Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Andover New Street v Fleet Spurs

Andover New Street FC. The Swifts.
Andover New Street FC. The Swifts. Good nickname. Reminds me of the time I was walking down the road on my way home a few years ago. It was a dry, hot, dusty midsummer's day. I was looking down at the pavement, seeing if anyone had dropped a fiver, when something in the gutter caught my eye. It was a dead swift. One of those birds that zip around the sky all summer long, arriving here from Africa in early May, disappearing again by the end of the first week in August. Enjoying the cricket from above. Devouring our flying insects.

I picked it up by the tip of its wing, not thinking about any potential diseases or fleases I might catch from it. After all, they spend their entire lives in the air, only landing to lay eggs and keep their wee swiflets cosy in their soffit nests. What kind of lurgy can you catch if you spend all your waking (and sleeping) hours a hundred feet above the ground?

I took it home to show my cat. I thought he'd be interested. Have a sniff and a lick before replacing it in the gutter. I mean, if a cat can't be interested in a dead bird, what's the world coming to?

Of course, he couldn't care less. I waved it around in front of him, pulled its wings out wide to make it look as though it was flying. I even whistled between my teeth for some realistic swift-like sounds to accompany the show of acrobatics. Kitty just yawned and settled back down for a long sleep.

Andover New Street's stand is built on top of an old lorry trailer.
Andover New Street FC (0) 2 v 1 (0) Fleet Spurs FC
Sydenhams Wessex League First Division
Saturday 2nd November 2013
Attendance: 10
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Colours: Green / black / black v Dark blue / red / dark blue
National Grid reference: SU3448 / SU3548

Andover RFC's similar stand.
Where was I going with the swift story? Well, it was supposed to be an analogy for non-league football. The dead swift versus a packet of Whiskas (the Whiskas being the heavily-marketed foodstuff, the swift being the locally-produced organic alternative). Non-league is essentially the same as the professional version - 11 v 11, etc - but is anyone interested? People go for the professional game - and the biggest clubs at that - nearly every time, just as cats prefer Whiskas. It's nearly always a losing battle for non-league enthusiasts trying to persuade others to abandon the hypnotic sparkly lights of the Big City for their local team.

Andover New Street play in the Wessex League First Division, nine levels below Saints, six below Pompey, three below Bashley and AFC Totton. This is proper non-league, where the players are truly amateur and very few people pay to watch. On Saturday, even with only one substitute, there were more people playing for New Street than there were paying customers. I have no doubt that there were more citizens of Andover at Craven Cottage or Upton Park than there were at Foxcotte Park. It's a crying shame.

Inside the homemade stand.
For those who do turn up, Andover New Street have an interesting stand to explore. To quote Vince Taylor in Groundtastic magazine (issue 57): "Instead of arriving on the back of a lorry, as most new stands do nowadays, New Street's stand is the back of a lorry, or to be more precise, a converted lorry container".

The stand was built in 2009, to bring the ground up to Wessex League standards (each ground needs a certain amount of seats, amongst many other requirements). They pinched the idea from the rugby club next door, who have their own container/stand for spectators' comfort. They were both cheap to build and interesting to look at. More clubs should do this, in my humble opinion (is that what IMHO stands for in textspeak? I have no idea).

You enter New Street's stand by opening a garden gate and climbing up the wooden stairs, gripping a banister as you go. Inside, it's chipboard and benches. All perfectly acceptable for me and the club match reporter - the only two people using the facilities during this match.

All ready for an impressive bonfire. Remember to check for hedgehogs.
Driving up to Andover on Saturday, it was like my old friend Roy G Biv had thrown a landscape party for all his rainbow-coloured friends and only indigo and violet had failed to turn up. Blue sky, and reds, oranges, yellows, greens all present in the autumn foliage. All very pretty, but a bit of a nuisance for the club volunteers, as there were thousands of fallen leaves on the pitch that had required clearing that morning, with more falling all the time.

At least they could burn the leaves, as there was a bonfire event due that evening. Close to one corner flag, there was a huge pile of broken wood with an old kitchen chair perched precariously on top, ready for a Guy to sit upon. But who would be the Guy?

We have a bonfire every year, and the children can choose who they want to burn. For example, JLS were the chosen victims a couple of years back. Last year, their choice was between Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, whose finger would have been hovering over America's nuclear button had he won the election; Jimmy Savile, for obvious reasons; and Tory education secretary Michael Gove.

Gove won, taking every single vote from the under-18s - something I suspect he'll never do in a general election when they reach 18-plus. Probably best not to constantly tell every single person in their generation that they're thick, Michael. They're not, and they won't forget.

Bonfire for Mr Gove last year. No idea who New Street had on theirs...

Andover New Street's Prince Xhamela does a "Klinsmann".
It was one of those games on Saturday where nothing much happens until around 4.30, then all the fireworks go off towards the end. A slow burner. If the first seventy minutes was a novel, it would have been The Rainbow by DH Lawrence, the A Level text that nearly put me off reading for life. Give me a rumbustuous fairy story any day, the type where handsome princes always save the day.

As it happens, a handsome prince saved this match from fizzing out like a damp firework. The splendidly named Prince Xhamela scored twice within ten minutes near the end to win the game for New Street. Great name - pity it's not spelt Zhamela, as I'd only been talking about my old Subbuteo team the previous week with a work colleague who was dealing with a Mrs Zammit - the Subbuteo team made up entirely of players whose names began with Z...Zammit, Zorab, Zebedee, Zeal...Zhamela - so very nearly! (Another Subbuteo team - Austria Vienna, I think they were - consisted of players whose names sounded a bit rude - Fuchs, Kuntz, etc. You did the same, admit it).

Whisper, whisper...
Fleet Spurs scored a consolation with a few minutes remaining via a flicked header from a well-delivered free-kick. They kept going, the manager urging them that there was "still plenty of time to win this", but it was all over when their keeper was sent off in injury time. A New Street player was through on goal, but was brought down by a Spurs defender as he tried to chip the onrushing keeper. The white-shirted custodian handled the ball outside of his box. It was just a matter of which player to send packing - defender or goalie? The ref and his lino had a quiet conversation right in front of me and opted to send off Fleet Spurs' number one. I tried earwigging, but to no avail, so I didn't hear their reasoning.

It got worse for Spurs, as they had left the key inside the away changing room at half-time and were locked out. They may still be waiting for a shower even now, so far as I know.

The end of another grand day out in the Sydenhams Wessex League. Now to find the changing room keys...
For those of you who were hoping for another photo of Andover New Street's bicycle made for ten (snapped a couple of years ago when I was last here), I'm afraid it's gone. Still a nice ground and a friendly club though. I'll be back again in the future.

Oh, and did I get lost trying to find my way out of Andover's impossibly difficult roundabout system again? Of course!

Some more photos from the game can be seen here. And here is another match report.

Next time out, I shall be at an FA Vase tie. Odd Down v Moneyfields is my most likely destination.

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