Tuesday, 12 February 2013

35. Farnborough FC

A very soggy Farnborough Football Club.
I can daydream for Britain. If daydreaming was an Olympic sport, I'd be a national hero, awards coming out of my ears.

This is what I was thinking about on the thirty minute walk from Farnborough Main train station to Farnborough FC's Cherrywood Road stadium:

Passing under the narrow bridge by the junction of Union Street and Prospect Road: "Hmmm, mild peril alert: this is where I got splashed by an Audi driver last time I was here, walking to Cove's ground..." That didn't happen this time, although it had been raining all morning, and there were puddles galore.

Past Cove's ground: "I love their roller! And Squirrel Lane! If only there were real squirrels there!"

Up Prospect Road: "There's a Prospect Lane near Havant & Waterlooville's ground, that's a coincidence. And this whole area is very similar to West Leigh...I wonder if man-mountain Ollie Palmer will be on top form today, or will his collapsed proposed transfer to Colchester affect him? C'mon Ollie! Back of the net, son!"

Past a garden full of chickens: "I wonder if they like eating woodlice?"

The Farnborough FC badge is everywhere. I hope that's not a phoenix! They mustn't eat chips.
Farnborough FC (1) 1 v 1 (0) Havant & Waterlooville FC
Blue Square Bet Conference South
Saturday 9th February 2013
Attendance: 483
Admission: £12
Programme: None ("We're awaiting the courier delivery; we shall inform everyone when it arrives")
Club shop: Yes. Badges £3.
Colours: Yellow with blue sleeves / yellow / blue and yellow v White / blue / white
National Grid reference: SU8657

The imposing new stand at Farnborough FC.
Close by the chickens, a sign on a roundabout, indicating a left turn for Farnborough Rugby Club and Cove FC; right for Farnborough Town FC: "This truly is a sporting nirvana, if I'm not very much mistaken!"

The road sign might still say Farnborough Town FC, but the current entity are no longer known as that. In 2007, the original club were liquidated (there are various stories about who or what to blame if you search around the web). They were demoted by only two steps, and are back where they were in double-quick time, all debts wiped out, as if nothing had happened. Since Farnborough Town's demise, the FA have changed the rules - any new club taking the place of a failed club now drop at least three steps. Thus, if Pompey go to the wall, they will restart at either Conference South or Southern League level (although there is some discretion - safety concerns and suchlike have to be considered).

A small area of cover just along from the main stand.
Past Bracklesham Close: "I wonder if the roads on this estate are named after bays or places in Sussex? Wasn't Bracklesham Bay the place where I found a rock made of iron pyrites? Fool's gold, of course! And Paul Weller went both to there and Selsey Bill for his holidays as a youngster, apparently"

On to Holywell Close: "Ah, so it was bays! I'm on Cherrywood Road now - are there roads named after trees nearby then?" A minute or two later, and Pear Tree Close is spotted...

The original Farnborough Town were only in existence for forty years. They previously played at a recreation ground in Queen's Road, moving to Cherrywood Road in 1977. The ground has had a number of names over the years - at first, it was The John Roberts Ground. It's since been the Aimita Stadium and the Rushmoor Stadium. However, everyone knows it as Cherrywood Road, and so it remains, at least until the next sponsor comes along with a wad of moolah.

The stadium has been developed piece by piece - the latest being the large new stand to the right of the turnstiles. Now, this has been under construction for quite some time - in photos from the last couple of seasons, it has resembled a giant whale skeleton with its ribs sticking up high into the Hampshire sky. I guess they must have found and sold some precious ambergris over the summer, as a roof has now been added. Even so, it remains shut to spectators, at least until the concourse is developed.

Unless I misunderstood a short conversation I overheard (quite possible), the old main stand (The Charles Mortimore Stand) is apparently going to be demolished later this year. Presumably, a new clubhouse will be built beneath the big new stand and the old stand side redeveloped (very, very slowly). Don't quote me on that though.

Hot chocolate, whipped cream, marshmallows. Hey, where did my Flake go? It's only gone and sunk in to the drink!
Arriving with plenty of time to spare, into the empty club shop to browse and buy a badge: "Ah, there's the badges on the counter, I'll just pick one up and have a flick through the old programmes. I'll let the guy behind the counter know I have the badge. Why is that steward standing there, arms folded, glaring at me? That's not very friendly. I'll just buy the badge and go. The Hawks club shop is a place of merry chat and laughter - this one is just forbidding. I don't want to be here."

Into the stadium. No programmes available, as they appear not to have turned up. Have a look around and take some photos. Peek behind the old stand, thinking there might be a route through to the other side - no, there isn't. Poke my nose back on to the hard standing by the food stalls. "Why is that steward staring at me? Why is he striding towards me?" He wants to see my ticket! "Jobsworth! Jeez, this is an odd place. Where's the welcome, happy to see you, friendly banter of just about every other club I've been to? They're acting like this is a nightclub and there's a fight about to break out. If they're like this to everyone, no wonder their crowds have halved this season..."

Dan Strugnell scores for Havant & Waterlooville.
Perhaps it was just the drizzle making the stewards miserable? It was a manky day. On the train from Southampton, I counted all the football grounds I could see - well, there was Saints and their big swanky stadium; an unidentified ground with a stand in Basingstoke; Fleet Spurs! Seen, appropriately, fleetingly! And Cove's floodlights as the train pulled up at Farnborough Main. I began to wish that I was at Fleet Spurs - at least they appreciate the people that turn up there and don't try to make them feel like potential criminals.

Never mind, I was about to watch the mighty Hawks in action! "I'll treat myself to a hot chocolate! That's got to be good!" It was!

The match? Not so good. Played in a miserable grey half-light - the same shade of grey favoured by the inhabitants of the Neutral Planet in Futurama - Farnborough went one up via a close-range header after five minutes. They hit the post from a similar chance a little later. The Hawks were hopeless, managing one shot on target before half-time.

More thoughts: "What was that noise?" A crash on the stand above my head. A large stone on the pitch. Kids in the car park lobbing stuff into the ground. "Charming place!"

Congratulations, Dan! Good show!
It was the sort of day that Chicken Licken warned us about when he said the sky was going to fall down. If a flock of sandpipers had flown in at half-time and started poking around in the mud, hunting for tasty bivalves, it would have been no surprise. It was that muddy.

Still, at least clubs in the Conference use a proper football - white with black spots. It looks just like a Subbuteo ball from the 1970s - the type that came with stick-on black hexagons that made it wobble alarmingly across the pitch. It was this ball that Dan Strugnell bazoomed in to the net from a corner 15 minutes in to the second half. 1-1.

H&W had the majority of the chances during the rest of the match, but nobody managed to score again. Farnborough whanged not one, but two shots over their big new stand into the car park beyond. Which was funny.

The programmes never did turn up.

Match reports here, here. Video highlights here. Message board vitriol here. Message board bafflement here. A virtual tour of the ground here.

After the match at the Prospect Road End.
Was that a one-off? Is Farnborough that unfriendly to every visiting club? Do they have something against Havant & Waterlooville, and if so, why? Assuming we're in the same league again next season, I won't be going back, so they've lost themselves £12. Oh, and where were all the children? Non-league grounds are normally swarming with them (cheap football). Have their parents been put off going by all the swearing and abuse? You expect chants full of effing and blinding at a Football League ground, but not in a crowd of 483 at level 6. No need, there's really no need.


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