It’s an undeniable truth that the vast majority of stadia on my UK hit list are in and around London. Thus, despite my protestations on a previous post regarding the hiking-up of rail prices, I find myself on the 6.28am from Long Eaton to St Pancras with increasing regularity.
So it is today as yet another frosty start following copious bucketfuls of rain force the dreaded words ‘pitch inspection’ to litter the Ryman League website. I decide to base myself in the Wetherspoons opposite Victoria station, following a stroll across town marvelling at the ability of Japanese tourists to get excited about squirrels.
I used to despise Wetherspoons. To me it meant cut-price national brands in lookalike pubs frequented by individuals taking a break from meths-drinking for the day. Then I discovered that they opened at 9.oo on a saturday morning, did a good cheap veggie breakfast, and were often the only cask ale oasis in many a crap-beer desert. There’s also obligatory wi-fi to assist my iphone web-surfing on days like today. 10.45 and it’s game on … Wealdstone, here I come.
Or rather Ruislip, here I come, as these erstwhile wanderers have now settled on the former home of an unfortunate lower league side that went to the wall. ‘The Vale’ is an interesting ground in a suburban location. The club-house has to be one of the best at any level I’ve encountered. Spacious to the extent that you could have a kickabout in it and not upset anybody, Sports TVs on several walls, and bottles of ale from Vale Brewery behind the bar. I only find out about these after looking in vain for a handpump, but noticing the guy next to me pouring from the bottle.
There’s a mini-queue for the turnstile as it’s a local derby. Then again they’re all local derbies in the Isthmian I suppose. The programme is £2 but I like it. Well laid-out with a bit of colour and a lot of info. I survey the offerings at the snack bar and can see nothing to excite. Luckily I’m still full from my brekky and a superb vegetable curry pasty I found in a Greggs-style (but not Gregg’s) shop in Ruislip Manor.
The pitch looks decidedly dodgy in one corner, with only a mound of sand raising the corner flag circle above the flood plain. The stadium itself is curiously piecemeal, with bits of raised terracing and covered seating everywhere. In one corner is a sawn-off building which looks like it might be a heli-pad, used by some obscenely-wealthy mid-eastern owner.
There’s a good contingent from Hendon (today’s opponents and my recently-adopted London team) present and we’re treated to an eventful game which the visitors look like winning until star man Harry ‘H’ Hunt gets crocked and the attacking fire has gone. Despite missing a penno Wealdstone get back into it and then go in front. Hendon now miss a penalty and from the ensuing melee Wealdstone lose a man to a red card. Bizarrely, as he trudges off the pitch, he’s announced as man-of-the-match. I didn’t think it was that entertaining a tackle. True, it does lead to a 22-man-plus-subs brawl which gets the crowd excited. Within a minute it’s ten-a-side as a Hendon defender returns the two-footed favour. All in all, £10 well-spent, I decide.
Now for the important stuff.
Pylon count: three plus the ubiquitous mobile phone mast
Parakeet count: 14