Monday, 20 March 2017

Cowes Sports v Sholing

One of the two entrance signs at Cowes Sports. This is the dirty older one, but I liked the daffodils.
Lists. My life is full of them.

Sometimes, if I didn't have a list of things to do, I wouldn't even get up in the morning. I mean, I don't actually have a list telling me what I need to do after I've got up. You know: Visit the bathroom; Get dressed; Feed the cats; Breakfast and a cup of tea; Wash and clean teeth, and so on. This is such a familiar routine that I'll never get it wrong.

It's all the other stuff. At work, if I'm expected to do X, Y and Z, then I need to make a list to show me what I have to do before I reach X, Y and Z. I have notebooks full of As, Bs and Cs from weeks, months and years ago.

There's the weekly shopping list. Don't forget the toothpaste! Then on my phone, there are lists of records to buy, pin badges to order, upcoming gigs. There's another notebook full of football fixtures - both for the teams I actively follow, and potential matches of interest for HAH.

Without lists, I'd just forget everything. My life would lack structure. I'd probably spend all my time watching the telly and surfing the 'net and nothing would ever get done.

The oldest structure in the Wessex League.
Cowes Sports FC (0) 1 v 3 (1) Sholing FC
Saturday 18th March 2017
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 104
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Colours: Blue and white stripes / black / blue v Red and white stripes / white / white
National Grid reference: SZ4895

A call for volunteers.
I know several people who keep spreadsheets of all the football matches they've ever been to. They can tell me how many games they've seen at how many different grounds, how many goals have been scored by the home and away sides, how many red cards have been issued in their presence. In the circles I move in, this is considered normal behaviour.

I've no idea how many matches I've ever seen live because I don't have a spreadsheet (I wish I had, but it's far too late to start now!). All I have is a few scraps of paper with details of the matches I've written about for HAH. Having checked my HAH records, I know that I've written about Sholing six times previously (more than anyone else, with the exception of Havant & Waterlooville, Alton Town and Hythe & Dibden, all also featured six times). They've won the last four of these games, including the FA Vase final in 2014. I've seen Sholing score 12 goals and concede seven. Whereas, I've never covered Cowes Sports before - the only club in the Wessex League that I've not written about.

Which is partly why I was at Westwood Park on Saturday. Partly, because I put the choice to a vote, with my Twitter and Facebook followers sending me to the Isle of Wight instead of Four Marks. I don't know why I've never thought of putting a vote out there before. I shall do it again as it was strangely entertaining, checking every couple of hours to see who was winning.

Marvin McLean attacking the Cowes Sports right-back.
What would happen if I wrote a match report as a list? Well, that's pretty much what I do at an HAH game anyway, jotting down noteworthy incidents as they happen, to be expanded upon later.

So, without editing, what did Saturday's game look like in my notebook?

  • 1m 0-1 9 Dan Mason fk turned shot 12yds
  • 50m CS hit bar
  • 60m 0-2 9 Mason through ball turned shot 18yds
  • 65m 1-2 ??? turn and shot 20yds from short corner deflection?
  • 70m 1-3 corner 5 headed back in ??? turned volley 6yds

Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? Lots of turning and shooting, but I'll stick with those descriptions, because all four of the goals were the result of someone quickly controlling the ball from a pass, twisting their body to face the goal and volleying the ball fast and hard in to the net. The goalkeepers never stood a chance with any of the four goals.

After the match, I could check Twitter for the missing goalscorers, the "???"s. The mystery man for Cowes was Dexter Malin (who must have got a touch on the incoming shot from outside the box to divert the ball past Sholing's Ryan Gosney), with the missing scorer for Sholing being Dan Mason.

Sholing's third goal was also Dan Mason's third, which was his 100th for the club in 154 games. That's an impressive ratio.

The seventh time I've written about Sholing and their fifth straight victory. You could say I'm their lucky charm, but I don't believe in that sort of thing. They're just a very good side for the level they play at. If Cowes believed in unlucky charms, they would probably want me to go and watch Whitchurch United for the rest of the season, as they are the Island club's main relegation rivals - Cowes sitting fourth from bottom of the Wessex Prem, one place above Whitchurch in the final relegation position. Whitchurch have lost every time I've featured them.

Preventing Lee Wort from scoring, by fair means...
I had other notes in my book. These are bits and pieces that I wrote down before the match, as I always do my homework before I go anywhere for the blog.

Highlights from my studies included:

  • Cowes FC (and subsequently Cowes Sports since the original club's merger with Whites Sports in the early 1980s) have played at Westwood Park since 1912.
  • The stand at Westwood Park is the oldest structure in the Wessex League. It was built in 1921 by local boatwrights and chandlers in a nearby sawmill in Medina Road.
  • Largely untouched since 1921 inside, but reclad in the early 1990s.
  • There used to be another stand opposite, but this blew down in the wild storms of 1987.

(Source for these facts: Peter Miles in The Homes Of Non-League Football).
Looking at old photos, there was a small uncovered terrace next to the main stand, but the building containing the clubhouse and changing rooms was constructed on this spot around 25 years ago. One step survives.

Beyond the big stand is another covered area, one step high but with a ramped entrance so that wheelchairs can use it, which can be seen in the fourth photo here. In the corner behind this structure is a tree with a handmade swing, at a perfect height for a six-year-old child.

All the structures at Westwood Park are on one side, with the rest of the ground being hard standing with a mixture of walls and blue and white railings separating spectators from the pitch.

...or foul! Ouch!
And there were yet more notes - interesting historical snippets taken from Norman Gannaway's Association Football in Hampshire until 1914:

  • Cowes FC were formed in 1881. Early opponents included Banister Park School, Ringwood Hornets, Portsmouth Sunflowers, Total Abstinence of Basingstoke (my absolute favourites - I wish they were still around!), and Fordingbridge Turks (Hampshire's oldest surviving club - I must feature them next season).
  • Woolston Works (Sholing's forerunners) won the first ever Hampshire Senior Cup in 1888. They imported a large number of Scotsmen who were employed as shipmakers. The Scots introduced "modern methods of football into the county".
  • People complained about the new style of play. For example, in 1887, someone called Old Stager wrote that "in our time we played for fun, and we enjoyed the rough and tumble of a manly sport. Now, your footballers go into training for their matches, wear shin-guards to save their legs, and with all their skills have taken all the rough and tumble out of the game". I wish Old Stager was still around. I'm sure we'd get on famously.
  • Cowes won the first ever Hampshire League title in 1897. The deciding match was at home to Portsmouth's Royal Artillery, which the island club won 1-0. However, some of the home supporters made for a Royal Artillery player who "was pelted with orange peel and pursued by the unruly mob". Apparently, Cowes supporters "did not bear a very good character...continually hooting and hissing the gunners..."

There's much more of this priceless detail in the book. Recommended if you can source a copy. I can assure you that Cowes fans no longer hoot and hiss at the opposition. Nor do they throw orange peel at them. Just a frustrated sigh or two as their team lose at home yet again.

Dan Mason's hat-trick goal for Sholing.
But I haven't told you how to get to Westwood Park yet. Some of you will want to visit. Here's how you can do it...

  • Buy a through train ticket to Cowes (West).
  • Catch the free bus from Southampton Central train station (south side). Buses on the hour and half  hour on a Saturday.
  • Arrive at the Red Jet terminal after seven minutes.
  • Board the Red Jet (£16.40 adult day return if you don't already have a through ticket). They go at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour.
  • The Red Jet takes 23 minutes to cross The Solent.
  • Walk 15 minutes up a steep hill (which gradually becomes less steep) to Westwood Park.

Thus, from boarding the shuttle bus at Southampton station to arriving at Westwood Park, it takes just less than an hour.

If walking up a steep hill is difficult for you, then it is possible to take your car on the car ferry (which takes about an hour to cross The Solent and lands at East Cowes). All up-to-date information for the ferries is here.

The inevitable arty shot at the end.
A well-written match report for this game is on Sholing's website. It features several more of my photos. If there was a prize for Best Website at the Wessex League end of season awards ceremony, then Sholing would almost certainly win it. However, I don't believe such an award exists. It should, it really should.

I shall post another 40 or so photos from Cowes Sports on the HAH Facebook page in a while. If all these pictures aren't enough, then there are even more on my Flickr profile here. I don't usually use Flickr, but it seemed like the best place to put them this week so that Sholing's webmaster, Keith Legg, could access them easily for their match report.

The next HAH will be in two weeks. I shall put the destination up for a vote again, as I can't make up my mind. The choice will be between a women's match on Sunday April 2nd and a men's match in the Hampshire League on Tuesday the 4th.


  1. Definitely one I want to visit - just to say though I've also come up with my own form of short-hand in my notebook which is probably unintelligible to anyone else!

  2. I had ambitions of being a proper journalist once. Bought a book on Pitman's shorthand. Never read it...