I am a very goal driven person. I religiously write down what I want to achieve in my little black book that I carry around, making sure that my objectives are SMART (an acronym familiar to those who have gone through formal management and leadership training) and that I regularly review them. They are split into personal, work and of course football. You see I see football as part work part personal so it is only fair I have a category especially for it.
My broad football aims this season were based around Non League football. Sure, I still had a “commitment” to the 92 Club in terms of new grounds at Morecambe and Chesterfield but they would be for later in the season. Winter in Morecambe is not the most hospitable places as I remember from two years ago when we saw Luton Town there. But I wanted to “tick off” the Blue Square Premier, South and then venture down into the heart of Non League football in the South – The Ryman League.
Slowly but surely I had visited grounds on my travels this season and commenced the “plan of attack” on a lovely hot day in July at Canvey Island. Having never been on the “Island” before, Danny and I couldn’t resist a little peak into their neighbours, Concord Rangers ground. We drove down a road that Terry and June would have been proud to have called “Chez nous” before a set of floodlights popped up like one of those houses that wants to receive every TV channel in the world with a huge aerial. We had a wander around, peering over the wall before a chap armed with a circular saw asked if he could “help us”. This man was Cliff Larkin, and he genuinely wanted to help up. Cliff is the Chairman’s brother-in-law as well as being hugely proud of what this little club had achieved and recanted the tail to us like Peter Ustinov would have done on Jackanory.
First question was why the club were called “The Beach Boys”? Surely they couldn’t always be Good Vibrations down on the Island…OK I will stop that now. Well, the club date back to the glorious summer of 1966 when every boy wanted to be Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Nobby Stiles. A chap called Steve Lant formed a team on the Island and they played on a pitch next to Concord Beach. Hence the nickname.
The team then joined a number of leagues including the fantastically named Vange and District League where they won all the honours under the Essex sun. A move to Saturday football came in 1979 and a few years later they managed to secure some land in Thames Road and started developing the ground as we see it today. Progress on the pitch was swift and within a few years they had won all the senior honours there were to win in Essex, and got as far as the quarter finals of the FA Vase.
The big step came in 2008/09 when the club finally joined the Ryman League North after winning the Essex Senior League. Joint managers Danny Scopes and Danny Cowley built a team to survive it is fair to say, but amazingly finished in 5th place. This gave them a shot at the play offs and after beating East Thurrock, thanks to a goal by local legend Danny Heale (do you see a theme emerging here with the names?) they reached the final where they lost on penalties to Waltham Abbey.
The club never expected to get this far and so disappointment was turned into ambition and last season they finished in 2nd place, dispatched East Thurrock again and made no mistake in the play off final beating Enfield Town to gain promotion to the Ryman Premier, and more importantly the first time to meet their neighbours Canvey Island in a competitive game.
This game was eagerly anticipated for the 27th December but the freezing conditions put pay to that. So it was rearranged for mid-February, just when we would be heading back from our 5 day northern roadtrip. On a night of Ryman league derbies (including the Buy v Lowestoft and the Walton derbies), this was the pick of the lot. We actually had two options on what game to go to. Billericay Town and Concord Rangers both on the way home, and both in striking distance. So I went to the God of all decisions. Twitter. I asked which one I should go to, and within minutes I had my answer:-
“Could an access all areas and guaranteed player/management interviews sway your decision? Also unlimited tea/biscuits?” Direct from the horses, well press officers mouth at Concord. In truth he had us at unlimited tea.
The game was dubbed by Concord as El Grande Islande Paradiso Classico – certainly more glamorous than the Oil Derby I had seen it referred elsewhere. This was all about local bragging rights, pride and above all points as both teams came into the game within relative striking distance of the play offs.
The traffic down from Lincoln was kind and the 153 mile trip saw us pitch up in Thames Road at 7.45pm exactly. It was manic down the road as the usual 150 odd crowd had been boosted by nearly 500% for the first competitive meeting of the two clubs. A bargain £9 for myself and the two little Fullers PLUS a programme is top value in anyone’s book, further endearing ourselves to football at this level.
Concord Rangers 1 Canvey Island 0 – Thames Road – Tuesday 22nd February 2011
In truth it was a crap game, with few chances but typical of a game with so much more than the points at stake. Both teams wanted to dominate the midfield and so the tackles flying in where of the robust nature. The Canvey fans, probably making up at least 50% of the crowd were vocal, aiming some light hearted abuse at the home fans as well as the viewing public from the adjacent caravan park.
It was great to see so many people in the ground. Young, old, blues and yellows they all crammed into the small main stand and hugged the barrier around the pitch. As part of my bribe to keep Littlest Fuller happy I had purchased her a new Hello Kitty for her collection (now up to 23), which she insisted we included in as many pictures as possible from the evening.
Half time came with neither side actually creating a clear cut chance, and the start of the second period saw both sides make changes. The home fans all of a sudden found their voice, well the 7 year olds who played football on the pitch at half time did.
“Oh Concord, is wonderful, oh Concord is wonderful…It’s full of crisps, hammy and Concord, oh Concord is wonderful” The joys of innocence eh!
Canvey came the closest to opening the scoring after 73 minutes when a fantastic save from Concord’s keeper somehow kept out a goal bound effort, and they can probably feel aggrieved that the final chance of the game fell to Concord substitute Claude Seanla who poked the ball under luminous orange Canvey keeper Russell in injury time to take the three points, the bragging rights and probably a huge Spanish-inspired trophy.
Our journey hope was a simple 30 minutes and whilst technically it wasn’t in the north, it was north of where we live and north of the Thames and so we are classing it as the final leg of the epic Northern Roadtrip. Over a 1,000 miles, 9 counties, 4 games in 3 leagues with 10 goals and 3 red cards. Who wouldn’t want to see a movie?
For more pictures from the historic game please click here.