Paulton fans dreaming of Carrow Road replay

PUBLISHED: 15:05 04 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:04 06 July 2010

Paulton isn't the prettiest of Somerset villages.

As you approach it is marked by a distinctive conical grey spoil heap - known in the area as a 'batch' - which reminds you that this used to be mining country.

Paulton isn't the prettiest of Somerset villages.

As you approach it is marked by a distinctive conical grey spoil heap - known in the area as a 'batch' - which reminds you that this used to be mining country.

And like many former mining communities in other parts of the country, the village itself bears the scars both of its industrial past and its economical downturn.

It has nothing in common with the Georgian splendour of Bath, 10 miles to the north, and little with the proliferation of chocolate-box villages, in the picturesque Mendips, a short hop to the west.

But what it does have is a football club in the first round of the FA Cup - and a big-hearted community determined to ensure the village is not found wanting when it comes under the unfamilar glare of ITV's cameras and the world's media for the visit of a club whose average attendance is one hundred fold bigger than their own 235!

“People have just abandoned their lives,” said comittee man Tony Walsh. “Several wives, my own included, have threatened divorce if we don't go home at some point and I've had both my daughter and grand-daughter down here at one point or another to help out.”

The first big push was to convince the local council that they should be allowed to stage the game at all. Then to convince them of how many people they'd be allowed to squeeze in to a Winterfield Road ground which many thought had been updated as much as would ever be necessary to meet the requirements of the Southern League two years ago.

“We were a bit disappointed to be have the capacity set at 2,500,” said Walsh. “We thought we could accommoate 1,000 more than that without any trouble.”

Next were the sheer logistical problems of dealing with issues which, while standard for clubs such as Norwich, are new territory for Paulton - ticket distribution, match-day parking arrangements, crowd segregation, the demands of accommodating live TV and overwhelming media interest.

“We've had over 100 media requests already, including one from Bulgarian TV,” said Walsh. “I'm still waiting for an application from Farmer's Weekly, because we seem to have one from everyone else.”

Now the race is on to make some significant changes to the ground, mainly for the benefit of the 500 City fans.

Down will come the tiniest of the two small stands to be replaced by another two temporary structures which helped raise the number of seats available to travelling supporters to 99; and they will also be re-positioning the metal fence behind the narrow strip of concrete at the bottom end of the slope - where fans will stand three deep - to install portable toilets. Walsh warns against trying to make use of the spoil heap behind that goal, saying: “Some people have said they will stand on the batch if they can't get a ticket - but it's private land, there's no right of way there and if you ever go up there you'll find you'd struggle to see anything.”

To say that the locals are excited by the prospect of finding cameras pointing their way and Delia Smith heading a veritable invading army of fans heading for a village the world is usually happy to pass by would be the understatement of the season.

A group of fans in front of me at Saturday's Southern League game against Taunton, all sporting special-edition “Living the Dream” t-shirts, were teasing, in a kindly way, one of the club's characters - a ruddy-faced elderly lady known for her vociferous support.

“You won't be able to use any bad language when Delia's here,” one said, prompting a broad smile and a debate over whether City's joint majority share holder would be trying any of their local cider.

Another debate concerned what night City play their midweek games.

“Is it Tuesdays?” said one man. “I'd better make sure I book that day off for the replay then.”

The thought of Paulton holding out for a trip to Carrow Road earned general appeal, one of the girls chipping in: “I'm going to take a sicky for the replay - and my boss knows I will. That's going to give the papers a good story: Fan sacked for going to watch Rovers.”

Up on the Paulton 'kop' - a raised covered terrace behind the top goal - the small group of teenagers gathered round a young drummer were even more optimistic.

“Bring on the Norwich,” they bellowed. “We're the tiny Paulton Rovers and we're going to Wem-ber-lee.”

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