Tuesday, 15 March 2011

6. Stockbridge FC

A nice cup of tea at Stockbridge FC.
Trip number six was to the attractive village of Stockbridge which, with a population of around 550, is probably the smallest place I shall be going to (Bashley and Eversley are both minuscule, but they are on the outskirts of conurbations - Stockbridge is a self-contained village). This would be a great place for the TV programme Cash In the Attic, as I suspect there is more treasure in the average attic in Stockbridge than in the whole of my Southampton street. Compared to the larger towns and cities of Hampshire, the village seems to be riding out the recession rather well. However, the football club are struggling.

Looking at the league tables, it seemed to me that of all the clubs in Hampshire, Stockbridge were the most likely to be relegated to the county leagues this season - hence, I made sure I came here sooner rather than later, just in case. It just so happens that they are in real danger of being relegated, but not for the usual reason of being not very good...

Pre-match handshakes.
Stockbridge FC (1) 1 v 1 (0) Petersfield Town FC
Saturday 12th March 2011
Sydenham's Wessex League First Division
Attendance: 20-30
Entrance price: £4
Club shop: No
National Grid reference: SU3535
Subbuteo colours: 41 v 179

The new stand at Stockbridge. Handy when it rains.
For anybody that follows a Football League team, ground grading is something you might be vaguely aware of. You might remember that the likes of Kidderminster Harriers and Stevenage Borough were both denied promotion to the Football League because of it - was it because their stadiums weren't big enough? Well, it doesn't matter, ground grading will never bother my club - it's just something that stops parks teams from rising up through the leagues without investing in a 10,000-seater stadium, isn't it?

Well, yes and no. It would stop Stockbridge from ever becoming a Football League team, for sure, but you might imagine that since they are already in the Wessex League, their facilities would be good enough for that league. You would be wrong, for despite having already spent thousands of pounds on upgrading their recreation ground facilities, they are in grave danger of being thrown out of the Wessex League at the end of this season because their changing rooms don't meet the required standards set by the FA for a club playing at Step 6 of the pyramid. They have built a small new stand in which up to 50 spectators can huddle together when it rains; they have installed floodlights of an adequate standard; they have railings around the ground for the weary spectator to lean on, they have laid hard standing around three-quarters of the ground, so that our shoes don't get muddy.

The problem is with the changing rooms - they need another £10,000 to extend them. They were built in the 1970s, when teams had only one substitute, but in these days of multiple subs, they are now too small. Standing outside, they do look as though they would have to be just like Dr Who's Tardis inside to fit everyone in, but still, it does seem a little unfair to ask them to spend so much money when they must only make around £100 at the turnstiles on a matchday - before expenses. But I suppose rules is rules, and they have to abide by them.

A close shave as the Robins narrowly fail to score.
Stockbridge is an old and proud club. Astonishingly, they have been in existence since 1894...and NEVER been relegated! So this season could be historical for them, for all the wrong reasons. According to their excellent and well-maintained website, half the village used to turn out to wave the team off when they set off on away trips. They would sing the Red Red Robins song as they drove along the country roads. It all sounds rather jolly.

They have had many famous visitors through the years: Jackie Charlton, Dickie Davies, various Saints players; they've had a helicopter landing on their pitch...all of which is chronicled on the website. I've enjoyed leafing through its electronic pages over the last week or so.

Stockbridge Recreation Ground is overlooked by leafy Stockbridge Down.
The match itself was a little scrappy. It was scrappier than Shaggy, Scooby and Scrappy Doo attempting to build a dustbin lorry out of scrap on Scrapyard Challenge. Both teams managed to get their machines working okay for short periods, before they spluttered and broke down again. There were long periods where both sides seemed to be putting their feet up and scoffing a few Scooby Snacks, with the occasional "Whoah! Shaggy!" moment when the ball broke loose in either area.

The two goals were identical, as if the match really was a cartoon and the animators were trying to save money by reusing the same scene. Stockbridge's goal came at 3.09; Petersfield's at 4.09. Both were scored at the same end, both slotted low past the keeper from the edge of the area into the same corner, both by players running into the inside-right channel. The only difference was that the animators had changed the colour of the scorer's shirt for the second goal.

No ball games in the goalmouth. By Order!
With Stockbridge's pitch being on a recreation ground, open to the public, during the second half there appeared a succession of families arriving to play in the playground by the changing rooms. And I have to say that I'm well used to seeing referees that are younger than me now, but this one wouldn't have looked out of place hanging from the child's climbing frame with the other nippers. He did okay though - Petersfield's coach didn't necessarily agree, but reffing a game well isn't easy at any level. His decisions didn't affect the result of the game at all.

The aerating roller at the back resembles Sonic the Hedgehog!
What else? Well, you get a really good cup of tea at Stockbridge, and in a proper mug too! You might even get the Groovy Chick mug like I did! There's water rails in the nearby marshes; there's a squirrel painted on the wall of a building opposite the entrance to the ground; and there's a fine selection of rollers dotted around the perimeter of the pitch, and I know you like that sort of thing, don't you? All told, a fine afternoon spent in the Hampshire countryside.

Next time: more Wessex League action!


  1. Only 36 to go.

  2. That's approximately 2 per month for the next two seasons! There should be three more before the end of this season.

  3. Wow! Grass rollers, frustrating things when you're a kid, they're too heavy to mank around with and contrary to what you see in cartoons, they never run amok and squash everyone in their path. There was a big old diesel road roller at Wistow Cricket Club, we let Thomas pretend to drive it when he was a toddler until a disapproving man came to see what we were doing.

    http://www.maxxgrab.co.uk/cranes.html for all your Arcade Grab Crane requirements.