Monday, 20 October 2014

Fleetlands v Overton United

A friendly welcome from the railings at Fleetlands FC.
Looking back now, I believe I made the wrong decision. Aged 11 and fresh in to Big School, I was given the choice of joining any one of the school cadet forces.

There was the Army, but this would have involved far too much yomping and polishing of boots until I could see my zitty face in them. But then again, I would have had the opportunity to play with guns in the school rifle range...but no, there's no way there would have been any "playing" - it would have all been strictly regulated by the humourless teacher-officers. Not the Army then.

The next option would have been the Navy cadets. Except I didn't like being in water very much and swum like a brick. Sailing would have been cool, but falling in the sea and drowning wouldn't have been.

What else? Well, there were the community service kids, but all they did was visit old people's homes and sing and dance for the residents. Maybe help out with meals on wheels. Very worthy, and possibly what I should have chosen with hindsight, but deeply uncool. And as a young Clash fan, this mattered. If only they'd taken a record player in to the homes and spun the residents some coloured vinyl punk 7"s, I'd have been there like a shot!

Which only left one option...

One of the two brick-built covered areas at Fleetlands FC.
Fleetlands FC (3) 4 v 3 (0) Overton United FC
Saturday 18th October 2014
Puma Engineering Hampshire Premier League Senior Division
Attendance: 24 (headcount)
Admission: £0
Programme: None
Colours: Red / black / black v Purple and white stripes / white / blue
National Grid reference: SU5804

Portsdown Hill, yacht masts in Fareham Lake, and a windsock (but no helicopters).
The Air Force cadets only realistic option. They promised that we'd fly a plane at some point during our five years at senior school, so as a big fan of Captain W.E. Johns' Biggles stories, this was appealing to the 11-year-old me.

Heroic Biggles would jump in to an old biplane, turn the ignition key, yank his joystick back and fly off over France shooting down Germans left, right and centre. Get up above the enemy (preferably hiding inside a handy cloud) and then swoop down on them out of the sun - the element of surprise - this was his secret. Brave and exciting, this could have been me by the time I'd reached sixth form.

The NHS specs and rampant spots would be a thing of the past as I strolled into the common room, nonchalantly sweeping a lengthy scarf over my shoulder, goggles resting on top of my head, effortlessly showing off my broad-lapelled leather flying jacket covered in shiny medals. Girls would shyly smile and blush; boys would offer me cigarettes and whisky. Everyone would gather round and listen to my stories of derring-do.

Yes, it was the Air Force for me!

A cheeky chimney pokes up above the trees.
Air Force cadets sounded great in theory, but what actually happened? Well, we spent interminable hours/weeks/months hunched over books of flying theory ("...ailerons have to be at an angle of 16 degrees before a plane can take off..."); even more interminable time polishing our unbelievably uncomfortable boots (it wasn't just the army cadets who had to do that - oh, the blisters!); and marching and yomping, marching and yomping - until news eventually came through that the school glider would be coming out of its hangar the following week!

The school glider was a flimsy thing, apparently made out of balsa wood and stuck together with Uhu. It only "flew" when a group of boys tugged on a series of ropes attached to the front, and then ran fast enough so that the plane could get up enough speed so that the boy in the cockpit could haul his joystick back so that the ailerons would flip to 16 degrees and the glider would "take off", at which point, the boys tugging the ropes had to dive out of the way in fear of their lives as the balsa wood menace picked up speed and headed straight towards them...

It came to my turn. Years of practical theory spinning round in my frazzled head, I grabbed the joystick as the glider picked up speed...and yanked it the wrong way. Instead of taking off, the glider's nose dived downwards, sticking into the soft earth like a pathetic javelin. I was never allowed near that flying machine again.

If only the school had had a helicopter instead. How hard can it be to drive one of those?!

The chase is on inside Overton United's penalty area!
Helicopters were something I knew all about from playing endless games of Top Trumps (specifically Dubreq Series 2). I knew that the Soviet transport helicopter Mil-Mi 12 couldn't be beaten on engine size, but our brave Westland Sea King 'copter could win on height, as the Russian's height was so secret, it was "not known".

Travelling to Fleetlands on Saturday, I was thinking about those old helicopters and wondering if I might see one during the match, as the football ground is situated within an MOD helicopter site. Indeed, one of the first things you see as you drive into the complex is a windsock. I can't think of any other football grounds with windsocks, so I'm going to say that this is unique (unless anyone knows any different...). Beyond the windsock (and out of bounds) are seven helipads and a control tower. Surely a helicopter might land or take off during the match?

They've seen something up there. A helicopter perhaps?
I chose to go to Fleetlands for my first Hampshire Premier League report because it had rained so much during the week, and I knew that there were two whitewashed brick-built shelters at the ground. Cover is important to me. I don't care if I can't sit down at a match. I don't care if there's no hard standing and my shoes get muddy. I do care if I get wet, so a covered area is essential for me.

Doing a bit of research, I understand that there are sheltered areas at the following clubs below the Wessex League (where the ground-graders make cover mandatory): Fleetlands, AFC Stoneham, Winchester Castle, Stockbridge, Sway, and Alton United. I'm sure there must be others with something other than an overhanging roof outside the clubhouse? If you know of any other Step 7 or below grounds in Hampshire with shelter, let me know in the Comments below or via my Twitter account. As I've visited all clubs within the county down to Step 6 and written about them (the initial aim of this blog), it would be nice to visit any others where I can keep dry!

A congratulatory hair ruffle for the scorer of Fleetlands' fourth goal. Hashtag windsock.
There was no programme, no names written on a whiteboard, and no match report elsewhere that I'm aware of, so I apologise for not knowing any of the goalscorers' names. Fleetlands scored within two minutes of the kick-off with a slow-moving precision dribbler in to the bottom right-hand corner, wrong-footing Overton's custodian. It was the sort of finely-engineered shot that I'd expect to see at a helicopter base.

Several players had to change their boots after the first goal as their studs were "sinking right in". With correct studs for the conditions, the match settled down in to an entertaining end to end contest, both sides having many chances to score. Fleetlands notched two more before half-time, which was harsh on the visitors.

I had a free cup of tea at the interval courtesy of a kind gentleman who saw me taking photos and referred to me as "a football nut - we used to get a lot of those!" If he reads this, I'd like to say thank you to him again - I appreciated your generosity. As Fleetlands rely entirely on their bar takings to keep the club going, I went back to the clubhouse later and spent some money on a chocolate bar.

The second-half was all action as goals flew in at regular intervals. Overton scored the two best goals of the contest to come back to 2-3 (a 20-yarder and a clever cut inside and shot past the keeper). The home side (wearing their brand new kit for the first time) then extended their lead to 4-2 when their number 10 chipped the Overton keeper, hit the bar, and number 8 followed in on the rebound with a header in to the unguarded net. Three minutes later, Overton came back to 3-4 with a low direct free-kick from 25 yards, but that was that for goals.

Fleetlands won, but as one of their players shouted at the final whistle, "we made hard work of that!"

A view from the woods.
No helicopters landed during the match. No helicopters took off. There was a disappointing overall lack of helicopter action. However, for on-pitch entertainment, I was in the right place, as shot after shot rained in on either goal and the match could have gone either way. A good afternoon out, and I needn't have worried about the rain, as the sun shone for pretty much the entire time I was there!

November's match reports will be for games on the 8th and 22nd of the month. I have no idea where I'll be going yet though.


  1. lots of helicopters on the Friday. 2 Chinooks, lynx and a police helicopter. glad you enjoyed your visit. ground hoppers always welcome, cup of tea included.

  2. I'll be back! I'm sure a few groundhoppers read this blog, so I hope they see your comment and take you up on your offer :-)