The second night of my South-Western trip takes me to North Leigh, a newcomer to the Southern League this season. It looks a bit remote on the maps; in fact on Google and such like I can’t even see the ground.
I arrive in the general vicinity and pull up at a red road-works light. Looking idly around I peer through a gap in some trees and see floodlights twinkling away. Suddenly I notice the club sign and turning off the road am in the middle of a wood. A gentlemen emerges from the gloom to point me to a parking spot. But where’s the ground? A group of kids in kit are being coached on a grass pitch but that can’t be it. A couple of guys pass me and start a trek around the perimeter and I consider it a good idea to follow. They lead me to the holy grail.
Unfortunately the club house was the wooden hut next to where I parked the car so I set off back and eventually find my way in. It’s a reasonable size but has been furnished on a piecemeal basis. The cobs (rolls) for the players are already on a table and will be crusty by the end of the match. There are two TVs but are both showing different soaps. I doubt whether Sky is present.
Failing to spot a handpump, I decide on a whim to ask the barman if he has any interesting bottled beers tucked away. Transpires he has, and as he reads me the list, which includes several Brakspear brands, I select an Old Peculier and retire to read the prog I purchased on my initial foray to the ground. It costs £1 and has the usual website-fed splurge in the middle section cosily encased in almost 30 pages of shiny colour advertising.
The ground itself is, to say the least, unusual. For a start there’s a wicked slope. At the top end is a tatty tin-shed terrace and on one side is a seated kit-stand which has been erected by the same builders that put up a tower in Pisa. Quite evidently bereft of a spirit level, their structure compensates for the slope in one direction by adding a slope in the other – most bizarre. Sitting at one end are four boys who constitute the Windmill Army, singing and banging a drum throughout the whole game. They’re a nuisance to the flock of sheep who graze and snooze behind the other goal. Now if only they could be trained to nod back the odd stray ball…..
The snack bar is by the side of the changing rooms and has the usual carnivore stuff. I notice that they sell pot noodles too. I might be the only veggie in football but I’m not that desperate …
The game is between mid-table North Leigh and struggling Burnham, who not only go a goal behind early doors, but lose their number 6 to a red card shortly thereafter. What happens then provides the crowd with probably the only entertainment of an otherwise dour 90 minutes. Clearly incensed by what he considers harsh punishment for his forearm smash on the North Leigh number 9 – his second assault of the game – he thrusts his head into the face of the referee before being hustled off by colleagues. As he goes he audibly threatens to ‘DO’ the number 9 immediately the game is over.
After the break he’s at it again, involved with a burly home fan in a heated discussion which involves the raising of voices and the waving of many arms. Alerted by the shrieks of a gaggle of players wives and mothers-in-law, the ref has to pause the game until order is restored.
Meanwhile the Windmill Army strike up a chorus of ‘You’re just a small town in Bristol’, clearly unaware that their visitors hail from the outskirts of London, and not the quaint Somerset seaside town of a similar name.
Two late goals from the home side add a bit of gloss to what has been essentially a poor game. I’ve a way to travel so don’t hang around to find out if the No6 carries out his threat. Pity, it might have made the entry fee worthwhile.
Floodlight Pylons: 8
Parakeets: No. Just a low-flying RAF bomber and a Screech Owl
Club Shop: Not much of anything
Tannoy Music: Just the afore-mentioned Owl
Toilets: Either at the side of the snack bar, or use the woods.
Quirkiest player name: Would have to be Burnham’s Jordan ‘I’ Dowdican