Friday, 28 June 2013

One Photo From Each Club: Fareham Town to Horndean

Fareham Town's brick goalie.
Carrying on with the "one photo from each club in alphabetical order" series, we reach Fareham Town. Now, this was only my third match, and it has the distinction of being my worst-written match report with the weakest set of photos (it was dark and cold and I only took around ten - none of which were very good). I only started to realise the importance of half-decent photography when I noticed that most of my visitors were arriving via an image search. The best of a bad bunch was this photo of a brick goalie. Fareham Town is top of my list to revisit, partly because I want to make up for the initial crummy match report, and partly because they had the joint-best programme of all the non-league clubs that I visited (the other equally superb programme was issued at one of the other clubs below).

Dan Strugnell scores for the mighty Hawks at Farnborough!
The most miserable club I visited was Farnborough. There was no programme, the weather was manky drizzle, there were kids throwing stones into the ground from the car park, and the stewards were needlessly officious. On the plus side, Havant & Waterlooville played well and scored this goal from Dan Strugnell to come away with a 1-1 draw. I chose this photo to cheer myself up.

A successful day out in the Vase for Bemerton Heath Harlequins concludes with the long walk to Fawley's changing rooms.
A cup competition that I've not seen enough of is the FA Vase. The only match I've written about in the aforementioned competition so far was at Fawley last October. The home side played well enough, but after Bemerton Heath Harlequins had had a player sent off for throwing the ball at the ref's head, the Wiltshire side scored from two penalties to progress to the next round. An eventful game played at a two-and-a-half-sided ground that I rather liked. My favourite photo was of these Bemerton players making their way across another pitch towards the changing rooms. I was glad the wind was blowing the rancid-looking smoke from the oil refinery chimney away from the ground.

Gosport Borough's press box at half-time in their FA Cup match with Bideford.
The best non-league stand in the county is the one built in 1935 at Gosport Borough. I wish every ground had a stand like this, but they don't and they never will now. One of the last of a kind with its wooden seats and old-fashioned press box. This photo was taken at half-time during their FA Cup game against Bideford.

Small, tall, and an exciting-looking aeroplane at GE Hamble.
Another ground I liked a lot was Follands Park at GE Hamble. You don't see an aeroplane on a stick at the football very often! Not only that, but there was an old bus shelter to keep the fans dry behind one goal, and three rusty rollers! It's quite difficult to take a bad photo at Hamble, so this was one of my favourite sets overall. I chose one of the aeroplane pictures as it ticked the "what's different about this ground?" box...and the perspective seems right up the shoot in this particular one.

There's something about dogs and football in Fleet, part one, Fleet Town...
There were dogs everywhere at Fleet Town. I could have sent enough photos to have filled the whole of the Non-League Dogs blog several times over. It was a hot day, so I felt sympathy for this shaggy fellow trying to find some shade. The other thing I liked about Fleet Town was the half-time music - punk rock, new wave, ska...they'd been rooting around in my record collection!

...and part two, Fleet Spurs.
No ska at Fleet Spurs (or any half-time tunes at all), but there was another dog. This one actually did make an appearance on Non-League Dogs - I didn't send it to them, but they did acknowledge where it came from, which I appreciated. As the official crowd at Fleet Spurs was 2, it meant that I was part of both the smallest crowd in the Wessex League last season, and the largest (448 at Alton Town).

Victory for the underdogs as Hartley Wintney celebrate their FA Cup win over Bashley.
As I live in Southampton, the clubs in the north-east of the county have provided my longest trips (for example, Aldershot is just over an hour in the car - longer at rush hour). I went by train to Hartley Wintney, which meant changing at Basingstoke, then a long walk from Winchfield Station. It was worth it though to be part of the crowd of around 100 which witnessed one of the biggest shocks of the early rounds of the FA Cup the season before last, as the home side knocked out Southern Premier League Bashley. I like the mixture of joy and misery at the end of the match in the photo above. Oh, and Hartley Wintney's programme wins the HAH Best Programme Award for the 38 non-league clubs that I've visited, jointly with Fareham Town. Excellent reads, both of them.

The old welcome sign at Havant & Waterlooville's Westleigh Park, now hidden behind a new covered terrace.
To be fair, Havant & Waterlooville's programme is very good too, but I don't want to appear biased towards the club that I watched the most over this period by giving them the programme trophy (a trophy made out of my imagination and thin air, but worth winning, nevertheless!). My home-town club, I feel right at home at Westleigh Park. I've chosen this arty picture of an old welcome sign, half-hidden behind the new covered terrace, which was paid for by their famous cup tie against Liverpool a few years ago. It might look as though the Hawks' ground is run down and tatty from this picture, but it isn't at all - the yellow gate shown above leads to some steps which in turn lead to the club's TV tower.

Totton & Eling traipse out for the second half at Hayling United's College Ground.
Just down the road from Havant is Hayling United. Now, my trip to the island was one of the coldest (remember that "Spring" just gone? Jeez). I sat and waited for the teams to come out for the second-half underneath the only piece of standing cover at the College Ground, attempting to bite through a frozen Mars Bars without breaking any teeth. Just as the teams started walking past, this chap wearing many layers came and stood nearby. Luckily, he improved the photo and made it my favourite from the day.

Faded lawnmower glamour at Horndean.
And just up the road from Havant is Horndean! The county's slopiest ground by far, and another one I shall return to at some point in the future. I chose this photo of an abandoned old lawnmower as representative of all the old groundsmen's equipment that I saw on my travels, because...well, just because.

Coming up next - more photos, from Hythe & Dibden through to Romsey Town, in alphabetical order.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

One Photo From Each Club: Aldershot Town to Eversley & California

Waving the flag for Aldershot Town.
Whilst waiting for the 2013/14* fixtures to come out, I thought I'd post a round-up of where I've been to so far in Hopping Around Hampshire's first two-and-a-half seasons, in photographic form. So, over the next four posts, there will be one photo from each of the clubs I've visited and written about - and they will appear in alphabetical order!

Ignoring the "AFC" clubs (they will be featured later - adding the AFC prefix is like calling yourself AAA Man & Van so that you can be first in the newspaper classifieds...), first up are Aldershot Town. I've not posted the best photo from the Recreation Ground - instead, I've featured the one which I thought summed up the fans there the best - it's blurry, but all the better for feeling the fans' energy. The whole of the East Bank Terrace crackles with banners and flags on a match day - the soul-sucking control freaks at Wembley Stadium would laugh at them for not charging £1,500 per banner, but I know where I'd rather be...on the best terrace with the second-loudest fans in the county.

*2013/14?! Isn't that a date far into the future? Shouldn't we be dressed in tin foil suits and be travelling everywhere by jet pack by now? Forgive me if I still think it's 1986 around here. Must be because I just bought the new Pastels album this week...

Bar rattling action at Alresford Town.
I spend a small amount of time at each game trying to get a decent action shot for my HAH report - maybe five minutes in each half waiting for something worthwhile to happen within the range of my lens. Usually, I don't succeed (I'm no Paul Paxford, that's for sure), but at Alresford Town, I got lucky with the above photo, as a header crashes against the bar with the Fawley defenders stranded. My best action shot so far.

Big crowd at Alton Town.
The highlight of last season for me was the day of action at Alton Town. Not for the football (a fairly straightforward 4-0 home win), but for the spirit of togetherness brought about by the day's organisers. Nearly 500 people who were fed up with being threatened and bullied by big business showing their support for their football club, their town. There was never going to be a riot (they're too polite around there), but there was a real determination to say "no" to the latest transient owners of the local brewery and their greedy demands. The photo I've featured wasn't the best one, but it does give an indication of how many people were there that day (more than at several Conference South matches that same weekend).

Andover New Street's bicycle made for ten.
Andover New Street v Tadley-Calleva was a terrific match and a grand day out - Foxcotte Park is somewhere I'll definitely return to. It featured the most unlikely object in all of the 41 grounds that I went to. I didn't actually spot it until half-time, as it was hidden around a corner, but this bicycle made for ten made my day! Just one more seat, and they can ride it to their away fixtures!

Bashley's tipsy teddy.
I have a huge soft spot for Bashley, the size of a king-sized bed filled with marshmallows. So it was sad to hear that they were intending to move away from their home and merge with New Milton Town this season. I've been to Bash twice during my HAH time so far - the first was notable for the delicious home-made cake and a large and lively crowd in the February sunshine. The second visit was for an evening match against Chesham United soon after the merger announcement when the mood had completely changed. Barely anyone turned up and Bash were meek and mild on the pitch. It seemed like the whole club had given up and were withering away like a sickly rabbit. It was on this second visit that I photographed the alcoholic teddy in the bar.

(The move has fallen through, so I'll be back at Bash again next season).

The sprinklers go off at Basingstoke Town.
The whole world has a downer on Basingstoke, but I rather liked their ground - with its collection of terraces of different ages and a friendly blue dragon posing for the youngsters, it certainly had something going for it. The unseasonal t-shirt and shorts weather on the day of my visit helped with the good impression too, I suspect. What I didn't like was the entrance price (the highest of all the non-league teams I visited) and the terse message in the programme that forbade the taking of photos within the ground. I didn't actually see the list of rules until I read the programme on the train on the way home, and nobody stopped me whilst I was there, so I don't know how heavily the regulation is enforced. Anyhow, I have a few decent pictures from Basingstoke Town, of which this one with the sprinkler going off pre-match is my favourite.

Beneath the pylons at Blackfield & Langley.
I can't decide whether last season's Wessex League champions Blackfield & Langley are "the team from the chimneys" or "the team from the pylons", as their ground is encircled by both. On another day, I might have chosen a picture with chimneys, but today, my choice is one with a pylon, which they regularly use on their club website. It looks rather more impressive biggened up on there than it does here.

Goalkeeper as gazelle at Brockenhurst.
One photo which is unlikely to turn up anywhere else is this odd one of the Brockenhurst goalkeeper taking a goal-kick. This was taken at one of the two evening matches which I reported on in my first half-season, with an unsuitable camera for the dark dark night. I had to make severe edits to several of the photos from Brock to make them usable. In this one, the keeper looks like he has four legs. It's accidentally arty and I rather like it.

Sunshine after the rain at Cove.
One thing I learnt to do with my photography was to take pictures of things which best represented either the place where the match was being played, or which were unique to the match itself. When I arrive at a ground, I always have a good look around and ask myself "what's different here?" At Cove, there was a severe downpour just before kick-off which produced a large puddle between the tea hut and the pitch. This puddle featured in two photos within the match report (falling into the "unique to this match" category). I particularly like this one with the watery reflections of both members of the crowd and the pitchside rail.

Eastleigh's stewards keep an eye on the proceedings.
My very first report was from a match between Eastleigh and my home-town team of Havant & Waterlooville in early January 2011. At the time, I hadn't decided to visit every ground in Hampshire - my original intention was to just write three or four reports from local matches and then move on to something else. Hence the lack of photos from the first few games, and particularly the Eastleigh trip. Even so, I like this one of the stewards watching the match from near the corner flag. I've seen Eastleigh v Havant & Waterlooville twice more since then, and the Hawks have yet to win. Maybe next year?

Celebrating a last-minute winner for Eversley & California.
And finally for this post, one of the coldest trips I've made so far - Eversley & California last March. I nearly chose a photo which shows just how bleak it was there that day, with a chap wrapped up in a snorkelled duffel coat next to me, with quarry workings in the background, but instead, I've chosen this goal celebration by E&C's Neil Williams, which I'm sure he did just for the camera (there was nobody else stood at that end right then!). It was a gloomy day, so I brightened the photo up a little with some magical tools, but maybe, just maybe, I brightened it up just a tad too much, as it looks as though I've coloured the Banstead Athletic players' shirts in with a scarlet felt tip.

More photos in a couple of weeks - Fareham Town to Horndean, in alphabetical order.