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.

Taking the Time Machine back to the future

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on March 2, 2013

I have absolutely no interest in my heritage.  Family Trees bore me stupid.  The past is the past and we should all look to the future, is my motto.  That was until my Mother found someone famous in the not-too distant past.  It seemed that my Grandad George W. Wells was the nephew of Herbert George Wells.  You know, the man who wrote those little plays called War of the Worlds and the Time Machine?

la_guerra_de_los_mundos_2005_6It seems that somewhere along the line the Wells fortune had got lost in the post, although I’m sure that when Tom Cruise reads my blog this week (he is a big fan btw) he will send his fee over to me to distribute among the other surviving Wells clan.   I love genealogy me.  Family History stuff, bring it on.

As irony would have it, after retirement my Grandparents moved down to Sandgate, famous for not being Sangatte on the other side of the Channel, and lived here in blissful happiness.  Why is that ironic?  Because unbeknown to them they moved into a house no more than a hundred yards away from where H.G. Wells lived until just before the Second World War.

I was a regular visitor during the summer holidays to these parts.  Hythe always seemed a sleepy little place, home of the Dymchurch steam railway terminus, an antiques barn and little else.  But once every few months my Grandad would take me for a walk along the seafront all the way from Sandgate until we came across warnings about live ammunition ranges.  Then we would do a right and head up to the old army training ground, known as Reachfield.  If we were in luck we would stand on the edge of the pitch and watch a game, sharing a packet of lemon bomboms.

As I grew up, and visits to the Grandparents clashed with other things (i.e girls) I went years without retracing my steps.  Both my Grandparents passed away some years ago and my trips to sleepy little Hythe died with them.

But then a few years ago I saw the name Hythe Town crop up.  They had managed to reach the latter stages of the FA Cup qualifying, taking the mighty Woking to a replay.  I couldn’t believe the transformation in the ground, now resplendent with a double-decker stand.  The club were pushing for promotion from the Kent Premier League, and the cup run was delivering valuable additional revenue.  In 2010/11 the club enjoyed its best season ever, finally reaching the Isthmian League but going one step further in the FA Cup,  reaching the first round proper (becoming the first side from the Kent Premier League to do so for 50 years) before they lost of Hereford United.  But they had reached the promised land at last, and they intended to enjoy the ride.

8522281572_a9d59f2d41_bThis season has seen progress, progress, progress.  A chance to renew acquaintances with local rivals Folkstone Invicta (just the 1,022 for their game on Boxing Day) and a decent shout at the play offs in a very tight league.  In my quest to conquer Kent football I have wanted to make the trip back down to Hythe for some time.  A cunning plan prior to Christmas that kept the female Fullers happy ended with me listening 5Live in the car park of Ashford’s Retail Outlet centre as their game was postponed at the last minute. Shit happens in Non League football as I had been too painfully aware myself this week with the abandonment of Lewes’s game versus Carshalton due to a floodlight failure.

Is it any surprise that the visitors were 2nd bottom of the league?  Casual by name, casual by nature, as my Nan would have no doubt have said.  With the Corinthian version not too far away, the battle wouldn’t necessarily would be on avoiding the drop this season, but being the best Casual in the league.  Of course, Walton does have the distinct honour of being the only town in the Ryman League that has two clubs.  Indeed this was perhaps a warm up for them for the big game on Tuesday when they take on Walton & Hersham in the battle of Elmbridge.

Hythe gunning for the playoffs, Walton scrabbling to avoid relegation to the Combined Counties, this had 0-0 written all over it.  Fortunately I had a betting expert on hand with “Game-a-day” John also at the game in his quest to see a game a day for a whole year.  He knows a thing or two about football betting and suggested that a low scoring home win would be the experts choice, but what does he really know?

Hythe Town 1 Walton Casuals 0 – Reachfields – Saturday 2nd March 2013
8521171933_5894eda0ea_b“Ladies and Gentlemen – All the hot food is now half price” came call across the tannoy system on the hour mark.  This one sentence had more impact on the efforts of the Walton players than anything their manager had tried to say to them over the past sixty minutes.  Despite the home side continuing their goal-shy performance from last Saturday when they drew a blank against Mertsham, they had done enough in the first half to win the game thanks to Brendon Cass’s tap in.

Of course John had called it right.  Hythe tried to get the ball wide to their young pacy wingers Hobbs and Savage as often as they could.  The two players came in from some tough tackling from the Walton defenders and it was no surprise the opening goal came from their invention.  Hobbs was scythed down on the edge of the area and from the resulting free kick, confusion rained down on the Casual’s six yard box, the keeper flapped and Cass tapped home.

Half time saw us head to the bar at the top of the main stand.  What a top place this was.  Decent size bar, Adnams (and Doom Bar!) being served with a wink and a smile, big screen TV’s and of course the opportunity to watch the game from the balcony, a la cricket style.  But I’m no pawn sandwich (or in this case Welk sandwich) eater so I declined a birds-eye spot up here, returning down to earth with GADJ.

8522293044_2c7d757960_bHythe almost doubled their lead early in the second half when the Walton keeper’s clearance was returned back with aplomb but the ball just bounced over the bar.

The low stands around the edge of the ground also saw the ball sail over the roof on numerous occasions.  During the second half, with hot food at half price another amusing announcement was made. “Attention Ball Boys.  There are now two balls that need recovering from outside the ground and not at the refreshment stand”.  You tell them!

So a disjointed game came to an end.  A fairly good crowd of 205 would go home happy with three points rather than the performance, but at this stage of the season, it is all about keeping in touch with the teams at the top, and that is exactly what they had done.  Mission accomplished.

My return to my memories of yesterday had been fairly pleasant.  A nice little ground with all the right ingredients for a good day out.   If only great great great Uncle Herbert was alive today – he would have loved a cheeseburger at fifty percent off.