Monday, 7 February 2011

4. Romsey Town FC

Excitement builds as the big day approaches.
I saw Romsey Town play ten days ago at Fareham Town, and was impressed by their sporting attitude, as well as the pleasing way in which they tried to pass the ball around. This was no team of hoofing muscleheads. Well, I'm looking for a local club to support when I've completed my grand tour of Hampshire stadia, so I decided to hop along to Romsey's By-Pass Ground to see them play again, this time against the yachties of Lymington Town. Was their performance at Fareham typical of the way that they play, or was it all just a fluke, being more down to how dire Fareham were that evening?

Romsey Town FC (1) 2 v 6 (5) Lymington Town FC
Saturday 5th February 2011
Sydenham's Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 33
Entrance price: £5.50
Club shop: No
National grid reference: SU3520 / SU3521
Subbuteo colours: 10 v 50 (yes, Brazil, but with blue socks)

Romsey Town kick off in front of their main stand.
The town of Romsey is relatively well-off, and has had many famous residents over the years: Lord Palmerston; the Earl of Mountbatten, whose impressive chiselled visage I can picture even now from Brooke Bond's tea card collection of Famous Britons 1869-1969; and fellow tea card Florence Nightingale, possibly most famous for her nursing skills during the Crimean War, but who is less well-known for keeping a pet owl in her pocket, and for inventing the pie chart - the bane of a million meetings about market share (although give me an aesthetically pleasing rainbow-coloured pie chart over the angry, accusing pointy menace of a bar graph any day of the week).

Romsey Town's share of the local football supporters' pie chart is tiny. If their fans were part of a real pie made up of the supporters of all the teams in the Greater Southampton area - the likes of Southampton FC, Eastleigh, AFC Totton, Sholing, etc - then they would amount to less than half a crumb of crust, or a mere droplet of gravy in the steak and kidney pudding of South Hampshire football.

Persevering with the food analogies, their match against Lymington Town produced an eight goal sandwich. The first and last goals were scored by Romsey, which you can imagine as the bread (wholemeal, freshly-baked from the nearby Waitrose, of course), whilst Lymington produced a stunning six-goal filling, five of which came before half-time.

Romsey kick off for the sixth time in the first half. The view from the seats.
Romsey carried on where they had left off against Fareham, dominating for the first five minutes, scoring a messy goal off the back of a Lymington player's head from the last of an initial flurry of corners.

Then something happened. They stopped being good.

Lymington played in their Brazil-style away kit - authentic even down to the green numbers on their backs (okay, except for the blue socks - Brazil wear white stockings). There was a time when half the teams in the Football League seemed to have this as their away kit - Pompey and Crystal Palace certainly did - in the hope that a little Brazilian magic would rub off on them. Some hope! I'd like to say that the experiment paid off for Lymington today, but the truth is that Romsey's defence had a collective shocker. They seemed to literally disappear every time that Lymington attacked. My theory is that their centre-halves were kidnapped by Lymington Town-supporting moles, who grabbed their ankles and dragged them temporarily underground, leaving Lymington free to score at will. There were certainly enough molehills around the outer perimeter of the pitch to justify this controversial theory.

Lymington Town pretend to be Brazil. Romsey play in Austria's kit.
5-1 down at half-time. A first-half during which my dream of becoming a ballboy came true for the first time on my travels when I was able to throw the ball back to the Lymington keeper after it snuck under the railings near where I was standing. I'll never forget the first time I touched the actual match ball - it was at Waterlooville in the 1970s - and the thrill never lessens with the passing of time. It certainly didn't for a gorgeous dalmatian, who spent the entire match waiting patiently to fetch the ball for the players. A proper balldog.
One man and his balldog at Romsey.
Apparently, there were mitigating circumstances for Romsey's poor showing. The backbone of their team had been ripped out, so that all that was left on show today was a spineless floundering flobberworm of a team. The flobberworms seemed to be coached by a vociferous old fella in front of the seated area, who was desperate for them to draw the second-half - which they did, 1-1 - but my sources informed me that this was actually Mad Pete, who has nothing to do with the coaching staff. He was wearing a tracksuit and everything - what they call a "character".

This was one of those dreary English winter days when even the drizzle was too bored to bother us for long. It was just overcast. But at least it was by far the warmest match I had been to so far.

One last observation: how can Bovril taste so vastly different at two different grounds? The Bovril at Romsey was of the highest quality, unlike that at Fareham, which was okay, but a bit powdery. You would have thought that Bovril would have a standard flavour the world over, wouldn't you?
Romsey Rapids overlooks the By-Pass Ground.
Anyway, I had a nice time at Romsey Town. When my travels are over, they may well become "my" team. However, there's a long way to go yet. I've yet to go to Brockenhurst, Totton & Eling, or any of the other New Forest clubs...

Next: it's about time I headed north!


  1. I once spotted posh ex-England cricketer David Gower in Romsey!

  2. Ah, this could be a good idea...we could make a list of all the famous people who have either lived in each of Hampshire's towns as I go along visiting each one, plus well-known celebs spotted in each place!

    I award you a Big Chief I-Spy 50 points for your David Gower! Despite going to Romsey many times - there's a delightful toy shop, and a fine hardwear store for all your essential screwdriver needs - I've never ever spotted even the most inconsequential celebrity there :-/

  3. By the way, did you know that if you laid all the tawny owls in Britain end-to-end, beak-to-tail, that they would stretch for 80km? Fact!

    I was just wondering what sort of owl Florence Nightingale kept in her pocket, that's all. My guess is a Little Owl.

  4. Mad Pete is a legend!

  5. I was pleased to see Pete back at the Fawley match. There's not enough characters left in the game these days!