A Paean for Nanpean (Nanpean Rovers FC)

Nanpean Rovers can trace their heritage back to a formation date of 1901. However, it was their 1936 move to the newly inaugurated Victoria Bottoms Playing Field that formed the basis for their cherished status among football ground aficionados. The small village is in the heart of the Cornish clay hills and the new playing field was constructed on a filled in clay pit. The bowl shape caused by excavation has seen nature taking over the intervening 77 years and mature plants and bushes now afford the casual observer a myriad of viewing positions for a game. The “away” dug out nestles gently against a backdrop of wild flora.

Times have been hard on the field for Rovers in recent years the winning of the East Cornwall Premier League and reaching the final of the Cornwall Senior Cup in 1996/97 seem distant memories as the club find itself in the nether regions of the second tier of the East Cornwall League.


The ground enjoyed a much needed revamp last year when the 1958 pavilion underwent a £70,000 modernisation. The pavilion also acts as a memorial to the eight lads from the village that lost their lives in the Second World War. A large crowd gathered for the grand reopening by local MP Stephen Gilbert in February 2012. Funding for the project had been gained from a variety of sources including Football Foundation, Cornwall Development Company, SITA and St Stephen-in-Brannel Parish Council.

The two stone shelters have sadly been the attention of local graffiti artists and are crying out for a lick of paint. They remain eye catching book ends to this most glorious of non-league venues. Victoria Bottoms remains one of the most beguiling grounds in the country.


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The Pamphill Village Green Preservation Society (Kingston Lacy FC)

I have been watching football from national stadiums to village greens for a long time now, but even now I still get taken by surprise. A rare Friday night fixture in the Dorset County League fitted in nicely with a return from a week’s holiday in Cornwall. A little bit of research found the ground was not far from Wimborne Town’s scenic Cuthbury ground in the tiny village of Pamphill. I wasn’t expecting much other than a nice interlude to break up the long journey home, I had certainly never seen a picture of the ground before.

I pulled up well before kick off to check it was still on and found a real treat for my eyes. No anathema Arena seating stands here, just a gorgeous thatched roof pavilion and dugouts. Setting out the pitch were the Kingston Lacy manager and his father, who tirelessly tends the ground. The pair then filled me in on the furore gripping this sedate corner of Dorset. With genuine sadness in their eyes they recounted the tale that the local cricket club who own the lease to the ground, have asked the footballers to leave at the end of the current season. The ground itself is owned by the National Trust and a pretty avenue of mature beech trees border the playing field lead up to the gloriously opulent Italianate country manor house.

The Lacy club were reformed in 2006 under the stewardship of the Cherrett family and have had a successful climb up the Dorset County League. The club have played at the Pamphill Village Green for the seven years of the existence and Cherrett Senior works on the pitch six days a week to ensure an immaculate surface. He also maintains the school field and created two new strips for the cricket club as well. The issue is the current pitch is fractionally too narrow for senior status and the cricket club have refused permission to widen the pitch. The dispute has raged on and ultimately the cricket club, who stage only nine home games a season, have invoked their right as leaseholders to throw the football club off, citing “lack of maintenance” as the reason. I am no turf expert but the footballers play on the outfield and there are no worn patches at all. Some Football League clubs would be proud to still have lush green turf at this stage of a season! The latest meeting broke down in considerable acrimony and without resolution. Lacy have one home game left of this season against local rivals Witchampton United on May 7th. Such is the ill feeling, it is likely that the game will be staged at Witchampton instead. Failing to resolve the dispute or find an alternative venue means the future for Kingston Lacy Football Club is uncertain to say the least.

The match itself was a very decent standard, the youthful looking visitors of Piddletrenthide United took a first half lead through Chris Rawlings. The home side levelled proceedings early on in the second half through Graham Cole. The match looked to be drifting to a draw as dusk enveloped this pretty little ground when the visitors were reduced to ten men when Craig Kellaway limped off with a nasty looking ankle injury. Substitutions already made, Lacy took full advantage of their numerical advantage with Pete Pritchard nodding in two late headers to seal a victory for Lacy.

The onlookers, numbering 34, enjoyed a spirited encounter and Cherrett senior reported a sell out on chocolate bars and had to dispatch a volunteer to procure emergency milk supplies! A beautiful and inspiring corner of rural England deserves some peace and tranquillity. Let’s hope the dispute can be favourably resolved as currently there are no winners here.

Friday April 26th 2013

Dorset County League Senior Divsion

Kingston Lacy (0) 3 (Cole 53,Pritchard 88,90)

Piddletrenthide United (1) 1 (Rawlings 29)



1. James Park; 2. Matt Norman; 3. Matt Rose; 4. Grant Cormack(c); 5. Mark Reynolds; 6. Nick Park; 7. Gus Bell; 8. Matt Charlton; 9. Pete Pritchard; 10. Graham Cole; 11.Matty Cox.

Subs: 12.Simon Woodruff (for 11, 54 mins); 14. Jay Adams; 16. Ollie Cherrett (for 7, 66 mins)


1. Adam Loyde; 2. Jonny Stewart; 3. John Wills; 4. Chris Rawlings; 5. Dan Belt; 6. Dan Gardner; 7. Ryan Ross; 8. Craig Kellaway; 9. Neil Kellaway (c); 10. Will Ramsey; 16. Darren Boacher.

Subs: 12. Gareth Will (for 7, 60 mins); 14. Nick Paul (for 3, 69 mins)

Yellow Cards: Reynolds (Lacy); Rawlings, N.Kellaway and Boacher (Piddletrenthide).


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Arrowing in on Notts

An organised “groundhop” in the Notts Senior League could evoke a number of reactions from football ground aficionados. Some would relish the chance for more “numbers” others would turn their nose up and question the standard of the football and facilities on offer. Others would sign up for a footballing tour around the nether regions of an area rich in industrial history, battle scarred from heavy mining and hard times.

A blissfully warm weekend arrived as a welcome respite from months of watching the beautiful game wrapped up from biting winds, hellish rain and the copious snow levelled in our direction this winter.

Magdala Amateurs keenly replaced Attenborough who had to concede defeat on overrunning ground improvements delayed by the unhelpful weather. The West Bridgford based side rub shoulders in exalted company, a stones throw from the holy triumvirate of Forest, County and Trent Bridge. Their humble home lies behind a modern leisure centre, enclosed by a fence from the car park. The hoards lined the perimeter and in truth a scenic little ground with mature willow trees billowing gently in the soft breeze put minds at rest regarding the standard of football in this scantly explored league. A keenly contested match of no little quality ended in a 2-1 triumph for the hosts who kicked off the weekend in fine style.

The traditional four match marathon Saturday kicked off early at ten past ten at the well populated Selston ground. Whilst the Parish Hall bristled with a table sale, the rest of the village seemed to be around the perimeter of the field, the football pitch sharing the outfield of the village cricket club. A small covered stand on the banking reminded the visitor of headier days and the clubs volunteers put on a very acceptable spread for a big crowd. The game itself was niggly, many stoppages punctuated with a clutch of yellow cards. The home side rescued a point with the final kick of the game.

A quick dash to nearby Underwood saw us arrive at Bracken Park. The clubhouse was clearly a work in progress but was pressed into service in half built state. The only Division One encounter of the weekend saw another keenly fought tussle, whilst the onlookers basked in the early afternoon sun. The visitors rudely announced themselves with two goals in the opening ten minutes. The homesters rallied and steadied their ship, levelling affairs with two goals in quick succession in first half injury time. The second moiety could not separate the teams so a second share of the spoils was the outcome.

Onto Awsworth and the unusually monikered Shilo Recreation Ground. An historic venue, site of a open cast mine shaft and earlier still a 17th century glass foundry, the venue was pretty as a picture. Eye catching metal dugouts on one side with fold out locking doors were trumped by a nicely manicured bank on the opposite side which was just made for lying in the sun watching two teams do battle. A scenic panorama behind the clubhouse was somewhat spoilt by a well known retail invader from Scandinavia. The home side proved too strong for their visitors on this occasion and three excellent goals were a faithful reflection of their superiority.

The weekend signed off with an early evening visit to Kimberley Miners Welfare. Another ground tightly squeezed into its surroundings but not without character. A brusquely worded sign at the entrance threatening prosecution to any interlopers bent on malodious activity belied a warm welcome as temperatures began to relent a little. The club laid on everything they could to keep their big crowd happy and the home side laid on a master class in clinical finishing. The Miners rattled in seven goals without any real hint of a riposte from their hapless visitors.

So the first Notts Senior League Football Bonanza was very well attended and a roaring success for its ebullient organiser, Rob Hornby, one of football’s genuinely nice guys. More of the same next year? Yes why the hell not, after all it turns out that driving round Robin Hood country with arrows in your hat really is rather cool for cats.

Magdala Amateurs 2 (Sutton 9,48) Bilborough Town 1 (Lucas og 22)

Attendance at Wilford Lane was 245.

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Selston 2 (Barnes 4, Moore 90) Wollaton 2 (Rawson 47, Ranshaw 82)

Attendance at the Selston Parish Field was 358.

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Underwood Villa 2 (Townsend 45, Tring 45) West Bridgford 2 (S.Prince 5, Charlesworth 10)

Attendance at Bracken Park was 341.

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Awsworth Villa 3 (Saxton 20,90, Henson 58) Cotgrave Miners Welfare 0

Attendance at The Shilo was 266.

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Kimberley Miners Welfare 7 (Chaplin 14, Fisher 22,26,50, Baker 54, Beecham 63, Wilmott 90) Keyworth United 0

Attendance at Digby Street was 369.

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Abiding Memories

Southend United playing in a cup final at the iconic home of football always seemed destined to elude the faithful bunch of supporters that have followed the Shrimpers through some very hard times. Even near misses have been somewhat reluctant to head our way since the F.A. introduced an ever changing plethora of minor competitions designed to give its “associate” members a chance to shine, albeit for just one day.  A penalty shoot out loss to Notts County in the erstwhile Anglo-Italian Cup in 1993/94 and an LDV area final loss to Brentford in 2000/01 saw the Shrimpers looking on like a kid locked out of a toy shop at Christmas.

Even a spell of sustained success under former player Steve Tilson which saw the club reach two LDV Finals and a League Two play-off Final in an exciting 14 month period saw each occasion savoured, but inevitably diluted by the fact each was held 200 miles away in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

So would Southend ever get to enjoy a day in the sun at Wembley Stadium? It was looking as far away as ever as the club slipped from one financial crisis to another, transfer embargos, players not getting paid, winding up orders and the very real spectre of administration have dogged recent campaigns. Step forward Paul Sturrock, softly spoken genial Scotsman and the latest man charged with moulding a rag-tag bunch of footballing  journeymen and hopeful youngsters into something resembling a football team. The season was unfolding into another campaign of abject disappointment with woeful home form dogging the team from the opening day. However, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was proving a welcome distraction. The early rounds saw AFC Wimbledon, Dagenham and Redbridge and even League One promotion chasers Brentford were comfortably dispatched at Roots Hall. We were then handed an away tie in the semi-final against Oxford United. A 3-3 draw saw the tie go to a penalty shoot out. Sturrock pulled out his trump card a substituted experienced goalkeeper Paul Smith for youngster Daniel Bentley, a stunt that had come off against Bury in the FA Cup a month previously. Again the rookie made the vital save to see the Blues through to the Area Final.

Old adversaries Leyton Orient, of League One, stood in the way of a grand day out for the club and some welcome revenue for the scarily empty club coffers. On a muddy pitch at Brisbane Road, an opportunist goal from Ryan Leonard gave us a slender lead for the home leg. A tense battle looked heading towards the East Londoners when Ben Reeves, a youngster on loan from Southampton, scuffed the ball into the net as injury time commenced. Dramatically and unbelievably the die had been cast and our day had come, Wembley beckoned.

Estimating how many tickets a club averaging gates under 5,000 for the season would or could sell were reduced to plucking numbers from the air. When the first day of sale came though, people came in their droves. Queues redolent of communist era shortages at Moscow’s GUMM stores snaked around the car park and lasted all day. And the day after, and the day after that. It was clear Southend was gearing up for its biggest day out ever. 16,000 were sold before they went on general sale and ended up exceeding the 31,033 tickets sold for the club’s largest ever attendance against then European Champions Liverpool some 34 years previously.

In the run up to the Final, Sturrock had the rug pulled from under him, divested of his opportunity to walk out with his team at Wembley. Dismissed and replaced by Phil Brown, the gentlemanly Scot magnanimously turning down the chairman’s limp olive branch offer of a pseudo mascot role at Wembley.  

So the big day finally arrived, coaches, trains and cars headed to North London outnumbering the opposition supporters by more than three to one. Crewe would be stern opposition, they, after all, ended our play-off hopes in clinical fashion the previous season and were acquitting themselves pretty well in the third tier.

Team selection was a hot topic, errant tour-de-force Bilel Mohsni was placed in an unfamiliar centre midfield role. Injured skipper Chris Barker was returned to the side after weeks out. Mark Phillips, battle worn infantryman that had selflessly subjected himself to eight pain killing injections to get us through the Area Final was dumped into a non-laying substitute role. Worse still Ryan Leonard, a hard working unsung hero who had scored the vital Area Final goal, was sat in the stands looking forlornly on. Our recent poor run of form and inevitable nerves manifested as early as the sixth minute. Crewe’s training ground corner was lashed into the net by Luke Murphy and we already had a mountain to climb. Impressive youngster Max Clayton doubled the advantage just after the break and the game was effectively over. A bold double substitution briefly rekindled the dying flame but ultimately it was not to be. In truth Crewe were worthy winners on the day.

My memories of the day are numerous and will remain with me always. Looking back from Bobby Moore’s statue, himself with Southend connections, and seeing a tidal wave of blue humanity coursing down from WembleyPark station was emotive enough in itself. A cornucopia of former players turning up on their own volition with their own tickets was heart warming. Hearing that long term supporters had taken photos of their fathers in their pockets to share the day with them was somehow emblematic of the extended family that is our core support. Furthermore seeing people I had not seen for years and remembering those that had longed for this day to happen but had passed away before a dream had become real were part of a truly memorable occasion. No trophy but plentiful memories that will abide with me.

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final

Sunday April 7th 2013 – Wembley Stadium

Attendance: 43,842

Crewe Alexandra (1) 2 (Murphy 6, Clayton 49)

Southend United (0)0


1. Steve Phillips; 2.Matt Tootle; 3.Harry Davis; 5.Mark Ellis; 14.Kelvin Mellor; 8. Luke Murphy ©; 19. Abdul Osman; 26. Chuks Aneke; 31. Bradden Inman; 7.Max Clayton; 11.Byron Moore.

Subs: 10. A.J. Leitch-Smith (for 7, 83 mins); 12. Oliver Turton; 13. Alan Martin 17. George Ray (for 26, 90 mins); 27. Ryan Colclough (for 31, 69 mins).


1. Paul Smith; 2.Sean Clohessy; 23. Chris Barker; 6. Ryan Cresswell; 16. Luke Prosser; 14. Kevan Hurst; 28. Bilel Mohsni; 29. Tamika Mkandawire; 3. Anthony Straker; 20. Britt Assombalonga; 21. Gavin Tomlin.

Subs: 7. Freddy Eastwood (for 29, 77 mins); 10. Barry Corr (for 23, 57 mins); 15. Mark Phillips; 17. Daniel Bentley; 27. Ben Reeves (for 28, 57 mins).

Yellow Cards: Osman, Clayton (Crewe), Barker, Hurst (Southend).


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Allez Calais – Remembering an Epic Cup Run

While it is scarce indeed for any club outside the Premier League to reach the F.A.Cup final, it is not unknown for modest clubs to have epic runs in the French equivalent competition, the Coupe de France. Back in 1999-2000, amateur side Calais Racing Union enjoyed one of the highest profile journeys to the final in the modern era. They became the first fully amateur side in history to reach the final in the competition long history.

Formed in 1902, the “sang et ors” (Blood and Golds) were in the fourth tier CFA 1 in 1999 and were managed by a Spaniard, Ladislas Lozano. He had fled Spain with his family to escape the horrors of the Franco regime and though a talented player himself his nationality prevented any great club or international career in his adopted homeland. At the time of the great cup run, he was a foreman for the council looking after the areas sporting facilities. At the time the football club played at the tiny Stade Julien Denis, home for 80 years at the time and now used by their reserves. The club did not move to their magnificent Stade de L’Epopee until 2008.

Calais in 2000 was a depressed place, 17% unemployment and nearly half the town’s population of 75,000 people earning under £5,000 a year. The cup run bought the often bypassed port town to national attention, France was gripped by “Calaismania”.

They has defeated the likes of Saint-Nicolas-les-Arras (3-1), Marly-les-Valenciennes (2-1) and Bethune (1-0) before being paired with Second Division side Lille. The match against their huge near neighbours surprisingly took place as the tiny Julien Denis and the home side pulled off the shock defeating Lille 7-6 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. The draw fell kindly for the northerners in the next round, a home tie against fifth tier Langnon-Castets. The home side ran out comfortable 3-0 victors. This put the amateurs in the eighth-finals and a pairing against Second Division Cannes. The home tie was moved to Bolougne’s Stade de la Liberation and resulted in another penalty shoot out success, 4-1 after a 1-1 stalemate. Into the quarters Calais were paired at home to Division 1 giants RC Strasbourg, surely the end of the road for the minnows. Staged at Lens, incredibly the dock boys won 2-1 against their mighty visitors. Lens was again the venue for the semi-final and 40,000 Calaisens decended on the Stade Bollaert for the game against Ligue 1 heavyweights Girondins Bordeaux, a nation held its breath surely lightning wouldn’t strike twice. Boasting internationals Christophe Dugarry, Johan Micoud, Lillian Laslandes, Sylvan Legwinski and Ulrich Rame surely it was a game too far. It wasn’t. Goalless at full time the minnows won 3-1 in extra time with goals from Jandau, Millien and Lestavel.

The semi-final triumph sent the town into pandemonium, the players enjoyed a £10,000 a man winning bonus from a local benefactor and partied hard in a middle of the night reception at the town hall. Streets were packed at 3am for the victory parade and a 4.30am the town hall hosted a duck and foie gras dinner for the triumphant club. The celebration took its toll on Lozano, collapsing to the ground and spending three days in hospital. When he came round the then President of France, Jacques Chirac, rang him to send best wishes and say “Can we meet in the Stade de France”.

The ticket allocation for the final didn’t sit well with the club or commune. Their allocation of 19,300 was less than half their supporter numbers for the semi final. The club appealed to other clubs to buy their allocations, but were quoted outrageous prices. Those lucky enough to secure a ticket were helped out by the commune subsidising travel to Paris for the final. £17.50 return secured a place on clapped out trains pressed into service for the journey to the capital.

The final took place on May 7th at the Stade de France in front of a huge crowd of 78,586. Nantes Atalantique of Ligue 1 were overwhelming favourites despite the redoubtable battling qualities of the CFA amateurs. A tense first half saw Nantes dominate possession yet squander several chances to secure an advantage. Unbelievably in the 34th minute, it happened, Racing broke downfield and won a corner. The ball then ended up in international goalkeeper, Michael Landreau’s net courtesy of Jerome Dutitre. The rank outsiders held on until half time heading to the dressing rooms with a one goal lead. Four minutes into the second half, Nantes’ Antoine Sibierski levelled the game at 1-1. Just as the game looked like it would head to extra time, the Ligue 1 side were awarded a penalty in injury time. Sibierski beat Cedric Schille with his spot kick to break a nation’s collective heart. Sportingly Landreau, the Nantes captain allowed his counterpart, Reginald Becque, to lift the cup with him as an acknowledgement to a courageous adventure. Thus little Calais Racing joined a club of three sides, alongside Ouakam of Senegal and Nigeria’s Leventis United, from outside a countries third tier to reach the final of their nation’s major domestic club competition.

(First published in the ”Miles Across The World” column in Southend United’s matchday programme v Bristol Rovers 13/04/13)

A Happy Easter

Organised Easter groundhops date back to 1993 when Mike Amos of the venerable Northern League came up with the idea of pulling in extra fans and revenue for the League’s member clubs. Stagger the kick-off times and wandering football watchers will come from far and wide to see multiple games in a day. A feast of football and conviviality, and a welcome few quid in the coffers of struggling clubs. Well what a fantastic notion that turned out to be, hops have been organised all over the country and each have been a roaring success.

So it was great to see the architect of this outwardly eccentric activity, Mike Amos, taking a rare step outside of his native North East to join the modern wave of Easter hopping in the environs of the Northern Counties East League, or the Yorkshire League for those still dealing in pre decimal currency.

When you deal with the irrepressible Chris Berezai and Laurence Reade, you know you are going to get a good weekend, clubs organised with military precision to cater for crowds they have no experience of dealing with. The time and effort these guys put into a weekend like this should not be understated, as well as hundreds of calls and emails, on this occasion they also had to deal with the fickle hand of Mother Nature. Snow drifts at Easter put paid to poor old AFC Emley’s opportunity to stage the opening game on Maundy Thursday but the resourceful duo quickly organised a replacement fixture to assuage the masses. So Good Friday arrived and people poured into downtown Castleford from all around the country as well as Sweden, Switzerland and Germany to name a few.

So here is a review of the seven games in two days around the highways and byways of Yorkshire. Needless to say there were great crowds, great food and good times. If you don’t fully enjoy one of these madcap weekends, then my friend, you must also be tired of life itself.

Friday March 29th 2013 – 11.00am

Glasshoughton Welfare 2 (Bell og 66, Pell 90) Nostell Miners Welfare 0

Attendance at Leeds Road was 307.

Glasshoughon 290313 (4)

Friday March 29th 2013 – 1.15pm

Pontefract Collieries 2 (Durham 30, Catton pen 83) Selby Town 2 (Gray 2, pen 28)

Attendance at Skinners Lane was 424

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Hop Food (2)

Friday March 29th 2013 – 4.30pm

Hemsworth Miners Welfare 0 Knaresborough Town 4 (Bromley pen 12, pen 17, Freeston 21,34)

Attendance at Wakefield Road was 415.

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Hat Man

Friday March 29th 2013 – 7.45pm

Athersley Recreation 8 (Bennett 15,45,81,86, Harban pen 30, Thornton 71, Bentley 73,87) Askern Welfare 1 (Brown 45)

Attendance at Sheerien Park was 507.

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Saturday March 30th 2013 – 11.30am

Bridlington Town 3 (Batchelor 20, Cook 35, Greening 56) Scarborough Athletic 3 (Miller 19, Beadle 45, Blott 48)

Attendance at Queensgate was 1,569

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Saturday March 31st 2013 – 3.30pm

Pickering Town 3 (Shepherd 30, Heads 41, Taylor 80) Worksop Parramore 0

Attendance at the Recreation Ground was 302.

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Hop Food

Saturday March 30th – 7.45pm

Tadcaster Albion 5 (Taylor 59,67,Rice 78,Winn og 84,Youlden 88) Barton Town Old Boys 1 (Dexter 20)

Attendance at Ings Lane was 288.

Tadcaster 300313 (9)