Wednesday 19 November 2008

Crowborough Athletic

Visiting Crowborough Athletic was the Dulwich Hamlet game I had been looking forward to all season. For the only reason that of the clubs promoted/relegated/switched to the Ryman One South, this was the only ground I had not yet visited!

And I must say what a delightful little club! (And I'm not just saying that because we thrashed then 7-0!) The conversation on the train back to London wasn't just about the superb victory, but on what a nice club Crowborough Athletic was. The general concensus was that we hope they finish above the bottom two relegation spots.

It's often said that the further you go down the pyramid the friendlier the welcome is. This was a prime example of that theory. Although this club have moved up they have no lost any of their hospitality. The locals were genuinely welcoming, no-one had a bad word to say,even in heavy defeat.
It was only seven quid to get in, the programme was free too! You couldn't but not buy some raffle tickets after that! A small ground, as you'd expect, but more than adequate. It may be a half hour walk from the station, and only one train an hour, but it's downhill on the way back, & the chipshop just past the station kills the time until it arrives! This club should be a model of how all progressive county league clubs should be run.

If Carlsberg could make non-league football it would probably be like this! ;-)

Maybe you paid for the sign by the letter! ;-)

The main club board.

They like their signs here! Presumably their lower teams use the outer fields, managed by the National Playing Fields Association.

From the entrance, this time with a Football Foundation sign, we look up to the stadium.

But before we go in that direction there is the clubhouse on our right.

The pool table area 'doubles up' as the boardroom! Which is actually a shame really, as I didn't want to enter that area as a result, and would have like to have a peek at the photos on the wall in that corner. Sitting just outside it are our Club Chairman Jack Payne, on the left, & one of our oldest supporters, Bill Kirby on the right. Bill can recall seeing the Hamlet lift the FA Amateur Cup in 1937!

We now walk up towards the ground, with the turnstiles at the end of these new buildings, which include the changing rooms, and a tea bar & tea room inside.

This is the way in.

Raffle tickets!

Some of our fans arrive.

From the entrance we're going to stroll around the ground before kick off in a clockwise direction. Note the tannoy. As the teams ran out some sort of old fashioned instrumental tune was blaring out. Very wuaint and old fashioned. One of our committee men happened to walking past me and quipped: " It's like we're going camping! Where's Sid James!"

Here we see the cover behind the goal, with the players tunnel at this end of it.

Teams helpfully witten up on a board. Why every club does not do this is beyond me. (We certainly don't do this at Champion Hill)

From here we look down the side with three small stands, two with seats. We will see them close up later.

The other touchline is open to the elements.

Nice flag.

As we move along you can see the facilities for supporters' built in. A tea bar with a hatch onto the ground, plus in the bar area, where they sell not just food & hot & cold drinks, but beer in poured into plastic glasses from tins in a fridge. How civil to treat fans as adults! And that is only said half in jest!

Here is the drinks area, with some club photos & posters around, which shows how proud eveyone is of their club.

And they obviously have the support of the local council too.

So simple, but what a great memento of the opening of their re-developed stadium.

You can imagine what a special day it must have been when all their hard work came to fruition for the visit of Charles Hendry, MP.

And how's this for a supurb fixture poster?

Here's the hatch for the tea bar, from the terrace. They did very good value burgers, egg & bacon rolls, andso on. In fact it's one of the best, if not the best, tea bars I've ever seen at a non-league ground!

Another sign. But hey, their grant did help pay for the place!

Now we look back along the covered terrace, and it time-"At last" I hear you cry-around the rest of the ground.

From the corner flag we look across to the main stand.

Tucked in the corner, I bet they wish they'd put this up outside the Dulwich changing room, with the benefit of hindsight!

Open hard standing the length of this touchline.

And a look back behind the goal.

Dugouts on the halfway line.

Across the middle, to the stands.

We now continue towards the corner, and behind the far goal.

But not before a glance backwards, from where we've come.

This advertising hoarding from the local paper caught my eye, behind the goal.

Not one of the best of my favoured 'corner flag' shots....I like the flag fluttering! ;-)

As we move behind the goal it's more of the same, open standing.

And from almost directly behind the net we see the three stands on the far side.

Turning the corner it's more open standing up to the first one.

Clearly a quite recent construction.

I quickly sneak under the pitch barrier to get some better shots.

This is obviously the older stand. Presumably the only one that dates back to their long Sussex County League era.

I don't know who Barry Sykes is, and didn't think to ask. I would guess this stand was put up to comply with minimum seating ground grading requirements.

Moveing on past the stands there is this small railed off triangle area. I'm not sure why, but my guess is it's to preserve the sightlines of those in the seats.

As we move further along you can see it's more open hard standing.

And finally back to the corner where the turnstiles are, from where we began our tour of the Crowborough Community Stadium. A fitting title for a true community club.

One last shot. The teams enter the field here from behind the goal, which led to the unusual site of the pointless pre-match ritual of the handshakes being on the edge of the penalty area, rather than in the middle of the pitch, in front of the main stand.


Stansted play in the Essex Senior League. I just about made this venue in time! Not for kick off, I was a couple of hours early for that, but this was 21st October this year, & I arrived in the nick of time to get some half-decent snaps in the remaining daylight! Phew!

I gvae the ground a brief mention, as it was 'on my way' to the Czech Republic, where I was flying out to early the next morning, on one of my postings on the Tony Kempster forum:

"I left for Stansted, and got to their ground just before darkness, so got some snaps of their, basically one sided ground, but what a lovely one side! A delightful, old fashioned little wooden stand. And the old boy on the gate was one of the friendliest I met for a long time, probably because they get such small crowds he has the time to, I suppose! An easy 4-1 win for them against Barking, who brought about a dozen fans with them, I didn't count the crowd, but would guess about 35-ish. Which is a lot less than the average age of the visiting Barking fans, the majority of whom are over their half century mark. How sad they must be to see their club struggling near the bottom of the Essex Senior League, as I'm sure they recall FA Cup runs & an Isthmian championship, was it in the late seventies, or just start of the eighties? Fiver to get in, programme a quid, with a black & white snap of the stand on the cover. An easy fifteen minute walk to the ground, a bit uphill on the way there, but not too steep. "

From the road there are some nice old gates as you approach the ground.

This is the way in, & where you pay your money.

Behind the goal, just outside, by the small car park, is the clubhouse building.

Everything is down one side here. The toilets, with some sort of water tank behind. Hope it's not recycled! ;-)

No terracing, just hard standing up to the seats.

This is the boardroom.

And a nice old stand, though if you look carelfully there are actually very few seats in it!

Just before the stand, set slightly behind it, is a seperate small block for the referees' room.

This was the largest set of seats, I think there were around thrity or so in all, throughout the whole stand!

The rest being 'wooden benches' like this.

Past the stand is more of the concrete path.

Which doesn't quite reach to the end. Whether this is 'work in progress' or 'project abandoned' I have no idea.

Nothing behind the goal, though you can walk round and stand here, as five Barking fans did in the second half.

From behind this goal we look back to the stand.

Now the bar was up the other end, and very few spectators venture behind here. I could not work out why this sign was here. Near the entrance up the other end maybe, but here?

Not even hard standing on the far side, but it would be fine to watch the match from here on a fine day, rather than a cold evening like tonight. At least it wasn't raining!

What is it with dugouts at lower levels and park benches?

Here is a shot of the open touchline, clubhouse in the distance again.

From here I cut across the pitch to take another photo of the stand.

Here is the players' tunnel.

After that I was off to doss down on the airport concourse for a few hours before my flight.
There were a few of these posters dotted about on my walk back to the station.
Well long live plentiful, cheap budget flights! The more expansion the better! It's all well and good opposing airports, but how else can people travel? Now if you were campaigning for train travel abroad to be as cheap as Easyjet & co, then I would be waving placards alongside you. But until then I'll keep on flying while I can afford to...