Village florist aims to make Norwich wilt

Paulton (population 4,896) seek an FA Cup first-round shock and a moment of TV fame against Delia Smith's fallen aristocrats, writes Jon Culley

The FA Cup might spell romance for some but for others it is a test of character and for the players of Norwich City there will be several jaw-dropping moments as their team coach swings past the village war memorial and edges along narrow High Street into Winterfield Road in search of Paulton Rovers FC.

Assuming the driver does not miss the entrance, they will have to squeeze between burger vans and temporary toilets to find a parking place adjacent to the dressing rooms which, once inside, they may find to be rather more intimate than they are used to.

That is only the beginning. When referee Andy Hall blows for kick-off at lunchtime today they will have a television audience and most of the 2,100 supporters in the tiny home of the north-east Somerset team – 13 miles south of Bristol – willing fate to serve Delia Smith's club a classic concoction of FA Cup upset. Norwich have not been required to play in the first round since 1961 and for those in their line-up, such as Adam Drury and Gary Doherty, who were with them in the Premier League only five seasons ago, "culture shock" may not do their feelings justice.

Few of Paulton's part-timers, whose regular environment, the Zamaretto (Southern) League One South & West is five tiers below Norwich in the football pyramid, have played a first-round tie but will try to comprehend, nonetheless, how their opponents feel.

"I'd imagine they will only have experienced something like it at a handful of friendlies or charity games," Paulton's veteran midfielder Rob Cousins said. "It will be a test of character. They'll either come here to be professional and do a job or they're going to think, 'I can't really be bothered today', and go through the motions. It will certainly be an eye-opener to them."

An eye-opener for Cousins it will not be. At 38, with a semi-professional career spanning 20 seasons and 987 games, he has his sights, if selected, on making Norwich No 10 in his list of League opponents in the Cup. Remarkably, on all bar one of the previous nine occasions, his team has won or at least forced a replay. "At Bath City in 1989, when I was 18, we took Fulham to a replay, then in later years we beat Cardiff and Hereford and took Northampton and Stoke – in the third round – to replays," he said.

Manager Andy Jones, who somehow combines running a £10m Anglo-Dutch wholesale florist business with giving 30 hours a week to the club, has preferred younger legs lately, tending to start Cousins on the bench. On this occasion, a little "been there, done that" experience might be invaluable. "What I'll be saying to the players is, 'Don't freeze'," Jones said. "That's my only worry because there are a few young players and only a couple that have actually played in the first-round proper, let alone in front of a big crowd like this.

"You have got to try and get the players focused and to avoid the attention of the crowd and the cameras. Nobody is expecting us to win. The pressure is all on Norwich."

This will be a day like no other for Rovers, who stand to make £150,000 from the occasion, although it would be wrong to say Paulton – population 4,896 – has never been on the football map. Don Rogers, who took giant-killing to a different level when his goals helped Swindon to beat Arsenal in the 1969 League Cup final, was born in the village when it was a thriving coal-mining community. And when Robert Maxwell owned the now derelict nearby Purnell printing plant, which once employed 3,500 he would have his helicopter land on the Rovers pitch.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence