Monday, 9 October 2017

Warsash Wasps v Clanfield

The entrance to Warsash Rec, the home of Warsash Wasps men's team.
I know I keep harking back to the old days, but I feel I need to just one more time. There's a new book about goalkeepers coming out soon, and the keeper's jersey I used to wear at school is on the front cover! I mean, it wasn't really mine - it was my dad's - but I wore it as a kind of retro hand-me-down as the school goalie. It was one of those quilted efforts from the early 1960s, an original Umbro - probably worth a fortune on the black market these days.

*Checks Ebay...confirms NOT worth a fortune*

Anyway, this green jersey was massive and exceedingly baggy on the 10-year-old me (now an exceedingly tight fit on middle-aged me), but I put in some of my finest performances wearing it. Digging it out earlier this year to take photos of it for the book, I noticed an original 1970s stain down the front. Probably a Toast Topper stain. I must have worn the shirt home and had a bite to eat between the end of school and a match against Front Lawn or Cowplain or Riders or Trosnant or Bidbury or whoever our opponents had been that week.

I suppose it could have been the yolk from a fried egg. I ate a lot of fried egg sandwiches in those days.

The head of football at our junior school was Mr Wade. I remember him being as tall as my mate Ben...Ben Nevis, but then all adults towered over me at that time. Mr Wade must have put in a lot of unpaid overtime to run the school football team, but surely he enjoyed doing it? I wonder if there is still a football team at my old school in Havant? Checking their website, there's no mention of football...

Warsash Wasps being led out by today's official, Mr Michael Thomas.
Warsash Wasps SFC (1) 1 v 5 (3) Clanfield FC
Saturday 7th October 2017
Hampshire FA Men's Intermediate Cup First Round
Attendance: People came and went throughout the match, but other than me, I think it would be fair to say that two men and a dog were the only spectators who were there from beginning to end.
Admission: Free
Programme: No
Colours: Yellow and black stripes / black / black v White / yellow / yellow
National Grid reference: SU4905

A lonely-looking club lino waits for something to do as the spire of St Mary's Church peeps out from amongst the houses behind him.
With the decline of football in schools, independent clubs were needed to fill the void. This is where clubs like Warsash Wasps come in. They were formed in 1977 specifically to provide football for children. They have a brand new facility in the village dedicated to their youth teams, just a couple of hundred yards down the road from the recreation ground where the men's first team play.

They currently have 28 teams for boys and girls, ranging from three under-9 sides up to the under-18s. From there, the by-now young men and women can progress to their respective adult teams if they wish to do so.

Of course, they're not the only club to serve their local community in this way. Many other clubs whose adult teams play in local leagues also have thriving youth sections - Warsash Wasps' opponents on Saturday, Clanfield FC, provide a similar service to their village. If I'm reincarnated upon my death and return as a 10-year-old boy, I might well play for one of my local youth teams rather than my school now. Mind you, I'd probably wear a more up-to-date keeper's jersey. I don't think I could stand the inevitable teasing if I turned up in my dad's old shirt again.

When I said that the attendance consisted of two men and a dog, I was forgetting the eight boys and their bicycles...
So the Warsash Wasps men's first team play on a recreation ground in the middle of the village. There were rumours that Gordon Strachan used to live nearby whilst he was the manager at Saints. Maybe he still does, for all I know. Perhaps he occasionally strolls up to the rec to take a game in. If he has a dog, he might even bring it along and join all the other dog walkers who visit the rec during one of Wasps' games.

There's no so-called football furniture at the rec - no terraces, no seating (unless you count the park benches that are dotted around the place), no floodlights, no railings, and so on. The only shelter was used by the local children as a climbing frame during Saturday's match. You can see them sitting atop the shelter in the picture above. They moved over to the other side of the pitch later on and congregated in the playground instead.

Penalty to the Wasps!
It's funny that an ex-Saints manager should live in Warsash, because it's really border country between Southampton and Portsmouth here. To the west, over the River Hamble, there's no question that the majority of football fans support Southampton FC, whereas a couple of miles east, in Fareham, Pompey fans are undoubtedly in the ascendancy. Around here, in the badlands of the Locks Heath / Warsash / Swanwick and Sarisbury area of Solent City, the fans of both clubs live side by side. Neil Cotton of Row Z ran a survey on this subject three years ago. You can see his results here.

What is for certain is that Warsash Wasps play in the Southampton Saturday Football League at Senior 1 level (the second tier of this league). They've not had the best of starts, with only one win from their first four matches. Whereas Saturday's opponents, Clanfield, are comfortably ensconsed in mid-table in the Hampshire Premier Football League. There is a three level gap between the two clubs - the equivalent of a team near the bottom of League Two taking on a mid-table Premiership club - say, Yeovil Town v Stoke City. Realistically, you might expect Yeovil to beat Stoke one time in every twenty - this was the extent of the task facing the Wasps.

The cup competition that the two sides were playing in was the Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup - open to clubs from the Hampshire League downwards in the pyramid, ending at Warsash's level. It's a mixture of Hampshire League clubs and those from the various city-based leagues from around the county, plus clubs from the Isle of Wight, plus a sprinkling of reserve sides from the Wessex League and other places. Last season, the Island's Whitecroft & Barton Sports beat Locks Heath in the final.

Not a penalty! As Clanfield's Brown evades Collier's tackle.
Is it wrong to borrow someone else's match report without asking them first? Probably, but I don't know how to contact John, the author of the following report. We spoke last season at Upham, and he was the man without a dog on Saturday. He posted this report to Tony's Non-League Forum. I've added in one or two names cribbed from the team sheets and made a couple of other minor edits, otherwise this is all his work. Thank you John. If you read this, I hope you don't mind:

"Turned up at Bishop's Waltham but no game on, so decided to watch Warsash Wasps v Clanfield instead. Lively start by both sides but Clanfield won a succession of corners and took the lead from a short corner played to the far post and the ball was headed across goal and slotted home by the Clanfield full back Frankie Cole. Minutes later Clanfield doubled their lead when Josh Hazell launched a long throw in into the penalty area which was headed beyond the keeper by Harry Potter. Warsash had shown some promising moves and their number 10 Chalk rode one challenge in the penalty area but was tripped by a second challenge and the referee awarded a penalty converted by Gibson who found the bottom corner of the net. Any chance of a Warsash recovery was dashed from another Clanfield set piece when an identical short corner was headed by Andy Brown over the keeper and into the net. HT 1-3.

At the start of the second half Clanfield increased their lead when Potter struck a fierce long range shot which Warsash's keeper Moylan seemed to have covered, but he failed to keep the ball out at the near post. Warsash kicking down the slope and with the wind behind them tried to get back in to the game but Clanfield's keeper Chris Clark dived to block a powerful goal bound shot which was heading for the far corner. Another effort went over the bar and a couple of chances went wide of the posts. At the other end the Warsash keeper redeemed himself with some outstanding saves from close range, tipping one shot onto the bar and getting down low to save the follow up. Warsash cleared a couple of efforts off the line as they pushed forward and finally conceded a fifth goal after the Warsash keeper reacted to block a Clanfield strike at the near post but the ball fell to Clanfield substitute Cam Palin who slotted the ball home."

A straw woman was the day's most curious spectator.
At the start of John's report, he mentions that he turned up to Bishop's Waltham, but there was no game on (presumably because the opposition couldn't raise a side). This is a huge problem at this level. There has been a massive decline in participation over the last few years. So many clubs at the real grass roots level have folded due to lack of players. It wasn't very long ago that the Southampton Saturday League had over ten divisions. This season, there are only six. Entire leagues have folded because they've simply run out of teams.

57 teams entered the Hampshire Intermediate Cup this season. In the first round, consisting of 48 fixtures, there were 17 walkovers where one club couldn't fulfil their fixture for one reason or another. I'm not going to speculate at the reasons behind this decline - there will be many different factors involved - but the fact remains, if there are no players, there will be no football. If there is nobody to run a club, that club folds. Once enough clubs die, the leagues lose another division. Once all the divisions within a league have gone, there is no league. If there are any players left, there is nowhere for them to play.

In the meantime, the Premier League will carry on as if nothing is happening.

Time to tidy away the goals until they're needed again.
Clanfield will host Christchurch Reserves in the Second Round of the Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup on November 4th. I may well feature another match from the same competition on HAH from the same day.

I shall publish another 40 or so pictures from this game on the HAH Facebook page later this evening. I need a nice cup of tea before I do that though.

I nearly forgot to mention the name of the new goalie book! It's called Glove Story, and it comes out on November 7th. You can access the publisher's website by clicking here. It's by the same authors as the Got Not Got series of books, which some of you might be familiar with. It would make a grand Christmas present for the between the sticks custodian in your life.

Next time on HAH, I'll be featuring an FA Vase tie being played on October 21st. I haven't made up my mind which game to feature, so no clues this time. See you in a fortnight.

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