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)
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.

What it means to be a non league fan

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on June 15, 2013
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No Cray fishing at the Pan

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on September 24, 2011

Who wanted a trip to Wembley anyway?  I mean have you seen the price of the burgers there, and you cannot have a beer whilst watching the game.  Oh no, a trip to Wembley is soooo not Non League.  Give us a decent league campaign any day of the week.

That’s what we have been telling ourselves all week since the embarrassment of Chertsey.  It has been the elephant in the room for the past week but now it is time to move on.  We would all swap a playoff spot, or fingers cross automatic promotion for a potentially embarrassing exit in the FA Cup 1st round to a League side.  Anyway there is still the Ryman League Cup to concentrate on isn’t there?

So who is up next at the Pan?  Well here comes Cray Wanderers.  Ask a million people where Cray is and I bet you will get nearly a million blank faces.  Even James Boyes, the man with the magic trousers, emailed me and asked and he knows everything.  Well I have a bit of local knowledge on this one, and you know what they saw about power and knowledge don’t you.

Cray are the third oldest football club in the world.  Quite an impressive achievement for a team that were formed as a lunchtime kick around activity for the workers building the new railway line between London and the Kent coast.  They settled on a pitch alongside the River Cray between Sidcup and Orpington.  Today, the suburbia of St Mary’s and St Paul’s Cray are as close to a remnant of the club as you can find.  One hundred and fifty years on and they are still going strong, playing at the highest level in their history.

Once upon a time the club were closely associated with Woolwich Arsenal when they were in the London League but they didn’t really make a mark on Non League football until 2003 when they won the Kent League and were accepted into the Isthmian set up.  Four years later they reached the Ryman Premier League.

Since then they have been a surprise to most.  Groundsharing with Bromley, and surviving on crowds of 200, they have been a regular fixture in the top half of the table, and even for a brief period last season topped the table, thanks in part to the prolific form of Laurent Hamici up front. Whilst they still have dreams of a return back to their roots in Orpington, they will probably have to negotiate a further push up the league to justify it.

A week is a long time in football, so would the old wounds from Chertsey still be red raw come 5pm or will everything have been forgotten?

Well for me it was certainly a long week, thanks to a long week and it was due to be a difficult afternoon keeping my eyes open.  A whirlwind trip across the Atlantic to personally shake the hand of Lewes FC members Mr and Mrs Luge Pravda along with a visit to as many Man versus Food destinations as are humanly possible in 48 hours had seen me land at 7am and hot-foot it down to The Pan.  Am I mad?  I must be.  But once the non league bug creeps up on you and sinks its teeth in then you cannot go back and not even a plate of fried chicken and waffles at Gladys Knight and Ron Winans Chicken and Waffle House in downtown Atlanta could not keep me away.

I lost count of the number of times I was asked “where are you from” in Georgia.  Of course I told different tales depending on the beauty who was talking to me.  In the space of one hour I lived in a thatched cottage, a river boat and a castle.  I was friends with Hugh Grant, Prince Andrew and Roger Moore.  I was the perfect English Gentleman, and not once did I behave in any other way (as Luge will testify under oath).

Lewes 1 Cray Wanderers 0 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 24th September 2011
It is amazing how over the past few years the fortunes of Lewes have mirrored those of West Ham.  This season has been the perfect example.  Disappointing defeats on the opening day to Lowestoft Town and Cardiff City respectively, highs of putting four past potential play off candidates Aveley and Portsmouth just two weeks ago and then of course the disappointment at an early cup exit to a team from a lower division.  Today both teams came into their games in fifth place, and today both won 1-0.  Why is that significant?  Because I bloomin’ well backed them. Looks like the children will have new shoes for school next week after all.

Steve King had been forced into ringing around his contacts in his little black book this week as injuries to key players had left the squad threadbare.  In came George Nicholas and Liam Mitchell from Notts County, and they went straight into the team.  Also returning was Steve Robinson who had been absent for the past couple of weeks at a wedding (some wedding party that must have been to have missed two games!). The side were rewarded with a crowd of 721, a season best and undoubtedly one of the biggest in this level as well as the Blue Square Bet North or South.

Cray Wanderers came into the game as the form team.  Top scorers, averaging over 2.5 goals per game and having scored in every outing this season so far they weren’t to be taken lightly.  However, try letting that to Christian Nanetti, who with his new Jedward inspired Mohican danced around the defence like David Beckham on Bob Martins.  It was no surprise that he was at the centre of the main incident of the game when he tempted Alex Bentley into a rash challenge and the lino signaled penalty.

Nanetti got up, picked the ball up and proceeded to place it on the spot.  Unfortunately it seemed that there were alternative team orders and Paul Booth took over, sending the keeper the wrong way to give the Rooks the lead.

Half time and a chance to catch our breath, or more importantly, top up on the Lewes Blue Label.  After a few days of American IPA’s it was good to have something familiar inside.  Scores elsewhere were looking good too.  West Ham winning (and just by the one goal I needed), Kingstonian beating Hendon and Lincoln Moorland Railways ahead. So it was going to be a nervous last forty five.

Or was it?  Lewes have a habit this season of having a snooze in the second half, not really creating much and today wasn’t an exception.  There was a bit more forward momentum with Malcolm always looking dangerous, but it was still the Cray keeper Walker who was the busier.  Indeed apart from one late scare from a set piece where twenty players found themselves in the Lewes penalty area, there wasn’t much to report.

The final whistle was greeted with cheers all round as well as a few sighs of relief.  The top of the Ryman Premier was now as tight as tight can be, with four teams separated by just one point.  Indeed with Lewes playing on Monday evening away at Kingstonian, a win there would take them top of the pile for the first time this season.  If you would have asked any Lewes fan at the start of the season whether such as situation was acceptable, they would have bitten your hand off.

It had been an interesting week, one of cultural highs in Georgia, and lows in London, but it ended with a pair of wins and a nice little earner from my bet.  In the words of Gladys Knight, “Georgia’s on my mind”.

More pictures from the afternoon can be found here.

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