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe’ becoming central to the plot.

One of the overriding themes is that of the past, which in footballing terms, occurs through Lance’s tales of Charlton’s history as he integrates Fergus into the faithful at The Valley. For all the central characters, their past, pre-London, also becomes significant to the book as it develops and impacts on the events of the present.

In addition, there is an exploration of the idea of ‘home’, which as with other themes is looked at from a football angle as well as in a wider context. For Lance a Londoner born and bred, South East London is home and always will be and is expressed further by his love and devotion for his football team and its ground, The Valley. Just as Lance returned home after Afghanistan, so did Charlton after being forced to play at West Ham and Crystal Palace. For Fergus, Ireland is ‘home’, but does through the book come to see London as another ‘home’.

This is also a book with great characters which explores relationships in various forms, whether this is about how people relate to each other, how people relate and interact with their surroundings or how a football club connects with the community and those who live within it.

Overall Breen creates great atmosphere and tension with his writing, whether in the football grounds of League One or on the streets of Greenwich and his penchant for metaphor paints some wonderful images of London. The Charlton Men is a book which operates on a number of levels and therefore will appeal to football fans and non-fans alike. The ground has certainly been laid for part two of the trilogy.

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2011/12: FA Cup 3rd Round – Sheffield United v Salisbury City

Friday 06 January 2012 (01.00 pm)

So here we are in 2012  and the FA Cup 3rd Round which extends to four days, starting tonight with the North-West derby between Premier League Liverpool and League One Oldham Athletic, ending on Monday with the game at The Emirates between Arsenal and Leeds United.

Liverpool last met Oldham in the Cup at Anfield in the 5th Round in the 1976/77 season. Liverpool made the Final that year, only to lose to Manchester United. With the Reds already in the League Cup Semi-Final, Kenny Dalglish will be relishing another Cup run. Oldham beat Burton 3-1 in the 1st Round and after a replay, overcame Southend United 1-0 at Boundary Park. Just as Liverpool have progressed in the League Cup, The Latics have had a good year in the knock-out competitions, having made it to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy North Final against Chesterfield and are just one match away from a Wembley appearance.

No doubt the Reds will juggle their pack for the game, but they will have to be wary of an Oldham team that manager Paul Dickov will have fired up for the occasion. It could be quite a tie tonight.

Friday 06 January 2012 (11.00 pm)

Liverpool (2) 5 – 1 (1) Oldham Athletic

Football is a game riddled with clichés – and there is a reason for this, they are invariably true. Take the Cup-tie this evening. Let’s start with, “…you have to take your chances Oldham started the game brilliantly and had three excellent goal scoring opportunities in the opening twenty minutes. None were taken and instead of having any sort of lead the game remained at 0-0. However, the Latics did eventually score through Robbie Simpson, with a stunning thirty yard strike on twenty eight minutes. “…Teams are at their most vulnerable just after they have scored…” Oldham didn’t take heed and Liverpool were level just two minutes later through Craig Bellamy. “…The worst time to concede is just before half-time…” With time added on at the end of the first half Oldham gave away a penalty and Steven Gerrard did the rest to send the home team in with a 2-1 lead.

The visitors came out fighting the second half but were killed off on sixty eight minutes when Shelvey slotted in to give Liverpool a 3-1 lead. Finally, “…the score-line didn’t reflect the game…” To rub salt into the wounds Oldham conceded two late goals to Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing; 5-1 was harsh on The Latics. So Liverpool are through and the they can put their feet up and watch the rest of the Third Round unfold.

Saturday 07 January 2012 (10.00 am)

It’s a return to Bramall Lane today as The Blades face Blue Square Bet Conference South  opposition (and lowest ranked team in the Third Round), Salisbury City. The Whites have hardly set their League alight this season and currently sit in the lower half of the League table. However, the FA Cup has been a real adventure for the team from Wiltshire. City entered the FA Cup at the Second Qualifying Round stage, beating Southern League Premier side Swindon Supermarine 3-0. Poole Town were demolished 6-1 by Salisbury in the Third Qualifying Round and entry into the First Round was clinched with a 2-1 away win at Bishop’s Stortford. Arlesey Town were no match for The Whites as City won 3-1 and earned a Second Round tie at home to Conference Premier side Grimsby Town. The tie went to a replay after a 0-0 draw at The Raymond McEnhill Stadium. The replay at Blundell Park turned out to be a night of drama. Dan Fitchett gave City the lead in the second half and it looked enough to take The Whites through. However, in time added-on Rob Duffy headed Grimsby level. In extra-time Duffy scored again to put The Mariners ahead, but back came City and Brian Dutton brought the scores level at 2-2. The Cup upset was complete with eight minutes to go, when Stuart Anderson converted a penalty to put Salisbury into the FA Cup Third Round for the first time in their history.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for The Whites in recent years. In 2007/08 City were promoted to the  Conference Premier Division and in their first season finished a creditable 12th. In the following season Salisbury finished 16th but off the pitch all was not well as financial problems hit the club. City completed the 2009/10 season in 12th place, even after being deducted 10 points for entering administration. Further punishment came The Whites way when they were demoted two divisions (to the Southern League Premier Division) for breaking Conference finance rules. Despite this set-back, last season City started the climb back up the Leagues after gaining promotion to the Blue Square Bet Conference South following victory over Hednesford Town in the Play-Off Final.

The Cup is full of superstition and coincidence and for The Blades there has been a bit of a pattern in their two FA cup fixtures this season. In both games Sheffield United have been at home, have scored three goals in each game, with Ched Evans scoring two goals in each fixture. The Blades opponents in both Rounds have been from the Npower League One, both Oxford and Torquay wore all yellow strips and both clubs like Sheffield are ‘United’s’. Many of these coincidences are broken today by the visit of Salisbury City, but will Sheffield United manage three goals today? Will Ched Evan’s bag another brace?  

Saturday 07 January 2012 (11.20 pm)

Sheffield United (1) 3 – 1 (0) Salisbury City

Before kick-off there was a minute’s applause as a mark of respect at the death last week of Gary Ablett. He was known predominantly for his time at Liverpool and Everton, but Gary Ablett also had a loan spell at Bramall Lane in 1996. Both sets of supporters observed the tribute respectfully.

Of the game itself, this was always going to be a difficult one for Salisbury given the recent good form of The Blades and the difference in league status between the teams. Sheffield United dominated from the outset, never allowing the visitors to settle on the ball. Within the opening fifteen minutes United had created a number of excellent chances, with Neil Collins header superbly saved by Mark Scott, the best of the opportunities. The Blades were patient in their build-up and were using the wings and switching play to drag the Salisbury defence out of position. This ploy paid off on eighteen minutes when a cross-field ball by Kevin McDonald was picked up by Lee Williamson who drove at the City defence. His pass found space beyond the Salisbury back-line and Chris Porter slipped it in under the advancing Scott to put United ahead. The Blades continued to press and City were thankful that keeper Scott was in such good form as he saved well from Ryan Flynn and Chris Porter. However, United couldn’t increase their lead and went in at the interval just one goal to the good.

In the opening fifteen minutes of the second half, Salisbury had a sustained period of possession, without really creating a guilt edged goal chance. However, the game swung firmly in favour of the home side, when on the hour mark after a goal-mouth scramble, McDonald’s shot was fortuitously deflected in by Ched Evans, to maintain his record of scoring in every round so far. United were now comfortable and continued to create chances. One such opportunity included a scramble which saw efforts by Ched Evans, James Beattie and Michael Doyle all repelled in a frantic passage of play. Eventually though The Blades scored again. On seventy two minutes the ever dangerous Evans cut inside and drove a cross shot into the Salisbury penalty area, which Danny Webb deflected into his own net. With the game won, The Blades intensity dropped and Salisbury enjoyed more possession in the last five minutes. The travelling City fans were rewarded for their excellent support of their team when substitute Lloyd Macklin fired in on eighty six minutes. Salisbury buzzed around for the closing minutes, but were unable to trouble The Blades defence further.

Another Cup win for United and their record of scoring three goals in each Round continues. Will the draw tomorrow see The Blades at home again? For now one half of Sheffield can look forward to the draw. The blue and white half has their chance to progress on Sunday with a difficult looking tie with West Ham to come. This is one of four fixtures on Sunday, which also includes, the Manchester derby (City v United), a repeat of the 2010 FA Cup Final (Chelsea v Portsmouth) and The Posh against The Black Cats (Peterborough v Sunderland).

Sunday 08 January 2012 (6.00pm)

In terms of the other Cup “trail” fixtures, there was little romance or Cup magic. Aston Villa won comfortably at Bristol Rovers 3-1. A Marc Albrighton goal on thirty five minutes gave Villa a half-time lead. Gabriel Agbonlahor (a second half substitute) doubled the lead just after the hour mark and Ciaran Clarke added a third on seventy eight minutes. Rovers got a goal back on ninety minutes through Scott McGleish and he could have brought even more respectability to the score-line, but McGleish had a penalty saved in time added on. Premier League Fulham overcame League One leaders Charlton Athletic with a convincing 4-0 win. Clint Dempsey scored a hat-trick with Damien Duff scoring The Cottagers final goal. League Two Macclesfield sniffed an upset in their tie with Premier League Bolton, when Arnaud Mendy put them 2-1 ahead with twenty two minutes remaining. However, David Wheater headed Wanderers level after seventy seven minutes to take the game back to a replay at The Reebok Stadium.  

The games today started in dramatic fashion with an incredible first half at The Etihad Stadium. Debate will rage over whether the sending off of City captain Kompany was the right one. However, United lead 3-0 at the break with a Rooney double and a well taken Danny Welbeck volley. Credit to City who reorganised in the second half and not only stifled their Manchester cousins, but clawed their way back into the game with goals from Kolarov and Aguero. 3-2 the final score in an incident packed derby.

With their city rivals already through, Sheffield Wednesday had a difficult home game with high-flying Championship team West Ham United. However, The Owls came through after keeper Nicky Weaver saved a second half penalty from Sam Baldock. With a replay looming, Chris O’Grady struck for Wednesday on eighty eight minutes to clinch a 1-0 win and create a Cup upset.

Portsmouth held Chelsea for the first forty five minutes at Stamford Bridge, but two goals from Ramires, and one each from Mata and Lampard ensured the London club went into the Fourth Round draw. Also going through are Sunderland with a professional 2-0 win at Peterborough. Sebastian Larsson put the Black Cats ahead on forty eight minutes and the game was wrapped up just ten minutes later with a goal from James McLean.

For the Fourth Round, the “trail” fixtures are as following:

Arsenal/Leeds United v Aston Villa

Everton v Fulham

Macclesfield/Bolton Wanderers v Swansea City

Sheffield United v Birmingham City/Wolves

Monday 09 January 2012 (7.00am)

The last game of the FA Cup Third Round takes place later today in North London between Arsenal and Leeds United. These two teams have met on sixteen occasions and have produced some memorable matches.

The first meeting was back in the 1949/50 season in the Sixth Round at Highbury, when First Division Arsenal took on Second Division Leeds United. United acquitted themselves well, but lost 1-0 to a goal from Reg Lewis on 52 minutes. The Gunners went onto the Final that year at Wembley where they beat Liverpool 2-0.

The next meeting for these teams was in the 1972 Centenary FA Cup Final, when Allan Clarke scored the only goal which meant the Cup went North to Elland Road for the first time in their history, with the clipped commentary of David Coleman declaring, “…Clarke…One Nil…” sweet music to the ears of Leeds supporters.

By the time these teams met again in the Cup (1982/83), Leeds had once more been relegated to the Second Division. A Peter Nicholas own goal just after the hour gave Leeds the lead, but Arsenal were level within a minute as Alan Sunderland sent the game to a replay. In the game at Elland Road, an upset looked on the cards as Aidan Butterworth put Leeds ahead in the last minute of extra-time. However, Graham Rix dramatically scored an equaliser with seconds remaining to force a Second Replay. A coin was tossed to see who would host the Second Replay and it fell in favour of the Londoners. Tony Woodcock put The Gunners ahead, only for Terry Connor to bring the game level. However, with eight minutes remaining, Graham Rix proved to be the Arsenal saviour as he scored the winner to take them through 2-1.

Given the change of rules regarding replays, the events of the 1990/91 ties will never be repeated. Arsenal and Leeds needed four games to settle this Fourth Round tie. Sadly today in the current FA Cup competition, all teams get is a replay, extra-time and the cruelty of penalties. Those epic ties were part of the history and tradition of the FA Cup – and people wonder why some magic has gone out of the competition. The original tie at Highbury ended 0-0 and the replay at Elland Road resulted in a 1-1 draw. Lee Chapman put United ahead, with Anders Limpar replying for The Gunners. Back at Highbury in the Second Replay, the stalemate continued with a goalless draw. The tie was finally won by Arsenal 2-1 at Elland Road, with Paul Merson and Lee Dixon on the score sheet.

The Fourth Round game at Highbury in 1993 once again proved to be classic. Lee Chapman and Gary Speed had given Leeds a 2-0 half-time lead and seemed to be enough to send them through to the Fifth Round. However, Arsenal clawed their way back with goals from Ray Parlour and Paul Merson for a 2-2 draw. The replay at Elland Road proved to be just as memorable. Alan Smith put Arsenal ahead, but goals from Carl Shutt and Gary McAllister gave Leeds a 2-1 advantage. It looked all up for The Gunners as full-time loomed. However, Ian Wright levelled to send the game into extra-time and he grabbed his second and the Arsenal winner with three minutes left on the clock.

By comparison the next two FA Cup meetings between these rivals were tame. In the Fourth Round of the 1996/97 competition, ex-Arsenal boss George Graeme returned to Highbury with his Leeds United charges. In a well organised display a goal on 12 minutes from Rod Wallace was enough to sent Leeds through. Seven year later, Arsenal travelled to Elland Road for a Third Round tie. Mark Viduka gave United an early lead, but goals from Henry, Edu, Pires and Toure gave The Gunners a comfortable 4-1 win in a season which saw also Leeds relegated from the Premier League.

So to the most recent Cup encounter, which took place last season at The Emirates, Leeds took the game to Arsenal and lead 1-0 through a Robert Snodgrass penalty. With ninety minutes on the clock, and the Leeds fans whistling for full-time, Arsenal were awarded a penalty of their own. Up stepped Cesc Fabregas score and set up a replay at Leeds. At Elland Road, The Gunners got off to a flying start and were ahead within five minutes through Sami Nasri. Arsenal seemed to be cruising when on thirty five minutes Sagna doubled their lead. However, within two minutes Bradley Johnson dragged Leeds back into the tie. On this occasion there was no comeback for United and a Robin Van Persie goal with just less than fifteen minutes to go, sent the team from London through. There has been some drama over the years, will the 2011/12 tie live up to some of the classic encounters?

Monday 09 January 2012 (10.00pm)

So what a way to end the Third Round action. The game overall could not be considered to be a classic, but in “Roy of the Rovers” fashion, Thierry Henry returned to his spiritual footballing home and scored the winner against Leeds. The first half had few highlights and it seemed as though the second half was going the same way. However, on sixty eight minutes the home crowd came to life when Henry came on for Chamakh and within ten minutes the fairy-tale return was complete as he scored from Alex Song’s through ball.  Leeds never really threatened to spoil King Henry’s return as the final minutes ticked away.

Arsenal loves Thierry Henry and Thierry Henry loves Arsenal.






2011/12: FA Cup 1st Round – Sheffield United v Oxford United

Friday 11 November 2011 (10.30 am)

With the (Budweiser) FA Cup 1st Round fixtures this weekend, the competition moves into its second phase. The six Qualifying Rounds, played every two weeks since 20th August this year and the domain of the non league clubs, now gives way to what is referred to by some as the FA Cup “proper” with the professionals coming to the table. However, for me it is a term which is ill used and can be seen as a slight to the clubs who have battled to this stage of the Cup. In all the games I have witnessed this season in the tournament, there is certainly no less desire, determination and excitement both from players or fans at being involved in the Qualifying part of the Cup than will be seen in the later Rounds. It would be churlish not to recognise too what a Cup run can achieve on a financial basis for a club, non-league or otherwise.

Tonight, battling for the right to be in the 2nd Round draw is a top of the table clash from the Blue Square Bet (BSB) Premier between former League rivals, Cambridge United and Wrexham. Wrexham currently lead the table on 40 points with Cambridge 4 points behind in third place. Despite the success on the pitch, behind the scenes Wrexham are still trying to secure its future. Fingers crossed that the Wrexham Supporters Trust are able to ensure football continues at this historic club in North Wales. These team met on the opening day of the season at the Racecourse Ground. Wrexham looked like they had done enough to claim victory with a goal on 17 minutes from (current caretaker player-manager) Andy Morrell. However, in injury time, Conal Platt’s goal grabbed a point for United.

In the Fourth Qualifying Round, both teams faced fellow BSB Premier opposition. Cambridge faced struggling Hayes & Yeading away, but came through comfortably  6-2. Wrexham were handed a much tougher challenge at home to high flying York City.  Wrexham went ahead early in the second half with a header from Nat Knight-Percival, but the lead was quickly wiped out as a Patrick McLaughlin free-kick brought York level. With the game entering the final ten minutes, the Racecourse faithful saw their team take the lead once more, as a David McGurk own goal handed a 2-1 win to Wrexham. It could be another tight encounter tonight.


Friday 11 November 2011 (10.15 pm)

Just as the fixture in the League proved to be a close one, so did the FA Cup meeting between Cambridge United and Wrexham. In a game of ‘cat and mouse’, Wrexham were twice ahead through Andy Morell, but were pegged back each time with a brace from United’s Josh Coulson. As in the League opening day meeting between these teams, Wrexham must have thought they had done enough to win, but conceded an equaliser (as they did back in August) to Cambridge in injury time.

Bring on the rest of the fixtures and all the stories that will unfold. The Cup weekend is underway!


Saturday 12 November 2011 (11.00 am)

The destination today is Bramall Lane, for the game between Sheffield United and Oxford United. The attraction? Well to be honest, there are a few. Firstly, I have a soft spot for The Blades, since on the day I was born, Fulham (my beloved Whites) played against Sheffield United in a First Division fixture at Bramall Lane. As such I feel I have a connection with the place. Secondly, it is one of my favourite grounds. It is a compact and atmospheric venue with a vocal home support. Thirdly, in practical terms it is easy to get to by train and lastly, the tickets are excellent value at just a tenner today.

There is also a good link today between the clubs, which adds a bit of spice to the fixture today, as current Oxford manager Chris Wilder is a boyhood Sheffield United fan and he also made over 100 appearances for The Blades in two spells at Bramall Lane. Also returning to the club he supported growing up, is Oxford goalkeeping coach Alan Hodgkinson who spent his entire professional career with Sheffield United, making 675 appearances.

Neither team has had a great November to date. In their League One fixture, The Blades lost at Stevenage last Saturday, with a penalty in the last ten minutes sealing a 2-1 win for the team from the Lamex Stadium. In midweek, it was a Yorkshire Derby at Bramall Lane in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Bradford City. Matt Phillips put United ahead on 27 minutes, but back came The Bantams to equalise before half-time through Michael Flynn. The score remained at 1-1 and so it was left to penalties to decide the tie. With penalties at 4-4 it went to Sudden-death where after Erik Tonne’s miss, Chris Mitchell sent Bradford City through 6-5. For Oxford United, November has seen them play Southend United twice in the last week.  In their League Two fixture at Roots Hall last Saturday, the home side Southend emerged 2-1 winners. In midweek, at home in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Oxford had the chance to avenge that defeat, but in a game where United ended with nine men, a goal from Ryan Hall condemned Oxford to a second successive defeat to The Shrimpers. Two sides possibly low on confidence, but which United will emerge victorious today?


Saturday 12 November 2011 (11.00 pm)

As the players merged for their pre-match warm-ups they were greeted by a crisp day under a blue sky and fading weak November sun. Both teams went through their routines and the travelling Oxford fans made their presence felt in noisy anticipation of the game ahead. With both sides leaving the pitch as they completed their preparations, Oxford goalkeeping coach and ex-Blade Alan Hodgkinson received an excellent reception from the Bramall Lane faithful. Soon however, the teams emerged once again and after a well observed minutes silence ahead of Remembrance Sunday, the game was underway.

The first ten minutes disappeared in a frantic and scrappy opening with neither side creating a goal opportunity. However, with their first real attack, Sheffield United took the lead on 12 minutes. Richard Cresswell’s attempted over-head kick from Stephen Quinn’s cross fell to Ched Evan, who slammed it in to give The Blades the lead. The goal settled Sheffield and they took control of the remainder of the first half, with Oxford conceding the midfield area, The Blades took full advantage. Ryan Clarke in the Oxford goal made good saves from Ched Evans, Stephen Quinn and Lee Williamson in the opening 45 minutes, but was helpless on 19 minutes when Ched Evans arrowed in his second from a free kick. The home team led 2-0 at half-time and deserved their two goal advantage.

Oxford had to show more commitment in the second half and in at attempt to stir his side into action, manager Chris Wilder made a double substitution, with James Constable and Harry Worley replacing Paul McLaren and Jonathan Franks. It had a desired impact as Oxford did threaten the home goal. However, for all their ‘huff and puff’, the visitors were unable to create a real clear cut chance. The Blades continued to create opportunities and Evans was denied a hat-trick as Clarke continued with his heroics in the Oxford goal. However, the Oxford custodian must take some of the blame for the Sheffield goal on 71 minutes. Clarke came a long way off his line and failed to deal with the cross into the box and in the scramble, substitute Ryan Flynn drove home for The Blades third goal. The game was well and truly over and the last quarter of the game fizzled out as the Red and White half of Sheffield progressed into the draw for the FA Cup 2nd Round.

Credit to the Oxford United fans, they supported their side to the end and the club is now left to focus on promotion from League Two. It was a shame that despite the reduced ticket prices, less than 8,000 were at the game today. Personally I think it would have made for a better atmosphere if the Kop had been opened today rather than the Family Stand, as the home fans were on the whole pretty quiet and drowned out by the 2,000 plus travelling fans. However, the club obviously knew it would be a low crowd today and acted accordingly in making a financial decision to only open certain sections of the ground. A sad fact of modern day football that even the magic of the oldest Cup competition in the world can’t overcome.


Sunday 13 November 2011 (3.00 pm)

So what of the other “trail” sides from my FA Cup adventure this season? Well to paraphrase Bjørge Lillelien, my teams took a hell of a beating!

Blue Square Bet Premier side AFC Telford United got a 4-0 thumping at Chelmsford City from the Blue Square Bet South. The Clarets were 2-0 at half-time with goals from Aiden Palmer and Craig Parker. In the second half, City captain David Rainford completed the rout with a brace to send the team from Essex through.

After two impressive away wins at Hyde and Kidsgrove in the previous Rounds of the Cup, Bradford Park Avenue travelled to AFC Totton with confidence. However, the team from West Yorkshire simply imploded against their opponents from the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division. Richard Marshall was sent off for Avenue after 10 minutes and after 28 minutes of the game his team were losing 2-0. To their credit Bradford got one back through Adam Clayton on 30 minutes. However, any chance of a comeback was short-lived, as Michael Charles restored Totton’s two goal lead before half-time. The second half became simply calamitous for Avenue as Mike Gosney (51 minutes) and Stefan Brown (63 minutes) increased the score to 5-1. Avenue then were reduced to nine-men on 65 minutes when Martin Drury received a second yellow card. Stefan Brown completed his hat-trick with goals on 73 and 79 minutes and the 8-1 thrashing was completed in injury time by a second goal from Jonathon Davies.

FC Halifax Town featured as one of the televised games today against League One leaders Charlton Athletic and in truth didn’t deserve the 4-0 beating they got. Matty Taylor with a towering header put the Londoners’ ahead just five minutes before half-time. Nevertheless, Town were still in the game as the last ten minutes approached, however, a three goal burst from Jackson, Hollands and Pritchard, killed off Halifax and rather flattered Charlton.

Following the 2nd Round draw, the “trail” teams fixtures look like this:

 AFC Totton               v          Bristol Rovers

Charlton Athletic   v          Carlisle United

Chelmsford City     v          Macclesfield Town

Sheffield United      v          Torquay United


Sunday 13 November 2011 (5.30 pm)

The closing action of this Cup weekend was provided by Morecambe at home to Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls dominated the first half  and led 1-0 after the first 45 minutes, thanks to a goal from Chris Lines on 17 minutes. Morecambe went further behind on 52 minutes when Chris O’Grady headed in a second for Wednesday. However, the home team got back into the game just ten minutes later, when Laurence Wilson scored from the spot to bring the score to 2-1. Morecambe battled hard, but couldn’t force a second goal and so Wednesday progress to the 2nd Round for a home tie with the winners of the Maidenhead United/Aldershot replay.