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.

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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)

Attendance:34

Lacy:

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)

Piddletrenthide:

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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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.

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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)