The twins who go to the heart of Bognor

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The Independent Online
Mick and Paul introduce themselves, twirl around, and sit down after a display of musical chairs designed to confuse the interviewer and amuse the onlookers.

"Ha - you had a 50-50 chance to get me right and you lost it," laughs Paul Pullen. "Now go on and ask us something."

Bognor Regis Town FC has been blessed with the footballing talent of the Pullen twins since they joined the club, aged 16, in 1976. Mick was the first to make his debut, followed five months later by Paul ("the one who scores the goals"), followed by 21 seasons of confusion for match referees and ground announcers everywhere.

On Saturday it is Second Division Peterborough's turn, when Bognor are the visitors in the second round of the FA Cup. The Pullens both play at the back, and their proximity only increases the cases of mistaken identity, as Paul recalled: "In 1992 I fouled a Dulwich Hamlet player and the ref gave a foul - but then he sent Mick off - I don't know how he managed it, and he refused to listen to us on the field."

In the end, it appears, the referee did Bognor Regis a favour because Mick was struggling with an injury, but Paul was not amused at the time. "I managed to make sure it was all sorted out after the event, and I took the punishment, although I suppose there was a slight temptation to leave Mick in it."

A financial consultant for Prudential, Paul was once commercial manager of the club, a post which coincided with Bognor's memorable first-round FA Cup draw with Third Division Swansea in 1984 when he scored twice in the replay to take Bognor through to the second round.

Mick, who is now a buyer for a local building firm, has also had closer links to the club, taking over from the manager Jack Pearce for two seasons in 1992, but handing back the reins in 1994 when Pearce returned. "I gave it up quite quickly," he said. "You don't realise how much work it is managing a club, and I just couldn't devote enough time to the job to do it well."

Paul and Mick have since returned to their purely footballing roles at the club, and have concentrated their efforts on coaching initiatives for the club's nine youth teams.

"Football is a team game, and to be honest we would rather the press just concentrated on the younger lads. It is nice when the young talent that we have gets respect, and we certainly have some promising lads here at the moment."

Right on cue 21-year-old Adam Beazeley enters the boardroom. The composed left-sided midfielder is in his third season with the club and his third year of a sports science degree in Chichester. "We have a lot of respect for Paul and Mick here and for the amount of years that they have been with the club," he said. "They're still around and they still play every week, but they do it because they are still good enough to play."

In fact, the twins have played in five of Bognor's ties in the FA Cup proper. They have yet to reach the third round, but go into Saturday's tie with considerable confidence. "We are playing well at the moment but everything will rest on how we adapt on the day," Mick says, "At this stage in our careers, though, we will be looking for a great final performance in the Cup."

Not for the first time the Pullens are preparing to bow out, but Pearce is in no hurry to find replacements. "They've said that for the last three years and I've managed to talk them out of it." he said. "If they continue to play as well as they are doing at the moment then I will do my damnedest to talk them out of it again."