One of the many attractions of traveling around the country visiting new football grounds is that you get to sample the local delicacies, in my case primarily the beers. From such wide experience, I’ve long since realized that the more impressive the packaging, often the less inspiring the end product. With the possible sole exception of anything made by Apple, of course.
During my days as a punk, record shopping for me consisted of seeking out the plainest, do-it-yourself 7-inch sleeves and plumping for them. The musical content might have lacked a little polish, but it was still where the excitement was to be had.
One of my self-appointed tasks during this New Forest holiday week is to actively seek out some local craft ale, and I accomplish this quite nicely with fine specimens from Goddards, Hop Back, Downton, Ringwood, Andwell, Piddle and Red Shoot. Hardly household names and all sporting minimal packaging design, but each beer has something to say for itself and is well worth the visit. You pays your moneys and you takes your chance. A lot like football really.
For every cracking game I’ve been to over the years, maybe a couple of dozen others have failed to hit the heights. My season thus far has featured just one stand-out match – at St Neots – and a lot of so-so stuff. The two fixtures already witnessed on this south coast trip have been nothing to write home about, and so we arrive at Poole Town with little optimism for a change in fortune.
My research indicates that their Tatnam ground has until quite recently failed the grading that would have taken the team to a higher level before last season’s eventual promotion. So when we arrive in town for this evening fixture, we’re not expecting the finest setting and facilities. To some extent that turns out to be the case. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of willing people ready to point non-regulars in the right direction, which is just as well because the bar, clubshop and gents toilets are not readily visible at first glance.
We take a tour of the touchline first, and remark on the width and length of the pitch, surely one of the biggest in football. We reason that the home team like to play with wingers, and Mr Notts County gets his card marked by a local about the No10, who tends – in the current football parlance – to ‘rip his opposing full back a new arse’. As Mr Notts County’s brother is a scout for Sven at LCFC, he sees it as his duty to report any raw talent he encounters on such travels as these.
Having identified the main stand as the only place to avoid any impending rain, we check out the clubhouse, a small portakin staffed by a young bar girl who has problems with her sums, and populated by a group of raucous middle-aged men who make sitting in here an assault on the ear drums. I swiftly finish my bottle of Hobgoblin and we retire pitchside, as the lads fortifies himself with a tray of chips.
The teams emerge with Poole headed up by a Dolphin mascot who proceeds to shake hands with opposing players and officials down the line. Slightly unnerving if you’re someone with a phobia of marine mammals, people in masks, or both.
As at Gosport on Monday we have an early score, much to the disgust of the lad who’s Golden Goal ticket doesn’t say ‘10’. The home goalie is slow to react to an incisive through ball and by the time the striker arrives it would be positively rude not to trip him. The custodian only seems prepared to recognize the error of his ways as the resultant penno nestles in the corner of his net, cursing and swearing and kicking the ball into the crowd after initially appearing to take it so well. He stays on the pitch.
A reasonably steady but uninspiring first half gives way to a second where urgency comes to the fore. Town are playing catch-up and achieve it twice, only to find opponents Thatcham in no mood to lose the points. The game see-saws from end to end and even at 2-3 you suspect after 75 minutes that it’s not a game you might want to leave early.
So we came with little expectation and actually get to see a good match. The beauty of football; you can’t always tell from the packaging how good the contents are liable to be. Best suck it and see.
Programme: 2.00 from a stall inside the gates. A reasonable read if somewhat predictable in its content.
Parakeets: The odd seagull or three
Toilets: The gents are round the back of the changing room blocks. Not immediately apparent.
Club Shop: A small rabbit hutch by the side of the main stand.
Teams to run out to: One Step Beyond by Madness. No, I’m not sure why…
Kop Choir: Yes, a mass of home fans behind the goal, although not that vocal
Away fans: None evident
What’s in a name? Poole’s Dan ‘Tin’ Cann