My son plays in an under 12’s league with basically the same bunch of lads he started with four years ago. Through the years they’ve been on the end of a fair few drubbings but have now reached a certain standard where it’s they who are dishing out the thumpings. Many of the teams they have encountered this season have possessed players of equal and occasionally superior talent, but my son’s side have not lost a match and have a game goal ration of almost 7-1. Amongst the reasons for this is that they have finally realised the benefits of team play, and also the importance of composure in front of goal.
I recount all of this not simply to blow the trumpet for my son and his team, but merely to illustrate that football is not that difficult a game, when you get the basics right. Thus it was on Saturday at Lowestoft Town, where a Leyton side packed with young skilful footballers was blown away by a home team who just got on with the simple things.
My day starts early (there’s a surprise!) as I’ve booked a cheap rail deal to Norwich, the intention being to tour some of that city’s fabled real ale hostelries. I don’t disappoint myself, taking in a Wetherspoons breakfast before trekking out to the Alexandra, the Fat Cat, and the King’s Head, all beer-ticker friendly pubs with a good line in local brews and, in the case of the Cat, a basket of 60p cobs which I stock up with for later. Then it’s crammed onto the single-carriage train for the 35-minute journey to Lowestoft on the Suffolk coast, before calling at the Green Jack brewery tap, The Triangle Tavern, where a couple of Leyton fans are in conversation with a few locals. There’s an amusing moment as Sham 69’s ‘Hersham Boys’ kicks off on the jukebox and three or four of those present involuntarily join in the chorus. “Men of a certain age…” observes one of the guys.
The Lowestoft ground is just a few minutes walk away in a residential area. It’s pretty typical of stadia at this level, being primarily flat standing with a decent main stand on the half way line, some covered terracing by its side, and what constitutes a lean-to serving as a covered terrace behind one goal. Behind the other goal is a bar complex, with a Green Jack handpump having pride of place. The food hut in the corner next to the terrace is advertising apple pies! Well I suppose it’s veggie fodder….
The teams run out and I’m glad when the game kicks off, after the debacle at Margate two weeks ago. I recognise the home team’s number four as former Norwich and Forest midfielder Gary Holt, who seems to have dropped down a few levels in a short space of time. In fact, he doesn’t dominate the game today like I thought he might, but it doesn’t really matter as a young-looking Leyton team, who I understand have been having a difficult time in the league of late, prove that hard running and slick one-touch passing is totally ineffective if the pass is to an opposing player. A grateful Lowestoft team accept the gifts and score at regular intervals, before deciding to call it a day at eight. They play at their own pace, know where the goal is, and are a joy to watch. A journey to the Isthmian Premier is surely on the cards.
My sojourn is not done as I travel back into Norwich, taking in the Ketts Tavern and the Coach & Horses. Both pubs are showing the Carlisle v Norwich cup-tie, but I’m probably the only guy in the place taking little notice. I’ve just seen football as it should be played, and I don’t want to spoil my day.
Programme: £1.50 from a seller just inside the turnstile. Quite a chunky little number with a fair bit in it. Good value.
Floodlight pylons: Eight
Parakeets: Curiously, for a ground so close to the sea, there was an eerie absence of anything winged, include seagulls!
Club Shop: Just inside the turnstile, and reasonably well-stocked, although I did wonder who might want to buy a set of coasters with the players faces emblazoned on them. A christmas present for a well-loved aunt, maybe?
Toilets: A bit of a trek behind the changing rooms.
Tannoy music: nice mix of old and new pop. The teams emerge to the Old Spice anthem
Players with the quirkiest names: Nothing suitably inspiring, I’m afraid.