Football: The Catherine Oldfield Trophy - a nightmare memory to mar Southport's big day

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THE greatest day in Southport's history comes tomorrow, when they play Cheltenham Town in the FA Umbro Trophy final. The highlight of my football career should have been playing at their ground, Haig Avenue, for Southport Trinity Under-14s in the final of the Catherine Oldfield Trophy. Catherine Oldfield was our manager's mother, so in the competition's inaugural year her trophy should really have been ours.

Sadly, my mistake gave Amber United a 1-0 victory. A cross drifted into the area and I assumed the expression and aspect to which I was all too prone - apparent nonchalance, feet rooted to the spot - as the ball slid past me to their centre-forward, who did what he had to do. Our goalkeeper, Martin Hodge, who later played in an FA Cup semi- final for Sheffield Wednesday, screamed at me, as he often did. Even my mum berated me afterwards.

As we milled with our medals in front of the main stand (all right, the stand), Southport's manager, Alex Parker, slipped on to the pitch. He took my medal and smiled a little wistfully. I thought he was sad for me at only getting a runners-up medal. The next day I found out he had just been sacked.

All this came flooding back during Southport's brief but eventful appearance in I Dreamed I Won The FA Cup (ITV), which purloined the old idea of taking a match from the first qualifying round and following the winners of each tie through to the final. It was odd that, having decided to do that, they then broke their own rule, following the Kingstonian v Wivenhoe Town tie with Southport v North Ferriby United.

The difference in support for non-League clubs as opposed to their professional counterparts is a matter only of numbers, not intensity. It has to be said, though, that a fanatic whose object of devotion, say, the Ryman League, is in considerably more danger of coming across as eccentric.

If there was one thing you could guarantee from a film of this nature, it was one or two oddballs, and I Dreamed... duly delivered, serving up Timothy Wells, a perfect Mike Leigh character. He proudly displayed his magnum opus, Kingstonian's complete game-by-game, player-by-player record. "It took me nine months to do this, and it felt like a woman having a baby," he said. As his side entertained Wivenhoe Town of the Ryman League Second Division, he slipped into uncannily accurate John Motson impersonations from the stand - "Oh goodness me, what a fine save that was!" he exclaimed at one point.

The next touch of local colour was added by Jack Carr, Southport's president. He could be played to telling effect by Warren Clarke, who makes a speciality out of muck-and-brass football men, in a script by David Storey or Alan Sillitoe. Carr, who has a construction company and plays "Onward Christian Soldiers" on his car stereo, fitted perfectly the archetype of the northern self-made chairman who has been around since professionalism got going.

A victory over North Ferriby (the chant from the visitors' end of "North Ferriby barmy army" had a quaint ring to it) earned Southport a first round tie against York City of the Second Division, but it all went horribly wrong at Haig Avenue. Four goals, all scored by York; two sendings-off, both Southport players; and a vigilante attack on the referee. We're hard in Southport. Sometimes we go out without our coats.

Intercut were scenes from a year in the life of the Cup as it is chaperoned round the country by Laurie Good. "I had a relationship for four years," he said. "That has now ceased to exist. She said I loved the Cup more than I loved her." His smile suggested that she was probably right.

One of his less enjoyable assignments must have been minding the Cup while the Blairs poked around inside it. "What are we supposed to put in this?" asked Cherie. "Tea?" I guess that was what passes for humour in the brave New Labour world of empty, mile-wide grins.

A man with a smile almost as big is Chris Evans - but then you would be happy going off to Florida to have golf lessons from David Leadbetter for Tee Time (Channel 4). It was difficult to know what it was there for. Is it a travelogue? It told you little about Florida. A sports programme? Golf lovers would have gleaned little of use, given that the Great Golf Guru's principal contribution to Evans's game was to fit him up with a device for his arm that resembled Robert De Niro's gun contraption in Taxi Driver.

There was one tip, though, if you ever play golf in Florida: don't feed the alligators. That must rate as the most unnecessary advice anyone has ever received.

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