Tuesday, 27 May 2014

End of Season Roller Round-Up 2013/2014

Revealed at last! The secret night-time roller of Bracknell Town!
My fellow bloggers are all very good at one thing or another. If you're looking at this on a PC, over on the right, you'll see a link to Neil Cotton's Row Z. Neil is an occasional contributor to When Saturday Comes and writes match reports on his blog covering clubs in South Hampshire. But what he's particularly good at is his statistical pieces. If I think of Row Z, I think of graphs of crowd figures. Have a look, they're very interesting.

Skif at Departing Havant... has a unique way with phrases which make his match reports covering Havant & Waterlooville a good read even if you have no interest in the club he supports.

Derek Hammond and Gary Silke at Got, Not Got are so good at writing that they make a living out of it (see the brilliant Got, Not Got and The Lost World Of Football in WH Smith or Waterstones next time you're browsing their bookshelves. You'll end up buying them both).

For smirks and titters, I turn to Kenny Legg at Adventures In Tinpot. If pictures of hirsute German football fans covered in patched denim is your thing, then head off to AiT.

For photography, you can't beat Jerry at The Onion Bag's photo diaries. He mostly covers northern clubs, but has been to Hampshire to see the likes of Bashley and Petersfield Town. If you start browsing his blog, make sure you start early - you'll be there all evening.

Now, if I could combine the writing skills of Skif, Derek and Gary with the statistical analysis of Neil, the humour of Adventures In Tinpot and the photography of The Onion Bag, then I would have a heck of a blog here. However, I'm known for none of these things. Instead, I have the reputation of being the Rusty Roller Man.

So, if I have to be typecast, let's get on with 2013/14's End Of Season Roller Round-up right here, right now...

Oh, hang on, there's another one!
The first two pictures are from Bracknell Town, and were sent to me by my pal Jeremy at Kidlington FC. These two rollers were securely locked up in a compound on my own visit to Bracknell last September, but had been allowed out for Kidlington's floodlit visit. Perhaps they can only come out at night, like bats. Or vampires. I'd keep well away from them if I were to visit Bracknell again. Evil, blood-sucking rollers...ugh, the very thought!

Quivering away in the brambles at AFC Portchester. Not sure I like the look of that thing with chains.
The roller at AFC Portchester (above) looks like it's being stalked by some kind of Wicked Chain Creature, the sort of thing that rises from the depths of the earth in the Portchester area at full moon, hungry for rust. They don't move whilst you're looking at them, but turn around to watch the match for a minute or two, and you may notice that it's crept a few inches towards the poor old roller in the meantime.

Or has it?

A standard issue roller at Downton FC.
Jeez, I'm starting to scare myself a bit here...

Nothing sinister at Downton, as we spy Henry by the dressing rooms. A standard, common-or-garden roller, Henry has lived at Downton's ground for many years, occasionally being moved to flatten the goalmouths after a particulary rip-roaringly muddy match. Definitely nothing wrong here, unless...that's not another one of those Chain Creatures licking the rust off of Henry's parts, is it?

A mad inventor's flying machine at Downton FC.
Poor old Henry. Perhaps this magical contraption will come to his rescue? Some kind of mad inventor's flying machine design from the 19th century come to life by the entrance at Downton. Wind it up, jump on the back (careful of the rotating blades), and let's fly to Henry and save him! What do you mean, the blades would clearly rotate straight in to that bush? Nonsense! Let's believe!

Attempting to keep warm next to a brazier at Andover Town.
Shivering away in the winter sun next to an empty brazier is this Norwich City supporting roller from the Portway Stadium, home of Andover Town. At least, the green and yellow colours indicate that there's a Norwich connection. Must be feeling a bit sad after the Canaries' relegation. Let's go and find some old sticks, build up a fire and keep the old fella company. We'll cook some chestnuts, melt some marshmallows and down a few beers! I'm sure if Norwich keep the backbone of last season's squad and add a few new faces, they'll be back soon enough, mate!

(I was actually wondering if this roller was sat next to a fire to keep the creepy night creatures away, but I think we've been silly enough already).

A monstrous pair of chaps keeping guard over the cars outside Sholing's ground. No messing with these two!

And inside the Silverlake, a mottled old fella who would be well camouflaged if only he were sitting on a concrete path.
No concerns about keeping the creatures of the night at bay at Sholing with their two big rusty monsters keeping guard outside the stadium, like a pair of well-muscled bouncers. Needing protection inside was the rather weedy specimen above, the Walter The Softy of the roller world. Camouflaged whilst on concrete, vulnerable elsewhere, it must have felt fortunate that its big ruddy mates were there to protect it (or should that be "ruddy big mates"?).

Lining up for inspection at Midhurst & Easebourne FC.
With no other rusty old equipment on show at matches I've reported on since Christmas (with the exception of that attached to the gentlemen of the FA at Wembley...thanks for that joke, Ed!), we move on to Sussex County League Midhurst & Easebourne, whom I watched towards the end of the season. I'd heard about the amount of rusting hulks they have lounging around and had to go and see them for myself. I wasn't disappointed, as there were 10 (TEN!) rollers lolling about around the pitch, sprouting hither and thither like weeds.

Two more rollers growing like weeds at Midhurst.
Most of Midhurst's rollers are behind one goal, near what looks like a 14th century peasants' hut, painstakingly reassembled and all ready to transport to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton - presumably it was an old pavilion or changing rooms, long since fallen in to disuse. A highly photogenic ground and an enjoyable day out.

Easy to spot this silvery beast in the groundsman's shed at Gillingham Town. But can you see any corner flags in the picture above?
My final league match of the season was at Gillingham Town in Dorset. They had a lengthy silver sausage of a roller in their groundsman's shed. They have to be careful when taking this one outside in case the sun's rays reflect off of it and shine in to the eyes of any passing train drivers on the main Paddington to Exeter* line which passes by the ground.

*It may not be the Paddington to Exeter line - I'm just guessing.

That Rusty Roller Man reputation...I just bring it on myself, don't I? Other round-ups can be viewed by clicking on the "Rollers etc" tag.

Enjoy the World Cup everyone. And if anybody has any Panini Brasil 2014 sticker swaps, let me know - I have many.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Sholing v West Auckland Town (FA Vase Final at Wembley)

Sholing 1, West Auckland Town 0. The Vase comes south!
It hadn't been the best game up until the 70th minute. The two sides were equally matched and maybe just a little over-respectful of each other. There had been the odd chance here and there: Sholing keeper Matt Brown had made a couple of decent saves from West Auckland's yellow-shirted forwards, but it looked like we could be having extra-time and penalties. Not good, as I wanted to be home in time for Eurovision at 8 o'clock! A plate of cod and chips, followed by many beers awaited me at home. Come on Sholing, do it for me!

And so they did...

Pre-match souvenir hunting.
Sholing FC (0) 1 v 0 (0) West Auckland Town AFC
Saturday May 10th 2014
FA Carlsberg Vase Final (at Wembley)
Attendance: 5,431 (approximately 3,000 from Sholing)
Admission: £15
Programme: £4
Colours: Red and white stripes / black / red and white stripes v Gold / black / gold
National Grid reference: TQ1985

The roots of the arch.
A long ball forward from centre-back Lee Bright. A slip by West's left-back, and "Marvellous" Marvin McLean was in behind the defence with only the keeper to beat! The Sholing winger with the pace, poise and trickery of my old hero Vince Hilaire controlled the bouncing ball immediately, and after two touches, shot goalwards, aiming towards the far post. His shot may have been saved, but rocketing in from nowhere, a West defender stretched out a desperate calf. The ball hit his golden stocking and ballooned over Jordan Nixon in West's goal. One, two, three, four seconds - however long it was - the looping ball was in the air for longer than San Marino's dire Eurovision effort - but eventually, it was over the line, jiggling Nixon's towel and tickling the inside of the net!

Bobby Moore in silhouette.
It was bedlam on the pitch and off, as Marvin raced towards his brothers in the stands, chased by his ecstatic team-mates. The McLean family reached the bottom of the steps just as the Sholing players caught Marvin and smothered him in a stripey bundle of joy. Flags waving, children screaming in ecstacy, and tumult, utter tumult for the 3,000 natives of Southampton who had followed the team up from the south coast.

South Today's Tony Husband and his cameraman film the fans arriving along Olympic Way.
Twenty minutes of fingernail chewing and breathless defending followed. Brown made at least three more splendid saves to win the man of the match award. West hit the post with a minute of injury time remaining. But the fearless and brave band of brothers from Sholing hung on. The Vase was theirs! After eight ties, vanquishing local rivals Winchester City and Folland Sports during the autumn, travelling to Reading Town and winning 4-1, then beating Hullbridge Sports, Larkhall Athletic, Wisbech Town and Eastbourne United Association - sometimes easily, sometimes fortuitiously - the Wembley steps were awaiting their muddy boots.

Lewis Fennemore spots family and friends in the crowd as a man with an umbrella on his head walks past.
Up went the captain, Byron Mason, followed by his brothers (one of whom was his actual brother, Barry, the rest being his blood brothers), and then the coaching team. I was too far away to properly see the trophy being lifted, but subsequent photographic evidence proves that Mason hoisted the priceless cup jointly with his boss (both at the football club and at his workplace, the electricians BSA-Regal), Dave Diaper. A magical end to the manager's 15th year as the club's gaffer.

Reading out the teams before kick-off. "And at number 7 for Sholing...it's Barry Mason!"
The players and staff then floated back down to the pitch, where they were photographed with the Vase behind the sponsor's board. Champagne was sprayed, the trophy's silver lid was worn as a hat (well, I'd definitely do the same if it was me out there, wouldn't you?), then it was time to hug friends and family in the crowd, surrounded by photographers - every grinning embrace captured for posterity by the pros of the national and local press, and by 3,000 amateurs busily snapping away on their camera phones.

Rain on the terraces at Wembley.
Celebrations followed well into the night at the Dorchester Arms. Then they were back again on Sunday for more of the same before being paraded around St Mary's prior to Saints' game against Manchester United. Including the first team's Wessex League triumph, this season's trophy count was:

Sholing 2, Manchester United 0.

There's a scoreline you don't see every day.

They've only gone and scored! 1-0 to Sholing!
And so endeth my FA Vase journey. From Hythe & Dibden To Wembley. Following Hampshire clubs in the competition from the very first kick to the very last. I got lucky. This was only the second time a club from the county has won the Vase in its 40 year existence (Winchester City in 2004 were the other victors). It was fun.

Shall I do it again next season? Why not? I don't expect I'll be at Wembley again - Sholing won't be defending the Vase due to being promoted to the next level, where they will enter non-league's senior cup competition, the FA Trophy. But Alresford Town, Winchester City, AFC Portchester and Blackfield & Langley, amongst others, will fancy their chances. It could happen all over again. The draw for the first qualifying round will be in July, then it kicks off again on September 6th.

Out comes the board for the official winners' photo opportunity (with obligatory champagne showers).
There are many reports, videos and photo albums to peruse from this match. Wendy Gee wrote this in the Echo. More pictures from the Echo can be found here. The official FA video of the match is here. There are splendid photo sets from professional photographers here and here. One of my favourite local bands, Brother Goose (Southampton's answer to Vampire Weekend, if anybody was asking the question) wrote Sholing's official song for the final. Paul Samain, a Sholing fan, produced a video for it here. Very odd to hear Brother Goose blasting out over the Wembley speakers, when I'm more used to hearing them up close and personal at the Joiners.

Capturing the trophy presentation on a camera phone.
One little gripe to end the season with.

To the FA:

You spent how much on building Wembley Stadium? £650,000,000? Did it not occur to you to spend an extra few quid to extend the roof just a teensy-weensy bit further so that the plebs sitting in the front 30 or so rows don't get wet when it rains, as it very occasionally does in this country? Hmmm? Or at least put the fans who turn up for the Vase final in one of the upper tiers where they can keep dry. My coat is till sopping wet two days later.

I went to 30+ matches this season, and the only one I couldn't keep dry at was played at the national stadium. Think on.

A souvenir foam hand, broken and forgotten on the Wembley steps.
Enough with the griping, even though the smug, self-serving, self-satisfied FA bigwigs deserve all the opprobrium they get.

There will be an end of season roller round-up in a week or two. Until then, thanks to my regular readers for coming back here week after week. It's much appreciated.