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.


  1. Wow nice idea... I was in Southampton on December (im from Argentina) for the only reason to watch a Saints game, also i was stopping at Totton so the few days i was there i investigate a little about football in Totton, i tried to get a football shirt from AFC (i collect football shirts) but it was kind of difficult.

    Well nice blog and i repeat: Very good idea.

    Cheers mate!

  2. Thanks for your comment Francisco. For the clubs in the Southern League, it can be hit and miss whether they sell shirts (or even open their club shop for some matches!). The Conference South clubs usually have good shops with a selection of shirts. Having said that, the last time I went to Eastleigh, their club shop was being used as a restaurant and was shut for the evening! :-/

  3. Thanks for the name check Andrew and I really enjoy looking at your photos and your great write ups.
    and Francisco sadly it looks like AFC Totton are heading for oblivion so may be even more difficult to get a shirt