Exeter City v Man United: what's on the menu?

Exeter Devon January 19, 2005 Some of my friends in the US may be contemplating what to eat on Super Bowl Sunday. Here we're considering what's on the menu tonight for the most remarkable football (soccer) match (or mismatch) in many many years: our local team minnows Exeter City versus mighty Manchester United in the FA Cup replay. Exeter find themselves in this glorious and dreamlike position by virtue of having gone into the annals of FA Cup upset history when they somehow avoided defeat, procuring a scoreless draw at Old Trafford two weeks ago in front of 68,000 stunned and disbelieving (and in the case of Exeter, euphoric) fans. To put this into perspective, here in England there is the top Premiership League with some 20 clubs (all the superstar teams such Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle, etc), then there are 3 Nationwide Leagues below this level (divisions 1, 2, 3). Exeter isn't even in any of these lower leagues: they were demoted to lowly non-league status a few years ago by virtue of their unremitting and consistent awfulness.
Today on the BBC news there is continual talk about Exeter, whatever station you listen to. The match has caught the imagination of the great British public, who love nothing more than rooting for the underdog. Indeed, the vast gap in playing level is so immense as to seem utterly unbridgeable: Exeter are taking on the giants of British football, whose superstar players earn considerably more in a single week than the highest paid Exeter player would in a whole year - these are the superstar primadonnas who regularly appear on on the pages of the British tabloid newspapers (sometimes even for footballing reasons).
Old Trafford, Manchester United's famous stadium, holds some 68,000; St James Park, in the centre of a run-down Exeter housing estate, will struggle to pack in 8 or 9000 tonight. Tickets sold out immediately and are like gold dust, changing hands through ticket touts apparently for 300 pounds or more! The stadium itself is tiny and distinctly grubby. I know from first-hand experience: on Guy's eighth birthday, we took the boy and number of his friends to Exeter's Cat and Fiddle training ground where they were put through their paces by the professional players themselves. Afterwards we all returned to St James Park to watch that week's match. Guy as birthday boy was deemed the mascot, dressed in Exeter City colours and paraded out to the middle of the pitch with the team before kick-off!
And so tonight: Exeter City v. Manchester United. The BBC have rescheduled their programmes and will be screening the match live. Man United, who in the match at Old Trafford, put out a distinctly inferior second team in the confidence of still walking over their lowly opposition, will apparently be fielding something like their first team, with footballing gods like Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the like gracing St James' pitted and muddy turf. The expectation is that Exeter will get the result they deserve: they will be roundly and comprehensively trounced. According to the bookies, they have absolutely no chance whatsoever in taking further part in this romantic annual football knock-out.
But it won't matter: all of Exeter will be celebrating, whatever the result.
So, what's on the menu? After the match at Old Trafford, all the announcers
kept saying patronising comments like, 'Oh the 'zider'll be flowing in Devon
tonight' as if this area of the country was populated by no more than
country bumpkin farmers. But come to think of it, why not? So tonight we'll
have an old favourite West Country dish that Kim makes, freerange pork and
apples cooked in raspingly dry local Devon 'scrumpy' and finished with
clotted cream
. We'll wash this down local feast, no, not with same alcoholic
apple cider but with a bottle or two of Exe valley wine from the Manstree
Vineyard across the river from us, and afterwards enjoy a good hunk of
extra-mature Montgomery farmhouse cheddar.
Thus replete, we'll settle in to enjoy the carnage...So here's asking you to
raise a glass ... and a cheer tonight for Exeter City.

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