Non League Club

The principles of cause and effect

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on July 21, 2013

“Ladies love me, girls adore me.  I mean even the ones who never saw me
Like the way that I rhyme at a show.  The reason why, man, I don’t know.
So let’s go, ’cause…..”

This was going to be the best day ever.  Well, certainly since I last got the opportunity to go to two  new grounds in one day that is for sure.  Such avenues of pleasure are rarely open these days in England and normally we have to head on over to visit Uncle Kenny in Düsseldorf to take in such treats.  But here I was soaking up the rays at our third game of the day, Yep.  Three had become two due to that old fellow call Casuality.  Not one, nor two but three.  As Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock once said, “It Takes Two…plus one”

Let’s remind to 11am.  Our first venue?  Why Tolworth of course.  I mean, where else would anyone want to me on a Saturday morning.  Tolworth, the land of dreams.  Known as Talerode (toll road) in the Doomsday Book, it was here that David Bowie back in 1973 smudged his face makeup and ended up looking like ” a spider from Mars”, giving birth to his whole Ziggy Stardust phase.  Its most famous resident though is Alan Wheatley, the first ever person killed by a Dalek on TV.  Alan is available for birthday’s. weddings and corporate events where he re-enacts his demise to popular songs of the time.

9327436675_9320f39f71_bHowever, I had no time for cultural recreation.  I had a deadline to meet.  11am, to be precise when the annual Geoff Harvey Memorial Trophy was due to kick off, featuring the number one sporting team in Tolworth, Corinthian-Casuals, taking on local rivals Kingstonian.  Where do you start with the Pink and Chocolates?  Well, how about back in 1939 when a merger between Corinthian FC and Casuals FC.  The former started life in 1882, with a mission to be able to challenge the supremacy of the Scotland National Team.  I’m sure that today they would probably achieve their aim.

Corinthian rightly deserve their place in the history of football, being mentioned with honours in David Hartrick’s excellent book 50 Teams That Mattered.  Few teams from the amateur period can match their influence.  Real Madrid, so taken with their ethics (and tasty scones they took on tour to Spain), adopted the white shirts they still wear today.  A team in Brazil went one further, adopting their name and still proudly using that name today.  They even beat Manchester United once 11-3, but didn’t brag about it in the Sunday tabloids.  Instead they all went home on the Omnibus and had a nice cup of tea.

With no home venue and not prepared to compromise their amateur principles, the club went into decline and decided to merge with Casuals FC, a team formed for the old boys of Public Schools and Universities.  They were one of the original members of the Isthmian League back in 1905 and today that is where they still are.  In 1988 they retraced their steps from 78 years previously when they went on tour of Brazil and played a game against Corinthian in front of 15,000 fans as well as hundreds of thousands of people on TV.  Despite their lowly Non League Status back here in Blighty, Corinthian-Casuals are a global brand, with their own results roundup at the end of the Sports News on Fotbol Brasilia.

The Geoff Harvey Memorial Vase is a four-team tournament played each year.  This year’s version features Kingstonian, Dulwich Hamlet and Carshalton Athletic in what promised to be a feast of South East London football.  The hosts would be playing against K’s in the opening game at 11am.  I took my place beside the pitch with snapping legend Stuart Tree to talk about all things Non League, whilst taking pictures of dogs, trains passing overhead and the occasional match shot.

Corinthian Casuals 1 Kingstonian 3 – King George’s Arena – Saturday 20th July 2013 (11am)
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It seems the early kick off had caught out a few fans as well as the K’s defence when the hosts took the lead in the 20th minute.  A long ball over the top saw the Casuals striker outpace the back line and slot the ball home.  It wasn’t exactly high tempo football in the first half which was infuriating the K’s bench. Martin Tyler (yes, that Martin Tyler) was very vocal on the bench, commenting just as Kai Banchard ran up to take a 30th minute penalty that he would miss.  Of course he did, he is paid billions of pounds to have that footballing ESP after all.

After the required half time mass substitutions, Kingstonian stepped up the pace in the second period when Banchard made up for his first half gaff when he scored from close range.  A Matt Drage header made it 2-1 a few minutes later and it was then game over when one of the Casual defenders took the name of the club too far by dwelling on the ball, allowing A K’s player to nick the ball off him, square it and then square it for Alex McLean to seal victory for the visitors.

As I was getting ready to leave, Stuart happened to mention that “I could have seen three games today”. Sorry, three?  My radar was now picking up all sorts of ideas.  Walton Casuals v AFC Wimbledon, just across the A3/A243/A316.  Peanuts really.  You wait all your life to see one Casual, then in one glorious hour you get the opportunity to see two.  Of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity, could I?

Walton Casuals 0 AFC Wimbledon 1 – The Waterside Stadium – Saturday 20th July 2013 (1pm)
9327534453_0df0ce724b_bTwitter was advising me to give the second half of the game a miss and instead heading down to Hassocks to watch the cricket on TV before the main event.  “Can someone tell the two teams pre-season has started”, “I think I’d rather be at a craft fair than watching this”, “I assume the 12pm kick off was so that we can go and watch a proper game of football later” didn’t exactly fill me with confidence as I parked up on the edge of the River Thames. The second half was underway and it seemed the majority of the Dons fans had indeed chosen to go to a craft fair as it wasn’t bursting at the seams as it had been suggested to me it would be.  AFC scored the only goal of the game with 15 minutes to go when Chace Jacquart scored from close range and it was time for game three.

In all fairness it seemed that both sides had put out stronger XI’s in the first half, where the home side had more than held their own.  The club, are still breathing a big sigh of relief after finishing bottom of the Isthmian South last season, only to receive the annual reprieve from the Ryman League.  Football in these parts is dominated by Chelsea and so trying to attract any Premier League fans to these parts is a struggle.  However, the reprieve does mean that one of the hottest local derbies in town, up their with the El Grande Islande Clasicco in Canvey Island, the Town versus Albion showdown in Ossett and of course Hebburn Town versus Jarrow Roofing gets even grown Geordies foaming in their Newcastle Brown Ale these days.  Walton Casuals versus Walton & Hersham brings the town to a stand-still twice a season, with all police leave cancelled.  Danny Last, in his EFW Period, took a film crew when Danny Dyer refused to cover it to one such game.

Hassocks 1 Lewes 1 – The Beacon – Saturday 20th July 2013
It should have been a lovely journey down the A3, M25, M23, A2300 to East Sussex, windows open, sun shining and the Ashes filling up my senses like a greasy chip butty.  But we live in modern-day England.  So that idyllic vision was replaced by oppressive clouds, traffic jams and golf on 5-Live.  Golf, on the radio?  Really?  Hands up who would rather watch/listen to England destroying Australia with Blowers and Aggers, or John Inverdale whispering about some bloke’s bogey?  Golf has no place on the airwaves, but then again nor has medium wave radio these days.  Yes, I know about DAB but surely someone at BBC 5Live actually listens to the crap quality of signal?  The programme is almost unlistenable in the South East these days.  I had to resort to listening to the cricket on an app on my iPhone.

9330354256_82d3fe528b_b (1)A Hassock, according to my best friend Wikipedia, is either a footstool for kneeling on, or a clump of grass.  I would suggest the village of nearly 7,000 people was named after the latter rather than the former.  It is twinned with Everest Base Camp in Nepal, and Manchester.  A visitor from either of those wouldn’t feel out-of-place in these parts at all.

The Beacon is one of those grounds that make you feel lucky to live in England.  On a day when the sun was out (well at least here in East Sussex) the fans had flocked to Hassocks FC to watch the game in the shadow of the Jack and Jill windmills.  The Robins, sitting in the County Leagues, will have one eye on a challenge for the league title this year.  With Peacehaven and Redhill moving up to the Isthmian League last season, and East Preston stretched to recreate their form again, Hassocks could well be the surprise package this season.

The Lewes Lunatic Fringe were here in their numbers, sitting on the grassy knoll (aka the hassock) behind the goal.  We had to tempt Deaksy out of the children’s play ground (as a user not a voyeur) with the promise of a bottle of Magners and even Cynical Dave had got his shorts on.  This was the perfect storm.

The first half saw Lewes boss Garry Wilson putting out a young starting XI and they fell behind in the 20th minute when a Hassocks player was left unmarked to head home from a deep corner.  Despite some good wide play in the remainder of the half, the Rooks didn’t really put much pressure on the hosts goal.  Half time and a chance to refresh the palate in the spacious clubhouse.  Ah, of course, the golf was on TV.  Brilliant. Why don’t I just spend the rest of the afternoon here.  How long does it last?  Why can’t they just play a Twenty20 style of Golf?  An hour to play as many holes as possible, lowest score win.  There – I have just created a new phenomena.  You can thank me later.

9330372848_ff96875e8e_b (1)Lewes made a host of changes at half-time, with only Gerrard and trialist Ryan Cooper remaining on the field. The Rooks began to create some chances with not one, nor two but all three Crabb’s in the team. Ben Godfrey went so close twice in quick succession that it drove Danny to the bar for more refreshments, returning to tell us that Westwood and Woods were fighting it out at the top of the leaderboard (Yeah!), Lewes finally got the goal their late pressure had threatened with a minute remaining, as the impressive Matt Crabb (as sponsored by The Ball is Round) collected the ball on the edge of the area after another goalmouth scramble and sent a superb half-volley into the top corner.

Of course it was only pre-season and thus it was all about the performance not the result.  Few who had watched the game could complain about the weather, the beautiful setting or the second half attacking threat of the Rooks.  The golf on the TV is another matter.

The Pain of Spain fails to referee the game

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on March 23, 2013

It had been quite a good few weeks for the Rooks. Results on the pitch had been poor – in fact we were bottom of the current form table – six defeats from the last six games had brought Mr Relegation sniffing around our front door and our chance of a home win against Margate (and a chance to see match ball sponsor Luge Pravda lead the teams out in his PE kit) were dashed by the freak snow that hit East Sussex, cancelling the game for the second time in 2013.

8545562460_4c69d1e0da_bBut a football club is not just for Christmas, it’s forever and so our job as Directors is to build a sustainable club on and off the pitch. We are all 100% behind Simon Wormull (oh God, that sounds like a dreaded vote of confidence! Sorry Simon!) and believe that the team will comfortably avoid the bottom two. So it was positive to see our fantastic match posters get some of the press they have deserved. Both Proworx and East Web have a done a sterling job in recent years as designers, under the guidance of the likes of club Directors Charlie Dobres, Ben Ward and Patrick Marber (see the set here) and this week the national press came calling. BBC local news, Freund11 in Germany, MSN, Yahoo!, The Independent, The Sunday Times, heck even the Daily Mail got in on the act (although their interpretation of the facts still leaves a lot to be desired). Fine praise indeed, and it felt like the world and his wife were now following our results.

So after we put away our Kiss-Me-Quick hats from the Margate postponement, I looked forward to a short trip on the bus to Cray Wanderers for a relegation six pointer. After a morning of stripping (window ledges rather than with the employees of FYEO alas) CMF approved my efforts in the “Husband” department and sent me off to the bus stop, packed lunch and Thermos (you should always write that with a capital T as it is a brand and not an item – just like Hoover, Portakabin and Airtight), slipping my bus fare in my pocket and telling me to be home by 6pm. Alas, just as I set foot out of the door, Mr. Monsoon paid South East London a visit and another game fell by the wayside.

BFeZywoCMAAh-lXSo roll on 80 hours and we were back at the Pan. If Cray Wanderers was a six pointer, then the visit of bottom of the table Carshalton Athletic was a twenty-four pointer. Of course, this wasn’t the first time Carshalton had come to visit us. Just a few weeks ago they arrived in town, had a player sent off after less than 100 seconds, found themselves two goals down and then lost their manager all in the first half. As the teams headed for the dressing room the power to the Pan failed and despite us all holding up our mobile phones, the referee deemed it wasn’t enough so the game was abandoned.

The Ryman League rules state that if a game is abandoned by the referee during or after half time, then no refund is due to paying fans. We met as a board soon after the game and decided to offer admission for the re-arranged match as “pay what you want”. If fans wanted to pay 1pence or £10 then so be it. Sometimes doing the right thing is more important than stupid rules.

Since then the fortunes of both clubs have been on a downward spiral, and with games running out this was a must-win game for both clubs. Alas, there could only be one winner (unless it was a draw of course) and Lewes edged a tense game which saw the return of fans-favourite Harry Harding to the Rooks starting XI, playing on an expenses only basis (footballer playing for the love of the game, shock!). The floodlights stayed on, our special guest Steve Claridge was kept topped up with Harvey’s and the 409 spectators paid an average of £4.72 (and 95 Euro cents) to watch a vital win for the Rooks.

8573436031_0756936be2_bSo could the team keep up the form with the visit of Kingstonian? Since our return to the Ryman League they have been one of our bogey teams. Played three, drawn one, lost two. Hardly inspiring statistics, but we all know that stats can prove anything (did you know for instance that if I lived in San Marino and was an average goalkeeper I had a one in three chance of playing international football?). Kingstonian have suffered in recent weeks because of the weather and with their games in hand would propel them in with a shout of the play offs. Their current form wasn’t good. In fact, the worst in the whole division with just one point from their last six games. Could the Rooks smell victory in the air again? Or was that simply Cynical Dave’s new Horn aftershave?

Come Saturday morning and I looked outside. Snow. Everywhere. This is getting very very boring now. People have championed for a winter break in English football for years. But what good would that do? Lewes’s first postponed game this season was on the 22nd December. Three months later and the weather is just as bad and we were supposed to be well and truly in Spring. Perhaps we should adopt the model used in the Danish lower leagues where the football stops in mid November and doesn’t restart until April, although the current weather there does look good for next week’s recommencement of league games.  For once it appeared that Lewes was in a bubble of good weather, so whereas over 60% of the Ryman League games fell by the wayside pre-lunch on Saturday, Lewes was on, passing a pitch inspection after the (local) referee deemed the pitch playable, albeit with the consistency of “sticky toffee”.  Got to love referees, right?  They do a great job.

Lewes 1 Kingstonian 2 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 23rd March 2013
How often do you ever see an incident in football where the keeper is fouled and play is allowed to go on?  Once?  Twice a season?  What about twice in one game?  And what about when both incidents lead to goals?  Unheard of I know, but today we were blessed with a referee who was responsible for this incident two years ago and ended the game being jeered by over 600 home fans, and laughed at by the rest.  This was the same Mr Spain who failed to give Lewes a penalty when they played away at Hastings United on New Year’s Day for an assault on Steve Brinkhurst seen by 750 people.

Let me paint the picture.  The game is entering injury time, with the scores level.  A ball is played into the penalty area, the keeper comes out and catches the ball in the air.  As he falls he catches a defender.  They both fall to the floor in a heap, the keeper not moving. Amazingly play is allowed to continue for 10-15 seconds as the ball is first cleared off the line and eventually ends up in the back of the net.  The keeper is still motionless, the defender slowly moving.  The referee awards the goal, the crowd are stunned into silence at the decision.  The away team’s fans then suddenly realise a goal has been awarded and they go mad in jubilation.  Staggering.

8582730277_3808ecefa2_bThe history book with simply record this as another home defeat for Lewes, but they deserved so much more.  There will be few of the 686 fans who attended the game who will think otherwise.  The second half of the game saw Kingstonian survive a battering as a highly motivated and determined Lewes team simply kept on pushing forward, chasing a game where they had fallen behind to a controversial goal in the first half where Thorp, again, was fouled as he caught the ball, causing it to break free and find its way into an empty net.  We all think keeper’s are far too protected and so such goals, where there was minimal interference, are just in a way.  Half time, Lewes 0 Kingstonian 1.

Mr Anderson was making his first ever appearance at the Pan, gong one step further this season than Mr Pravda and his Jonah touch of only trying to get to games that are postponed.  With his new Lewes hat on, and a top pint of Darkstar’s Darkness, left over from the Lewes FC Beer Festival, he saw a very different Lewes performance from what we had all seen recently.  The first half goal was against the run of play, and in the second half the Rooks pushed forward, finally getting their just rewards when Nathan Crabb’s shot from close range was bundled into the net by a Kingstonian defender on the line.

Even a betting man would have refused to give odds on Lewes going on to win the game.  The impressive youngster Joe Kay hit the post was a shot, and twice goal-bound shots were headed away as Lewes looked to pick up valuable points that would take them up into 15th place in the table.

But with time running out, Mr Spain decided that he wanted to be the centre of attention and had a very different interpretation of the FIFA rules of the game that allow the referee to stop the game in the event of an injury to a goalkeeper, and one that appears to be serious.  You could even argue that in the spirit of the game we want, Kingstonian should have stopped play on seeing the injured players, but can you blame them for playing on?

At full-time it must have been hard for the Lewes bench to retain their composure in such circumstances.  But they did.  Who knows what the loss of one point (or we could even argue all three) will mean in the long-term but there will be few who were present (including officials from the Sussex FA) who will give Mr Spain any credit for that one decision.

Football isn’t more important than life or death but it does determine your mood for the rest of the weekend.  It will take something special to bring my cheery outlook back….What did you say Deaks, I’ve won £68 in the monthly supporters club draw?  Well, isn’t football brilliant!

Duffed up

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on January 16, 2012

It is rare that I go to a game and do not whip out my camera or my phone to record the action but yesterday as the referee blew the final whistle at The Dripping Pan I realised that I hadn’t taken one picture.  Not that there wasn’t any action on the pitch, but I had a guest with me.  Football Jo.

For those of you who are new to The Ball is Round you will have never come across Football Jo.  A few years ago she used to accompany me around the world to watch football.  But then she decided she really did need a boyfriend.  In the past she had a “love my football and love me” motto.  She has her own house, own car, own extensive porn collection and own teeth.  But some men couldn’t hack her commitment to the beautiful game.  So she compromised and stopped coming to strange overseas locations to watch bizarre games.  But it didn’t last and she rang me two weeks ago asking when she could come down to Lewes.  She was single again and thus she wanted to get back into football.  And what better place than The Dripping Pan.

Today’s visitors were Kingstonain, complete with Martin Tyler as their assistant manager.  Yep, THAT Martin Tyler.  One can only speculate if he commentated on the game from the bench in the same style he does for Sky Sports.

This was another Lewes game that was due to clash with Brighton.  Previous clashes had seen average gates of less than 600 and on a chilly afternoon a crowd of around that would be a good turn out.

Lewes 1 Kingstonian 1 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 14th January 2012
It was Horsham all over again.  Lewes ended up conceding a late equaliser in a game that they should have put to bed before half time.  At least this week we didn’t see any silly antics when Lewes were awarded a first half penalty as Paul Booth took one look at the bench and Simon Wormull’s nod said it all.

Lewes started in third gear, racing forward and using the width of Nanetti and Ciardini from the first few minutes. However, it was the visitors who had the best early chance when Duff blasted over from close range.  Lewes responded, Harding danced into the area and was brought down.  Harsh?  Well, compared to one that wasn’t given later on then I would say so.  Booth stepped up and made no mistake from the spot for his tenth goal of the season.

Half way through the first period the linesman called the referee over.  A heated debate took place on the touchline with the Kingstonian bench, the result of which was the K’s manager was sent off.  In a day and age where any language seems to be acceptable on a football pitch it must have been something very bad for the red card.

Half time and to feed my hunger I queued for a burger.  “Cheese burger please” I asked…”Chedder, Stilton or Burger Cheese?”  I can honestly say I have never been offered Stilton on a burger at a football game and it was tops.  If that is not enough to put another few hundred on the gate I don’t know what ever will.

The second half saw Kingstonian come back into the game and test Rikki Banks.  Lewes had a great shout for a penalty when Nanetti was hauled down but the referee instead chose to book the Italian for diving.  A big let off for the visitors and they made The Rooks pay.  First Banks pulled off the “save of the season” from Simon Huckle.  But the 711 in the ground could feel a K’s goal coming and with ten minutes to go Duff skipped around the normally solid Hustwick and he beat Rikki Banks to give Kingstonian a deserved equaliser.

A draw wasn’t the tonic we were looking for after a difficult week but results elsewhere still kept the Rooks in 4th place.  The cold wasn’t enough to keep away the fans and even Football Jo loved it, although that was perhaps she fell in lust with a certain little Italian with magic feet.  Here we go again.