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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?