Wednesday, 26 September 2012

28. Gosport Borough FC

Go Sport! Boor Hug!
Oh, September! The summer holidays are over. Children return to the fetid house of germs, also known as school. Children swap Pokemons, football cards and various lurgies. Children pass on interesting new illnesses to their poor old dads.

One poor old dad has fevered semi-sleep. Suffering, tossing, turning. Ludicrous lifelike dreams. Appears on a new, cheaply-produced programme on the specialist channel, Evostik TV - Anagram Fans. "Welcome to Anagram Fans! Each week, we give a list of football clubs to supporters of teams in the Evostik North and South Leagues. They have to produce succinct and hilarious anagrams from these football club names. The winner is the fan who scores the most on the studio audience's Rattle-ometer!

First up, representing Gosport Borough, is Andrew! Andrew, you have thirty seconds to create the best anagram you can out of your own club...Gosport Borough!"

The magnificent old stand at Gosport Borough FC.
Gosport Borough FC (2) 2 v 0 (0) Bideford AFC
Saturday 22nd September 2012
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round
Attendance: 232
Entrance: £9
Programme: £1.50
Club shop: Yes, badges £3.50. The original shop was burned down during the summer, so stock is quite limited at the moment. However, if you want scarves, beanie hats, old programmes, they're all there.
Colours: Yellow / Navy blue / Navy blue v All red.
National Grid reference: SZ5999

Jock's Tea Bar in front of the big old stand at Gosport Borough.
Thrashing and dribbling, the half-awake half-man panics. "Um, 30 seconds...gosh, er...GO, er, SPORT...BOOR HUG? No, no, that's not very good...must think of something else...GO...PORTS? Oh, lawks...GROT SOP BOG HOUR?" Time's up and GO SPORT BOOR HUG is the best he can do. Red-faced with embarrassment, he blurts out his useless anagram to the audience...

...who go wild! The Rattle-ometer (which consists of a hundred enthusiastic, bobble-hatted, bar-scarved rattle-twisters) pops up right to the top! Poor old dad, who thought his anagram made Gosport Borough sound like a particularly badly-named club from the Dutch regional leagues (definitely not as good as Go Ahead Eagles of Deventer*), wins the Anagram Fans trophy - a silver dictionary on a stick. It was almost worth the sleepless night.

*Interesting fact: Early in their history, Go Ahead had to change their name from Be Quick, by order of the Dutch FA.

Gosport Borough attack.
Back in the real world, with poor old dad having recovered from his rancid fever, Saturday was FA Cup day at Gosport Borough's Privett Park (or Palace Privett as they call it - an ironic twist on Pompey's Fortress Fratton, given that neither side have won a league match at home so far this season). Boro had won through to the match against Bideford after shenanigans aplenty in their previous match against luckless Bashley, when a corner was given instead of a goal by the match officials after Gosport's keeper had kicked the ball out through a hole in the side netting (which, incidentally, had been fixed by last Saturday!). Bashley irate; Gosport perhaps a little embarrassed, but there was nothing anyone could do as the FA didn't order a replay. The competition had to go on.

It was a fine day on the Gosport peninsula - one of those days when you believe you can reach out and shake hands with the Isle of Wight, four miles distant on the other side of The Solent. My son lost his first tooth whilst eating a packet of crisps at Gosport submarine museum a few years ago - which is the only personal anecdote I have of the town. It's not really a place that you pass through on the way to anywhere else, so I've never spent much time there.

My last visit was for Boro's match against AFC Totton, which the visitors won to gain promotion. I took a few photos of Privett Park on that occasion, but failed to take any of the colourful and eccentric Harry's Shed, reasoning that I would be coming back another time and could take a few pics then. I didn't realise that the distinctive home-made shack with garden bench would be replaced by a new stand by my next visit. You can see it here in a set of photos taken by the excellent David Bauckham.

Celebrating in front of the new Harry Mizen Stand.
The new Harry Mizen Stand is fine, but it's got nothing on Boro's superb old main stand. Built in 1937 (seven years before the club were even formed!), this is my favourite structure at any non-league ground in Hampshire. Wooden step-seats, worn down by years of agonised squirming, make their way up to the back, which is painted dark blue with the letters GOSPORT BORO spaced out in bright yellow paint along its length. At intervals, dried out ivy has tried to break in through the back, but didn't get very far. Pigeons roost in the stanchions at night - fans avoid sitting on the seats directly beneath their perches. In the middle is an old-fashioned press box, with just enough space for three reporters, their cheeseburgers and polystyrene coffee cups. In front of this is the directors box, with its slightly more comfortable seats. The whole stand has been well-maintained over the years, so I hope it lasts for many more moons yet.

To be honest, I've spent more time around the Bideford area than I have in Gosport, during a couple of North Devon holidays. Memories include watching a sheep race at The Big Sheep ("The best day of your holiday, baa none!"), and of wearing a stripy gnome hat whilst walking around the nearby Gnome Reserve ("Discover a pixie flitting over clumps of comfrey!"). Happy days!

I was present at Fratton Park in 1978 for a First Round Proper tie against Bideford. I don't remember much about it - I know Pompey won 3-1 and that there were over 10,000 people there (possibly the most ever to watch Bideford play?). Did the Devon club play in red and white stripes? Or was that Minehead the previous season? I know that Pompey were relegated to the Fourth Division that year. If I believed in omens, I probably shouldn't have watched Bideford again this season...

By the way, did you know that Pompey are only one of two of the longer-established Football League sides never to have lost to non-league opposition in the FA Cup? I think the only way that they will keep up that record this year is to avoid being drawn against one. A virtual clap on the back to anyone who can name the other lucky club.

A ticking off from the ref for this errant Bideford player.
Back to Saturday's match, and Gosport were magnificent in the first half. Ex-Pompey, Cherries and Hawks man Sammy Igoe (who I once saw at a cashpoint in Hedge End) strode around the midfield like a pocket colossus, nonchalantly setting up attack after attack with a subtle nudge here, a deft flick there, accuracy his middle name. Bideford's goalkeeper had shots raining in on him with the frequency of a meteor shower in the dying days of the dinosaurs.

For all their immense pressure, Boro didn't score until the 23rd minute, but by the bushy tail of Squirrel Nutkin, it was worth waiting for! Chisel-jawed centre-back Brett Poate controlled a loose clearance 25 yards from goal, took aim, and curled the ball around the entire Bideford defence (and one of his leaping team mates, if this photo is telling the truth), battering the ball against the inside of the left-hand post, from whence it settled up against the far side of the net. The ball may well have had a satisfied smile on its face from a job well done - the best goal I've seen so far this season, for schizz.

Goal number two (and surprisingly the last, as Boro should have won by four or five) came fifteen minutes later after Justin Bennett had wiggled past the left side of Bideford's defence with the mesmerising hip-shaking agility of a teenage Elvis, before passing to his team-mate Luke King to wallop home from three yards.

Gosport Borough's press box humming with half-time activity.
The wind changed direction at half-time, blowing in from the north. The first fingers of icy coolness of the autumn. The last time I'll be warm in a t-shirt at a match until at least next April. The chilly wind cooled Gosport's attacks down a little in a more even second half, but they still deserved their victory.

The visitors from Devon did have some chances, causing Gosport's custodian Nathan Ashmore to fly through the air like a levitating superhero for one particularly spectacular save, and then hitting the post in the second half during their only really threatening period of the game.

At one point Bideford shot in to the side netting. Of course, their fans claimed a goal, but the officials were having none of it. I suspect Gosport will be sick of this joke over the coming weeks and months.

Overhearing some Boro fans on the way out, it appeared that they wanted to play local rivals Fareham Town in the next round. However, the Creeksiders had already fallen at home to Blackfield & Langley in their tie just a few short miles to the north. Instead, Gosport will travel to Conference South Bath City in a fortnight. Two more wins and they will be in the First Round Proper.

Bideford kept their substitutes' number boards in a reusable carrier bag.
This may well have been my last FA Cup report this season, as non-football duties take precedence on the days of the next two rounds. Shame, as the early rounds of the cup are most enjoyable - the clubs involved usually give it their all, hoping for an eventual glorious glamour tie against a Football League club (or at least a big Conference club).

Newport (IW) have been the most successful of the clubs that I've featured to date, as they went on to win two more ties, before losing to Salisbury City on Saturday; Winchester City and Weymouth both lost their next matches after being featured on here. Gosport Borough will have to win away at Bath City in the Third Qualifying Round to outdo the latter pair. If they can repeat Saturday's performance, they have a chance.

Gosport Borough's official match report is here. Bideford's is here. The full set of photos from Gary Spooner on Football Grounds In Focus is here. David Bauckham's photos are here.


  1. I had a lurgy acquired from the kids when I was at Locks Heath too - though mine was an bit more mild so no dreams of anagram related gameshows! Privett Park looks like a great ground - a proper eccentric non league one, I might well have to bump it up my list of places to visit

  2. Every dad I work with has had some sort of sniffle or cough over the last couple of weeks - without exception, brought home from school.

    Anyone who likes old stands should pay a visit to Privett Park, as should anyone who likes groundsman's equipment - three rollers of varying size on show for all to admire! It's also another ground with boxes of old programmes in the club shop - I rarely buy any, but I enjoy flicking through them.

  3. I'm something of a programme geek so as bad as it is to admit I'm really looking forward to the prospect of taking a look through those boxes. I think Eastleigh and Bashley have reasonable club shops with old programmes on sale too. Nothing will ever beat 'collectors corner' from the Dell though and their F.A Cup final morning programme fair!

  4. Gosport lost a lot of programmes to water damage after the fire in the summer, so their stock isn't huge - a box of old Pompey programmes and one other - so, 10 minutes of browsing, I reckon. Havant & Waterlooville have plenty, but Winchester City have the largest stock that I've seen so far - an hour's worth of thumbing, I'd say! Old football books as well.

    I like Bashley's shop. I hope to get back there again soon, maybe for the New Year's Day clash with Gosport. Eastleigh only had their own old programmes last time I looked. I'll be back there for their match against the Hawks in December, so I'll have another look then.

  5. I've been to the Bashley club shop a couple of seasons ago and remember being quite impressed - enough so to buy one of those little pin-badges. I didn't go into the Eastleigh shop when I was there this weekend, but from what I remember when I was a regular, and from what I saw poking my head round the door, it is just their home/away programmes.

    The Eastleigh/H&W derby is always a good game I've been to a couple before, one at either ground. Eastleigh look like a good side at the moment, probably their best ever, though I've made my thoughts clear on how I feel about things there! All things going well I should be watching St Mirren otherwise I'd probably be at that game.