Sutton United – meeting the opposition.
After two wins in separate cup competitions, Tranmere are back in League Two action this weekend as they face Sutton United at Prenton Park.
Sutton were promoted to the Football League this summer and have started the campaign fairly well, their promotion making for a few interesting cases with the ground having to be brought up to EFL standards.
To hear more about the visitors on and off pitch situations, I spoke to ‘@Gandermonium’ who also gave their thoughts on how the game may pan out.
How long have you been a Sutton United supporter and when did you first come across the club?
My first game was in ’83 at home to Hitchin. Folks were dead set against me going to the bigger stuff due to the climate on the terraces at the time, so my godfather took me round all the local non-league outfits instead to get me out of the house. We were proper Jonahs too as all the sides we went to lost over the several games we saw and the visit to Sutton was I think the first time we’d seen the home team score, let alone win, so we tended to stick with them after that! The fact they had a bloody good side at the time and I then had friends from school who started going after that helped. It was dead easy to get on the bus from home and that kept me involved as my god father didn’t have to take me all the time.
Some of your greatest and worst experiences throughout this time?
When you watch a club home and away as long as I’ve been able to, there just becomes too many to mention to be honest! Plus your favourites tend to change with your mood or how things are at the time. Obviously the Cup runs will always stand out, with the away 3rd Round replay at Middlesboro in ’88 a real “I was there” classic in particular. But I’ll never forget the insanity of the last 15 minutes at Wimbledon during the Arsenal run. Proper “if you could bottle it” stuff that was. Winning the NLS 5 years ago with a ridiculous unbeaten run to reel in Ebbsfleet was special and last season winning the National League was also a huge moment obviously, but as we only got to see 3 games in person thanks to Covid, including the clincher at home to Hartlepool thankfully!, it all felt a little bit unreal and a touch removed from a normal season where we’d have seen most games home and away. As for the bad, same again, where do you start? There’s a couple of bad FA Cup defeats in there obviously, home to Alton about 10 years ago being the worst for me personally I think. We won the Isthmian League that year and were in good form, still not sure how we managed to make such a mess of that one. Lowest point probably was the 2007/2008 season though, we were just utterly dire that year barring a couple of little sparks. 5 league wins in total and 3 managers when we’d had that many in about 25 years previously! Just miserable all round really. Definitely the worst ever season I’ve witnessed.
Focusing on your podcast ‘Gandermonium’, could you tell us a little bit about that in terms of the content you produce and how long it has been running?
A pod-what? Sorry, we’re old school, we only do the written word still round here fella! People have admittedly been telling us we should do a podcast for this season, but circumstances at the moment mean the writing takes enough time as it is and trying to get some of the rest of our lot involved would be just asking for trouble, mostly in a legal sense! Thankfully one of the other GGL regulars Mike has got one going in the last few weeks, so if you’re into sounds and talking, he’s your man (@suttonpod on twitter). Want something to read on your phone whilst on the bog however? That’s our department! Gandermonium initially started in ’98 with a basic site doing mostly unofficial match reports and then evolved more into the days out silliness we got up to watching alongside the football and ran through to until ’08 when I’d had enough as we’d been crap for several years and it was largely just me writing. Of course, we turned good again immediately after this! We restarted the site late in 2012 after a couple of the guys persuaded me to resurrect it as more an awayday\drinking\stupidity publication with a smattering of football chucked in and we’ve not looked back or missed a game since then, should be over 600 now I think? We’ve come close to breaking the run the last couple of years, but we’re still hanging in there!
Random fact about the club / the area?
For the club, Malcolm Allison and Jimmy Hill both cut their teeth as young coaches at the club in their early days. That and we share our unique colours with Highland League Forres Mechanics. Up the Can Cans! As for the town. Well, it’s largely dull commutersville suburbia around here, so that’s a bit of an ask. Penelope Keith was born here (actress, ask your parents kids!) and Sutton is the site for the very first ‘All Bar One’ in the UK (you’re welcome!) and also the town featured heavily in a good few episodes of an apparently briefly popular online ‘adult activities’ production known as ‘Fake Taxi’. If you’re into your fact checking, we’d definitely advise not Googling that last one and just take our word for it, alright?
Saturday brings the 16th matchday of the season for both sides. How would you say that United have started the campaign in comparison with your aims at the start of the season? What are your aims going forwards?
Slow start points wise, but the performances deserved better overall. But once we got our first win, we were fine and had a good little burst of form to fire us up the table. Couple of injuries lately has meant we’re back to bobbing along a bit again, but once we get some bodies back, we should be fine. As for goals, we were all hoping just to stay up this season, but if we keep going as we are, that shouldn’t be a problem at all. Going forwards, we just want to stay in the division as long as we can. The more time we spend here, the better we’ll adjust and catch up in certain areas off the pitch as we’re still largely reliant on volunteers in a lot of aspects. The ground also still needs work to get us properly up to FL level.
Taking a look at Saturday’s game, who would you say are the key players for either side and how do you believe the fixture will be approached by Sutton manager, Matt Gray?
Embarrassed to say I don’t know much about Tranmere’s squad at all. Clearly not bad at the back though given how few you’ve let in, so that’ll make for an interesting afternoon. From our side, David Ajiboye usually catches the eye and Issac Olaofe too. Both quick, direct players. Ben Goodliffe at Centre back has been superb this season too. Matt’s approach? Same as all the others. Be hard to beat, compete and stay in the game for the whole 90 minutes. It’s worked fairly well so far!
Thinking of the visitor’s ownership, who are Sutton United’s owners and what are the general feelings of them from fans? Are there any current exciting off the pitch plans?
We don’t have out & out owners like you guys, it’s a mixed bag of shareholders and a traditional board of directors type setup still for us. The majority are long standing U’s fans however and given the recent success\elevation there’s lots of goodwill and feeling towards everyone at the top at GGL. Off the pitch, we do have plans in place apparently to redevelop the Rec side of the ground (we still need 1000 more seats for full FL grade) which is dependent on us staying up this season. The academy is stepping up to the new status and there’s other developments at GGL in hand. Will be interesting to see how everything pans out.
Finishing our conversation off, what is your score prediction for Saturday’s game at Prenton Park?
I hate these as I rarely get them right. Both sides are pretty solid at the back, so 0-0 or a 1-1 perhaps? Probably be an 8 goal thriller now, just to make me look daft…
Matt Gray has been manager of Sutton United since 2019. His game plan which is to ‘be hard to beat, compete and stay in the game for 90 minutes’ has worked ‘fairly well’ so far.