FOOTBALL really is a funny old game for a South Tyneside comedian on his season-long way to Wembley.
Hebburn comic Andy Fury, 30 and pal Mark Tearney, 34, are putting the romance back into the FA Cup by following the world’s most famous football competition from first kick to last.
The dedicated duo are following all 14 stages of the tournament all the way from the preliminary rounds in front of a handful of fans through to the showpiece final in May before a crowd of more than 90,000.
The unique idea – called Cup Runnings – was sparked after Andy and Mark watched Hebburn take on Gateshead in a qualifying round cup clash two years ago.
The football fans will follow the winner of each game they attend, eventually taking them all the way through to the FA Cup final, whittling down more than 700 teams to just two. The former flatmates put off the idea until this year and are now embarking on their challenge – with a book detailing their experiences in the pipeline.
Mr Fury explains: “We used to share a flat and talked about doing challenges, some involving football.
“We watched Hebburn play Gateshead in 2011 in a final qualifying round game and came up with the idea of watching the FA Cup through every round.
“We got started this year on August 17, seeing Tow Law Town play West Auckland. It’s been brilliant so far. A few of the clubs have heard about what we were doing and have been very friendly.
“We are both Sunderland fans and it is a very different experience to being two anonymous faces in a crowd of thousands at a Premier League game.”
The long and winding road to Wembley started with West Auckland’s 5-0 thumping of Town Law, followed by the County Durham outfit’s 4-2 victory over Harrogate Railway after a replay. The next stop for West Auckland – and Andy and Mark – is a two-and-a-half hour trek to East Yorkshire for a final qualifying round game against Whitby Town.
Andy and Mark’s exploits are being recorded in podcasts and a photo-blog on their website, www.cuprunnings.com.
The pals have already interviewed Tow Law Town fan Mary Hail, who has followed the club for 64 years, Harrogate Railway reserve striker Jesus Martin-Farija and a former member of the Angelic Upstarts who now spends his Saturday’s watching West Auckland.
Mr Fury added: “The podcast has been about giving a voice to a many different people as possible. As the competition goes on it will be harder to get interviews with Alan Pardew’s mam or David Moyes’s milkman, so we will probably talk to a lot more fans.”
Mr Tearney, a civil servant from Gateshead, added: “We decided to do Cup Runnings to rediscover our passion for the game and it’s been great to see some football that’s got some heart to it; I’m sure that will continue at Whitby.
“Most of all though, we’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by people’s enthusiasm for what we’re doing. We’ve had some great help from people at the clubs we’ve been to and the level of support we’ve had from complete strangers has been quite humbling.”
The duo are hoping to win a book deal to put their memories of nine months on the cup trail into words.