If You Build it…

Pre-Season Friendly – Holyport FC v Windsor FC
Thursday, 26th July 2012, 7.45pm
Summerleaze Village
Distance 31 miles, Attendance 25-ish (headcount)
“Hey, what if the Voice calls while you’re gone?” enquired my wife before leaving…  “Take a message” and I was gone into the distance.

Knowing the area so well yet not having a clue about the ground location is a extraordinary position to be in. The name Summerleaze Village emits a strange aura of the Ingalls family and daisy chains; annoyingly the journey there was far from skipping through a meadow. The traffic reports, warning of “debris on the road” on M4 between junctions 7 and 9 were bad enough (yes that is where I needed to get off), but what they failed to inform me was that the M25 clockwise was even worse, whilst LOCOG traffic was already snarling up the Roadrace route around Hampton Court… TWO BLOODY DAYS BEFORE THE RACE. Fortunately – like most students of a certain era – I honed map reading at the wheel skills in a ’72 Beetle. With power-steering at 5mph this was going to be a doddle. Ninety minutes later, via a very rejuvenated Slough, I was safely there… and before kick-off.
As I pulled on the handbrake in the directed car park there was the welcome sight of a fellow Hornet driving in. This meeting – whilst not relevant to tonight’s game – gave an opportunity to discuss our/the “project” as we ambled up the lane running along the cricket club boundary. At the end of the path, having covered non-talking trialists, worrying fan expectations, Doyley’s niggle, and Zola smile, we found a variety of green shipping containers that substitute for a clubhouse, a shed for a tea bar, and welcoming faces before a wonderful sun-kissed pitch with two teams warming up; Holyport in Portugal’s 2000 Claret and Green and Windsor in Spurs’ 1991 White and Navy.

The game started with a flurry of action on the pitch as both sides pushed for supremacy, and a flurry of confusion off it. We’d been given team sheets but there was a complete absence of any squad numbers. for supporters of either club this wouldn’t cause concern, but for us… We didn’t have a clue who was who, though I was amused to find all three Jamies on the the pitch played for Holyport, and were all listed as strikers (not helping much).
Within minutes of kickoff Windsor had a goal rightfully ruled out for offside (obviously I can’t tell you by whom) though I’m not sure the young linesman was in line to know either. Still, I was there willing to help him, and so it seems were many others down our side of the pitch. Ten minutes in the Holyport number 9 (don’t know him either) caught the ball sweetly on the left hand side and smashed it into the near top corner. Windsor immediately responded as their number 9 (nor him) ran through on to a defence-splitting pass, rounded the keeper to the left and slotted the ball home. If this carried on the game was – like the weather – going to be glorious.

For the next 75 minutes we were treated to an enthralling display of error-strewn action, good-natured late tackles, and complaining filled with industrial idioms to anyone who would listen (the one beginning with F seemed very popular in these parts). I’d like to take a moment to point out to all those playing that if you use foul language to emphasise your feelings – AD INFINITUM – you words quickly lose their impact. Really, you might as well not bother.
Soapbox away, Windsor’s goal scorer (who I still didn’t know?) took a throw-in before us and immediately received the ball back. Rounding one player as he headed for the goal line. Without looking up, he hit a low cross which the keeper spilled towards the net, only to pounce at the feet, of the last line of defence, to prevent gifting the lead to the away team. Phew! If that sounds confusing at least it would be apt for the scene before us… and it didn’t stop there. Four minutes from time Windsor’s number 10 (?) – mimicking his side’s first goal – rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home. Straight up the other end Holyport’s number 2 (?) hit a rasping shot from distance which cannoned off the post. Confounding us more that team names, to our left came the cry of “Michael Moore!” from Holyport’s goalkeeper. I couldn’t see Mr Moore on the team sheet, in the crowd, or posting on twitter… thankfully my searching was interrupted by the ref’s whistle, at which point we all took a much needed break.
Now if the first half wasn’t strange enough the second half opened with an accidental, yet truly amusing (to all bar the victim) double injury to Windsor’s number 9 (whose name is obviously beyond me). First he blocked a fierce clearance with his crown jewels, and moments after hobbling around declaring how sick he felt, came off worse in a fifty-fifty challenge. Even his team mates were laughing…
As the half wore on – with the sun setting behind on our backs – Windsor started to control the game more. Their centre back (number 16) seemed most composed whilst players about him continued to complain at the linesman, the referee, the opposition, and bizarrely to team mates for not passing to them. Yes, for once, like being in a parallel universe, players were now emulating playground squabbles.
When an opening came Windsor’s number 10 (?) produced an broke down the right and delivered a great cross only for number 8 (?) to head wide with the goal gaping before him. Letting us know they had a tannoy – which given the settings I’d doubted – kick off details were given for the away game to Tylers Green (2pm in case you’re wondering); letting us know dusk was well and truly here the insects began to bite in earnest. Holyport’s number 15 (?) showed some bite of his own with two great 30 yard drives in quick succession. With the floodlights now entirely necessary, the first – giving the keeper no hope – put the scores level; sadly the second couldn’t repeat the feat. Fortunately as the light began to wane, I could still pick out Windsor’s number 2 (?) as his mum had kindly dressing him in luminous boots. Proving they aren’t as useless I would have you believe his long range effort produced a fine save from the substitute Holyport keeper (?). As the ref blew up shortly after, I like everyone there, seemed to leave with a feeling pretty good about the way the evening went. Reading this back I’d like to add that any belittling  is not intended. I really had a tremendous evening. The weather was splendid, the fellow Hornet good company, the football engaging, and the interaction between those on pitch was wonderfully entertaining.

Thirty odd years ago I came to this area every Saturday and learnt to sail. The area around the water was all farm or waste land, the estate I’d just driven through hadn’t been planned yet; there was certainly no football to be seen. But in my absence, a truly wonderful thing has happened… Holyport built their very own field of dreams. It’s not that well known, or easy to find, and thankfully doesn’t have Kevin Costner, but in the setting sun it’s a beautiful peaceful place, with a proper pitch, a good stand, and a friendly tea bar. As the saying goes “If you build it, they will come.” We did. And I’ll gladly return anytime.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In case you’re wondering here’s the team sheet…
(naturally any player identification would be greatly received)
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