What I heard today…

Conference South
Ebbsfleet United FC v Bromley FC
Saturday, 1st January 2014, 3pm
Stonebridge Road
Entrance £10 (with children under 12 going free), Programme £3
Distance 46 miles, Attendance 998
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It’s not a game for play makers. It’s a game for work and spirit.
There was a plan for today; actually there were two. Primarily – it will come as no surprise to learn – with Watford playing at Yeovil for the first time ever, that game had long been pencilled in for New Year’s Day. With Bridgwater Town v Taunton Town due to kick off at 1pm, once the ghastly TV men had moved Watford’s game to 5.30pm, the added appeal of a West Country double left the more discerning (or maybe just me) drooling. The second plan was a small jaunt into the Oxfordshire countryside to pick up a yellow team’s game – North Leigh v Bishops Cleeve – for a programme article.  As plans go, both were appealing and achievable but sadly, the weather was having none of it. While I hatched a plan to tear my family from their slumber to ensure I got to a game, the tweets started to come through…
@OfficialBTFC84 Today’s local derby vs Taunton is OFF due to waterlogged pitch. Happy New Year
@BishopsCleeveFC Pitch inspection @NorthLeigh_FC is due at 10.30. If their weather is anything like the deluge here, I’ll be amazed if it’s on!
@ytfcofficial Breaking news. Today’s game has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. #ytfc
140101 CS Ebbsfleet Utd v Bromley (39)Always having an emergency (third) plan up my sleeve, there was nothing to fear. Spending the night at friends’ in the village of Middleofnowhere, Kent, there would still be a handful of games within very easy reach. There were until 1.30pm of course, and then there was just one. Everything else was, quite literally, a wash out. Grabbing our sons, said friend and I drove off – through the driving rain – towards North Kent.
The fact that anything was on is/was a minor miracle. As Des Lyman (and Rudyard Kipling) once versed; If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs… you’ll be rewarded with a bumper crowd and big takings in the Bovril dept. Despite the huge puddles in the road outside the head groundsman, Craig Freeman, deserves a medal. Naturally there was some slipping and sliding and, a truly wonderful moment in the first half when the far linesman hit the ground but, the pitch held out up to the final whistle. In truth, the surface looked mighty fine as we entered through the turnstiles – well certainly better than those school pitches Mr Atkinson made us run round – and though it rained pretty much throughout and influenced the game to some extent, for the most part both sides endeavoured to produce entertaining football.
140101 CS Ebbsfleet Utd v Bromley (35)b
You can’t take photos here, not unless you’re an official press photographer.
When one takes their offspring anywhere, one takes pictures of them. If there is a parent that doesn’t, I’d question whether they actually like children, of any shape or size.
140101 CS Ebbsfleet Utd v Bromley (24)bHaving authoritatively approached me, the steward left utter dismay on the faces of those about us. I’ve heard such “warnings” at football before and didn’t even bother to make eye-contact. Ok, I hadn’t introduced myself or asked permission, nor did I even debate his command; I didn’t even answer. The steward also had no way of knowing I would happily be writing about the game, and his football club, over the coming days (just as I have hundreds of others) however, given the adage that any news is good news, I think it’s high time that this or any side adopt the same policies used in practically every ground across Europe. Even at Wembley – allegedly the pinnacle of this country’s footballing excellence – fans are permitted to use “non professional” cameras in the stadium, and why not? I’d guess for every “negative” shot taken, there will be twenty positive pieces of memorabilia.
We live in a country where approximately 75% of the population have a mobile phone (most with cameras); a world where prime ministers and presidents will take selfies at state funerals, where instant news is broadcast round the globe via social media. This really is very old technology – Messrs Daguerre, Nicéphore Niépce and, Wedgewood saw to that – and it’s very much here to stay; no amount of rules, however archaic, will stop it.
140101 CS Ebbsfleet Utd v Bromley (30)As it turned out – at the very least, just like two others not far away and, a chap setting up a time-lapse camera behind the Ebbsfleet goal – I had been taking photographs throughout the game (and not always of the action); from the moment we departed the Middleofnowhere, to hot-footing it back to the car, I was snapping away at Fleet life. The puzzling fact in all this is that, when the steward came over, the thing that attracted him to me was the use of a flash. Maybe I should have explained? Maybe he was concerned for the image rights of my subject matter? Maybe the steward just didn’t have a clue that I was taking a close-up, NOT OF THE FOOTBALL OR EVEN THE STADIUM but, of my son, in the gloom, eating a huge burger. Is that really a problem?
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Oh, this is mercurial.
There are a multitude of reasons Bank Holiday sport is adored my so many. Clearly it’s not the petty advice of stewards; sometimes they’re very entertaining. Matches on Bank Holidays are a release from the daily routine; a chance of fresh air – to blow off the cobwebs – after a spate of extreme gluttony. Of all the fixtures in the season, Bank Holiday games are the ones where supporters are most relaxed; where the outcome matters but, somehow isn’t life threatening.
As the teams ran out today, we were treated to another fantastic classic club song. I adore these songs; if only Watford had one. Cheer, Cheer, here come the Fleet… went the refrain, before extolling the virtues of both the team and the fans singing their support. In the stand, behind the goal to our right, Ebbsfleet’s faithful were living up to their part; on the pitch their team were doing their best too but Bromley were equal to them.
140101 CS Ebbsfleet Utd v Bromley (32)bFleet had an early corner which came to nothing and followed that with some good early possession; Bromley had possession too and their number 11 (sorry it was too wet to search for a team sheet) was particularly impressive on the ball. Soon Fleet had put on a terrific passing move, started with a quick throw out from keeper, Preston Edwards. Though the eventual shot was blocked, Ebbsfleet had shown their intent. A couple of corners were soon dispatched and, Anthony Cook fired a freekick over the away goal.
Midway through the first half, against the run of play, Bromley scored with their second attempt. Dean Rance’s pass ricocheted off the ref (hopefully not intentionally) and Brendan Kiernan sprinted clear down the right, crossing for Pierre Joseph-Dubois to slot home. Michael Thalassitis had a couple of chances in the swirling ???????????????????????????????wind to level the score but, these came to nothing and as break arrived the visitors were ahead and, whilst we headed for the Bovril, the Bromley Massive made their way to the open terrace, behind the goal to our left.
Just like their fans, Bromley’s captain Rob Swaine is/was also massive; he had a big impact on this game 140101 CS Ebbsfleet Utd v Bromley (63)and will surely do the same on their whole season. Under his guidance, Bromley were able to soak up the constant pressure and then hit on the break. First Jake Reid slotted in at the back post, then came substitution half-hour, followed by a third goal for the visitors as Bradley Goldberg took the ball of Reid’s toes. Whilst the massive fans and players danced in the corner, the middle-class golf brolly-waving celebration before us was a sight to behold. Giving some deserved parity to the score line, Ebbsfleet got a late consolation but Billy Bricknell’s effort couldn’t spur on a comeback, despite the insistence of some behind us that they would now win 4-3.
Whilst Bromley’s season appears to have kicked on wonderfully since I saw them at the 2013 London Senior Cup Final, Ebbsfleet are also in fine form. Both their possession and ability today, in very poor conditions, suggested they could easily make the play-offs; there is clearly enough skill in the side for that. That said, the match-winner today was the endeavours, camaraderie and banter of both sets of Bank Holiday fans. Joined by a smattering of groundhoppers, Charlton and Gills fans, under that wonderful covered terrace that runs the length of the pitch, they (and the architecture around this proper stadium) truly made the game.
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The weather may have been piss poor, and the wind unplayable at times but, to escape the house and quell the predictable hangovers, bracing the elements in North Kent had been worth every minute (and a damn sight better than watching old films with our lovely wives back home).

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3 Responses to What I heard today…

  1. This also happened to me at the Horsfall after a jobsworth Steward challenged me over taking pictures “without official permission” but relented when I told him that they were for my blog. We ended up talking about websites but the experience was awkward and unnecessary. Perhaps bloggers should have some sort of accreditation?!?

  2. Oztraveller says:

    Love the story. Took in the FA Cup game against Dartford on a strange but similar day back in October. Rain and howling wind such that barely two of the three stands were safe from the elements. That day was a full house, but more owing to the two teams playing. Great ground and atmosphere. I was also lucky that day to get in a double header as England was playing Wales (Women’s WC Qual) at the Den, a short two train rides away.

    I took in some 20-odd non-league games when I was in the UK and never had any problems with stewards. Most of those were midweek. Mind you I have done some “professional” sports photography here in Oz and you are definitely not allowed to use a flash, the obvious concern being blinding a player. That, as you intimated, may have been the real cause of the steward’s angst. I guess you just need to tweak the settings on the camera, if possible, and work without a flash. There is also the concern of protecting the rights of the media, yet something that should not be such in the non-league. The emergence of numerous blogs, like this one, can only be advantageous and, somewhat, fortuitous, for the non-league clubs as each and every one provides free advertising about what non-league football is *really* all about.

    Still, the non-league ought to consider these technological advances (mobile phones, especially) and make appropriate allowances, or at least define what is acceptable and what is not (i.e., using a flash to photograph game play). Wish I was back there.

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