Sunday, 30 January 2011

3. Fareham Town FC

I hope The Darras is ashamed of this useless, illegible graffiti.
Hop number three was my first midweek match. Fareham Town versus Romsey Town on a freezing January Wednesday evening. Many layers of clothing were worn, plus a stylish beanie hat, but still the winter cold managed to seep through to my very innermost innards. Now I know what an ice lolly must feel like. Surely it won't get any colder than this on my travels?

I took several photos, but as it was so dark, and my camera being pretty basic, most of them turned out more blurry than a reunion show by Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Dave Rowntree and Alex James singing the eponymous Blur album behind a screen of frosted glass.

Fareham Town FC (0) 1 v 1 (1) Romsey Town FC
Wednesday 26th January 2011
Sydenham's Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 60
Entrance price: £6
Club shop: No
National grid reference: SU5705
Subbuteo colours: 14 (but with red socks) v 155

Is it a goal or did the keeper tip it over the bar? The wall behind the covered standing area.

A good screwdriver is a friend for life. Whereas tools that aren't good enough get thrown away and forgotten. So it has been for Fareham Town, the screwdriver that was not quite good enough. The last time I saw them was in 1987, when I was part of a 6,000+ crowd at The Dell for their FA Trophy semi-final against Kidderminster Harriers (the only time I ever went to Southampton's old ground and cheered on the "home" team). Today, they can draw as few as 60 spectators for their Wessex League home games at Cams Alders. Most residents of the town probably don't even know where the ground is (it's in the middle of an area of playing fields, behind an industrial estate). The days of being one of the sharpest tools in the non-league toolbox seem hopelessly distant now.

Things might change soon. The people who run the club want them to play at the higher level of the Southern League once more. This should bring them more publicity, and with it more paying customers.If they finish in the top two of the Wessex League, their ground is almost certainly good enough to allow them to be promoted, given a couple of minor tweaks. However, their chances of promotion this season have faded, much like their patched up salmon pink shirts, which would once have been a proud cherry red before being subjected to the rigours of being washed a hundred times or more.

Cams Alders has an impressive large stand, set quite a way back from the pitch. If you sat there and used your imagination, you could almost believe you were at Wembley - well, the seats are red, and you are a long way from the action - when play is over on the far side of the pitch, it's like watching a game of Subbuteo.

Blurry action at Fareham Town.
Between the stand and the pitch is an expanse of crunchy gravel. Tonight, there are three rather lovely dogs in the stadium - they take it in turns to be taken for walkies around the pitch on their leads. No danger of these shaggy fellas invading the pitch. Good doggies!

Tonight's opponents come from the well-to-do town of Romsey. Dressed all in blue, they played some terrific football, considering the level they're at. At times, I thought I was watching Chelsea at their flowing best. They rang rings around Fareham, and took a deserved lead just before half-time through Simon De'ath, who had evidently been taking lessons from the Weebles (they wobble but they don't fall down, unlike Fareham's defenders, who were about as steady on their feet as the late Norman Wisdom). De'ath slotted home with aplomb from eight yards. If only they could have held on to win, the headlines would have written themselves: "De'ath delivers killer blow", etc...

This was surely not the same Fareham team who had scored an astonishing 14 (FOURTEEN!) goals to record their biggest-ever victory only two days previously against Wymering? They were woeful.

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Fareham Town have been in existence since 1446, which makes them the world's oldest club by over 400 years. This is unlikely, to say the least. There's a lot of reclaimed land around Portsmouth Harbour. Low-lying Cams Alders may well be built on some of it, which means that Ye Olde Farehamme Towne of 1446 could have been playing under the sea. This led me to speculate what their team must have looked like 565 years ago. For example, was their goalkeeper a fish?

The current goalie bears a striking resemblance to the great Billy MacKenzie, the late Associates singer. I wondered what Billy MacKenzie and Viz's Billy The Fish would look like together, so I made this picture:

Fareham Town goalkeepers present and past.
The gentlemen of Romsey dominated the entire match, but they were in dire need of Billy's boots, as they missed chance after chance after chance. They couldn't seal the game with a second goal, and they paid for their profligacy as Fareham scored an undeserved scrambled equaliser with almost the last kick of the game.

Mid-table Wessex League obscurity for both clubs this season. However, Romsey Town were a joy to watch. I can feel a soft spot developing for them. After all, at the end of my 42 ground visits, there is a vacancy for me to choose a local team to follow - Romsey are the early favourites to capture me after their performance tonight.

Next time: Romsey Town v Lymington Town.

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