It may have escaped your attention but a revolution has been going on down on the south coast. Last week, amongst all of the noise coming out of South Africa, a long drawn out story eventually had a happy ending. Lewes FC became a Community club. This move from private ownership to a Community Benefit Society had been under negotiation for some time, coming off the back of a turbulent few years for the Rooks which resulted in some last gasps saves from winding up orders in the past 6 months.
This was no “Glazer Out” take over, nor did the fans turn up at the ground in strange coloured scarves wanting their heritage back. As with most things relating to Lewes it was done in a dignified manner, with scarmongering kept to a minimum. Nor will the vast majority of the fans be saying good riddance to the old directors. On the contrary they were responsible for the clubs rise up the non-leagues in the past few years. They invested their own money in the club to help get Lewes on the map, and to a large extend achieved this very means. Ten years ago when Martin Elliott and Kevin Powell stepped in, the club were in the old Ryman Division Three with basic facilities. Today the ground, in my opinion, is one of the nicest to watch a non-league game at and has real character, mixed with some half decent facilities, and of course has witnessed non-league football at the highest level.
Last season the club “escaped” on the final day with a win at Hampton & Richmond. Of course that was not the end of it once the inefficient league had got their hands on it and they essentially stayed up with points to spare. The new owners, on a one member, one share, one vote are a group called Rooks125. The group is made up of a number of local businessmen and fans alike who have the best interests of the club at heart. They have even gone as so far to appoint an official Scandinavian Ambassador (that will be me then) to drive up support for the club from afar.
Hero of last season Steve Ibbitson was back at the helm, after agreeing last season to do the job for free, one can only hope there are a few pennies floating around for him. He knows these leagues like the back of his hand and so whilst some good players (Rikki Banks for instance) moved on, he managed to convince some to stay such as David Wheeler (now proudly sponsored by The Ball is Round) and Rob Gradwell (sponsored by Europeanfootballweekend). And their first test came down the A27 at Ryman League Worthing – a spicy local derby if you could have such a thing in these parts. Well, not in David’s case as he was still in Ghana doing his work for charity mate.
Worthing, or the rebels to give them their favoured moniker, had a good season last time out. Finishing in the playoffs of Ryman League One they lost in extra time to Godalming Town in the play offs, and thus will have to endure another season at this level – that is if the Ryman’s league ever get round to publishing fixtures. We have been very critical at the administration of a number of leagues last season over fixture pile ups and were told by the Rymans League that the season had to finish in April so that they could complete the necessary admin for the new season. Well here we are, a MONTH after the Premier League published their fixtures and no news, due to one team who is causing an issue (Grays). Get your fingers out of the cake and start helping out teams and fans alike!
Of course being so close, the Lewes Lunatic Fringe were due to be out in force. The decorating at The Dripping Pan was almost complete, and so Danny and myself added the finishing touches with a signed Brondby shirt, a scarf from Deportivo Wanker and a pennant from a strange Uzbekistani team nobody can translate before heading off to the A2B stadium, via a number of local hostelries to support the economy you understand.
Worthing 0 Lewes 0 – Woodside Road – Saturday 17th July 2010
What a fine turnout there was for this game. West Sussex met East Sussex and the fans came out in force. It is rare that pre-season games attendances top average league ones but there was a good few hundred in the ground for this one. Our numbers were boosted with guest appearances from Pete Styles, creator of the Cup of Good Hop blog as well as Mr Brook who had recently become a father – no guesses for his new son’s middle name (Clue – look at the away team name….). Five pounds to get in was a bit of a bargain although the club did miss a trick in not allowing fans to take their beers outside.
I was suitably impressed with Worthing’s ground – certainly worthy of higher football. The main stand was very reminiscent of Swindon Town or Bristol City, but most fans headed for the terraces and grass banks to watch the game.
One familiar face in the crowd was Ryan Storrie. Regular readers will remember that Ryan was the TBIR sponsored player at Lewes last season before quitting the club in the New Year to gain a regular place at Eastbourne Town. He took his spot next to the dugout along with a few of the other old Lewes players trying to persuade Ibbo to give them a game in the style of Yosser Hughes.
And so we move onto the actual game. In all honesty I cannot remember alot about it. Catching up on the news of the club, the take over and further plans for the Rook Inn took up most of the time in the first half. Worthing came closest to scoring, hitting the bar in the opening minutes of the game.
After a brief interlude in the bar, we emerged for the second half. Or so we thought. The Worthing team had been replaced in its entirety not just in terms of the players, but also their kit. Gone was the all red strip and replaced with an all blue one. Obviously the new manager, Chris White, was unhappy with the kit being lost amongst the background of the crowd a la Sir Alex Ferguson.
It didn’t really do any good. This was a first work out for both teams although Lewes did show some nice “plinky-plonky” football at times as if it was like watching Spain. To add even more confusion to the events the red ball made an appearance. This was supposed to be a “limited” edition version of the Rymans ball just brought out for Red Nose Day. Based on the way these leagues are run, expect a fine for a breach of some sub-rule or regulation somewhere Worthing. More details of the game can be found here.
It was a welcome return to Lewes though and with my new found “football freedom” I was going to enjoy the next nine months, come rain or shine.
At the final whistle we were treated to a display of Laps and Poles dancing for the crowd thanks to Mr Brooks, Mr Deacon and Mr Styles – don’t give up the day job chaps….For another view of the day’s merriments, grab a cup of tea, a Kit Kat and head on over to European Football Weekends.
More photos from the day can be found here.