Non League Club

A massive gesture

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on August 21, 2011

James Drobka reports on an afternoon of Blue Square Bet South football from the banks of the Thames.

Staines. Probably most famous for being the setting to the Ali G movie, however to the council this is more hindrance rather than help. So much so, they changed the name to Staines-Upon-Thames. However to most people it is, ‘the staines massive’, home to Staines Town FC, Blue Square Bet South. Evidence of the football club not being bothered by tagline can be seen on their website,

Staines have been in the Conference South for the past two seasons, finishing a superb 8th in their first season and 15th last season. Hopes are high amongst management that this could be a good season, they have kept the nucleus of the squad from last season and added a few additions, most notably Dave Wheeler from Lewes (ED – OUR Dave Wheeler), helped by the fact he’s studying at Brunel university and relocating to the area. They have lost their most promising player in Mario Quiassaca, who had his contract terminated immediately after being named and shamed as taking part in the recent riots in London.

When I flew the nest of Gillingham and moved to ‘the massive’ five months ago, I found myself living in a house a stones throw from Wheatsheaf Park, a nice perk when needing my fix of non-league football. This was first weekend I have had since starting a new job, so was fully intent on watching any football, so off I trundled down to the ‘Beehive’ pub for Saturdays lunch time kick off of Arsenal v Liverpool. Having been suitably bored, I looked up who Staines were playing and low and behold they were at home to Salisbury City. Better yet still, entry was FREE.

However this free entry was tinged with the sadness that their long-serving Chairman Alan Boon had passed away and his family’s gesture was to allow free entry to everyone to this game. I could not turn this opportunity down of watching what my local team is now for free.

I stepped in Wheatsheaf Park expecting a few hundred in the ground due to the inclement weather, however to my surprise the ground was abuzz with many young kids getting their 1st taste of live football, seasoned ‘Swans’ fans, families and the expected crazy old guy who has supported them since year dot. The ground itself is very nice indeed, 300 covered seats, 800 covered terrace and plenty of space to stand behind the goal and sidelines, it could easily hold 3000. In fact their biggest crowd was set in 2007 against Stockport County in the 1st round of FA Cup, standing at 2862. Their average attendance last season was around 2-300 people, in fact their commercial manager recently made this plea to stay away fans: ‘We have one of the best grounds in the league, where families can come and enjoy a game of football without subjecting their kids to bad language or behavior that often occurs at a higher level.’ Having seen the game, I can tell you there was its fair share of fruity language.

I walked through the turnstiles and soon found the programme seller. £3 for the match day programme, but this wasn’t just any programme. Oh no, this was the winner of Blue Square South programme of year 2011 and you can see why. Stacked full of content, from previous game reviews to a big interview with their new signing David Wheeler.

The teams were lined up on pitch as the stadium announcer introduced the Boon family to crowd with a touching speech about his life and then followed by one minutes of applause. The pitch itself was in superb condition and with the earlier rain, looked like a footballers dream pitch.

Having been soaked from the walk from the pub, I found a seat in the covered stand. As soon as I sat down, the sun came out. I sat there with my notepad and pen (pretending to look important) and started taking down names and numbers from the programme only to find out all the numbers for the Salisbury players and names in fact were incorrect. I did get hold of a team sheet to correct myself so alls well. Anyway, on with the game.

Salisbury started with a 4-5-1 formation with a big Jake Reid up top and Matthew Wright playing just behind. Staines went with a standard 4-4-2 formation. The opening stages very scrappy and the only bit of action, barring a man falling up the stairs, was a good save by the Staines number 1 Louis Wells saving from a terrible defensive header almost nestling in the top corner. The first corner kick came on 15 minutes, the ball spending more time off the pitch than on it. In the 41st minute we were treated to the first shot by either team, coming from Callum Hart (ex-Bournemouth), a daisy cutter from 25 yards comfortable for the keeper. And that was first half. Sounds exciting hey?

At half time, I made my way to the burger bar for the obligatory burger and Bovril. I’m delighted to say the burger was huge and handsome. The Bovril in case you’re wondering was standard. The Salisbury players came out 5 minutes early and took part in some drills. The same drills teams do before a game, an odd thing to see I thought but it turned out to be a masterstroke by their manager Darrell Clarke.

Salisbury came out all guns blazing, passing the ball around and stretching the game from side to side and the on the 51st minute the breakthrough came. In fortuitous conditions I have to say, the ball passed back to the swans goalie, his clearance charged down by Matthew Wright and rebounding into the top corner. Salisbury 1-0 up and fully deserved. Almost immediately from the restart Staines almost equalized through Warren Harris, drawing a good save from Conor Gough following a sweeping move.

Little more football action followed, however a boxing match did break out. Andre Scarlett throwing at least 2 punches towards a Salisbury player after handbags. It was not spotted by any of officials and he was only booked for his part in instigating said incident.

As the game edged towards the final 10minutes, Staines almost scored through a close range header from their outstanding performer and captain Danny Gordon. Only a cracking save from Gough keeping it out. This was to be the last footballing action of the game; however the boxing match was not over. Staines’ Gareth Risbridger thinking it was fine to hand off a player. The ref spotted this one and duly sent him off to a crowd not applauding him, but calling him names due to his petulance. I put it down to a case of frustration as he had been run ragged all game and was by far the worst performer on the pitch.

And that, was that. Staines failing to give the 1,002 strong crowd a win. The club will be hoping some of them fans will start coming on a regular basis, at £8 normal entry for adults, I will return.

Oh and congratulations to Staines Simon Jackson on winning sponsors man of match. His prize… a bottle of Asti with a bit of paper stuck over label saying ‘man of the match’. He’ll enjoy that I’m sure.

James Drobka (@jamesdrobka on Twitter)


Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on January 23, 2011

There is no doubt that blogging is the future of journalism. Twitter especially has revolutionised the way that stories are broken and shared within seconds around the globe. It is no wonder that 24 of the 25 biggest newspapers in the world are experiencing a significant downturn in sales. People want the news when it happens, not 24 hours later. And that is what Social Media has given us news hungry people. We no longer have to go and look for the news, the news finds us – welcome to the world of Socialnomic. Never has a truer word been spoken in terms of football journalism.

Over the past year the number of websites and blogs dedicated to the general, and even better, the very specific subjects of the beautiful game has risen dramatically. This surge in interest is simple. Content is king. Unless you are producing relevant and interesting content then you may as well give up and use your computer for something else. The A-list of football blogging are all members of something called Socrates. It is not some kind of secret society, or the equivalent of the Brat Pack, but rather a regular meeting of the bloggers to share ideas, talk about, believe it or not football, and have a few beers.

At a meeting back in the summer of 2010 we floated the idea of holding one of these sessions outside London. The room went silent, heads turned in our direction and pints of beer fell to the ground at our suggestion. But then we followed it up with an invite to hold it at The Dripping Pan. We didn’t have a clue if the club would allow it, but what the heck.

Fast forward six months and Saturday dawned as the first ever Socrates meeting outside of the metropolis. Over twenty of the men that Fleet Street hate to love were on their way down to East Sussex to take in the game between Lewes and Staines Town before retiring to the bar for a few Harveys. All very civilised I am sure. Lewes FC had rolled out the red carpet to everyone, and in light of the positivity that just one draw could bring to the club it was sure to be a win-win situation for all. Socrates would get a day out at a level of football few had ever experienced, and the club would get 20 people waxing lyrically about the club…hopefully.

For a place that markets itself as a “party” town, it was very surprising to get a text from Mr Last saying that our original meeting point, The Nelson aka HQ, was actually shut until 12pm.  What?  What happened to 24 hour drinking?  Do they not know their customers were thirsty after a long trip down from London?  Mike GradyHuddo Hudson, Danny and myself finally found an open door in a pub in the centre of town – our last resort before going for “a coffee”.

Eventually we managed to crowbar our way into HQ only to see Cynical Dave sitting at the bar on his third beer,, after he had just rung the door bell and asked to go in.  With him were the second batch of our group.  Possibly the most influential blogger in the FA Cup, Damon Threadgold who we have shared adventures with at Margate and Cray this season, The Guardian’sJuliet Jacques and Ryan O’Connell a freelance Gillingham fan.

After some gentle ribbing of each others allegiances (West Ham, you support West Ham  how embarrassing is that!) we headed off on the train to Lewes to meet the rest of the group.

Lewes 0 Staines Town 1 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 22nd January 2011
With the assembled masses of the full weight of Socrates we started to make a dent in the fantastic Harvey’s Old Ale.  The club had produced special limited edition posters for all attendees and it wasn’t long before topical issues of the day were being put right.  Organiser Terry Dufflyn of The Onion Bag had brought a fine cast together includingSupporters Direct’s Dave Boyle who of course had an interest in seeing how Lewes’s transformation to a Community Club was going, Jamie Cutteridge who had recently been writing for EFW, Ian King of the fantastic Two Hundred Percent and more.  And then there was Lizzy.  Dear, dear Lizzy.  Football is not her game – cricket is.  She commentates on the excellent Test Match Sofa, but we don’t care – she is always a welcome addition to any gathering.

After a run of five consecutive defeats the Rooks had put in battling performances against two of the top teams in the league, narrowly losing to Braintree last week before gaining a valuable scoreless draw at home to Bromley on Wednesday.  Manager Tim O’Shea had got his little black book out again in mid week and brought in more new recruits to bolster the injury ravaged squad.  In came Gareth Hall, an ex-Lewes Ibbo developed youngster from down the A27 at Brighton as well as ex-Millwall midfielder Ali Fuseini, and out went Paul Olima who many felt was having a detrimental effect on team moral.

All looked promising then.  That was until the 12th minute when Anthony Barness was forced to limp out of proceedings.  Up until this point the Rooks had looked adventurous.  The Socrates collective seemed impressed and despite news filtering through  that some of Lewes’s relegation rivals were winning, spirits in The Jungle were high.  Then in the blink of an eye it all went wrong.

Staines had a free kick on the touchline about 40 yards out.  The ball was lofted into the area, Winterton came to collect and appeared to be impeded by Staines forward Griffiths (see Steve George’s picture to the right) and the ball sailed into the net.  I would suggest 99% of similar incidents you will see would be deemed as a foul against the keeper.  Harsh to say the least and the reaction of the Lewes players to the decision was understandable.

To give them their dues, the Rooks kept up the tempo and Chris Breach was desperately unlucky not to see one of his two goal bound efforts beat the man on the line.

Half time and a chance to refill our glasses with Harveys and discuss the goings on up and down the country.  West Ham were unbelievably winning away from home at Everton, but scores elsewhere in the Blue Square Bet South were concerning.  Still, fate is in the hands of the Rooks and all they can do is beat the teams put in front of them.  Unfortunately, this was not one of those incidences as despite a further 45 minutes of positive forward momentum they rarely tested Louis Wells in the Staines goal apart from one deflected David Wheeler shot.

So another 3 points dropped, and with St Albans City, Dartford and Thurrock all winning, the prognosis for the Rooks looks bleak.  There was only one thing for it.  Beer.  We may be bottom of the league, but I am sure twenty of the most influential bloggers will agree, we are Champions League material when it comes to hospitality.  If only leagues were decided on such criteria.


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Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on February 27, 2010

One of my goals for the season was to visit all of the Blue Square South teams, and with two months to go I only had 3 to watch a game at and with some careful planning, I was due to see them all within a week starting with Staines Town.  Unfortunately, my original plans of a trip to Staines Town were thwarted by the kind heart of my beloved CMF who whisked me away for the weekend to celebrate my 40th birthday when Lewes were coming to visit in January.  Never mind though as Danny Last and the LLF (The Lewes Lunatic Fringe) went instead and recorded events from the afternoon perfectly whilst I was sunning myself in the Biosphere (aka Centerparcs).So excuse the lack of a normal pre-amble as I think that Danny has already given Staines a thorough going over in his excellent piece here.

Staines were enjoying their first season at this level after winning a close play off with Carshalton Athletic last season after falling at the same hurdle the year before.  The club had been playing in the Isthmian league for so long.They had also enjoyed a good FA Cup run, cumulating in a home tie versus Millwall where the local media went a bit OTT almost comparing thevisit of the Lions fans with a horde of invading Vikings…NIMBY’s I ask you! In fact their form since Christmas had been nothing short of fantastic.  Out of a total of nine games, the Staines Massive had won seven and drawn two and they had climbed up the league to sit in a very healthy third place.  Goals were simply flowing with twenty four scored, including four last week against St Albans City.

Visitors Eastleigh on the other hand had not had the best of weeks.  Getting hammered 8-2 at home by Thurrock a week previously is hardly a smiling matter, although at half time when they were 6-0 down a little sweepstake started around us at Upton Park as to how many Thurrock would score.  I pulled 8 out of the bag so sorry Eastleigh I profited by a £5 in your misfortune.

The thing about the Blue Square South league this season is that it is so wide open, even now with two thirds gone.  Take Newport County out of the equation (currently three million points clear with twenty games in hand) and you will see that there are a dozen teams fighting for the four play off spots.  Before Christmas it had seemed as if Dover Athletic and Woking had two of these places sewn up but now it is a different ball game as Thurrock, Braintree Town and Staines had usurped them.  Consistency is the key at this stage of the season.  That and the actual ability to play a game due to the weather.  There is an age old argument that it is better to have points rather than games in hand.  I would disagree that this is always true (just ak our friends at Durham City with their played 26 lost 26 record if they would rather have a record of played 13 lost 13 with 13 games in hand at this stage?) and with the insistence of the league that the final round of games was to be Saturday 24th April then you can see some teams having to play three or four games a week.  Quite why the season has to finish then is unknown.  It is not as if many Blue Square players will be heading off to South Africa in the summer, and with the play offs in the North and South divisions being played at club and not national venues then fixture congestion in May is hardly an issue.

So after a whole week without a game, it was back on the Road to Hell (for all of you who are younger than 25 this will mean nothing to you) before following the Thames through Chelsea player territory to Chertsey.  Most people who live in Staines say they live in Chertsey as it sounds better (not my logic but that of Mr Phil “no I am not the Hull manager, can you see I am not orange” Brown, who actually does live in Chertsey).  Rain had been the main threat this week, and with the morning showers out of the way and a quite Twitter assured us that both Staines (and if necessary our “Plan B” at Ashford Town was on).  So after passing the firmly shut gates of Thorpe Park, crossing the Thames one more time and then negotiating the Staines one way system we pulled into the car park at Staines Town FC just in time for a beer and a couple of sendings off from Stamford Bridge.

The Wheatsheaf Park ground is perfectly positioned in a leafy lane close to the Thames.  In fact so close that they actually share it with the Thames Club, a posh toffs gym sort of thing.  The team had moved back here in 2003 after a £20m facelift funded by the local council, and what a smart facility they now have.  The club even advertise themselves as “Proper Football, Proper Fans” and who were we to argue as we paid our £10 to enter the threshold, hoping to be entertained.

Staines Town 1 Eastleigh 2 – Wheatsheaf Park – Saturday 27th February 2010

So a game between one team on fire and one reeling on the ropes from an absolute whacking a week ago – home win banker surely?  Er not at all.  This was a real shock for the form book and just underlines the open nature of the league.  Staines never got out of first gear, perhaps wishing that the “thin Jeff Winter” (copyright Eastleigh fans) had not passed the pitch fit earlier in the day.

The first half was a battle of the two sets of fans.  Having become quite an expert in the Blue Square South this season it made a refreshing change to see and more importantly hear two sets of fans not only trying to rally their teams but also out do each other.  Staines, perched high in the man stand with their trumpets versus Eastleigh in the covered stand opposite with their drum.  Round one to Eastleigh with their rude opening:-

“We’ve got the best looking barmaid in the league,
Best looking barmaid in the league,
Best looking barmaid in the league,
And she takes it up the a@*e”

I am not sure if said girl was standing there but one young girl was going bright red during the song.

Not to be outdone, Staines responded with..

“8-2, you only lost 8-2”

Eastleigh drew first blood with a stunning free kick from 25 yards after just 13 minutes.  Standing from my vantage point behind the goal I could see Sam Butler lining up for a shot on goal.  I tried to tell Louis Wells in the Staines goal but he didn’t listen to me and 10 seconds later I had captured the sports photo of the year as the ball smashed into the net.

“What’s it like to win a game?” Sang the Staines massive

“What’s it like to score a goal!” Retorted the Eastleigh fans

Staines simply could not get going.  For a team on such a hot run of form something had either gone missing or simply been left in the dressing room.  Their own Mambo number 5, Yado Mambo completed a miserable half for them when on the stroke of 45 minutes he sliced the ball into his own net after a great break down the right by Andy Forbes who had beaten the offside trap and outpaced Danny Gordon before putting a dangerous cross into the box.

With the rain falling again the second half restarted Staines picked up where they had left off…”Shoot in a minute, we’re gonna shoot in a minute” was an encouraging cry from the home fans but it hardly sunk in as Eastleigh continued to attack, although they did take any chance they could to wind down the clock.

“We just had a shot, we just had a shot, oh gord blimey, oh god blimey, we just had a shot”

The home fans did get something to cheer about when a fortunate penalty decision for handball was awarded to them with just eight minutes to go.  Leroy Griffiths stepped up and sent Matthews the wrong way.  Did we then get the typical late onslaught to look for the equaliser?  Er no.  Staines seemed to simply think that was all they deserved.  If only they had some of the spirit Worcester City were showing some 80 miles southish at Lewes where they had come from a battering for an hour and 3-0 down with just fifteen minutes to go to salvage a 3-3 draw.

So that was that.  I was back on The Road to Hell within ten minutes, listening to England get embarrassed by the Irish at Twickenham and wondering what the barmaid in question was planning for verse two!

About Wheatsheaf Park
Wheatsheaf Park is the home of the Staines Town Football Club. It is situated in Wheatsheaf Lane, Staines. It has been the home of the club since it was purchased in 1951. Like many football stadiums, it has changed greatly over time; the most recent of these changes was the development of the main stand in the Wheatsheaf Lane End. Planning permission for this was granted by Spelthorne Council in March 2000, and Staines Town returned to the revamped ground on 22 February 2003. The club now boasts a brand new sports bar with Sky Sports football each week and refurbished changing rooms. Wheatsheaf Park is one of the most developed stadiums in the Blue Square South.

Wheatsheaf Park has a total capacity of 3,000, with 300 seated and 800 in covered terrace. The record league attendance for a match at Wheatsheaf Park is 2,285 vs AFC Wimbledon in 2006, However 1 year later Staines had a historic F.A Cup match against Stockport County and the attendance just creept over the 2,860 mark therefore setting the clubs over attendance record.

The ground consists of one main stand, raised above pitch level and three terraces, two of which are covered. There is also plenty of room for standing in front of the main stand.

How to get to Wheatsheaf Park
By Road: Leave the M25 at Junction 13 and turn east onto the London bound A30. At ‘The Crooked Billett’ roundabout, exit for Staines town centre. Go right through the town, passing the Elmsleigh Centre car parks, next bear left at the junction opposite the Thames Lodge hotel and into Laleham Road. Go under the iron railway bridge next to the river and follow the road for about 2/3 of a mile, turning right by the bollards and into Wheatsheaf Lane. The ground is on the left and sign posted Staines Town FC / The Thames club.

By Rail: Staines by rail is on the main Windsor & Eton / Reading line to Waterloo. The stadium is a 3/4 mile walk, exit onto Gresham Road (same platform side if coming from Waterloo) and turn left at T junction into Laleham Road, Wheatsheaf Lane is about 1/2 mile on the right.

By Bus: The main bus routes are 216 from Kingston via Hampton, 117 from Isleworth via Feltham and 290 from Twickenham via Sunbury: Either exit at ‘Stainash Parade’ or High street, (both 1 mile walk). From Stainash Parade take Worple Road to ‘Angler’s Retreat’ pub, turn right into Laleham Road, Wheatsheaf Lane is on left. From High Street: Enter Laleham Road at Thames Lodge hotel, Wheatsheaf Lane is on right.

Many thanks to Stuart Moore at the club for the above directions.

How to get a ticket for Wheatsheaf Park
Pay on the door is the order of the day unless the club get another big FA Cup draw.  Admission is via turnstiles either side of the main stand in the car park and it is £10 for Adults and £5 for Concessions.  Fans can transfer to the stand free of charge.