Playing away in Dreamland


13804963363_e4a9f3df14_b“Well I’ve been working hard to reach me sales target
To earn a few quid for an away trip down to Margate
I’m gonna blow my commission tomorrow on all me football family
We catch the train at eight so don’t be late, were off to see the sea”

We are the luckiest fans alive today. Who else wouldn’t want to be spending a day at the sunny British seaside today. It is fair to say that prior to the release of the fixtures back in July, Margate away in either the earlier part of the season or towards the end would have been perfect.  In the last two season we had been down to the Isle of Thanet in October and January, so it was time that the fixture computer was kind to us. What better way to celebrate our promotion than a knees up on the golden sands and sewage outflow pipe of the Costa del Thanet.

Well, as our big sweaty transatlantic friend still warbles, two out of three ain’t bad. We were going to get our day in the sun in April at Margate, and ‘that’ sign was still warning us about staying away from the pipe carrying ‘stuff’ into the sea, but alas there was to be no promotion party. In fact our recent, and by recent I mean the last half of the season, has been a bit of a mystery. With a third of the season gone we were one place and two points outside the playoffs. However, the harsh weather, which first kicked in in October for us seemed to throw a spanner in the works and since then we have taken on average a point a game.

I still get the “sack the board” chants aimed in my general direction by those who still don’t quite get this community club aspect and realise that I can’t be sacked by the fans (voted out in October, indeed) but we will finish the season in a stronger position both on and off the field than last season and can look forward to next season when the regeneration project will commence on The Dripping Pan which will ultimately give us a new viable revenue stream. Continue reading

Falling in love with you


Six years ago I was a happy Hammer. Happy because I didn’t know what the joy was in watching football without Big Brother(s) watching over me, telling me when to sit, stand, shout and be quiet.  My epiphany came when I started going to watch Non-League football on a regular basis.  One of the first games in my “new life “was at Grays Athletic at Their New Recreation Ground against Canvey Island (how life has changed for all partied involved!).

During the next few seasons I started going more regularly to Non-League games, discovering new places that were almost on my doorstep.  Once I chose a Forest Green Rovers versus Oxford United over West Ham v Fulham I knew I was on a slippery slope.

397502_10152258011760853_1378592530_nMy first game at the Dripping Pan was a Conference Premier game against today’s visitors Grays Athletic.  It was the club’s one and only season in the highest level of Non-League football.  If ever there was a club that were a fish out of water, then it was Lewes during the 2008/09 season.  Just six wins and six draws all season, including just seven points taken on their travels the team were relegated by Easter.  Speaking to those who experienced the whole season tell the tale of not only the club being out of their depth but also of the joyless environment of playing at this level.  The club had to implement segregation, stop people drinking on the terraces and even have a sponsors board to facilitate live interviews post match.  Anyone who has visited the Pan since knows that is not how we do things.

Last year I was asked to contribute to a book – the task being to write “How I fell in love with my club” in less than 3,000 words.  I didn’t choose West Ham, the club I had supported for the best part of thirty years of my life.  I chose Lewes.  Last week the book was finally published by Ockley Books and not only features a chapter on Lewes, but similar ones on Weymouth, Tooting and Mitcham and the 1990 Cameroon World Cup Squad.  What the book tells me is that I am not alone in upgrading my footballing pleasure.

Lewes v Essex 2014Today the club is very happy playing two levels below the Conference Premier.  Crowds are increasing, bar takings are up and the football is making people smile once again.  Our ambition is to play at a higher level but as a board we will always make sure every step is a sustainable and financially viable. Today we welcomed Grays Athletic, a club who had endured a similar annus decadus.  Whilst Lewes’s free fall had been almost terminal, we always had the parachute of our ground.  Grays haven’t had that luxury and have endured somewhat of a nomadic existence since the heady days of finishing third in the Conference Premier and back to back FA Trophy wins.  Their Recreation Ground was sold to developers in 2010 and since they have ground shared with East Thurrock, West Ham reserves and now Aveley.

It had only been ten days since we last faced Grays, losing 4-2 in an entertaining game at Mill Field.  Since then both sides had played two league games, winning them both as too had Lewes.  Two weeks ago both sides would have put the file “Play Off Chances” in the filing cabinet but with games in hand over those above both sides who knows what could happen, especially as the respective home form has been so strong. Continue reading

The bigger they come, the harder they fall


In terms of great days, few can beat the combination of beautiful sunshine, a win against the league leaders and winning some money out of the blue.  Oh, and a choice of 20 different guest ales.  So perhaps I should have simply called it a day at 5.30pm on Saturday in terms of supporting Lewes.  But football just keeps sucking you back doesn’t it?  So here I am, pint in hand watching us take on Maidstone United, currently second place in the Ryman Premier League on a chilly Tuesday evening.

Thanks to the weather it is Saturday-Tuesday for Lewes until the end of the season, with nearly twice as many games still to play at home than away. Only Wealdstone have lost fewer games than Lewes this season, leaving us to think about the “what-ifs” from earlier in the season when we drew games we could have won (other the other hand we were drawing games than last season we would have lost). The re-arranged fixtures meant that the top four teams in the Ryman Premier League had to visit The Pan in the space of four weeks in March. Dulwich Hamlet opened the festivities on Saturday with Maidstone United following quickly behind.

1380099_10152275799706240_720740824_nToday had been another good day even before I reached the Lansdowne for the pre-match warm up. Being Pancake Day I headed up to Borough Market in my lunch hour to see if I could grab a sweet treat. As I walked around the market I saw a familiar face albeit one that was a lot thinner than usual. Television is supposed to make people look fatter but Man versus Food’s Adam Richmann looked as if he had shed his twin brother. Thanks to Luge Pravda’s eagle-eyed twitter search he had discovered Richmann was in town to do some pancake judging and lo-and-behold he just happened to be standing next to me.

Richmann is a big Spurs fan, although he admitted he had always had a soft-spot for the Hammers. “Oh, my God. Frankie McAvennie. Now he was the Brad Pitt of the 1980′s. I loved his Capri Sport”. A few tourists came up and WE, yes WE posed for photos. As I walked away someone even asked me who WE were. Of course five minutes later when my mobile rang and I had to field another question about DPML exceptions (one for the real techies) I was brought back to earth with an almighty bump.  Head down, work finished, it was finally time for some football. Continue reading

Team work makes the dream work


Lewes v Dulwich MaidstoneRemember my article from Tuesday night about The Nowhere Men and the dark secret world of the football scouts?  Well, here comes the litmus test.  Just how good was my intel when it mattered when Dulwich Hamlet arrived at the Pan for today’s game. Firstly we should all raise our glasses to the immense work carried out by the Pitch Team (groundsmen sounds so web 2.0) who once again performed miracles in getting the game on.  In fact, on Thursday it was almost as good as a goner, but then they found a machine in a locked cupboard at the ground which was basically a big sponge on wheels and used that to mop up the water.

We needed to get today’s game on.  Not only would the Dulwich fans be travelling in big numbers to see their table-topping side, but with only one game having been played at The Pan since Christmas, we could have really done with some gate receipts.  Some Premier League fans may not realise that it’s not all Official Partnerships with fizzy drinks companies, or selling media rights to Uzbekistan in the Non-Leagues.  We actually need paying fans through the gate on a regular basis so that we can do little things like pay players, utilities and maintain the ground.  With no chance of any help from our dear leaders at the league, Lewes, like virtually every other club at our level (and below) have had to pray daily for an end to the rain.

Beer-Festival-poster-e1391783221190There was also the small matter of the leftovers from the Lewes Beer Festival that needed finishing off.  Not that football fans need an excuse to have a beer, especially as at The Dripping Pan you can have said beer whilst watching the game.  Twenty guest ales, some of course exclusively provided by club sponsor and world-famous brewery, Harveys had been lined up for Friday night, and whilst the locals did serious damage to the volumes of beer, there would be some left over for today.  Left over beer?  No such thing.  Just beer that hasn’t yet been enjoyed.

So a perfect combination of football and beer was on the cards.  And to celebrate the sun even decided to make an appearance.  Terry had kindly pulled my lucky number out of the monthly Panning For Gold draw so I arrived at the ground £60 better off.  Could the day get any better?  Well if the Lewes side that traveled to Cray last Sunday made an appearance rather than the one that took the field at Grays on Thursday then this could be the best day ever. Continue reading

Like a night out in Aveley….


There comes a point in life when you just need to give up on something.  It doesn’t matter how many times you repair the holes in your lucky pants, you are simply kidding yourself – they aren’t fit for purpose.  The late, great Roger Lloyd-Pack in his famous role as Trigger once said he had used the same broom for 25 years, albeit that in that period he had replaced the handle 1o times and the brushes even more.  Tonight Lewes travel north of the Thames for the fifth time of asking to take on Grays Athletic in the Ryman Premier League.  The teams were due to meet back in early November, then again in December, January and finally last night.  As the rain started to fall around lunchtime today we all looked skywards.  Someone up there simply didn’t want this game to ever take place. If it was cancelled a sixth time apparently both teams got a crystal decanter from the Isthmian League.

New Picture (53)Grays, more than any other team in our division, have suffered during the past few months of poor weather.  The problem they have is that they share facilities with Aveley at Mill Field, possibly the most exposed football ground in England which means the slightest bit of rain and the ground is waterlogged.  Whilst they sit just above the relegation zone, they have played a whopping nine games less than the leaders Dulwich Hamlet and could still conceivably make a push for the play-offs, although having a minimum of three games per week from now until the end of the season could be a tall order for a squad of their size not to mention the lost revenue from these home games. Continue reading