And yet... there is always one shock upset at least each season in the knock-out rounds, and it’s that element of the romantic unexpected that is celebrated in J L Carr’s delightful short novel, adapted as a richly populated one-man show by Paul Hodson, and played with unerring precision and unquenchable enthusiasm by Mark Jardine.
The material finds its perfect expression in the economy and simplicity of the telling: a vanished sporting world of pools results on the wireless, embrocation and heavy leather boots in the dressing room, and tickets going on the black market for £10.
The title holds no secrets but in no way detracts from the excitement, as the Fenland village side scythe through the qualifying rounds to achieve victories over Hartlepool, Leeds United, Manchester United (the visiting supporters drowned out by a well-timed peal of village church bells) and Aston Villa, before beating the fabled mid-1950s Wolverhampton Wanderers team of Billy Wright and Ron Flowers in extra time at Wembley.
Mark Jardine gives a classic underdog performance as all the Steeple Sinderby club functionaries and players while never losing sight of his chief narrating character, a modest backroom boy who returns, at the end of his marvellous mirage, to his “real” job of writing verses for greetings cards. You couldn’t make it up. Could you?