What to do with an International Weekend
In recent weeks, fellow blogger Lloyd and I have perhaps become unfaithful to the nominal brief of this site. First, I opted to join a clutch of writerly comrades at Colliers Wood United’s Wibbandune Sports Ground for the FA Cup tie against Chessington and Hook United. Then, a few weeks later, and in the same competition, we teamed up for a local derby between Oxford City and Didcot Town – a report of which can be found at the masterly website, The Real FA Cup.
But last weekend and just to prove we are rounded enough to occasionally indulge in non-footballing activity, we chose to take advantage of the international break to complete a 12 mile walk from Reading to Goring along the Thames. However, not displaying such willpower was our regular contributor Phil Ascough – he and fellow Hull City fan Kate Ogram couldn’t resist and found themselves at Easington United – here is there account: words from Phil; pics from Kate.
Old Football League fans never die. They just pitch up at places like Low Farm, watching teams like Easington United.
International breaks are welcomed by the grassroots clubs for providing half a chance to pull in a few folk who would normally be watching the nearest professional club, or following their fortunes on radio or online.
Whether it made much difference to The Eastenders is hard to tell. Because they play on the village sports field they can’t charge at the gate so instead rely on spectators contributing by buying the match day programme, the price inflated to £2 to get a bit closer to the standard £3 admission charge within the Central Midlands League.
For the first round of the East Riding County FA Senior Cup, the slimmed-down version was just £1 – a bargain for something that provided a bit of background on both sides. The match was pretty good as well, but more of that later.
There were at least two unfamiliar faces on Saturday. We’d normally have been watching Hull City in the Championship but made the most of the blank weekend to drive along country lanes to the last football club in Yorkshire before God’s county tapers along Spurn Point and into the North Sea.
You can’t see the sea from Low Farm but you can certainly feel it in air. One side of the pitch is bordered by a couple of portable buildings, some trees and hedges. The opposite, where you wander to try and get a better phone signal and to escape the rumble of a generator, is more exposed and leaves you vulnerable to the easterly winds that can dry the pitch in a day even after nearly a week of rain.
The buildings house the dressing rooms, with showers for the first team and their opponents but without such luxuries for players from the reserves or the Casuals if they happen to be at home on the same day.
There’s a snack bar with tea, coffee, soup, sandwiches. Nothing costs more than 50 pence. The friendly chat from Judy – club secretary of 45 years standing – is free. And then there’s what can only be described as a very small hospitality lounge – couple of chairs and a table upon which a shrink-wrapped buffet awaits match officials and visiting dignitaries.
Also in there is general manager Rich Lusmore’s notepad – he ducks in and out to log incidents of significance for his match report – a website plus Twitter and Facebook presence all combine to ensure The Eastenders punch above their weight in terms of making their own media.
There should of course be more coverage of such clubs in the mainstream media. A newspaper with vision could pick a match of the week from the local football, cricket, rugby (league and union) leagues to enhance the drab slabs of results and tables. They could encourage support and even participation among folk from the local area who probably do nothing worthwhile with their Saturday afternoon. They could flag up the promotional opportunities for local businesses – a page in the programme all season for just £60. They could recognise the efforts of Rich Lusmore and others like him who give so much time to keep clubs like Easington in existence. They could invest in the future of their local sporting communities…
Rich used to go home and away with Hull City but now just gets to the night games at the KC Stadium and the odd away fixture, having decided more than 20 years ago to commit to The Eastenders.
His “From The Farmyard” programme column is a summary of good and bad news. The new away kit is popular, as are the midweek training sessions. On the pitch, results have been mixed. Money is tight and there will be more of it leaving the club if they don’t improve the disciplinary record quickly.
Bright and level-headed, Rich writes well and does a fine job of setting out the issues faced by the club. His match report is measured and he is gracious in defeat, showing respect for the tough and uncompromising opponents and for the match officials who threw in a couple of decisions that would send the Match Of The Day analysts into tut-tut overdrive.
Chalk Lane, the programme tells us, are a decent outfit from the Humber Premier League. They play their games on a 3g pitch at the University of Hull, just over 20 miles away, and have evolved from Eureka, a team based at a working men’s club not far from the city’s old fish dock.
Leaning on the barrier that surrounds the lush, green but slightly uneven pitch, Rich adds that Chalk Lane have a bit of experience, with people who have played semi-pro for Hall Road Rangers, Bridlington Town and North Ferriby United. No one has more than Johnny Whiteley, a sporting all-rounder who won the Rugby League World Cup with Great Britain and played and coached with distinction at Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers. Johnny loves his football, and the attitude of his team is evidence that even into his 80s he’s pushing them as hard as ever in the gym, which used to be housed in the back of his club.
Easington were easier on the eye but struggled to break down a Chalk Lane defence that was further bolstered after they nicked a goal – a terrific volley from the attacking left back Alex Brittan after the home defence allowed a cross to drift to the back of the six-yard-box. Stocky striker Joe Lightowler added a second before half time. Yes the lino should have seen the ball roll down the player’s right arm, but the turn and subsequent thumping finish from the tightest of angles would have impressed at any level.
There were a couple of yellow cards in the second half for time-wasting by Chalk Lane but not even a free kick when a visiting midfielder clattered through the back of an opponent. Officials deserve respect but sometimes don’t help themselves, although the C-word snapped at a lino by a Chalk Lane winger was totally inappropriate, particularly at a venue where most spectators can hear every exchange. It went unpunished.
Chalk Lane gave nothing away. Easington, to quote a chap along the touchline, “huffed and puffed but were never going to blow the house down.”
Chalk Lane advanced in a competition which could pitch them against the youngsters from Hull City in a later round. Easington looked forward to the resumption of league action, but not before post-match commiserations in the pub round the corner.
A clubhouse is one of the items on the Easington United wish list. A set of floodlights is another. How about showers for the second dressing rooms? And maybe a couple of players who can unpick packed opposing defences. But it’s a long list at this level.