The Futures Market

Isthmian League, Division 1, South – Walton and Hersham FC v Dulwich Hamlet FC
Saturday, 26th November 2011, 3pm
Stompond Lane
Distance 5 miles, Attendance 204
An extraordinary thing happened today… This morning after some pretty easy negotiations in Chez Jumper, my loving wife agreed for the men folk to go to football, and in return we’d do the weekly shop on the way home (a steal!). And so it was that I came to take my son to his first non-Watford, and Non-League, game. A quick check in last week’s Non League Paper, and The London Footy Guide, told me the nearest game on offer was at Walton and Hersham FC. So it was decided.
At his age the only thing I knew about Hersham were the delightful words of Jimmy Pursey (and yes, thanks to some careful parenting skills, my son also knows this tune, very well), however neither of us had ever been to Stompond Lane, let alone the football ground. We hadn’t seen either team play before, and we certainly didn’t recognise any of the names written up on the team sheet (board) at the entrance. He were totally ignorant (my mother will probably agree with this).
The teams ran out, shook hands, swapped ends, and then proceeded to run about some more… quite literally, in a totally aimless fashion, for the next 45 minutes. Aimless hoofs, bad judgement, clumsy tackles, missed passes, and poor marking. Around me not a single positive word was uttered about either team, or the officials. Then like a messenger from the Gods, just before halftime, the ref spotted a blatant handball in The Swans’ box, and Sanchez Ming comfortably put away the spot kick. Neither side really deserved to go in on top but Hamlet now had the advantage. One could sense the gloom lifting, along with their body language, as the sides walked off.
Halftime in Non League grounds is, well, different. Already my son had despite my insistence been let in for free, now he was being asked to take part in the halftime penalty shoot out and I was being encouraged on to the pitch to watch. Now I’ve been on pitches before, both during and after games, but it’s still an incredibly liberating feeling being out there, safe in the knowledge that (no matter what the football authorities tell you) the hallowed turf won’t actually wilt and die from our footprints. Demonstrating his genes in the shoot out my son hit the post (maybe next time…).
Thankfully, for all concerned, things on the pitch improved after the break; Dulwich picked their game up and, without ever being superb, in the end they finished The Swans off easily. The home side huffed and puffed desperately trying to get back into the game and were caught on the break, twice, firstly by substitute Frankie Sawyer and then just before time Ming grabbed his second to seal the game. Not one for the pools coupon but a fair 3-0 win for Hamlet leaving them sitting pretty at the top of the (Ryman) Isthmian League Division 1 South table.

In truth I knew little about the teams before kick-off, nor recognised any of the players names, and I’d seen a rather less than dramatic match that in a couple of years I’m unlikely to remember clearly. Instead what I have walked away with is a clear understanding of the plight of the home team. A plight that just seems an all too familiar tale below the premier league elite. And that’s the extraordinary thing; in some levels of football you can understand so much without really knowing anything.

Walton & Hersham FC, one time F.A. Amateur Cup winners, play in the middle of an athletics stadium on Stompond Lane in a very leafy part of suburban Surrey. The officials were welcoming and helpful and the team can play football, but the club struggles financially. Despite sharing the ground with Walton Athletics Club, average gates of only 121* are causing a strain, and there seems a real threat to the club staying at the place they’ve called home for nearly 80 years. As a part of their proposal to stay put they came up with plan to develop the site for to have a more commercial and community bias, which was initially shown some support from the council. At the ground yesterday the bar had been partially converted to house a promotion for the clubs ideas including a scale model. Sadly, for the club at least, Elmbridge Council have now put forward a proposal of their own which will see The Swans ground sharing with both The Athletics Club and Walton Casuals FC (also in Isthmian League Division 1 South) on a completely new site. Stompond Lane Stadium would then be sold to property developers to help finance the plan (sound familiar?). Currently no agreement has been reached but meetings continue, whilst the club raise a petition to stay at their spiritual home.
When the tide, in recent times, has been firmly in behind concrete bowls instead of traditional grounds, I wouldn’t like to be in Walton & Hersham’s shoes right now. I signed the petition as truly hope they get to stay, but we’ll see…
For Walton & Hersham FC’s view and the petition, click on the badge below…
For another report of Elmbridge Council’s plans, click here…

This entry was posted in 2011-2012, Isthmian League and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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