Monday, 2 February 2015

Laverstock & Ford v Andover New Street

Viewed from nearby Cockey Down, Laverstock & Ford FC is just behind the schools, bottom right.
I don't know if you've noticed, but on the back of every Penguin biscuit wrapper, there's a joke. Children love these jokes. As a school lunchbox treat, the joke on the wrapper makes the Penguin more popular than the Rocky Bar or the Mint Viscount. There's nothing to laugh about on a Kit-Kat wrapper. You can't chortle along to the ingredients of a Club Milk. But a Penguin?

Sample joke:

"What did the magician penguin say to the other penguin?"

"Pick a cod, any cod."

The perfect biscuit for any wisecracking 10-year-old aspiring to popularity amongst his/her classmates.

I overheard a pair of my workmates making up their own, more adult, penguin jokes a few days ago. I can't print a sample joke here because this is a family blog, but if you know that there is a species of penguin called a rockhopper, and you take away the letter R and turn it into a C, and then make up your own question to which this new word is the answer...yeah?

Laverstock & Ford FC from the rough grassland behind the far goal.
Laverstock & Ford FC (2) 2 v 1 (0) Andover New Street FC
Saturday 31st January 2015
Sydenhams Wessex League Division One
Attendance: 15 (first half headcount)
Admission: £5
Programme: No
Colours: Green and white hoops / green / green v Yellow and black stripes / yellow / yellow
National Grid reference: SU1531

Spectator cover is all in one corner near the clubhouse.
Anyway, I couldn't help it. Their laughter was infectious. I thought I'd join in with the penguin jokes...

It took me a minute or two, but this is what I came up with:

"Which species of penguin has had number one albums called 19 and 21?"

[Workmates]: "We don't know Andy. Which species of penguin did this thing that you are asking us about?"

"The Adele Penguin!"



What had I done wrong? It was a play on words...Adélie penguin / Adele the popular singer...Surely that was worth at least a smile?

Apparently not. It was explained to me that nobody had ever heard of the Adélie penguin - the only well-known species are the Emperor, King and Rockhopper. Never mind that I could reel off ten species straight off without drawing breath - most people can't. Oh, and I would have been better off using Adele's songs rather than her album titles...

Whoops. So, jokes require that the recipients know what you're talking about...

Must remember this for future reference.

Andover New Street on the attack.
"I'm going to Laverstock & Ford this weekend!"

More silence.

More tumbleweed. I should be getting used to this by now...

I used to be a season ticket holder at Pompey. Anyone could talk to me and they would have some knowledge of the club and we could have a proper conversation. Inevitably, the other person would support a club I knew about and we could talk about their team as well. Male bonding (occasional bonding with women too) depends upon shared knowledge. Such-and-such a team are really missing so-and-so's goals this season...manager X should sign a new keeper to replace that useless Y - did you see how he flapped at that cross last Saturday to let Z in for the winning goal?

But I'm now in a netherworld. A place that few people understand. Laverstock & Ford? Two workmates had heard of them - indeed, had even been there, but the other 100+ people I know? I might as well have told them I was going to fly to Titan for the weekend. At least they might have heard of Saturn and its moons...

Somebody once told me that I listened to obscure music to annoy them, to give myself some sort of intellectual superiority over them. No, I didn't understand their argument either. I've always listened to music because I enjoy it - I neither know nor care if a song is popular. Similarly, I go to obscure football matches because I enjoy them. There are others out there like me. We should have a secret society, with handshakes and code words and our own slightly odd penguin jokes.

The Farm & Spinney Trail takes you right up to Laverstock's ground. In the distance, Cockey Down, without panda face.
So, what is this Laverstock & Ford place like? I walked there from what used to be Britain's tallest building, Salisbury Cathedral, which took me around 40 minutes. The Farm & Spinney Trail begins (or ends) next the ground, so I was able to get a sneak preview across the club car park before I entered. There was no-one there at 1:45, so I carried on walking and climbed up Cockey Down to take in the view.

Apparently, Cockey Down used to be disfigured by a panda's face hewn in to the chalk. No sign of it now, as the wild downland grasses have long since covered over Chi Chi's ugly mug. The hill is also well-known as one of the few places in Britain where you can find the rare flower, bastard toadflax. No idea what it looks like, but it does sound like the sort of thing that I hear refs being called from time to time.

Back at The Dell (Laverstock's ground) at 2:45, I paid my fiver entry fee. I was directed to a gap between two corner stands to go in. From the outside, I imagined that I was going to enter a magical world, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole (in my defence, I think I was suffering after climbing up and down Cockey Down in sub-zero temperatures - I believe wind chill makes some people hallucinate...).

It wasn't really a magical world. Immediately to my left was a kit stand with green and white plastic seats, and on my right was an identical stand. Beyond that was some home-built shelter for those wishing to stand. Other than these structures, the only other built objects were the two dugouts (brick), with a tea hut behind them.

The sun sets behind the corner flag at Laverstock & Ford.
Walking to the far end of the ground, I kept going past the corner flags, past a series of molehills to the river at the bottom of the gentle slope. Here, there were moorhens strutting about their business, as only moorhens know how to do. As I was the only spectator inside The Dell until five minutes before kick-off, the moorhens were my pre-match entertainment.

I counted 15 people watching the match halfway through the first half - and this included at least one of New Street's subs, who was drinking a cuppa from the tea hut with a mate in civvies. As some of the spectators must have been club officials, this meant that the number of paying customers must have been in single figures. I was surprised at how few people there were, as with nearby Salisbury City going bust recently, there must be several hundred football fans in the vicinity with no team to watch on a Saturday afternoon. I would have expected Laverstock & Ford to have benefitted from at least a few of these fans at a loose end, but it seems they haven't, sadly.

Prince Xhamela heads Andover New Street's goal with 15 minutes to go.
I've never seen Andover New Street lose a football match until last Saturday. I've covered them twice on here, and then I saw them beat Romsey Town 3-2 over Christmas (Romsey 2-0 up until the 75th minute...New Street win with a last minute goal...Christmas ruined). This unlikely record for one of the Wessex League's perennial strugglers was bound to go eventually, but they didn't go down without an almost heroic comeback.

The two goals for Laverstock & Ford were almost identical - both backpasses straight to a skulking forward, both within 60 seconds of each other around the 30 minute mark. Firstly, Oliver Batchelor rounded Dave Tasker in New Street's goal to slot in, then Luke Lewis took his shot slightly earlier to ripple the net for a second time.

Within a minute of the second half getting under way, New Street tinged the outside of the post (you don't realise the sound a ball makes when hitting the so-called woodwork when you watch a pro match in a big stadium - it's a metallic "ting!"). The match was end-to-end, as it had been all the way through. With fifteen minutes remaining, Prince Xhamela headed home a deserved goal, but despite more chances at either end, that was it, goalwise.

A New Street player (Craig Harman?) was harshly sent off in injury-time for a second yellow card given for two ball-winning tackles. Then it was time to go home.

Burning sky with Salisbury Cathedral visible on the horizon.
I feel as though I should wrap up this report with another penguin joke, but it would probably be overly-intellectual and unfunny if I made it up, so here's a random one from a website dedicated to Penguin jokes that I linked to in the opening paragraph:

"What do penguins wear on their heads?"

"Ice caps"

Okay, that's enough penguin jokes.

In two weeks, I should be at a Southern League ground in Oxfordshire for a vital relegation battle, watching a team that three - or possibly four - of my workmates have heard of. Which would make them twice as famous as Laverstock & Ford...


  1. Usual great read and photos. Especially the shot from the hill, That's my sort of photo !! Wantage next?

  2. Thanks Paul! Worth the 15 minute near-vertical climb, that first photo! I waited a little while for a break in the clouds to light up the cathedral, but it never came!

    Yep, you're right...if the weather holds up, I'll be following Bashley to Wantage next.

  3. In case you haven't already seen this....the panda in all it's glory!

  4. Nope, I'd not seen the panda before! The link in the comment above contains a photo of the famous panda and a short story of how it appeared. Thanks Matt!