Tuesday, 3 May 2011

9. Horndean FC

Welcome to Horndean Football Club!
If you inspect the Portsmouth-Fareham-Havant-Waterlooville conurbation on a map, you may think that it resembles a fist with a long finger pointing north. Horndean resides on the fingernail. I like to think that this finger is showing the way back to London for all the already-rich-beyond-dreams mercenary footballers that strutted around Fratton Park in the Premiership in recent years, snatching greedily at Pompey's leprechaun gold. Out, foul fiends! Tottenham Hotspur awaits you and your many Porsches and Hummers! Be gone, and let us have our club back!

These moneyed young peacocks would drive past Horndean with their bottle-blonde peahens on their way back to Big London without ever knowing that a football club existed here. But there is one, and they have done well this season - second place in the Wessex League First Division, winning promotion to their own, much more humble Premier League.

Smile please! This one is for the walls of the clubhouse!
Horndean FC 3 (1) v (0) 1 Hythe and Dibden FC (I would normally link to the club websites here, but neither seem to have an active web presence).
Saturday April 30th 2011.
Sydenham's Wessex League First Division.
Attendance: 30-ish
Entrance price: £5
Club shop: No
National grid reference: SU7013
Subbuteo colours: 41v 36
If it's snowing at Horndean, bring a toboggan for downhill thrills.
One player that would never have dreamed of ripping off the people of Portsmouth was their record-breaking goalkeeper, Alan Knight - 801 appearances for the club over a 22 year period. Whilst I was growing up, standing on the Fratton End cheering the lads on, he was a constant presence. It still seems very odd to watch Pompey and not see Knightsie between the sticks. He was the manager at Horndean until recently, before moving on to become Aldershot Town's goalkeeping coach. He never earned more than £1,000 a week in all his time at Pompey and has had all sorts of problems since he stopped playing. You can't imagine any blinged-up Premiership peacock playing for that sort of money now...

I would have loved to have stood behind the dugouts and listened to my erstwhile hero rasping out wisdom to his team, but it was not to be. Instead, there is a big, booming ex-Navy man there now called Dave Carter, who knows what a spade is, and lets everyone on the pitch know.

(Edit: the man I thought at the time was Dave Carter may well have been his assistant, having seen his photo after the fact in The News).
"One day, that will be me in goal for Horndean..."
Horndean is at the foot of the South Downs. The hills start at the entrance to the football ground. There are rumoured to be yetis existing at the snow-capped top end of the ground. There are red flashing lights on the crossbar at that end to warn low-flying aircraft. The British Olympic team have spent time at the top end doing altitude training. Oxygen masks are given out at the turnstiles for anyone venturing up the hill.


What I'm trying to say is that the pitch at Horndean has quite a slope. Whereas Fleet Town's is shaped like a skateboarding half-pipe, Horndean's would do as a base for an Olympic ski-jump event.

Horndean were kicking uphill in the first half. They needed six goals to become top scorers in the league this season, and they must have fancied their chances against a Hythe & Dibden team that have been stuck at the wrong end of the table since the office Christmas dinner season, far away from the beered-up lads at the top end having a laugh throwing stuffing balls at one another, stuck instead in an endless one-sided conversation with Darren from Accounts about the last quarter's audit results.

The home team have one of the best strikers in the Wessex League in Torr Spicer, who seems to score a hat-trick every time he plays, and sure enough, he did again today.

Spicer's first goal came after half an hour, slotting home right-footed from the edge of the box, as cool as a cucumber raita. He is one of those players who seem as though they have the ball attached to their boots on an invisible thread of cotton. The H&D players had turned up with blunt plastic children's scissors and couldn't cut the thread, however hard they tried.

In contrast to Spicer, H&D had a centre-forward named "50p Head" by his manager (but he didn't seem to mind). There was only going to be one winner - it was just a matter of how many Horndean would score.
Leap like a salmon!
Off with the oxygen masks at half-time, and on with the crampons for the short downhill trundle to the tea bar. Committee men with milky tea, and raffle prizes such as a basket of fruit and a four-pack of supermarket-brand beer await within. I needed a cold drink, and sure enough, there were frozen cans of fizzy pop for sale. My can of orange Tango still hadn't defrosted by the time I arrived home nearly two hours later, but never mind - it was still delicious!
Empty dugouts after the match. There is a small covered standing area between the two dugouts.
Horndean had only scored once in the first half, but they had hit the woodwork four times, so it was quite a surprise when Hythe & Dibden equalised early in the second half from their best move of the match. Some intricate passing skills set up one of their chaps for an accurate shot across the face of the Horndean goal, the ball nestling in the far corner - utterly bemusing the home keeper, who was still shaking his head ten minutes later when the Reds retook the lead with a Spicer wundervolley* from 20 yards. Feed the Torr and he will score.

Another Spicer goal followed a little later, this one resembling the penny falls at Clarence Parade Pier in Southsea - the forward scuffing the ball in the general direction of the goal, before it bounced off of at least three defenders' shins, then bobbling in off the post - much like a 2p piece bumping randomly down a cascade machine before landing on the sliding shelf and pushing another 12p and a packet of sweet cigarettes down into the silver tray below. Or something.

*Pronounce the W as a V, and I think we have an exciting new entry in to the English language.
Disused mower at Horndean.
So, an easy win for Horndean. The match was played in a relaxed and friendly spirit - the players obviously enjoying themselves before jetting off to the Isle of Wight for their summer holidays. It was nice to lounge around in the sunshine - if only it was like this every time I went to a match. The freezing January evening trip to Fareham seems like a lifetime ago now.

I'll visit another 16-17 Hampshire teams next season and report back my findings, starting in late August. I'm looking forward to it already!


As an addendum to this article, if you love cricket, you will probably know that the rules of the game were first written down on Broadhalfpenny Down, near Hambledon. The Brigands play their home matches there these days, and their ground is worth a short detour - it's just a couple of miles from Horndean. Park at the Bat And Ball pub and have a pint of shandy whilst you're there...
Broadhalfpenny Down, home of the Brigands.

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