Bow Street Runners

Isthmian League Premier Division – Met Police FC v Harrow Borough FC
Saturday, 12th January 2013, 3pm
Metropolitan Police (Imber Court) Sports Club
Distance 2 miles, Attendance 125
The Metropolitan Police FC… Hmm, either I should feel very differently about them or, at the very least I should be less indifferent towards them. Ridiculous speeding ticket on the A30 aside, the police force has never really done anything to irk me. Good friends have worked for them, I saw one singing to Sinatra once, and allegedly they’re pretty good at directions, so why can’t I warm to the team? And why do I feel I’m not alone in this?

130112 ILPD Met Police v Harrow Borough (51)b

Apart from the fact I can’t work out whether their name requires a “The”, in the footballing community Metropolitan Police FC hold a rather unique place. Formed in 1919 – ninety years after the Metropolitan Police Service was established – to provide friendly recreation for its workforce, it took the boys in blue another ninety years to win anything. In the interim they played through the Leagues of Spartan, Metropolitan, and Southern, before celebrating The Silver Jubilee by finally joining the newly created Isthmian League Division 2. A few promotions, relegations, and league-renaming followed before their fortunes changed just a couple of years back.
After a four-all draw in 2010, The Met beat AFC Wimbledon 5-3 on penalties to win the London Senior Cup; a year later they lifted the Division One South title on goal difference; beating Bognor Regis by a single goal. No longer containing just serving members of the police force, going into this game their team was sitting in mid-table. Their opponents, Harrow – despite having youth and a longer honours board on their side – were in a far more precarious position.
130112 ILPD Met Police v Harrow Borough (16)b
Following a hectic morning I made it through the Imber Court turnstiles just in time to grab a programme, some Bovril, and an unobstructed seat behind the dugouts before the teams lined up to shake hands. Harrow wore the fantastic Boro Red kit of last season; the boys in blue did exactly what they said on the tin (sadly in a more modern design). Twenty minutes in it was clear the biggest difference between the two sides was the choice of kit design.
130112 ILPD Met Police v Harrow Borough (5)bIn the run-up to the game Boro’s keeper – as named on the programme – Elvijs Putnins had left the building but, an able replacement had arrived on loan from Palace in the shape of Ross Fitzsimons. Struggling to find a team sheet, in my haste I of course was totally unaware of this but, a saviour – and fellow Hornet – would be at hand at half time to put me right.
130112 ILPD Met Police v Harrow Borough (43)bHaving guessed wrong, the Harrow fans changed ends just as the action kicked off at a fast and furious pace. Whilst the referee literally dominated (you had to be there) all around him, both sides tested out the keepers reactions. The Reds dominated early on in midfield and could’ve taken the lead however, it was The Met who broke the deadlock. The Watford-supporting announcer promptly named captain Steve Sutherland as the scorer but a sheepish reaction – and his team mates congratulating another – was enough to suggest that Ty Smith’s corner had in all probability gone straight in through the crowded box.
The only certainty was that I had – once again – failed to win a golden goal competition, by minutes (if indeed there is any other way to fail). The chap selling tickets at the gate helpfully suggested this was because I hadn’t bought enough in the past 35 years but, I have other much darker theories. On a more optimistic note – despite the noise coming from the shouty blokes on the two benches – Rob Walleaston, Alan Tait, Charles Ofuso-Hene, David Knight, and Howard Newton all showed some fine touches in open play. Even more impressive was Jamie Butler in home goal whose agility seemed to give confidence to his defence but, sadly his defence didn’t repay the compliment.
On the half hour, Ofuso-Hene was allowed to wander unhindered through the back line and smash home an equaliser. The single “Come On You Blues” boy behind me slumped back in his seat and, the twenty-odd “Come On You Reds” freezing behind the goal celebrated joyously. The wonderful move and precise shot low to the far corner would’ve been drooled over in other circles but, this was Imber Court and other circles were certainly not here.

130112 ILPD Met Police v Harrow Borough (54)   130112 ILPD Met Police v Harrow Borough (64)

In the next hour there were a few more chances yet very few worth noting; there was occasional intuitive play both attacking and defending, and best of all a extraordinary debate on whether shots “at goal” should be counted as shots “on target” but – as the game wore on – the frenetic pace gave way to clumsy challenges and even more shouting from the shouty benchmen.
At the final whistle I wondered what was meant by playing football “the right way”. Here in the failing warmth at Imber Court – home to The Met’s football team since their inception – two teams had shown endeavour and honestly (take note Suarez) tried to win, eventually cancelling each other out. Whichever way I looked at it, the match had been reasonably entertaining with a fair result; it seemed the right way for it to end to me.
Of more concern should be; Why teams don’t actually line up before the hand shakes begin? As the teams ran out why was The Clash’s “I Fought The Law” cut abruptly short when I was in full Strummer-mode? Why, oh why, would anyone consider closing the tea bar for good ten minutes into a freezing second half? And as they’re not all serving members, why do the The Met still play under that moniker?

130112 ILPD Met Police v Harrow Borough (34)b

We’re thankfully a million miles from the police/supporters relationship of the 70s and 80s however, one sadly gets the feeling the name is probably still keeping neutrals away. Looking at it objectively (nasty modern kit aside) they’re a pretty decent team with impressive facilities, and they certainly perform far better than The other Police do now (with their newly introduced dour prog-rockish guitar solos). Admittedly I won’t be attaching myself long-term to anyone but Watford however, if The Met ever re-branded themselves “Bow Street Runners FC” (and kept the tea bar open longer)… well, I’m fairly certain home attendances might peak significantly and, that they’d end up with a travelling faithful to rival the entertaining Harrow Borough Twenty-Two.

130112 ILPD Met Police v Harrow Borough (9)b

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