A pitchside view of Scarborough’s 2004 FA Cup tie against Chelsea…
They came, they saw (briefly), they conquered. Roman’s Empire rolled in and out of Scarborough on Saturday with their job done.
While chairman Abramovich’s Chelsea booked their place in today’s FA Cup fifth round draw, their non-League opponents were left to reflect in the glory of a job well done.
A single goal from John Terry was all that separated the Conference side from their multi-million pound rivals and only a couple of feet denied Colin Cryan a sensational late equaliser.
Home fans will long debate William Gallas’ late ‘handball’ but only the most ardent would say Scarborough had deserved a draw.
The Chelsea team went about their job in professional style and, with job done, rolled out of town under police protection in their luxury coach on their way to a flight back to London.
The only outward sign of their muddy victory, graffiti in the muck on the back of their coach, reading “We wuz robbed”.
Half-an-hour after their departure, Cryan was left on the side of the road awaiting his lift as the last stragglers left the stadium.
While Scarborough are left to build on their half-million pound cash windfall, Cryan heads back to Sheffield United; his loan spell at the seaside over.
The day had started with a sense of optimism.
Gone were the nerves from the Southend game a round earlier, which saw both players and supporters muted through nervous tension; so much being at stake.
In its place was a party atmosphere. It was not so much Scarborough’s Cup final as their charity shield.
It used to be the case that to find a football ground you simply followed the crowds, in daylight, or looked for the floodlights at night. In recent seasons at Scarborough you were more likely to end up at a supermarket if you did that.
Not so on Saturday where the Boro Roar was easily audible more than a mile away from the stadium, even two hours before kick-off.
Street vendors sold their wares of flags, hats and (misspelled ‘Scarborugh’) scarves. But the majority of fans didn’t care. This was their big day out and no one was going to spoil it.
Programme editor Derek Megginson said in his notes that there would be no red carpet for their illustrious visitors: “It’s a case of what you see is what you get.”
That wasn’t quite the case with the Chelsea players free to walk from their coach to the dressing room through a cordon of dozens of police officers.
Not so their opponents, who were escorted by just three stewards and left to run the gauntlet of home fans eager to shake their hands and slap their backs.
An explosion of noise greeted the first signs of movement in the tunnel entrance. Never has club mascot Chip the Seagull received such a welcome, followed seconds later by the two teams.
The 22 players trotted out to a bright sunny day and half the crowd were blinded by the low winter sun.
Within seconds of kick-off, the home players were left equally dazzled by the slick movement of their opponents.
Frank Lampard appeared to put no effort at all into a viciously swerving 35-yard drive that curled towards goal and crashed against the top of Leigh Walker’s post to draw gasp from everyone, such was the power of the strike.
After only 10 minutes, an elaborate corner routine ended with Terry heading into the net from on the goal-line.
Even before the cheers had died in the visiting fans’ throats, the Scarborough response was deafening. “We’re gonna win 2-1, we’re gonna win 2-1,” they chanted. And they believed it. Fifteen years earlier Scarborough had hit back from two goals down to beat Chelsea in the League Cup. And on that day the Blues were second in the top table; today they were ‘only’ third.
As the match drew on and it became obvious that Chelsea had their hands full, the home fans chanted with glee: “Premiership? You’re having a laugh,” and “What a waste of money” as the £100m worth of talent on the pitch only just managed to hang on to overcome their £2,000 rivals.
They may be world-class Premier League footballers on the field, but off it Chelsea are typically non-League. Just ask assistant groundsman Mick Mitton who was left to clean up their mess.
Surveying the scene of chaos in the away dressing room with brush in hand, Mitton, up to his ankles in rubbish, said: “I’ve seen worse. But not much.”
The 40-year-old fan has followed the club for 35 years and now does what he can to help behind the scenes as a volunteer.
“I sweep out the dressing rooms and clean everything ready for their next use. The away one won’t be needed until the next game but the home one will be used for training during the week.
“The worst I’ve seen it was after Stafford. I’ve never seen such a mess, but Chelsea aren’t far behind.”
The floor was awash with water that had been allowed to overflow from the baths and showers. Floating in it were torn and discarded programmes and a menu from the local chippy, ripped from the wall.
Bandages, tissues and sock-ties littered the floor with the bath containing a refuse bag full of ice.
Cardboard boxes had been left, empty of their contents but used water bottles were strewn across the room; plus, strangely in these days of diet drinks and supplements, a half-finished bottle of Dr Pepper.
“No one ever leaves anything decent,” said Mitton, picking up an empty bottle of Thierry Mugler cologne.
There had been stories of Chelsea players cleaning their boots with £20 notes and, because they wore new kit for every game, abandoning their shirts.
But, to the disgust of the Scarborough Centre of Excellence players, the only souvenirs were a couple of labels from newly-opened packs of shorts.That and an afternoon of memories that will be long savoured.
Defender Mark Hotte came out of the game with several souvenirs to remind him of his encounter with Chelsea’s £20m strike force. With Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s shirt safely tucked down the front of his shorts, he sported a large lump on the side of his head, a cut ear and several bruises, bumps and gashes on his legs – all courtesy of the Premier League strikers.
“I get bashed every week so it’s an honour to get thumped by Hasselbaink and Gudjonsson. They’re a bit special and I’m sure there was no malice intended.
“I got banged a couple of times but no more than I expected,” said Hotte modestly after keeping the international pair at bay.
“Hasselbaink said I deserved his shirt, but I’m not sure what he meant.
“Although it has got my blood on it so it’s only fair that I get to keep it.”
Hotte said he was amazed that the whole team had felt so down immediately after the game. The general feeling was one of “not again” after going down to their 10th single-goal defeat of a frustrating season.
But whereas past victors have included Accrington Stanley, Margate, Halifax Town and Stafford Rangers, this time it was the talents of Roman Abramovich’s multi-million pound team that eventually prevailed.
“The players were gutted on the way into the dressing room,” said Hotte. “Everyone’s heads were down but the gaffer came in and said ‘get them up, you’ve done us all proud’.
“We’re only a Conference team but today we showed we are not Conference players.”
That was especially the case for man of the match Scott Kerr. The former Bradford City and Hull City midfield player did not look out of place up against the talents of England players Frank Lampard and Joe Cole.
“They’re world-class players, third in the Premiership. We’ve done really well,” said Kerr. “We expected them to come at us and it took us 10 or 15 minutes to get to terms with the pace of their game but then we acquitted ourselves well. We were the better team at the end of the first half.
“People thought we’d lose seven or eight-nil but we had a lot of confidence because we’ve been playing well. We knew we’d do okay if we gave 150 per cent and that’s what happened.
“We’ve beaten three Football League sides on the way. No one expected us to get this far and to play Chelsea has just capped it off.
“We can go home now and be proud of ourselves and our fans. I’ve got no regrets. I wanted to give a good performance and we’ve done that,” he added, heading for a framing shop to get Lampard’s shirt preserved as a keepsake.
Captain Jimmy Kelly was also pleased with his team’s display.
“I think we pushed them all the way,” he said. “We were really unlucky,” he added, referring to Colin Cryan’s diving header and a rejected penalty appeal.
“Colin knows himself it was a great chance and on another day we would have scored to get a draw. We should have had a penalty, I thought the ref was going to give it.”
Cryan had been in the perfect position to grab the headlines when he found space in the penalty area but could only send a diving header into the clutches of Carlo Cudicini.
“Chris Senior got a flick on it but I just couldn’t get enough on it to send it back across goal,” said the Irish Under-21 international.
“It’s gone now, it’s pointless thinking about it. At 1-0 we were always in the game with a fighting chance.
“The referee didn’t really help us. He was 55-45 for them and a lot of split decisions went against us.”
Goalkeeper Leigh Walker had early warning of what was ahead when Lampard rattled a post with a 35-yard screamer.
He said: “I expected a lot of shots and knew it would put me in the lime light – one way or another.
“That shot in the first minute was incredible. I thought it was going a foot wide and over but it swerved back in.
“I thought if that’s what they do in the first minute, what will they be doing for the rest of the match?”
But, after conceding a goal after 10 minutes, Walker pulled off a string of fine saves to keep Chelsea within touching distance.
“I’m proud of all the players. I knew no one would let us down but didn’t think we’d be able to play at that level for the full game.
“At 1-0 we’ve done wonders. They go to other Premier League clubs and turn then over four or five nil.”
At the end of the game came the unusual sight of two queues for autographs. One was outside the players’ entrance containing fans, while another stretched along the corridor from the Chelsea dressing room and consisted of Scarborough players clutching their programmes and shirts for signing.
Tristram Whitman was quick to praise one Chelsea player but was not too happy with others.
“John Terry was quality and had time for us all but some of the others just walked past without acknowledgement,” he said.
Terry emerged to speak to the media, the rest stayed hidden away with only Emmanuel Petit taking time to have one last fleeting look at the pitch before heading off to join his team ready for their next match at Blackburn in the Premier League on Sunday.
For Scarborough it is back to earth with a bump, a midweek trip to Northern League side Guisborough Town in the North Riding Senior Cup.
(Edited versions of these reports appeared in the Yorkshire Post).