|A blue sky day for Totton & Eling FC in the FA Cup.|
Number two on the list was "Cats' Birthday (10)". Ten years of purring and miaowing. They used to fit through a doll's house door, you know. Not any more. Ten years in a cat's life is equivalent to 52 in human years (12 years for each of the cat's first two birthdays, then 4 for each subsequent birthday). It's odd having cats that are older than me, it's like having an uncle who's at infant school. In case you were wondering, they had a treat for dinner (a carton of Sheba each), otherwise it was a normal day for them (mostly moulting fur, sicking up grass and sleeping).
Then there was something else on the calendar for Saturday. Now, what was it?
|AFC Totton's stand, as seen from inside Totton & Eling's ground.|
Totton & Eling FC (1) 2 v 2 (1) Weymouth FC
Saturday 8th September 2012
FA Cup First Qualifying Round
Entrance: £10 (usually £6)
Colours: Red and black stripes / Black / Black v Yellow / Blue / Blue
Club shop: No
National Grid reference: SU3415
|Action in front of the main stand. "Better ground than Thatcham", according to Weymouth fans.|
I decided to make the day more interesting by walking to Totton. I predicted it would take around 90 minutes, so I set off at 1pm. Forty minutes across the Millbrook estate, over the M271, then a muddy trek across the River Test flood plain. It was interesting alright, as I disturbed a pair of little egrets yards from the end of the boardwalk which crosses the marshiest part of the area. As the egrets settled back down, I realised that the boardwalk was coming to an end - at least twenty yards short of dry land! There was no option but to take off my trainers and wade up to my knees through muddy water for the final section. Yes, interesting!
After drying off my toes in the warm sunshine, the final part of the walk was straightforward, reaching Millers Park at 2.30.
|A Totton & Eling player grabs the ball one-handed during a break in play.|
Once upon a time, Totton & Eling were the works team of British American Tobacco, being known as BAT Sports FC between 1971 and 2007 (previous to that, they were Bramtoco FC - formed in 1925). Unfortunately, BAT pulled their funding from the club and sold their base at Southern Gardens for housing (still visible on Bing Maps).
BAT Sports were one of several well-known works teams in the Southampton area which have disappeared in the last few years. This long tradition of providing sports facilities for the workforce has been dying out for a while now, whether because the workplaces themselves have closed down or downsized, or because in the cutthroat world of business, social clubs are increasingly seen as a frippery or a luxury. Moreover, many companies would now rather buy a professional club for the free advertising that comes with ownership (see Sports Direct, Liebherr Cranes, etc).
Other than BAT, local works-affiliated clubs that have closed down or changed their names include:
- Road Sea (Saints used their small stadium in Marchwood as their training ground/base for their reserves until demolishing it in the last few months)
- VT FC (Vosper Thornycroft - now Sholing)
- Esso (now Fawley AFC)
- Ordnance Survey (now Hampshire League AFC Stoneham. Their badge contains an outline of Great Britain).
|Weymouth's keeper misses the ball. Totton & Eling are just about to score from their first corner!|
Either that, or you feel protected from the outside world - I suppose zoo animals have days when they're happy to be locked in, but sometimes they just want to join in with their visitors' fun by leaping out of their pen to enjoy the penguins' antics for a bit. I remember when I was a boy that a warthog* escaped from Marwell Zoo, which was around twenty miles from my home. The chances of the filthy, hairy tusked pig bothering me were slim. Even so, I was terrified. That week, I would have loved Totton & Eling's cage to have surrounded my bedroom at night whilst I attempted to sleep. Warthogs outside; sweet dreams inside.
*It was called The Hampshire Hog in the newspapers.
|A drinks break on this hot day for these thirsty Weymouth players.|
Weymouth took the lead after 10 minutes or so with a scuffed bobbler. They looked like extending their lead for the next twenty minutes.
I played for a volleyball team which was often outclassed like Totton & Eling were at this point. Our tactic when being hammered would be to create a distraction to put our opponents off their game. Once, during a cup semi-final against a Polish team, we shouted out to them to be careful as there was a rabid squirrel in a nearby tree (in Polish - we'd translated this from English prior to the match and written it down on a scrap of paper hidden in the captain's sock). Their reaction? "Why do you want to kill the poorly squirrel?" Either the translation was wrong, or we'd pronounced the Polish badly. We lost the game.
Without any ridiculous distractions, Totton & Eling equalised with a header from their first corner. If you inspect the photo of the goal above, imagine the ball ending up just to the left of the bin (and imagine the bin containing an empty scrumpled can of Diet Coke).
|FA Cup sensation! Totton & Eling go 2-1 up against the mighty Weymouth!|
The Echo's sports reporter, Wendy Gee, was in the stand. I overheard her phoning in her report as I walked out after the match finished. I distinctly heard the word "sensational". She could only have been referring to the 25-yard curling free-kick which put the home side 2-1 up.
Weymouth drew level a few minutes later from a 20-yard daisycutter. Then it was like a basketball match for the last half hour, as first one side went up the pitch and had a shot, then the other. Many glorious saves later (mostly by Totton & Eling's keeper), it was all over. 2-2 and a replay at Weymouth on Tuesday.
The announcer declared the gate to be 230. A claret-clad fan next to me interjected "yes, with 200 of those coming from Weymouth", which was only a slight exaggeration. Still, this was probably a ground record crowd. If they ever make a Wessex League set of team tabs for a non-league ladder, this crowd figure will feature under Totton & Eling's name (along with their nickname).*
*I've just had a look at some old team tabs, and only the ground address was written below the name. Memory playing tricks, as usual.
Edit: I've just checked my marvellous copy of Got, Not Got this morning and yes, Record Gates were indeed shown on team tabs - just not the ones in my old scrapbook!
|The Echo's Wendy Gee phones in her report at the end of the match. Small boy prefers bench-clambering.|
As an addendum, Totton & Eling lost the replay at Weymouth 3-0, but they will have enjoyed their big day. They should be able to buy a few more match balls with the receipts (they started the season with fourteen balls and had already lost five in the scrubby vegetation behind both goals, according to crowd rumour).
The Totton & Eling match report can be found here. Weymouth's report here. Many photos - mostly of Weymouth players here.
I hope to be at another FA Cup match on 22nd September.