Blog postponed!

January 11, 2015

Sorry, but there won’t be any blog postings for a while, other than to update the diary and the listings for the various new grounds I’m hoping to visit in the meantime.

An excessive work schedule during Jan, Feb & early March means I just won’t have time to sit down and try to write creatively! With a bit of luck I should be back up and running before the end of the season.

Matches attended:

Jan 6th – Shaw Lane Aquaforce v Tadcaster Albion 589

Jan 10th – Melksham Town v Shepton Mallet 590

Jan 17th – Bradford Town v Melksham Town 591

Jan 31st – Larkhill Athletic v AFC Totton 592

Feb 7th – Great Wakering Rovers v Chatham Town 593

Feb 14th – Wantage Town v Bashley 594

Feb 21st – Stamford v Trafford 595

Feb 24th – Bristol Manor Farm v Cheltenham CS 596

Feb 28th – Crook Town v Marske United 597

Mar 7th – Hanwell Town v Daventry Town 598

Mar 14th – Thetford Town v Norwich United 599

Mar 14th – Mildenhall Town v Gorleston 600 (!!!!)

Mar 14th – Newmarket Town v Haverhill Rovers 601

Mar 20th – East Kilbride v Whitehill Welfare 602

Mar 21st – Vale of Leithen v Preston Athletic 603

Mar 21st – Selkirk v Spartans 604

Mar 21st – Gala Fairydean Rovers v University of Stirling 605

Mar 22nd – Dalbeattie Star v Edinburgh City 606

Mar 22nd – Threave Rovers v Edinburgh University 607

Mar 27th – Nelson v Colne 608

Mar 28th – Atherton Collieries v Litherland Remcya 609

Lichfield City – Saturday January 1st 2015 (588)

January 3, 2015

‘Despite near-perfect barbecue weather, trade today is a little slow…’

Visiting the City Ground for the first football fixture of the New Year used to be a regular occurrence in my younger days, but this New Year’s Day there is a slight difference. This ‘City Ground’ is 40 miles to the west of the stadium where I guess I’ve watched 500 games or more during my time supporting Forest. Today I’m at the home of Lichfield City of the Midland League Division One and although the surroundings are on a tad smaller scale in comparison to that structure on the banks of the Trent, I’m happy to be here nonetheless.

Because it’s a fixture that’s ON and during inclement weather it’s helpful to a ‘hopper’ to get that information reasonably early. Which is where Twitter comes in very useful. I’m not actually on Twitter, on the basis that I don’t think anybody is that desperate to discover trivial things about my lifestyle, but I do believe it serves an important role in updating the football-following public with imminent match prospects. I notice that most clubs seem to have a Twitter ‘feed’ these days, with some used more sparingly than others, but it’s now my first port-of-call for the latest match information. Fixture Secretaries please take note!

Having perused the weather forecast, noting heavy rain coming in from the West – and seeing fixtures further South written off – I’m looking for somewhere more local, and although Lichfield’s City ground is handy for the town’s rail stations, I decide to go by car just in case I need to divert elsewhere at short notice.

The stadium is to the east of the town centre, and access is down a narrow lane which opens out into a car park which is almost full when I arrive. Nobody seems to be manning the pay-gate and enquiries in the very smart clubhouse about access and programmes seem to draw a blank. I’m not the only ‘hopper’ milling around looking for signs of any official activity but eventually a man with a money tin turns up, to be followed five minutes later by another chap clutching a small bundle of programmes. As my particular fetish is to get a match programme for every new ground I visit, this is the sign for me to relax!

Which I do in the bar now full of people, many of whom have no intention of watching the match (I know this having cause to visit the loos during the game). I chat with a couple of chaps who have travelled a good distance to visit the ground (Wrexham and London) and watch the last dregs of the Premier League game on the TV. There’s no cask beer, but they do stock bottles of mainstream British brands (Pedigree for one) either chilled or at room temperature. Behind the bar there’s also a Pukka Pies cabinet. I have to admit that when I used to be a carnivore, I considered that brand to be the best (discuss)!

The pitch itself is on a slope and looks heavy. To make things worse for the team kicking uphill (visitors Bolehall Swifts in the first half) there’s a howling gale – and later driving rain – facing them. There’s some covered standing behind the goal,  with two covered kit-stands – one seating, one terrace – down one side. Most folks gather out of the wind, with the exception of a redoubtable lady with a toddler strapped to her back who completes numerous laps of the pitch. Said toddler steadfastly refuses to nod off, however.

Although the visitors sit in second spot in the Midland League Division One (Step 6) table, the handicap of taking on the slope and the elements in the first half contributes to an even game, with the hosts having early chances to go in front, while Swifts struggle to control the killer ball in the swirling wind. And although City do take a one-goal lead into the break, you get the feeling that the second half will be like the Alamo. Which in general it proves to be, especially when the home team effectively go down to ten, with a limping No9, and having run out of subs. The equaliser when it comes is not unexpected, and you expect Swifts to go on and take all the points, but Lichfield hold out and it’s a fair result at the end.

22 years ago today I stood on the wall at the ‘other’ City Ground, when Forest legend Des Walker scored his one and only senior goal. Ah, I remember it well. Whether or not I recall today’s match in nearly a quarter of a century’s time is open to debate, but at least I got to see a game. And I knew it was ‘on’, because a little bird told me…..

Programme: £1 from a bloke outside the turnstile being mobbed by hoppers! A tidy little affair with colour action pictures and minimal advertising. Commendable at Step 6.

Floodlight pylons: 6

Birdlife: the odd pigeon or two

Toilets: Back in the clubhouse

Clubshop: Badges being sold (outside the turnstile I think)

Music the players run out to: Just a howling gale!

Kop choir: No

Away fans: a few scattered around the ground

What’s in A Name: Presumably City’s Adam Breeze felt most at home in the conditions

Holiday Double – December 26th & 27th 2014 (586/587)

December 28, 2014
'With demand at the tea bar stretched to capacity, the club's decision to keep extra stocks on hand looks a wise one...'

‘With demand at the tea bar stretched to capacity, the club’s decision to keep extra stocks on hand looks a wise one…’

Christmas comes but once a year and I usually make a point of wearing my flashing ‘Bah Humbug’ hat whenever I can during the festivities. Not that I’m particularly against this annual jamboree of excessive gluttony and inclination to imbibe excessively, it’s just that with all the trimmings, tinsel and other seasonal stuff that bedecks our house, I feel it’s my solemn duty to redress the balance somewhat.

As a not particularly church-going sort of chap (weddings and funerals excepted) this time of year to me means the potential for a few Boxing Day fixture ‘Double-Headers’, given a satisfactory weather prognosis, and I had set my plans on a North-East double involving the Northern League and Berwick Rangers, even going so far as to provisionally book overnight digs. But as the events approached, and with a forecast for mucho frost and the potential for snow, the proverbial cold feet set in. Digs cancelled and plans re-evaluated. Suddenly a day in the United Counties League seemed far more attractive, followed by a trip to London on the Saturday.

Boxing Day dawns with a number of windows open on the iMac, each one linked to an appropriate Twitter feed. The key is Huntingdon Town, scheduled to kick off at 11.30am, after which I have 3 Lincolnshire options. The only fly in the ointment? Approaching snow due around 5.00pm, and I know from past experience that when it snows in that part of the world, not much moves!

But the initial Twitter good news is that the game at Huntingdon is on, so it’s warm-up-the-motor time and then head off down the M1 to the A14 and the 90-minute drive to Cambridgeshire. The club’s new ground is Jubilee Park, which is some way from the town centre, and indeed the railway station. Whilst it is certainly walkable from the latter, I’d want to do it on a Summer’s day. So this time of year is ideal for a car trip.

There’s a spacious car park out front, and the ground is approached down a path through the turnstile and straight into the clubhouse. This is a smart, modern complex with bar (slow to open) and snack hatch, and it’s no surprise the latter is doing a roaring trade in hot drinks and bacon rolls on such a chilly morning. Sadly, the availability of dead pig on bread is of little value to a veggie like me and so I rely on the good old cup-a-soup option to provide some much-needed hot nourishment, whatever the nutritional value. A quick scan of the bar reveals no evidence of either cask beer or any British bottled brews, not that I’d be in a drinking mood as it happens (too concerned with staying warm!)

There’s a lot of chatter therein concerning the second game of the day, and I’d guess that at least a quarter of the attendance is composed of ‘hoppers’, with a Merseyside element much in evidence.

The stadium itself consists of flat standing all round, with the area in front of the clubhouse, behind the goal, proving quite popular. There are two covered, seated kit stands virtually side-by-side down one side towards the corner, with a covered standing area straddling the halfway line. The pitch is flat, although the playing surface looks uneven which becomes apparent as the match progresses. It’s a local ‘derby’ in the United Counties Premier against Eynesbury Rovers, the visitors sitting much lower down the table but arriving on the back of a couple of useful wins following a poor run. Town, with just two wins in the last 9, look to be on a slide.

And that’s the way it pans out, with Rovers far more purposeful in attack and scoring twice just before half time to set the home side a few posers. They never really solve these during a second half which doesn’t scale the heights, and a penno near the end seals the points for the visitors.

And so the dilemma. Do I go up to Lincolnshire for the second game – conscious of the forecast snow risk – or head off home early to beat the elements? Common sense prevails!

The following morning starts like GroundHog Day. The iMac is on, the Twitter feeds are open, and I survey the options. Anything north is out because of all the lying snow and travel problems around Sheffield. London is an option with North Greenford United a Step 4 ‘need’ but it’s notorious for pitch inspection failures, while the possible ‘double’ with Wembley FC seems to have disappeared from the fixtures list! Confirmation when it comes that the North Greenford game is off turns me towards a good-looking fixture in the Hellenic Premier and a definite ‘car’ fixture – Ardley United v Kidlington. And so I set off.

I won’t details all of the transport issues that sees me behind the wheel for five of the next seven hours, but suffice to say that I arrive at Ardley’s ground – the Playing Fields – in time for the match and indeed a pre-match drink. Maybe it’s the cold weather and clogged roads around the ground, which is just a stones’ throw from Junction 10 of the manic M40, but the attendance for such a fixture seems quite low, with the club’s elevated clubhouse virtually empty before the game. A shame really, as they serve a tasty drop of Rebellion IPA from beer-boxes mounted on the bar, and if that doesn’t suit, there are bottles of Hook Norton ales too. Exactly what a football clubhouse should be offering, in stark contrast to Huntingdon the day before.

The ground itself is flat standing, with some wind protection from a row of tall trees down one side. There is a modest seated stand straddling the halfway line on that side, plus a four-step covered kit stand terrace behind one goal. The pitch itself looks reasonable for the time of year, although boasting a substantial end-to-end slope, if not quite to Berwick Rangers levels!

The match itself provides plenty of good entertainment. With Ardley well-placed in the Division, and visiting Kidlington just one off the top, there’s the potential for a classic and although not quite that, the skill level is high with visiting winger Tommy Castle catching the eye. His early strike knocks United back, but they get more into the game and are unlucky not to be level before they are reduced to ten men halfway through the second half. Castle’s second of the game shortly thereafter would seem to seal it, buy United won’t lie down, and having reduced the arrears through hard-working number 9 Rocky Johnson, trade blows with Kidlington to the end, both keepers earning their corn.

And so the long trudge home. Only the two games over two days, but at least the inclement weather hasn’t prevented me from my festive footy fix. It’s back to the house to consume more leftovers, some of the stock of ale bought for me by understanding relatives, and, oh yes, to don the ‘Bah Humbug’ hat once again, just in case anybody mistakenly thinks I’m actually enjoying myself! Merry Christmas and roll on the New Year!

Programmes: Although both bear a cover price, the entrance fee at both grounds seems to include a free prog. Commendable! Both neat and tidy affairs without winning any plaudits, Ardley’s boasting marginally the better content-advertising ratio.

Floodlight pylons: 8 at Huntingdon, 4 at Ardley

Birdlife: Wouldn’t have been surprised to see the odd penguin…

Club shop: Chap selling old progs at Ardley

Toilets: In the foyer of the clubhouse at Huntingon, inside and outside the clubhouse at Ardley

Music the players run out to: Abject silence!

What’s In A Name: With all the mud and slop this time of year I suspect Huntingon’s Medwynter brothers are in their element, although teammate Andrew Buckle might not be able to take the pressure, with Rovers Robert Ducket also opting out….

Bedfont Sports – Saturday December 13th 2014 (585)

December 18, 2014
'There could be trouble ahead for any poor soul confused as to which day of the week it is...'

‘Heavy drinking is not advisable as there could be trouble ahead for any poor soul confused as to which day of the week it is…’

Despite reaching the grand old age of 34 before I stepped nervously onto a plane for my very first flight, I’ve soared into the sky on numerous occasions over the ensuing years, essentially considering it to be an enjoyable part of the whole holiday ‘experience’. What HAS become a pain, however, is the massively increased security which virtually strips you down to your y-fronts before they let you through to board.

We experienced some of that while travelling to and from Dublin last weekend, as the wife and I enjoyed a four-day ‘cultural’ break which involved some Christmas shopping, a John Bishop show, and many hours spent researching (yes, that’s the right word) the Irish craft – and cask – beer scene. I’m pleased to report that not one pint of Guinness passed my lips during the four days in which we sampled several brews from the Galway Bay Brewery range (primarily stouts and porters) and cask beers – yes, real ales – from J W Sweetman and Trouble Brewing.

Sadly – as the Irish football league plays during the Summer months – there was no football to be had, so back in blighty where should I end up watching my first game for two weeks? Virtually under the flight path for Heathrow Airport! All of a sudden planes and airports are providing a noisy backdrop to my social life.

I wasn’t planning to be at Bedfont. But after arriving at Victoria Station with my son – who’s off to Stamford Bridge with his mate – a scan of the Southern League website fixtures list reveals that my chosen game for the day – at North Greenford United – is off. As is the back-up choice at Barking. So it’s back on the tube heading for Hatton Cross, just one stop from Heathrow, and the familiar walk to Bedfont. I say familiar because I have been this way once before, to visit The Orchard, which was then home to Bedfont Town. That stadium is virtually adjacent to The Recreation Ground, which is where I’m heading today.

Airliners thunder barely a hundred feet overhead as I walk along Hatton Road, and I marvel once more at the many horses who calmly go about their grass-munching just below the roar of descending jet engines. More so the people who live in the house directly beneath the flight path! It’s a little calmer a few hundred yards down the road at the football ground, the entrance being just past the car park that serves the Orchard, which is now the home ground for Bedfont & Feltham FC.

Set back from the road, the first building I encounter is the rather grand clubhouse bar, with a plush interior including table booths each served by a flat screen TV. When I arrive they’re all playing Christmassy videos but by half time Sky Sports News holds sway. Although there is no hand pulled beer to be had, they stock a good range of bottled British ales – chilled or otherwise – from the usual suspects. A bottle of Fullers London Pride does for me. Outside there’s a snack hatch, with chips and tomato cuppa-soup the only veggie options.

The stadium itself consists of an area of cover backing onto the clubhouse, with several rows of seats, albeit set well back from the pitch with a low Winter sun adding to the inconvenience. It would have the same effect on the new block of seats directly behind the goal, had they been available for use. By all accounts a bike shed needs to be installed before the punters can gain access. Don’t ask me! On the opposite side of the pitch to the clubhouse is another area of seating, although somewhat in a state of decay. Elsewhere, flat standing.

It’s a tricky one for the home side today because, although visitors Guildford City are second-bottom of the Combined Counties Premier, they have had an infusion of new blood after a management change, and they arrive with several former members of the youth team in the ranks, who seem to know no fear.

They take the game to Bedfont from the off and are two-up inside ten minutes, before allowing the hosts to pull one back just before the break. But any thoughts of a home comeback are dashed on 55 minutes and although Bedfont do peg it back to one goal again, three further City strikes in a 12-minute flurry put the game beyond doubt, despite a last minute effort for Bedfont. It ends 3-6 and a well-deserved victory for the visitors, for whom 16-year old wide-man Nathaniel Williams catches the eye, with his two goals and two assists.

In fact so absorbing is the game that the thunder of aircraft engines has become an irrelevance, until I walk back down the road again towards the tube station, right beneath the infernal roar yet content in the knowledge that at least I don’t have to run the gauntlet of airport security. Not today, anyway.

Programme: Just 12 pages of basic information. The fact that it’s given away free makes it hard to criticise!

Floodlight pylons: 4

Birdlife: Parakeets! Not as many as I would have thought, given that the area south of Heathrow is a known roosting ground, but enough to tempt me to looking skyward during breaks in play

Club shop: No, but badges on sale at the snack bar

Toilets: You have to go back into the clubhouse, which means going outside the ground at least until half time

Music the teams run out to: Nothing noticeable

Kop choir: No

Away fans: A sizeable contingent from Guildford, buoyed by the performance!

What’s in a name: I wonder if City’s Harry Fake is the real deal!

Wisbech Town – Saturday November 29th 2014 (584)

December 1, 2014
'The three-man seat easily converts to a one-man 'pie-eaters' version

‘Although the new seating design has found favour with some spectators, it’s questionable whether this particular style will make it into the re-build of the Olympic Stadium…’

As a child of the 1950s and an adolescent of the Sixties & early Seventies, I grew up in a time before ‘Political Correctness’ was invented. This generally meant we tended to call things as we saw them, without being demonised for doing so. If somebody was of a different race, size, gender or sexual orientation, we would and could comment accordingly, without fear of castigation. It was not malicious. We had a word for it. The word was ‘banter’.

And we were all the subject of somebody’s ‘banter’ at some time in our lives, and the theory was that you developed a thick skin, saw it for what it was (err, banter) and got on with your existence on Planet Earth. You only need to watch re-runs of black & white British movies (St Trinian’s anyone?) and 1970s sit-coms to see what used to pass as acceptable behaviour.

Of course times change and my teenage daughter, a child of the 21st Century, is the new guardian of ‘Political Correctness’ in our house. Woe betide me if I dare to comment on the potential pie-eating prowess of any character on a TV quiz or reality show!

I suppose football is one area that was slow to move with the times. As recently as the late 1990s I can recall standing on the Polam End at Feethams when a gang of youths began uttering monkey noises at a visiting black footballer. Outraged as we might have been, no-one confronted the bigots. And only last season at Barnet I sat within earshot of some bloke spouting forth with advice of a kitchen-based nature at the female referee. Even the stewards were laughing at him!

So I suppose I still feel a sense of familiarity when I’m amongst football-supporting folk on match days. Overt racism may well be a thing of the past, but if we think the opposing keeper is a bit too fond of the pastry we still feel able to comment accordingly. And I’m pretty sure the keeper would accept that for what it is – banter.

Today I will have a chance to catch up on any pre-PC gossip with my old pal, Nick. He’s a few years younger than me, and the joke at his wedding was that I used to hang around outside his school gates in my battered Mark 2 Cortina, waiting for my shorts-clad young companion to emerge. Roars of laughter when recounted in 1994, doubtless the subject of Operation Something-or-other in 2014!

We’re off to Wisbech Town, who ply their trade in the United Counties Premier. Wisbech is a town with which I am familiar, having attended numerous meetings and functions at the local brewery over the years. Although there is no railway station, an excellent bus service (X1) runs from Peterborough on a regular basis.

The region has seen a large influx of EU migrant workers in recent times, which is self-evident in the shop signage and overheard street conversations as you walk through the town. I’d hazard a guess that, despite the presence of the local brewery, real ale wouldn’t be the pre-dominant drink in the area’s pubs nowadays.

We arrive in a vicinity of the Fenland Stadium, which is a few hundred yards further out of town than the now-disused but still standing Fenland Park ground (Town’s previous home), at around 2.00pm so decide to call into one of the local pubs for a pint. There’s two or three close to the ground, but we choose the spacious Black Bear which is more-or-less across the road. They have a couple of cask beers on tap, one of which – Adventurer –  is produced locally by the Mile Tree microbrewery. It’s typical of the modern style, being straw-coloured and slightly citric, and not one I’d be rushing up to the bar for another. But that’s just my personal taste.

Into the ground, which has a spacious car park with stewards directing. Be warned. The rows are arbitrary and if you plan on making a swift getaway, think carefully where you position your vehicle! Inside the stadium the playing surface looks heavy but certainly playable, hence the pitch inspection earlier. There’s a two-step covered terrace behind each goal, and a small seated stand straddling the halfway line. Opposite is the clubhouse bar area, where a good chunk of the crowd tend to congregate. The bar itself is reasonably large and benefits from a food hatch (just chips for the veggie) and a handpump selling Elgood’s Cambridge Bitter, which sadly is not a good advertisement for the brewery, being not far short of undrinkable.

The game is between 8th-placed Wisbech and 4th-placed visitors Cogenhoe United, and is one in which the home side have the edge throughout, although a penalty on 48 is all they have to show for it going into the last few minutes of the match. But as the game becomes stretched, chances begin to appear and two late strikes put some gloss on the scoreline and Town run out 3-0 winners.

During the match we position ourselves at various points around the ground, conversing with local stewards and commenting on how smart the linesmen look (or words to that effect), estimating the calorie intake of both goalkeepers, expressing disappointment at the absence of any fit lady physios, and bemoaning the lack of a good old-fashioned 22-man punch-up to enliven the proceedings. All classic old-school banter. I suspect my daughter would have been appalled!

Programme: £1 from a seller inside the turnstile. 40 pages of which 24 are adverts. Standard fayre, although the ‘On This Day’ feature is well-researched. Nice cover.

Floodlight pylons: 4

Birdlife: eerily quiet

Club Shop: Yes, a nice cabin near the corner flag. A lot of old Wisbech programmes plus many from other clubs. Worth a visit.

Toilets: Outside and inside the clubhouse

Music the players run out to: none evident

Kop choir: a sizeable contingent moving from end to end at half time, although not particularly vocal

Away fans: None evident

Thurnby Nirvana – Saturday November 15th 2014 (583)

November 17, 2014

‘No-one quite knew exactly where the club’s giant Christmas Pudding was being stored….’

I have to confess that, probably not unlike many other football nuts throughout this land, I didn’t really play the sport at any serious level. Having first become really aware of the ‘Beautiful Game’ when the local team – Leicester City – got to a couple of FA Cup finals in the early 1960s, I cursed myself for messing around during the school team trials and so ended up as a spectator whenever my schoolmates turned out for a match.

After that, through my late school years, it was just the odd jumpers-for-goalposts kick-about where I would demonstrate my limited technical ability until eventually I fell in with a couple of work mates who played for a Sunday morning side called Thurmaston Europa. Even then, I was essentially a ‘squad’ player, wheeled out if someone was injured or didn’t fancy that long away journey on a cold winter’s morning.

I’ve a notebook somewhere in which I’ve recorded the games, results and scorers for the 1982/83 season. The main reason for doing so was that this was a Championship season for the club in question, and I was listed amongst the scorers.

Yes, that was a good year for the team, who played in the Third Division of the Leicester 74 League. Unbeaten until the last game of the season, it provided me with my one-and-only football trophy, which I ensure has pride of place at the front of the family trophy cabinet. But that wasn’t the highlight of my playing career.

No, that came when I was I was in my mid-30s and going to regular 5-a-side sessions with a business colleague and a load of his pals, most of whom were more than useful footballers, much younger than me, and playing at a good level. So being the captain’s first pick when it came to choosing sides had me bursting with pride – that had never happened before, at any age level. Nirvana indeed. Pretty soon after that I hung up my boots. Well, it would have been all downhill from thereon in!

Whilst playing for Europa I had a career switch and started running pubs, one of which was the Tom Hoskins, the brewery ‘tap’ for a small Leicester company of the same name, sadly no longer with us. The pub, however, still is, and as I’m staying local today (taxi driving for the kids later) I decide to call in for a swift half on my way to the game, to see how much has changed in the 30 or so years since my departure.

The first thing I notice on arrival is the replacement of the pub sign which was mounted on the front wall with a large Leicester City badge. The beer garden is now covered over, with the mother of all flat screen TVs positioned above the cellar drop, while the original front bar has been dedicated as a shrine to the local Premier League (for this season anyway) club. The lounge (opened in 1986) remains pretty much unaltered, and amongst the fairly standard range of cask beers is Tetley Mild, which is in good nick.

Leicester as a city is ringed by numerous 1950s council housing estates, which once had a not-to-be-messed-with reputation amongst us youths. Times change, and I reassure myself that I won’t be taking my life into my hands when I visit the home ground of United Counties Premier league side Thurnby Nirvana, at the heart of the Thurnby Lodge estate.

The first apparent thing on approaching the Dakyn Road ground is the ability to watch the match without having to pay to go in. Overlooking the ground is a huge roadside bank affording panoramic views of the entire pitch. In fact, I suspect if ever there was a must-see cup fixture here, more spectators could be accommodated outside the ground than in!

However, good supporter of football that I am – plus the need to purchase a programme – sees me hand over the fiver that gets me and the car into the stadium. Facilities are limited. The pitch looks good, is wide enough to afford expansive wing-play, and is surrounded by uncovered flat standing all around. The only cover is high up on a bank behind one goal, with a couple of vintage stands (one with seats) that allow an elevated view of the action.

The clubhouse is set up on the same bank, with a tarmac-ed and steeply-sloped walkway leading from the changing rooms. That looks like it could potentially be treacherous on a cold icy winter’s afternoon – what price a postponement, not due to an unplayable pitch, but because the players simply can’t get to it safely from the changing rooms!

There’s a small seated tea-room as part of the clubhouse (no bar) with pies on sale, although things seem a bit disorganised as it takes three people to sort out the tea-urn, so I don’t dally, and head off to pitch side.

There then follows the most entertaining 90 minutes of football I’ve seen in many a long year. Although in the top half of the table, inconsistent form plus a generous defence seem to have blighted Nirvana’s push for consecutive promotions, while visitors Sleaford Town seem also likely to ship goals. The home side come out of the blocks and are three-up in the first 20 minutes, playing some scintillating attacking football and with the splendidly-monikered winger Pearson Mwanyongo proceeding – to use modern day football parlance – to ‘rip new arses’ for not only the left back, but also the midfield players who drop back in an attempt to help him out.

More than once he’s illegally upended with the perpetuators simply ‘given a stiff talking-to’ by a lenient referee, an inaction which will come back to haunt him. However, when Pearson does get away, he lays on a string of chances for his eager team mates. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, the Nirvana defence are in benevolent mood and shortly after the break Sleaford have pegged it back to 3-3, although no-one really knows quite how.

It’s the kick-up-the-bum that Thurnby need, and with Mr. Mwanyongo again going through the gears it’s not long before the goals start to flow again. The seventh and last is worth recording here. Pearson is out on the touchline. Three defenders are taking it in turns to try and put him over the crash-barrier. He twists and turns, somehow eludes them all, goes into the box, down the bye-line, cuts the ball back, and a grateful colleague thumps home. There’s still time for a bout of team fisticuffs after yet another unpunished foul on our man, then the game is over. Cracking football, a high level of skill for Step 5, ten goals, and a punch-up. Oh, and a missed penalty. And all for a fiver. Nirvana, indeed!

Programme: A neatly printed and finished affair. Very little advertising so highly readable. £1 at the turnstile.

Floodlight pylons: 6

Birdlife: A flock of ducks and the odd magpie.

Club Shop: No

Toilets: In the clubhouse

Music the players slide out to: none

Kop choir: some local with a limited repertoire

Away fans: Not evident

What’s in a name: If you are a fan of exotic given and family names, there’s some real crackers at Thurnby. As well as the previously mentioned Pearson, we have a Alphs Kallon, Ahmed Duale, Will Gonga, Eddy Samba, Louis Finney-Neckles, Celson Patrocinio, and a Jouel Potter – not a John Smith in sight!

Brightlingsea Regent – Saturday November 8th 2014 (582)

November 12, 2014
'There was no little disquiet over the state-of-the-art public address system the club had been sold...'

‘There was no little disquiet over the state-of-the-art public address system the club had been sold…’

Everybody loves a day by the seaside, even in those months where the weather is a bit inclement. I look back now and I marvel at the places my folks booked for our family holidays when we were kids, bearing in mind those pre-Internet days. Yes, like almost everybody who lived in Leicestershire in the 1950s, we did do the inevitable Butlins at ‘Skeggy’ (according to my mum, the soon-to-be TV comedian Dave Allen was ‘our’ Redcoat) but we also stayed at cottages, farms, chalets,  caravans – and even a houseboat – in various off-the-beaten-track coastal towns and villages, in all parts of England and Wales, which they’d see advertised in the local paper.

Strangely enough, we never ever went to the South East of England. Whether it was the thought of having to drive through or round London I couldn’t say, but most of my visits to the coastlines of Suffolk, Kent and Essex have been while pursuing my current hobby, the subject of this blog. A couple of years back I experienced Southwold for the first time, and today I’m off to one of the classic ‘Cinque’ ports, Brightlingsea in Essex.

As usual I’m on the early morning Megabus train out of Long Eaton, and into the ‘Smoke’ where I yomp to Liverpool Street and breakfast in the Hamilton Hall. As today is deemed a ‘match day’, fried eggs are off the menu (they possibly being viewed as a potentially dangerous weapon) and so it’s the scrambled variety with one of those dodgy veggie sausages. My love affair with the ‘Spoons veggie breakfast is beginning to wane.

From Liverpool Street I take a direct train for the over-priced journey to Wivenhoe in Essex, from where it’s a short walk up to the local Co-op and then the 78 or 87 bus for the 20-minute trip into Brightlingsea. It’s worth noting that you can also get off the train at Alresford and catch the same bus, with the distance between station and bus stop being somewhat smaller. Also, 78 & 87 tickets are only interchangeable for the return journey in the late evenings. However, at £1.80 single and £2.20 return, it’s not going to break the bank.

I arrive in town a little too early for the pubs, so decide to do a bit of exploring, including sussing out the best route to the ground, which is only 5 minutes from the town centre. Then I go the other way down to the seafront, which I access via the perimeter of the boating lake (or large duck pond depending which part of the year it is!). Like the sea front, this is fringed with the kind of colourful huts often associated with Southwold, just up the coast. I walk round to the harbour where the tourist industry has wound down for the winter, but the coffee shop is busy, and the man selling fresh fish from the quayside is attracting some custom.

From here I walk up to the Hurst Green part of town, effectively a rural community spread round a village green, where the colourful Rosebud is my first beery port-of-call. It’s a cosy inn with areas laid out for diners, but with enough space for a traditional bar area too. All three cask beers are from the local Mighty Oak Brewery, and I start off with the GBG award-winning Oscar Wilde mild, an excellent dark brew, followed by Captain Bob’s, which provides a nice balance of malt and hops.

There are three pubs in the middle of town which I believe are operated by Greene King, so I detour back down towards the boating lake, and the street corner Railway Tavern, which has its own brewery. Commendably, the landlord has decreed they will only brew dark beers, and my pint of ‘Big Three C’s’ is the best of the day. His other beers seem to be from Crouch Vale. The pub itself is decidedly unkempt but has a certain charm and loads of character. The gaffer and one of his customers are practising some guitar numbers when I arrive, although he assures me he will be up at the ground later as one the Regent’s self-proclaimed Ultras. The appropriate flags nestle in a corner of the bar.

And so up to the North Road ground, which is set at the end of, err, North Road, a quiet residential street. Primarily comprising flat standing, the stadium has the benefit of a small, seated kit-stand on either side of the pitch, there being no covered standing. The clubhouse sadly has no decent beer, although the man from the Railway Tavern did tell me earlier that he occasionally delivers some of his brews to the ground. Likewise, there’s not a lot for the veggy on the food front.

Todays visitors to North Road are Great Wakering Rovers, another promoted team in Isthmian North for this season. And it’s a fairly even contest for much of the first half hour, before Regent put their foot on the gas to strike three times in a ten-minute period which leaves Rovers reeling. The visiting team seem to be creeping back into the game after scoring on 57, but a further home strike ten minutes later seals the game as a contest.

And so my day at the seaside draws to a close, and another part of the country is ticked off on my to-do list. And although it’s not exactly teeming with holidaymakers at this time of year, you can bet your life they’ll be back come the Summer, Butlins notwithstanding!

Programme: At the turnstile. Not priced so may be part of admission fee. Nice art paper and layout easy on the eye. About 50-50 with the advert pages but readable nonetheless

Floodlight pylons: 6

Birdlife: The odd seagull here and there….

Club Shop: Badged hats behind the bar

Toilets: Clubhouse

Music the players run out to: none

Kop choir: My landlord friend and a handful of his mates waving the flags, behind the fixed sign which says “Ultras’, just in case you hadn’t realised

Away fans: At least one elderly couple bedecked in green

What’s in A Name? Wasn’t Rovers’ Pugsley one of the Bash Street Kids?


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