The singing was loud, the chants good-natured and expectations high – I was in the midst of one of the avid football fan’s most treasured experiences: a classic third round FA Cup tie.
The third round, for those unfamiliar with such niceties, is the point in the English game’s oldest cup competition when the Premiership’s best can be drawn against the minnows from non-league.
The polished prima donnas on £100k a week line up against the plucky posties, sparkies and carpet fitters of Nowhere FC – and everyone hopes their game will be the one where the upset happens.
How the mighty are fallen, and the heralded ones laid low.
And the tournament is littered with the tales of mighty sides felled by unlikely heroes.
Teams staking their place in history thanks to 90 minutes of never-say-die and a lucky break off somebody’s shin in the last minute of injury time.
In case you’re interested, I was at Withdean watching League 1 frontrunners Brighton cruise to a 3-1 win over Championship strugglers Portsmouth.
As an Albion fan, I had primed myself to expect a plucky defeat – we have rarely excelled ourselves in the cup since our 1983 Wembley date with Manchester United, and this season’s sights have been firmly set on promotion to the Championship to mark the opening of the fabulous Amex Stadium at Falmer.
But as it turned out, Gus Poyet’s classy table-toppers were in no mood to acknowledge Pompey’s higher status (for now) and duly progressed to round 4 and an away trip to Watford.
The dream lives on – as it does for Blue Square Premier side Crawley Town, who did for Derby County this week, having dumped Swindon Town in the previous round, and making two Sussex sides in the 4th round for the first time.
They truly qualify for the term “giant killer”.
An expression most easily recognised in the Old Testament bible story of David and Goliath.
A simple shepherd boy, picked by God to fight for his people and defeat the pride of the Philistines, armed with a rock and a sling.
God loves an underdog.
And it’s surprising how often ridiculous odds are overturned, and the mighty brought down.
Maybe we need reminding that we all have feet of clay.
And the weakest human being plus God can do quite extraordinary things.
Maybe triumph means we supply the “try” and God supplies the “oomph”.
Worth remembering next time the odds are stacked against you.