Saturday 31 May 2008

SO Calais; Stade du Souvenir; Calais, France 2007/08

I visited this ground on a Sunday morning, in September 2007. I've been over to Calais many times, but never to watch football.
It's such a easy place to go for a 'foreign day out' with your mates,or on your own. It's not the greatest town in the world to go to, to say the least, but I find it pleasant enough to go to every couple of years.
When I mentioned that I fancied going over the Channel after the Hamlet were at Dover Athletic, one of my mates suggested I see if there was a match at the Stade du Souvenir, as he'd walked round it on a previous visit. A decent enough ground, but what made it was the setting. It is within the walls of the old town fortress, the Citadel! It is only about five minutes walk from the town centre, on the Rue de Pierre de Coubertin.
My mind was made up when a 'hopper called Chris suggested I check for a match there too.
It was the weekend of an early round of the French FA Cup. but no game
in that competition here. Now, for me, I wasn't concerned about the standard of the match I was going to see, I was more interested in visiting the stadium. And so I was happy enough to find a fixture on the internet with a 10.30am kick off. It was a reserve side at home to a first team, of which cup, or leagues they're from, I wasn't entirely ure.
Thankfully I was able to find out thanks to the amazing knowledge of some of the regular posters on the Tony Kempster site.
It was Calais SO II versus Bremes RC; with the SO standing for Stade Olympique. It was a cup match,Round One of Coupe radio 6 Calais Boulogne, which I'd guess is their equivalent of the local county cup.
The match finished 1-1, and went straight to penalties, with the 'home' side Calais SO reserves being victorious in the shoot out 4-3.
One contributor posted that he thought that this wasn't a regular home venue for a particular club, and that, if you are lucky, can get a local team using it for an early French FA Cup match; which would appeal to more discerning 'hoppers than myself! ;-)
But having said that I've just found this list of French non-league grounds in the region, & it lists this ground as the SO Calais home ground.

It wasn't a high standard, to say the least! someone else on the Tony Kempster forum worked out that the Reserve side played at the fifteenth level of the French pyramid! As I've said the game idn't mean much to me, I was there to visit the ground, and I doubt I'll see many games in much more unusual venues than this.

This is the superb main stand.
With a 'crowd' that size, and this was a reserve team home
match don't forget, there was unsurprisngly, no gate taken,
and no programme!

One of the entrances into the Citadel.

This was the view I got from the approach that I entered.

I walked round to the stand, & here is a view from it, taken
from the far end.

There was a fair bit of graffiti on the pillars, I took
quite a few snaps of the scrawl.

"Honest guv, it weren't me!" As far as I was aware the 'DH'
didn't stand for my Dulwich Hamlet!

Another view looking down to the pitch.

This is the back of the stand.

On the grass behind the far goal.

And this is the path behind the same goal, you can just see
the end of the stand in the left of my snap.

Another view of the stand, from the corner.

Behind that corner are tennis courts, which gives a feel of
the previous use of the place, as a fortress!

The courts even had their own terracing!

Set back from the halfway line, opposite the stands, was
this closed ticket booth.

And this is the view down the far side, from where I entered
the stadium.

Dover Athletic FC 2007/08

My first visit to 'The Crabble' , home of Dover Athletic, was tinged with sadness & tears.

I am a lifelong Dulwich Hamlet supporter, but in the mid eighties a complete shyster called David Milsted (NOT to be confused with his old man, who was a gentleman, & was Chairman of Croydon FC) & he was attempting to asset-strip the Club. He banned me for publicly speaking out against him, and he banned me! Now I was barely an adult at the time, and was a bit easier to be intimidated, and I vowed not to go back until he went. As it happened it was only about eighteen months later, when the Club Committee finally had the balls to stand up to him. So instead of fronting him out I walked away, and for the 1986/87 season I followed the fortunes of Carshalton Athletic, because the previous Dulwich Hamlet manager, Billy Smith, who was forced out by Milsted, went there with a number of Hamlet players, and his backroom staff.

Anyway that '86/7 season Carshalton Athletic were drawn away to Dover Athletic in the FA Cup, and it was a draw. One of the backroom staff, Billy's right hand man Len Hamlin, who was like a friend to me, not just a staff member of club(s) I supported, was suited and booted that day, & took a bit of a ribbing. Turns out he was driving off at the final whistle, as he had to get back to London for a wedding reception at Guy's Hospital, near London Bridge.

He never made it. Not far out of Dover our coaches were delayed by a tailback of traffic. There'd been some sort of accident. It was Len. He'd had a heart attack at the wheel, and one of the players in the car with his family, had saved the rest of them by grabbing the handbrake. But, by the time we got back to Colston Avenue, news came through that Len had died.

So I'll always associate Dover with him.

I've been there a few times since, all with the Hamlet. a few years ago, with the Youth Team, when we got stuffed in the John Ullmann Cup Final (a Kent Youth League competition) & twice with the First Team, in the Ryman One South.

These were taken at the match with them last season. I really like this ground, and if ever they got their finances sorted, and learned to live within their means, they could quite easily be a decent Conference National side, where they've been before; if not a Football League side.

You go up a steep slope to get to the ground from the road,
and fair play to them, they have a car to drive elderly & infirm
fans to the top free of charge, if needed. It's only a couple of hundred
yards, but steep if you're a bit dodgy on your pins.

To the left, as you walk up, below the ground, is a former
cricket ground, which appears to host rugby union nowadays.
This is the sight of a former ground of theirs,
from Kent League days, & is mentioned in
"The Non-League Grounds of Kent" by Mike Floate,
of which I got this info from the second edition, published
in 1998.

Presumably that grass banking is part of the old
terracing, but I'm guessing that. Not the cars at the top,
which shows how high up the current ground is.

The turnstiles, I was a little early. We'd played their
Supporters' Team in the morning at a local school pitch.

This ground must be almost unique, as the turnstiles are
way below pitch level, as you can see here.
The white buildings at the end ate the tea bar & club shop.
With their clubhouse beyond.

This is the terrace behind the goal at that end. And they are
our little band of fans that day. We took around thirty fans
that day, which, to be honest, wasn't much of a turn out.

Another snap of the same end.

Along the full length of the far side is seating. In the middle
is a televison gantry, and annoucers box. The Dover website
do excellent highlights of all their matches. And while partisan,
which you would expect, is generally fair.

Here is a view of the seats from the other end.

Which is also covered, & almost identical to the
terrace at the other end.

This is taken from the corner of the main seats. Opposite,
to the left of the turnstiles as you walk in, is another stand,
which is a family one, I think. It's a bit strange on it's own there.
The corner, by the pylon in this photo, is where the changing rooms
are, and where the players run out from.

And at the bottom of the slope, near the entrance, is
'The Cricketers', where we stayed afterwards, mixing with some
very friendly locals, to watch the England v. Israel match on the box.

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Chesham United FC, 2007/08

This is 'The Meadow', home of Chesham United since 1931.

My first visit there was in the 1977/78 season, when Dulwich Hamlet lost there 2-0 in an Isthmian League First Division match, our first defeat of the season, if my memory is right. Though I can't promise that! In those days the 'cricket' end was open, and there was no proper fence at that end, so you could watch the cricket. It must have been the tailend of the season, as us Hamlet fans were 'bored' of the football, and spent the second half barracking the local cricketers every time a wicket fell, much to their annoyance, & waving of bats angrily about head, in our direction, on the football ground above! I also remember spending half time collecting lots of conkers for school, from the many horsechestnut trees, by the driveway, up to the ground. well I was only eleven at the time, and still at primary school!

I also saw a couple of games in their FA Cup run to the Third Round Proper in the 1979/80 season. Around that time, for a number of years when at school, I was fascinated by non-league sides staging big FA Cup games, albeit from an extremely envious point of view, as I had to wait until 1998 for Dulwich Hamlet to reach the First Round Proper, losing at home to Southport, at that stage for the first, and thus far, only time in my life.

I was at 'The Meadow' on a midweek night, following a postponement due to waterlogging, to see them draw 1-1 at home to Merthyr Tydfil, having come from behind, in front of their biggest crowd for many years-3,052. Merthyr brought several coachloads, which parked over the road from the ground, and I stood in awe, as fighting broke out between the locals and visitors, with one Welsh fan actually being thrown in the small river that flowed alongside!

Chesham United won the replay 3-1, & had been drawn at home to Cambridge United. Cup fever struck the town big time, & the match was an all-ticket record crowd of 5,000 sell out. Including myself, who had to travel up there not once, but twice, on the Metropolitan Line. First, to get the ticket, when they went on sale, a couple of sundays before the game. With old terracing being 'dug out' of the owergrown grass banking to the right of the wooden stand. I even stayed, borrowing a shovel to help, for an hour or so. Then the game itself, which the visitors won 2-0. I to seem to remember a number of shops in the High Street having 'Chesham United Cup Run' displays.

The wooden stand I mentioned burnt down in 1983. Before I go on I must confess my memory is not that good. I have lifted the above information from 'The History of Chesham United' by Peter Gibbins,(published1998) which I bought from their Club Shop, which was shut for a previous Reserve Team visit, but was 'open' as one of their Club Shop staff was there that night doing a bit of tidying up! Which was a piece of luck, as I ended up spending about twenty five quid in it!

This is what the book said about the fire:

"The fire destroyed 63 years of Meadow memories. The 1982-83 season was placed in turmoil when on the evening of 3 May 1983 the main stand was set alight by an electrical fault. The Club's semi final with Hemel Hempstead in the St. Mary's Cup had just finished, Hemel winning 4-3. As supporters looked on, the blaze took hold and within five minutes the old stand was totally destoyed."

The current one is in the same place in the ground, and is roughly the same size, I think.

This is the way up to the ground, from the main road.
These photos were taken on Wednesday 5th September 2007, prior to a Capital League
West Division match, which Dulwich Hamlet won by the odd goal in three.
The FA Cup game listed on the board, played on 15th September, was an FA Cup First Qualifying Round tie, against Hellenic League Division One East side Henley Town, with Chesham United comfortably winning 5-1, in front of a crowd of 273.

Chesham United currently compete in the Southern League, but I have fond memories of my visits there, especially in the mid nineties, when we had a number of Supporters' football matches with them, including our, still record victory, one year, when we beat them 12-1.

This is the corner of the ground where the main turnstiles are,
you can see the clubhouse on the right, with the stand just past it.

This is behind the goal, at the 'cricket' end. The Club Shop is the
white building on the left.

This is the far side, a decent covered terrace, with a tea bar, &
I think, a toilet block, on the left.

This is a shot of the covered terrace along the side, from
towards the other end.

This is the far end, behind the goal, I presume the turnstiles
at the end aren't used very often, and are just there for
'ground grading' purposes.

And here is a view of the stand, and the clubhouse, along
the side, from behind this goal.

This is the terrace along the side, that leads back up to
the stand, and thus completes our tour of Chesham United.
Looking back through these I have no idea why I didn't
take a decent snap of the stand.

Couldn't resist snapping their Club crest, on a wall either.

Sunday 25 May 2008

Amersham Town FC 2007/08

I've never actually seen a match at Amersham Town, but visited the town on Wednesday 5th September 2007, before going on to Chesham United, to watch Dulwich Hamlet Reserves.

Amersham Town compete in the Spartan South Midlands League, and in 2007/08 finished 11th out of nineteen clubs the First Division, which is the second tier of that league.

They play at Spratley's Meadow, School Lane, in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. It's about a mile from the London Underground station at the end of the Metropolitan Line, though that's an approixmation, as I didn't go directly there, and walked around the town itself.

This is the entrance to the ground.
The 'advertised' match had already taken place. It was on Saturday 18th August, and they lost by the odd goal in five, in front of 24 spectators.

This is the view across the ground, from the corner on
School Lane, where the entrance is.

I am going to walk you straight ahead, in a clockwise circle,
and look around the ground.
This is the clubhouse & changing rooms block, which looks
an extremely recent development.

And here is the view from down at the far corner.

This is the view along the far touchline, no spectator facilities.
But note the derelict building. I would be interested to know
is this is part of the adjacent field behind it, or it is was formerly
used by the Football Club.

The remains of whatever it was make a nice backdrop
for the dugouts.

Not exactly a lot of room behind the far goal!

Note the official name on the stand: If you can you've got
better eyesight than me; unfortunately I'd didn't catch it
properly...though I'm sure it was someone fairly famous,
possibly Graham Taylor.

Not the biggest of sheds, but more than adequate for
the level where they play, and a decent view of the pitch

This is the other end of the same stand, and clearly a different
name on it. Perhaps which 'one' you're in depends of which
row of the seats you're plonked down in!

The sign, in the photo below, warns you not to block the view.
Somehow with an average crowd of 27 last season, highest
being 56 for the visit of Arlesley Athletic who got their moneys
worth in a 4-3 thriller; and the least attractive opponents to
Amersham were with a mere 15 spectators versus Cheshunt
Reserves, if you're interested.
Clearly the big crowds did not overawe them, as they secured
a 4-1 win away to New Bradwell St. Peter, in front of their highest
away crowd of the campaign, with 60 present.
Divide that by fifteen though, and you get an attendance of 4; which
was the lowest that saw them, a 2-0 reverse at Brache Sparta.
(Stats lifted from the Football Mittoo site)

Thank you for looking in, I will be spradically adding to these
photos over the summer months, slowly but surely.
I am just learning how to upload them, and have a number of
grounds to add from the last year or so, since I have been
saving them to discs, and will add new ones too, as I snap them.