In my household I am the person charged with the task of determining and organising the family holidays. Sure, others have some input, and I couldn’t get away with a 10-day tour of east European minor league fixtures, but by and large if I choose a destination, and mention the possibility of some horse-riding to be had in the neighbourhood, it gets passed on the nod. The New Forest, therefore, is a no-brainer.
The next step is timing, and mine is immaculate as the end of the kids’ August school holiday break dovetails nicely into the start of the football season.
I’m not entirely sure whether holidays are intended for relaxation or adventure. Doubtless a mixture of both, as the wife’s original script for this break was to spend the week doing nothing but eat, sleep and watch soaps. However I find myself in her and my daughter’s company capitalising on a predicted good weather day by trudging the New Forest countryside looking for equine wildlife, with the promise of an invigorating pint en route.
I dutifully comply in the comforting knowledge that the lad, Mr Notts County, and yours truly will be on four wheels again later in the day heading for some real holiday entertainment.
Although natives would argue the toss, to me Gosport is as near as dammit in Portsmouth. The impressive Spinnaker Tower is clearly in view as we exit the M27 and navigate local roads to arrive at Privett Park well in time for this evening kick-off. It’s a part of the world I get to visit fairly infrequently, catching a ferry to Spain and a couple of trips to Fratton Park – the first in 1971 – being my only recollections.
The ground is quite tidy and the club exudes the structure of one that boasts ambition. There are a number of catering options around the stadium, a dedicated club shop – unusual at this level – and a new stand under construction. And not a kit stand, either. The clubhouse bar is spacious and has live football and bottles of London Pride. On the kids food menu is fish fingers and chips, and I consider lying about my age.
Outside, the large traditional main stand offers an elevated view of the play, so much so that one of the home team’s coaching staff spends the entire game up there, exchanging mobile phone messages with the bench.
With the threat of rain, the three of us decide to watch the match from the stand and within two minutes we have a goal from visitors Didcot Town. We settle down for the goal-fest that sadly fails to arrive, although the entertainment on offer is marginally better than the 90 minutes we endured at Sholing on Saturday.
Some smart keeping from Town’s lofty keeper deals with what little attacking threat Gosport can muster, and with the ever-present chance of a Didcot second it is something of a surprise when the home team finally manage to equalise deep into added time.
A result a bit like a holiday then. Late attacking adventure capitalising on some defensive relaxation, the job seemingly done. All that’s left is the eating and drinking, and we set off back to our digs to do just that.
Programme: 1.50 from a table inside the turnstiles. Something to read but very advert heavy.
Parakeets: Obviously all stay east of the Pompey Spinnaker.
Club Shop: Yes, gradually being restocked after a close season fire.
Toilets: A block near the clubhouse and a hut near the snack bar and main stand.
Players run out to: silence!
Kop Choir: No, just a few mature wags in the main stand
Away fans: Quite a few but not kids
What’s in a name? Gosport’s Dan ‘Tops’ Wooden