Monday, 12 August 2013

Romsey Town v Moneyfields

The entrance to Romsey Town's field of dreams.
The boring bit first (lesson number one in how not to keep the reader engaged here...):

Things I intend to do this season on HAH.

Thing number one: Carry on. I was tempted to stop at the end of last season when I'd visited every club in Hampshire down to level ten in the pyramid, and just relax and watch Pompey, Havant & Waterlooville or Romsey Town this season, depending on who was at home on any particular day, without worrying about writing about the match afterwards. But, it's been fun. And I like fun. So I'll carry on, at least for another season.

Thing number two: Carry on, yes, but how? Well, I'll still feature at least one Hampshire club in each match I write about - possibly two, if they're playing each other. This is Hopping Around Hampshire, after all. However, I may go outside the county to foreign lands, e.g., Wiltshire, Dorset, the Isle of Wight - Here Be Monsters/Cider Drinkers, etc. A little scary, but I'll force myself to do it, so long as a club from my home county is involved.

Comfy chairs inside the covered standing area.
Romsey Town FC (0) 0 v 1 (1) Moneyfields FC
Saturday 10th August 2013
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: c50
Admission: £5
Programme: £2
Colours: White / black / black v Yellow / dark blue / dark blue
National Grid reference: SU3520 / SU3521

The committee room and changing rooms (and a tall tree).
Thing number three: I'll try to report on two matches each month, or approximately sixteen over the forty week season. These posts take me a while to write (I usually don't post until Monday or Tuesday following a Saturday match), so I need time off in between reports. I don't get paid to do this, you know.

Thing number four: If I'm visiting a ground that I've written about previously, the report is unlikely to be as long as the first one. There's only so many times I can write about a club's history or describe their ground, after all.

That's enough "things" for now...

Corner for Romsey Town.
The first home league match of the season for Romsey Town. Weather: Sunny with a few clouds. My expectations of winning against Moneyfields: Low to non-existent. After all, Romsey had finished bottom of the Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division last season, conceding 137 goals in 38 matches. Whilst we were suffering, Moneyfields had finished in a Champions League position.

However, Romsey avoided relegation in April because New Milton Town failed to turn up to Newport on the Isle of Wight for an end of season midweek match. They were deducted three points and finished below Town. A few weeks later, Hayling United were demoted for ground grading reasons - something to do with not having enough hard standing near the corner flags, or something equally ridiculous (from the rumours I've heard, which may well be wrong).

But, it was the first home match of the new season - each new season is a little war, each match a tiny battle within the war. Anyone can win a battle, even if the war is beyond them. There should be hope in every game, but last season, in what the French would call le petit guerre, Romsey played more like petit pois. Each of the opposition's goals were like Rich Uncle Pennybags' illegitimate children - we all knew about them, but we never speak of them these days. Time to forget and move on...

A pleasant day out at The By-Pass Ground.
The fellow on the gate was more hopeful than me, assuring me that the team had improved this season, and that he expected a mid-table finish. Nobody will beat Sholing this year - the side that finished in seventh place in the Southern League First Division South and West last time out has largely stayed together. Big spenders Winchester City and Blackfield & Langley should finish second and third, but Moneyfields could well come fourth, so, having played Sholing away on Tuesday (0-5), this was a tough start for Romsey.

Players don't wear names on their shirts in the Wessex League, so at the beginning of every season it takes a few games to fit unfamiliar faces to unfamiliar names. With a turnover of around fifty players last time out, and me going to watch them about once a month, there appeared to be a new team every time I went to the By-Pass Ground in 2012/13. It should be more settled this season, so I'm hoping to get to know the players by sight a bit quicker.

Romsey Town's Danny Phillips wins a 50/50 ball against Moneyfields.
Romsey's best player on Saturday was Danny Phillips, cutting through Moneyfields' defence like a hyperactive buzzsaw, he came closest to scoring for Romsey in the first half with a fizzbomb of a shot from outside the area. But the home team were already a goal down by that point. In fact, as players around the country were awaiting the ref's whistle to kick-off at 3pm, Romsey were already losing...

Starting the match at 2:59, Moneyfields broke down their right, there was a panic in the Romsey penalty area, and right-back Robert Evans daisycutted the ball in left-footed from twelve yards. I feared a tonking, as I'd seen so many last season, but it never came. Romsey were second-best for sure, but Moneyfields never scored again - ex-Town player Stuart Green came closest when missing the barn door from sixteen yards after 20 minutes.

The second half was more even. Romsey nearly equalised near the end when a screamer from substitute Geoff Dunn was superbly clawed out of the top corner by Moneys' netminder Dave "The Cat" Hook. But there were no more goals

Goalmouth action beneath the poplars.
When I first went to the By-Pass Ground, to be honest, it was quite a run-down place, paint peeling from every surface, molehills and weeds everywhere. The clubhouse was dark and unappealing - but since then the volunteers at the club have done a superb job - the clubhouse has been decorated, the committee room portakabin has had a lick of paint, and a metal fence has been erected around the open areas of the ground (possibly for ground grading purposes, but it feels more like a proper football ground now it's been partly enclosed).

At the far end, it appears as though a roof might be going up behind the goal, which will be an excellent addition to the ground. In my dreams, I can hear the Romsey Town Barmy Army gathering behind the goal, a Jolly Roger banner with RTFC embriodered upon it hanging from the back of the covered area, singing their hearts out for the lads every time we win a corner.

The future looks good at Romsey. The team are better, the ground has improved. Big thumbs up from me. I'll be back several more times this season, but don't expect any more reports - these will be my "days off"!

Some tasty-looking berries for the birds this autumn in the fast beak area.
In final HAH news, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you'll be able to listen to the same music as I was listening to when I was writing this report (or any other report), through This Is My Jam. If you know me, you'll know it'll be punk, indiepop or reggae most days. I intend to post a new song whenever I remember to do so! Listen whilst you read (if you want to). Or ignore and move on. Today's tune is Northern Soul classic Let's Go Baby (Where the Action Is) by Robert Parker (because it reminds me of early season optimism at the football). When I'm king, every club will enter the field of play to this tune. Tomorrow it might be White by The Field Mice (the colour of Romsey and Havant & Waterlooville's shirts). Or I may change my mind.

The next match report will be in early September.

Monday, 5 August 2013

FRATTON PARK - Owned by Pompey Fans

Fratton Park is now owned by us, the Pompey fans!
I don't really want to talk about this match. Too painful. However, if this is going to be a match report, I suppose I'd better say something...

The good bits:

On April 10th this year, Pompey severed all links with the various gun runners, conmen, fake sheiks and other scumbags that had ruined the club over the last few years. All gone. Forever. The club is now owned by the fans - over 2,000 individuals or groups of friends that had paid for £1,000 shares, plus a few "high net worth" fans. All fans. Forever. People we can trust, at last. People who you don't resent when handing over your entrance money, because you know your cash will be reinvested back into the club instead of it disappearing into somebody's dog's Cayman Islands bank account when it should have been paid to St John's Ambulance.

All those *&$%s. Out of our lives. Forever.

You can forgive us for celebrating on Saturday. You would have done too if it had been your club.

It says: "Ours".
Portsmouth FC (1) 1 v 4 (2) Oxford United FC
Saturday 3rd August 2013
Sky Bet League Two (aka the Fourth Division).
Attendance: 18,181
Admission: £20 (although I borrowed my dad's season ticket - thanks, dad!).
Programme: £3 (especially loved the pull-out poster of the 1939 FA Cup winning team).
Club shop: Kind's a marquee in the car park until they can find a more permanent space.
Colours: Blue / white / red v Yellow / black / black
National Grid reference: SU6500 / SU6600 / SZ6699 (I sat right on the line between the two 100km grid squares)

Some of the many notable achievements that now cover the Archibald Leitch trademark criss-cross pattern on the South Stand.
It started off well on Saturday. We were in fine fettle, singing with gusto like an oversized AC/DC tribute band. As the players came out of the South Stand tunnel, the Fratton End let the world know that Fratton Park is now "ours" in huge gold letters (soon to be made in to paper aeroplanes - see the psychedelic picture lower down - you can see the priceless collection of blue and gold planes behind the goal line).

We even had a goal to cheer after half an hour, when Patrick Agyemang headed in a left wing cross from six yards in front of the Oxford fans. A few seconds later, alleged "Secret Footballer" Dave Kitson (if he is the secret footballer, then he's well named, as he kept his football playing ability a closely guarded secret all the time he was at Pompey on twenty grand a week), spying someone in black shorts and socks, tried a cocky pass to his right...straight to the referee, much to the Pompey crowd's pleasure. Life was grand.

And then, the bad things:

Two minutes later, Oxford scored from only their second attempt on goal of the match. Then they scored again. Man, it's too painful. Let's change the subject...

Number 8, Kitson...erm, you've not seen him play yet, have you?
Let's hop on to a time machine and travel back to 1978. I was thirteen and at my football-obsessive peak, three bedroom walls covered in team pics cut out of Shoot! The fourth was my special "football wall" with football wallpaper, pennants, badges, spare Panini stickers and posters. I spent way too much time in my bedroom playing Subbuteo against myself (left hand v right hand - the latter usually coming out on top).

If I wasn't playing Subbuteo, I was playing with my LogActa dice. Hundreds and thousands of dice football matches with real teams and, later, four divisions of made-up teams from the fantasy land of Baralia, all lovingly noted down in the Handbook of Baralian Football (with much assistance from my schoolfriends Dave and Ed - hello to you both if you're reading this!).

In the real world, Pompey had just been relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time ever. They had been useless for my entire life, but they were my family's team, and therefore mine as well.

Archibald Leitch's South Stand, as seen from the Fratton End last season.
Following Pompey in the Fourth Division was fun. So many goals, so many on-pitch heroes for us young fans. There was Terry Brisley with the number four on the back of his Admiral kit, running up and down the pitch, gnarling away at opposition legs, scoring vital goals seemingly every match.

Another esteemed player was the moustachioed hardman, Joe Laidlaw, who, like Brisley, was a man's man who tackled like a tiger and scored a hatful of goals.

However, I think our favourite player of all was Jeff Hemmerman, a curly-haired antiques collector who lived near Petersfield. One Friday evening*, we (Dave and Ed were there too, probably discussing the latest happenings in the Baralian League on our way home from school) bumped into Jeff on the platform of Petersfield station. We knew who he was and probably gave him some fanboy chat. He mentioned that he was meeting up with the team on the next train, as they were heading for an overnight stay in Peterborough for the next day's match.

Obviously, there was only one thing for us to do, despite the train heading in the opposite direction to our destination and having no tickets. We followed him on to the train and met up with the Pompey team. I remember manager Frank Burrows asking me what I knew about logarithms (erm, not much). The whole squad gave us their autographs - mine on the back of a school exercise book - I don't know about Ed or Dave...

We had to get off the train at Guildford and make our way back to Havant, hoping that the ticket inspector didn't come along and throw us off. He didn't.

* Looking at the records, it must have been December 7th, 1979.

Inside the South Stand.
It wasn't unusual to see Fourth Division football clubs on trains in the late 1970s. I also remember seeing York City on their way to Fratton Park for a 5-2 thrashing that same season. Their kit was in a large tea chest in the guard's van, along with a bicycle or two.

Looking at my old promotion brochure from the 1979/80 season, it's interesting to contrast the players from then with those now. For starters, they were quite a short team - they all seem to be around the 5ft 8in mark. The only six-footers were the goalkeepers, Alan Knight and Peter Mellor, and centre-half Steve Aizlewood. However, I don't think that was unusual then. It might be interesting to take a hundred random footballers from an old Rothman's Yearbook of the time and compare their heights to current players - it wouldn't surprise me if the average player is now at least three inches taller now than thirty years ago. I'll get Row Z on the case...

My dad's-eye view of the pitch, psychedelically enhanced.
And what about the players' interests? There are several Focus On type questionnaires in the brochure. Inspecting these closely, I find that most of the players owned the same sorts of cars that the average earner at the time would also have owned - Ford Cortinas, Escorts, Capris, a Toyota Celica, a Colt Galant, a Vauxhall Viva, an Avenger! The only "sporty" car was Jeff Hemmerman's TR7. Jeff was also the only player married to an Eastern European model, with the rest betrothed to Janets and Jills.

Their musical tastes were mostly obvious (popular singers of the 70s like Rod Stewart and Elton John), but three of them were into the Boomtown Rats, and Leigh Barnard listened to Elvis Costello and Ian Dury. Jeff Hemmerman relaxed to Supertramp.

And who would they most like to meet? Plenty of Muhammad Alis and Peter Sellers, but Leigh Barnard wanted to meet American poet Allen Ginsberg, and Jeff Hemmerman would have liked to have discussed the affairs of the day with newsreader Reginald Bosanquet over a plate of cheese and oatcakes (his favourite food).

I'm rambling here, aren't I? Just trying to avoid writing about the rest of the Oxford match, if you must know...

Pompey's promotion brochure from 1980.
Anyway, I'd just like to say thanks to my dad for lending me his season ticket for the day whilst he was on holiday. It's always a pleasure to sit in the oldest stand in the county - the Archibald Leitch-designed South Stand. There aren't many of these vintage stands left - you can't fit executive boxes in them, you know.

Now, let's not talk of this match ever again.

EDIT: One of my heroes from the 1980 and 1983 promotion sides, Steve Aizlewood, died the day after I published this. He will forever be remembered by the fans that were at Fratton Park in those days, usually wrapped in bandages, playing on with yet another broken nose, blood streaming down his face. A brave player, a great centre-half, sadly missed. RIP Steve Aizlewood.