Tuesday, 2 April 2013

38. Eversley & California FC

Eversley & California's 1st team play on Pitch 1 (beyond the indoor cricket centre).
So, before travelling to Eversley, the only thing I knew about the village was that it was the childhood home of Laura Marling - and the only two things that I knew about Laura Marling was that she is the secret crush of all those serious twenty-something men that look like Mr Tumnus the Faun (minus the horizontal ears), and that the cheery chappy from Noah & The Whale wrote an entire album about their break-up.

I obtained the first fact from the book Never Mind the Bollards - A Road Trip Around England's Rock 'n' Roll Landmarks. The fact that the village of Eversley ("The glade of the wild boar" - described as a gathering of fourteen homesteads in the Domesday Book, and there aren't many more than that now...) made it in to this book was a little surprising, considering all the larger towns and villages that have no entry. In football fan terminology, Eversley is just a small town in Yateley, which in turn, is just a small town in Farnborough, which in turn, is just a small town in Aldershot...you get the idea.

Anyway, Southsea is in the book (the pier burning down during the filming of Tommy); Andover also (home of The Troggs); Southampton has Craig David; and Benny Hill is mentioned with his milk round in Eastleigh (hence his song Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West). Hampshire truly is a musical hotbed, and Eversley is now a part of this tradition.

Halfway line flag and official Combined Counties Football League ball. In the distance, hoppers and conveyors at an active gravel pit.
Eversley & California FC (1) 2 v 1 (0) Banstead Athletic FC
Saturday 30th March 2013
Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Division One
Attendance: 27 (headcount, which would have included club officials, so paying customers probably less than 20)
Admission: £5 (included free programme)
Colours: Yellow and blue stripes / blue / blue v All red
Club shop: No
National Grid reference: SU7961

Eversley & California's seated stand.
Mercury Prize-nominated Laura Marling wrote the song Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) about Eversley. It's not the only pop music connection to the village, as the football team play in the Cherry Red Records Combined Counties Football League - Cherry Red being a record label and distributor. Created in the days of punk, and having made their money through selling shedloads of Dead Kennedys albums, Cherry Red are probably best known for their 750,000-selling Pillows and Prayers compilation, which sold for 99p and featured Everything But The Girl, amongst others.

As football lovers, they have released over fifty football-related albums, including clubcentric offerings for many British football teams, Pompey and Saints being amongst them. Saturday was my first ever Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League match (Cove and Hartley Wintney were visited for FA Cup ties). To celebrate, I did think about listing my ten favourite Cherry Red albums, but decided my readership wouldn't have the foggiest idea what I was writing about*.

Suffice to say that CDs by The Servants, The Chesterf!elds, The Flatmates, Felt, and various Cramps-inspired compilations are much-treasured around these parts. But names such as Van der Graaf Generator, Suzi Quatro, The Osmonds, 10cc, Isaac Hayes, Laurel Aitken also all feature on the Cherry Red advert carried in all Combined Counties League programmes, making it the coolest league in England.

*No change there then!

Not a great view from the seats!
Despite being in existence since 1910, Eversley FC only entered the Combined Counties League in 2009/10. Previously, they played in the Aldershot & District League. They merged with the California FC youth club in April 2012 to create the current Eversley & California FC combo (California being a suburb of nearby Wokingham - if you thought they'd merged with the gigantic American state, then you were wrong).

They are very much in Step 5/6 border territory, as a mile to the north, Finchampstead play in the Hellenic League. A couple of miles to the south and east, Fleet Spurs inhabit the Wessex League.

Eversley & California are the most westerly members of the CCL, but if they were in the Hellenic League, they would be the most southerly inhabitants of that league (and would face potential trips to Gloucestershire). If they were in the Wessex, they would be obliged to take expensive trips to the Isle of Wight at least a couple of times each season (which surely must put off Cove and Hartley Wintney from applying to join a league which contains most of their Hampshire rivals). It's a Bermuda Triangle of cost versus tradition decisions for the clubs in this area.

They have chosen to play in a league which mostly contains clubs from Surrey and South London, which probably cuts down on their overall travelling costs compared to the other two options.

A newly-delivered kit stand, all ready for action in Eversley & California's car park.
The Eversley Sports Association Ground is still very new. You certainly won't find it in any books of historic non-league stadiums. It's so new that their prefabricated terrace had only just been delivered during the week of my visit, and was sitting in the club car park, awaiting directions for erection.

The car park itself would be ideal for toy soldiers to play war games in. Hundreds of potholes, which could have been formed by miniature Airfix bombers dropping their small but deadly loads across the roadway, would make brilliant hiding places for 1:100 scale brave Tommy soldiers with their deadly plastic war machines to advance without fear on unsuspecting enemies. Ka-boom! Take that, you cruel and black-hearted non-nation-specific* adversaries!

Moving on from the car park, you pass the changing room/tea bar building and then a large indoor cricket centre on your left. The final structure before the football pitch is a small pay shed. Beyond this is the main, railed pitch that the first team play on (there are several more pitches to your right, one of which was being used by the A team on Saturday, playing against a team in black and white stripes).

The main features of interest can be seen in my photos. The floodlight poles are new, only erected in the past couple of weeks. The three poles on the disused gravel pit side are outside the rails, whereas the three on the stand side are inside, which means that the pitch has had to be shifted over towards the old gravel pits by a couple of yards to lessen the chances of players smacking into the poles (ouch!).

*Don't want to annoy any of my international readers! Incidentally, the only armies I have are hidden up my sleevies.

This concreted area is presumably where the new terrace will go? Perhaps the seats will be moved at the same time?
Coincidentally, considering Laura Marling's song about Eversley, there were a few flakes of snow in the air during the match against Banstead Athletic on Saturday. I stood over the more exposed side, although this did mean that the north-easterly wind was blowing on to my back, rather than my face. The fellow stood nearest me was dressed all in black, with his snorkel hood up, looking like a goth eskimo. He went to rescue a stray ball at one point during the first half. Booted over a low fence, it landed on some thick, clay mud, used to infill the former gravel pit on this side.

Next to the mud was a disagreeable brown pond, which nevertheless attracted birds from time to time. I had binoculars with me, so during breaks in play, I spotted five pied wagtails, a pair of Canada geese and a pair of mallards (and if the chap who was on Pointless recently is reading this, who thought that mallards were "ground birds", may I remind him that mallards are actually ducks).

Young, fast-growing trees have been planted all around the ground, so in a few years, it won't be quite so exposed. According to her song, Laura wants to come back to Eversley when she's old, so the ESA will have matured a bit by then, along with her.

Groovy moves! Banstead Athletic's keeper saved this point-blank effort.
I'm sure that if Mark "Lawro" Lawrenson was commentating on this match with Banstead Athletic, he'd adapt his "hilarious" joke about it not being fair that Liverpool had to play both Havant AND Waterlooville in the FA Cup to fit this game. You see, Banstead Athletic had found it hard to contain BOTH Eversley AND California during the first half (if Lawro ever considers retiring, I'm ready to step in). E&C took the lead through Chris Fox after ten minutes, and it looked like the floodgates might open (goal floodgates, not any floodgates attached to the dirty neighbouring pond, thank goodness).

But Banstead started to play better after this, and E&C then found it hard to contain them - if aliens had landed and watched this game during the second half (instead of kidnapping everyone present and conducting agonising experiments on our puny human bodies, which is far more likely), they wouldn't have known that E&C were third in the league (a promotion position) and that Banstead were third from bottom. Indeed, the away team equalised five minutes in to the second half - for E&C, the goal was akin to being caught walking out of Sainsbury's with an unpaid-for pizza in their shopping bag and not knowing about it, alarm going off and being summoned by a stern-looking security guard, such was the shock on the faces of the home team (it's okay though, the woman at the till had put one pizza through twice, so that the unpaid-for pizza had actually been paid for - the security guard put the alarm going off down to their magnetic charisma).

E&C eventually recovered from their pizza incident and won the game five minutes from the end, when Banstead's centre-half and goalie had an "after you, Claude"* moment, and Neil Williams nipped in to steal the ball and wallop home from six yards. You can see how pleased he was in the photo below, celebrating as if he was in front of a crowd of 30,000, instead of...well, it was just me standing at that end just then!

*Thanks to Lawro for that phrase!

Eversley & California's Neil Williams celebrates his late winning goal at the Active Gravel Pit End.
The only other match report I've seen resides on a CCL forum here. There was another groundhopper present taking photos, but I have failed to locate them anywhere on the internet.

All of which leaves me with just three more grounds to visit in the final four weeks of the season. I'm so close to doing this thing!

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