As a kid I always wanted to see myself on the telly. Didn’t we all? My big chance came when I discovered football at about the same time that the TV companies did. I’d pray that Star Soccer would send the cameras to the match I went to, and that I’d find myself singled out for a close-up when I tuned in on Sunday afternoons. Sadly, I was to be repeatedly disappointed, the closest I would ever come being a long-range view of the Tilton Road End at St Andrews, where I’d pointedly stood in a loud jacket right behind the goal. Seemingly every bugger else had the same idea.
Of course TV cameras are part and parcel of every ‘big’ game these days but even the smaller guys are getting in on the act. Perhaps not exactly in need of a huge pantechnicon to transport all the gear to the ground, but nonetheless effective. Like the guy standing behind the goal at Wimborne with what looks like a mobile phone strapped to a tripod.
We’re at this small Dorset town on a Tuesday night in November because I’ve arranged some business with a New Forest company and in my inimitable style have – as usual – recruited business partner Simon as my sidekick for the occasion. What’s more he prefers to drive – perhaps wisely not fancying a 450-mile round trip as co-pilot in my Z3 – so I get to try a beer or two in the Nightjar in Fernham, a Wetherspoons hostelry where we decamp to discuss the day’s events over a fish & chip supper and some lovely dark ales, left over from the recent beer festival.
We arrive at The Cuthbury – cute name for a footy ground – at about 7 and head for the cosy-looking clubhouse which is accessed from outside the ground prior to the game. It’s just part of a hospitality complex which also includes a tea room – selling tasty-looking Cheese & Onion pasties – and an outdoor barbecue, which catches Simon’s eye. You certainly won’t starve at this ground. There’s a couple of handpumps in the bar, one sporting a Fullers pumpclip, but they don’t seem to be employed tonight. There is big screen TV – drastically out of focus – and a nice line in cheese & onion rolls. Get the cask ale back on and we’d have a cracking clubhouse here. There’s another nice touch as (presumably) the club Chairman wanders round shaking everybody by the hand and thanking us for coming.
The stadium itself is decidedly cramped, and indeed there’s discussion in the programme about the probability of a move elsewhere in the town in the foreseeable future. To be fair, two sides of the ground are covered, but the stands are very shallow and close to the pitch, as is the uncovered area behind one goal. The pitch has a wicked-looking slope from one side to the other and from top to bottom. A classically-trained drummer (not) joins us behind the goal.
Since gaining promotion to the Southern League South & West, Town have had a sticky start to the season and lie fourth from bottom. Visitors Mangotsfield United are second in the table, albeit 11 points behind runaway leaders Sholing. Looks like an away banker, but the club cameraman shows the faith by positioning himself behind the United goal and hopes for some gainful employment.
It’s not looking good for him early doors as the visitors rattle the crossbar and then go ahead from the spot shortly thereafter. But Wimborne start to remember their dominance of last season and take a hold on the game with some slick passing and purposeful running. All that’s missing is end-product, which is only evident once when another good move is rounded off by the equaliser. The man with the camera seizes the moment.
At half time Simon’s resolve breaks and he heads for the Barbecue and the ‘Wimborne Whopper’. He recovers his self-control and downsizes to a Double Burger instead. I nip in for a chocky bar and come out with a Cheese & Onion Pasty – how did that happen!
The second half picks up where the first finishes. Town are having most of the play but can’t quite supply the killer touch. Mangotsfield are playing mainly on the break and have their own chances too. In fact it’s a pleasure for us when the Home keeper gets to field the ball, as it’s the only time he stops yapping, his monotonous voice a dead ringer for Mike from the Young Ones. The game ends 1-1 and we set out on the 4-hour drive home.
The next morning Simon tells me there’s video footage of the game on the Wimborne website, including the equalising goal, scored at the end we were standing. Is it success at last, am I on the telly? Sadly not. My life-long quest continues….
Programme: £1.20 from a chap sitting just inside the clubhouse door. Laser-printed with a splash of colour. Not a bad read.
Floodlight Pylons: Eight
Parakeets: A dark & gloomy night with not even an owl hooting…
Toilets: Behind one goal
Tannoy music: Something weird followed by a bit of Kasabian
Club Shop: Yes, a nice little hut just inside the turnstile
Player with the quirkiest name: Wimborne’s Paul ‘Sunday’ Roast