Living like I do in a one-horse town called Long Eaton, I don’t really cross paths with tourists. Granted, when I used to run a pub in nearby Nottingham, we did get to see the odd Amercian or Japanese with a camera slung round their necks. One of the latter once asked me to point him in the direction of Nottingham Castle (fairly straightforward) and then Sherwood Forest (a tad more difficult!). But by and large we live a fairly insular life in the East Midlands.
When I do have my one week’s holiday a year (I work for a tight-fisted boss) I am suddenly transformed into ‘Tourist-Man’ and can go into distant lands and be a pain in the ass to the natives. This year’s distant lands are the rain forests of East Anglian, more precisely northern Suffolk, and armed only with some printed out maps of several local football grounds, I endeavour to survive without the bare necessities of wi-fi and a good 3G iPhone connection. It’s hell out there!
Having endured the madding bank holiday crowds of twee Southwold the day before, the second footballing day of my family excursion sees us heading down the coast to the equally popular resort of Aldburgh, where the plan is to consign those amongst our ranks who enjoy no love affair with the beautiful game (ie the womenfolk) to a day’s window shopping, and then head five miles away to the village of Leiston, where they have inexplicably managed to conjure up a Step 3 team just two promotions away from Conference National.
Before leaving Aldburgh, we get a first hand demonstration of the abject stupidity of tourists. There are two fish and chip shops on the main drag. Each one has attracted a queue of people at least forty yards long. That’s a lot of queuing time. Each person in the line has probably been told that these fish and chips are to die for. When they find out how much they will have to pay for this privilege, dying might be the preferred option. A flask and a pack-up would have been a much better – and cheaper – option. Oh to be a tourist!
We arrive at the Victory Road ground of Leiston FC in good time for kick-off. Entry is via a modern turnstile block. The ground shows evidence of the club’s rapid rise through the divisions in recent years in that the spectator cover is restricted to a couple of kit stands on one side, with a length of covered terracing set back from the rails on the other. The clubhouse is sizable and doubtless generates revenue for the club with its dance floor. Reassuringly there is a handpump on the bar with a DIY pump clip indicating Box Steam Bitter, a 4.2% ale from the West Country, which I find a bit surprising. The bar-chap explains, however, that the cask ale is constantly rotating and comes from a scheme operated by Carlsberg so can be from anywhere in the country. Elsewhere in the clubhouse is a snack hatch, where amongst the menu items are pasta, chips, and veggie burgers, not a bad selection.
Today’s game is an Isthmian Premier clash between home side Leiston and visitors from the South coast, Bognor Regis Town. Both these sides won promotion to this division in May, so the outcome is anybody’s call. The strong wind is a disruptive factor during a first half in which very little good football is played, the ball remaining in the air for long periods, although the visitors probably pose the greater threat. The game picks up a little in the second half and finds a new level after the home team take a surprise lead on 69 courtesy of a speculative curler from range. The visitors, fearful that they may walk away with nothing from a game where they have just about played the better football, up the ante and deservedly draw level ten minutes later. The last ten is frantic but goalless.
So the tourists from the south coast get something from their day in Suffolk, and I suspect the locals are pretty happy with the outcome too. And nobody had to queue for chips, either!
Programme: £2 from a stall inside the turnstiles. Each programme is individually numbered and there is a £10 prize for the winner in a half time draw. No need to guess who won – number 1 son is now £15 up following Saturdays golden goal win.
Toilets: tucked away behind the club shop
Club shop: in front of the toilets
Music the teams come out to: a stirring Kasabian number whose name escapes me
Kop choir: a few wags behind the visitors goal. When the home team score, their supporters chirp up with an honest ‘one shot, one goal’ refrain
Away fans: quite a few
What’s in a name? Suspect Leiston hava an unfair advantage with both Patrick Brothers playing at no7