Praise the Lordswood

8622788588_4a228b5a17_bIt’s been an easy week at TBIR Towers. Easy because I haven’t been there. I’ve been a few thousand miles away beavering away in New York, suffering as usual from chronic jet lag. I’ve become so much of a friend to Mr. 3AM that I even went out for a run. That is how bad it’s been – running around Battery Park at 6am with other sad, depressive, obsessive insomniacs. The view from my 24th floor hotel window of the World Trade Center is impressive, but hardly moves at the pace I needed to keep me interested.

The other issue with time zones is you are never really sure what is going on in the old of football and when. The Champions League simply passed me by this week with Real Madrid almost certainly booking their Champions League Final 2013 tickets, whilst important scores in the Ryman Premier failed to make it onto my radar. As if I needed to really check anyway. I mean Cray Wanderers were hardly likely to go to play-off chasing Bury Town and win, were they? And Thurrock’s chances of anything at title-chasing Lowestoft Town were as slim as Kate Moss. So landing at Heathrow n the early hours was. Rude awakening as I checked the scores on my phone. Mr Relegation was well and truly on the A27.

Alas the delay in my return trip (thanks UK Border control for not having enough people working at T5 to cope with the inbound flights!) meant that I wasn’t able to join the legions of the Lewes Lunatic Fringe on the Road To Wembley where Hendon, themselves a perennial relegation candidate, were already tucked up safe and sound for the season. Perhaps they will have already packed their bags for their summer trip to Clacton, meaning the Rooks would return from Middlesex with three points. We can but hope.

For me, my fun was going to be found a bit closer to home. I was dropping down into the Kent Premier League. Potentially, Lewes could be playing against one of the teams currently fighting it out at the top of the league. Current leaders Erith & Belvedere were all set for the next step up, ground sharing with Welling United. Second-placed VCD have been in the Ryman League a few years ago, holding their own too before a ludicrous ground grading decision saw them forcibly relegated (ridiculous considering a recent decision given in favour of another certain Ryman League team anyway). Tunbridge Wells, finalists in the FA Vase in 4 weeks time, carrying the hopes of a County with them, have a minimum of 3 games a week from now until the end of the season as a reward for being successful in the cup.

But my destinations were straight down Watling Way, the Roman Road that allowed those Roman cricket fans to travel down to Canterbury, or Durovernum Cantiacorum as it was known in those days. I was going to see a game on either side of the Medway, the aquatic barrier separating the Men of Kent from the Kentish Man.

8625602236_29d0cbf910_bDespite having Gillingham on the doorstep, Charlton Athletic running coaches on every matchday from the Medway towns and the new non league giants of Maidstone United just at the bottom of Bluebell Hill, Rochester United and Lordswood continue to slowly make progress on and off the pitch.  Rochester were the club formerly known as Bly Spartans, formed by a Geordie with a lisp. The club was only formed 30 years ago, and slowly made up the leagues until they were invited to take part in the inaugural Kent Invicta League in 2010.  Last season they were crowned champions of that league and moved into the top-level of the county game for the start of this season. Continue reading

We Fade to Cray

If you look hard enough you will find a non-league team closer than you think. Unless you live with one literally next door you can probably find one that you can walk to, or dare I say it, cycle. Of course there are always definitions as to what exactly constitutes a Non League team but to me I class it as one that could reach Wembley in the FA Trophy or Vase.

TBIR Towers sits quite close to a number of clubs. Welling United isn’t more than a ten minute bike ride away, Bromley/Cray Wanderers a bit further (and a 314 bus ride) but there is one closer. And ashamedly I had never graced them with my presence. So with Lewes away on the other side of London in Harrow and me on a three-line whip to be hope by 5pm there was a perfect opportunity to hop on my Raleigh Grifter and cycle downhill all the way to my “local club”, Cray Valley Paper Mills.

The reason why I had never seen them was that a) We do not live anywhere near Cray Valley, and b) There isn’t a Paper Mills near our house. How was I to know that they moved to Eltham some years ago but had never managed to shed the Paper Mills part of their name (and that  the river Cray was now 6 miles away). The club had been promoted to the Kent Premier League last season and were admitted to the level below the Ryman League despite the fact they didn’t have floodlights or stands. So having cycled passed the ground on dozens of occasions you can understand why I never knew there was a team playing there. Continue reading

The Corinthian spirit

Monday nights are my nights in the Fuller household.  Tuesday is when CMF goes out and ends up coming home with (male) strippers thongs and empty bottles of Lambrini in her pocket.  Wednesday is dancing/football training for the Little Fullers and Thursday is entertaining my parents.  So Monday, as long as I am not in the land of the Danes means I can do what I want…within reason.  There are actually very few games a) in London or South East and b) in the Non Leagues played on a Monday night so I am normally limited as to being able to sneak away for a game.

Seven days ago I was experiencing the amazing atmosphere at the Råsunda in Stockholm for the Djurgården v AIK derby….and tonight I was heading to…..Erith.

Erith has got bad press.  Well, actually very little press at all.  It sits just to the north and west of Dartford, close to the Thames Estuary and surrounded by commuter suburbs and DIY warehouses.  It is famous for, well being simply there.  No, I tell I lie – it does have the longest pier on the River Thames, and was once the home of Edward Butler, the man who came up with the Butler Petrol Cycle, now established as the world’s first ever petrol driven vehicle.

In terms of football the town actually can lay claim to two teams.  Erith & Belvedere actually played in the town until 1997 when fire and then a B & Q gutted their ground at Park View so now they play a few miles away at Welling United’s Park View.  And then there is Erith Town, The Dockers.  Both sides play in the Kent Premier League, and the derby is up there with Arsenal v Spurs, Millwall v West Ham and Waltham Abbey v Waltham Forest.  Sixty five people saw the first fixture between the two clubs earlier in the season and their meeting on the final day of the season will undoubtably set the bragging rights for the summer after Town’s 3-0 win in September.

Erith Town were formed in 1959 as a Sunday League side, converting to the Spartan League in 1991.  This is actually the highest level to the club have played at and have ambitions to go further.  Unfortunately their current ground may be the restricting factor.  They currently play at the Erith Stadium, which is basic but functional.  I am sure they will have to jump through significant hoops at prohibitive costs to just be told they could move up to the Ryman League (and then in the case of VCD be told it was all in vain anyway).  The ground has actually hosted an International match when in February 2006 England women’s under 21 team took on their US counterparts.

The visitors were Corinthian.  Now I bet 99% of football fans would think I was referring to Corinthian Casuals, or simply have no idea where the club are based.  But I do.  And I know because I grew up sneaking into the ground and the surrounding area.  The club are based on a converted farm, called Gay Dawn in a tiny little village called Fawkham in Kent.  Now two things you should know about Fawkham.  Firstly it is about half a mile from Brands Hatch, and secondly one of Europe’s best known nudist colonies is based here.  Eureka was the source of teenage wonder.  We used to sneak up there and stand on our bikes to view the comings and goings of the naked people frolicking around.  I still find it amusing that on their website it says “All the local taxi drivers know where Eureka is”.  I bet they do, as too do all local teenage boys.

Corinthian once had ambitions to be the revolutionaries of the non leagues.  Corinthian FC was founded in 1972 by Ron Billings to provide football in a safe environment, whilst teaching the players the principles that he believed to be important in sport.  The motto was simply “pro omnium beneficio”- for the benefit of all, but on the pitch the principles were simple; “Hard, but fair”. Losing wasn’t considered before the game, but if the result went against them then the team were taught to take it graciously.

For the first ten years of the club’s existence they welcomed such teams as Tottenham Hotspur, Charlton Athletic and Norwich City amongst other league teams as well as county and district representative sides as opposition. During the 1980s with the arrival of an experienced football manager, Tony Sitford, they progressed from youth football into competitive men’s football playing in the Southern League, at the time a level 7 league in the English football league system. This level of football by a totally amateur club made them unique, but caused problems in the long run in attracting new players. In their first season in the league they finished a creditable fifth, but subsequent seasons saw them slide down the table until they finished bottom and were relegated to the Kent League in 1991.  But today they are back and hopes are that they can climb the leagues again.

As luck would have it the sunshine of the previous few days gave way to rain just as I arrived in Erith.  All very nice for a game in the open air with little in the way of cover.  But who really minds.  After all in four weeks I will be craving a game or two so it was time to shut up and enjoy the delights of the Safety Net Kent Premier League.

Erith Town 3 Corinthian 3 – Erith Stadium – Monday 11th April 2011

I love a good cloud me

Sometimes good games just come along and bite you on the arse when you least expect them to and this was one of those.  Six goals including a goal in injury time that was goalkeeper assisted helped keep my wandering eyes from marvellous cloud formations.  You see I can spend hours watching clouds, not through any weird fortune-telling reason, and the first half of this game had plenty of Nimbo Cumulous action going on in the sky whilst there was plenty of goalmouth action on the ground.

A couple of observations.  Firstly, despite admission being a bargain £6 (and the programme a £1 read was one of the best in terms of facts and stats I have seen at any level this season) you could actually just stand outside the ground and watch the whole game through the wire fence.  Secondly, the linesman (either Mr Packman or Mr Head) had the brightest coloured hair I have ever seen. And finally I knew 12% of the crowd.   That would be quite a feat at West Ham (average 35,000 attendance, 12% = 4,200), or even Lewes (average 700, 12% = 84) but in a crowd of 45 people, knowing five people there was not that impressive.

Rush hour with the M25 looking on

The game itself was open, competitive and actually quite a high standard. I watched the first half from the elevated vantage point above the stand, also known as the bar.  Corinthian took an early lead when Lee Barnett curled the ball into the top corner from outside the penalty area, a goal worthy of a greater venue.  Their lead lasted long enough for the colour of the ball to change from orange, to white and back to orange again before Lee Burgess calmly scored from the penalty spot.

The whole crowd descended on the bar at half time and Vinny came up to share my vantage point for the second half. We only seem to bump into each other on strange Monday night games in athletics stadiums.  Corinthian started the second half strongly and scored two swift goals thanks to a double from George Benner, the second a sublime move involving more flicks than a Ronaldo Coca-Cola Soccer Skills demonstration.

With then minutes to go you expected Corinthian to shut the game out but they let The Dockers back in when Alex Tisse poked home unmarked.  Then with injury time almost up Erith had a final corner.  Up came keeper Tim Roberts and caused enough of a distraction for Joe Foster to head home and save the game and the day for the home team.

£6 for 6 goals is a good return on investment in anyones book.  I called CMF and told her to crack open the Strongbow and  “start up the Quattro”, ready for a late night session with Gene Hunt.  Monday’s are the new Fridays in my book

More photos from the game can be found here.