Guest writer: Tim Warren
Southwick Wanderers vs Brunswick Village 07.05.2017
Good morning Geoffrey, good morning Martin, good morning everyone. The proceedings were started in T20 style with some spectacular pyrotechnics and a champagne toast to welcome Southwick Wanderers to their new abode.
With 1 game won and 1 lost, the home side were eager to get off to a good start. Gwyllim, and Jordan opened the batting with clear intent to put runs on the board. Gwyllim falling foul of a low bouncing wicket and an early LBW appeal upheld by the umpire leaving his total on 2.
Max started sprightly, with a few boundaries and a heart in mouth moment as a miss timed straight drive landed safely away from a fielder, he continued well, notching up his 50 in style with a 6.
The run rate continued around the 5/over rate with 3 wickets tumbling during the first 19 overs, Jordan making a respectable 32, with some impressively athletic quick singles, which due to their rarity, a joy to behold by all.
The 19th over, was officially registered by Guinness world record books as the ‘slowest over bowled in the history of the modern world’ due to a hat trick of 6’s reaching the impenetrable forest of Berrylands Farm on each occasion.
After the drinks break, Max continued to swing away, slotting sixes at will, until a miss timed shot from a Keith Bars delivery was caught on the boundary at deep mid wicket 1 run short of 80… Max have a wonderful retirement, you have been an unrelenting servant to the sport of cricket.
Noodle stepped up to the crease next to create a stylish partnership with Lloyd playing shots with aplomb until an unfortunate run out cut their partnership short that’s 142 for 5.
The enigmatic MJ at the crease with noodle lasted a few beautiful overs, but like the star that burns too brightly, and dies too soon, their partnership too suffered the same fate.
Tim took to the crease next and, but for a 6 and a couple of 4’s held out for a dreary and unimaginative 25.
MJ valiantly swung out with 5 overs to go but came a cropper, bowled with an in swinging fast ball. Dan came in to bat next and wife Gemma, and team captain for the day remarked “he’s batting like a flange”, unfortunately her omen came true and after a valiant few balls succumbed to a ruthless bowler.
Gemma came to the crease and help guide the team to a final total of 193.
Credit goes to a good Brunswick fielding display to hold the home team under 200 runs.
Service resumed after the break and Brunswick in to bat with a total of 193 to beat.
Dan and Peter opened the bowling to a big swinging opener, plenty of pressure was applied early on and Dan was rewarded early on with a clean bowled wicked hitting off stump. Jamie, one of the opening batsmen continued at pace and caused trouble in the out field slotting boundaries at will for the next few overs.
Peter and Luke continued to make a real dent into the opposition batting order with a clean bowled wicket apiece and each creating a catch, one caught and bowled by Luke and the other a well taken catch by Noakes to limit Brunswick’s run rate.
Jordan and Tim were brought on next to change up the attack with some varied spinning from Jordy yielding fruit (to Jordan’s dismay as he had hoped for cake) dismissing seventh place man P. Styles halting him on eight runs. Tim finally got his wicket in the form of an LBW stopping 8th man on 7.
A chance to get Jamie out came and went, as Tim bowled a teasing ball down the Leg side which was swung for and clipped sailing straight into the gloves of MJ who snatched the defeat out of the jaws of victory and dropped him! In MJ’s defence he was only saving the glory for Tim for a few overs later Jamie was caught and bowled halting his total at 69.
With two wickets to get neither Jordan or Tim could break the last pair down and so the task was given back to Dan and also Gwyllim . It was G-man that made the difference expertly taking both remaining wickets to seal a famous victory on their first ever home fixture at the new ground.
The team (most of it) arrived at Ifield for an early 13.30 start to Wanderers second outing of the new season.
Presented with a well-kept pitch and a magnificent new pavilion Ifield were ready for the first game of their Sunday season.
A 30 over game was agreed due to the predicted wet weather forecast, the sky was grey and gloomy, enough to obscure the planes as they took off and landed at nearby Gatwick.
Gemma was sent in to complete the toss and won! Keeping the 100% record this season (take note Luke) strangely however with the Wanderers reduced to 10 after a late but not unforeseen drop out of young George and with David Field MIA Southwick elected to field with 9
Rolling back the years Luke opened with Dan and immediately found his old line and length getting the ball to swing nicely before he removed the opener Dobson for 14 (Bowled) Dan followed suit quickly after (or it could have been before) by trapping the other opener Ahmed for 6 (LBW) a very positive start for Wanderers with Ifield 23 for 2
I think there were more wickets in the opening pair but Luke removed himself from the line up to save the magic (and possibly the back) for later.
The next partnership however had different ideas…. With obvious gaps in the field the next pair piled on the runs in the coming overs, with no bowler really being spared the odd spank to the boundary.
Rob returned to bowl for the first time this season and after a few balls found his range, his spinning balls testing the batsmen, he was unlucky to end wicket less after his 6 overs
Ant Skywalker made his bowling debut for Wanderers and after a few looseners soon started hitting the right line and length consistently, he can be proud of his opening bowling stint.
At some point the rain started to drizzle and with Rob attending to his windows Wanderers were down to 8 for one over.
With the reduced numbers and with some stiff looking fielding Wanderers were leaking runs and just when it seemed that nothing could save us……..who should appear from the other side of the pitch but Caribbean Dave.
Ibrahim, making his debut for Wanderers (another Prash recommendation) turned his arm over and soon got into a good rhythm with some decent pace, he would have, on any other days, got more overs – but after a quick 45 minute turn around Mr Field took erm… the field, his appearance seemed to energise the team particularly G Man who had been sending down some great balls when he had Patel caught out for 67, an excellent double handed catch taken by Dan quite casually in the deep.
Dave soon added to the tally removing the big scoring Ahmed for 108 caught once again by Mrs Dan Manvell. With Dave making up for lost time he then removed the next batsmen with his very next ball caught by Southwick Wanderers 5th choice wicket keeper MJ which now means that if Dave makes it to another game this year he is on a hat-trick.
This left Ifield on 224 for 5 they finished their inning shorty after on a massive 229 for 5 off 30 overs
Particular mention must go to Gemma and Will in the field who seemed to cop most of the batsmen’s enthusiasm Gemma used every part of her body to stop the onslaught and Will never gave up, running the boundary hard right into the last over.
So after a lovely tea with many sandwiches and treats Wanderers took to the task of overcoming the mammoth score.
G-Man strode to the wicket and with his normal shy and retiring manner started hitting the opening bowlers all over with a mixture of big hits from the Cricketing manual and (as described by Rob) some that were more “agricultural”.
He was ably assisted by Ibrahim who looked assured and relaxed at the crease, until he lifted one to a fielder caught out for 14, not what he would have wanted for his return to Cricket but there are certainly more Wanderer runs to come for him!?
Will Barber our rock in so many innings in the past didn’t trouble the score before he lofted one to mid-on with a shot which, when he hits it with more conviction, normally scores him plenty of runs.
Wanderers were 36 for 2, the ship needed to be settled, if by settled you mean starting a run fest with Gwyllim then Rob is your man.
I can honestly say it was a pleasure to watch them both knocking the ball all over the park using a combination of great shot selection and brutish power.
Both men passed the half century mark quickly and the once enormous total seemed not so large anymore, Wanderers were motoring with balls flying to all corners of the pitch and beyond.
The fun had to end though and G-man was finally caught and bowled superbly by Mahed whose choice was to lose a few fingers or take the catch cleanly, he chose the latter.
An excellent 79 for Mr Jones
Gemma entered the arena and quickly left two balls later, I have no idea what happened as I was having a wee, sorry Gemma.
Ant Skywalker (yes that’s his name from now on) then took to the wicket and handled himself well at the crease, keeping the bowling at bay but this obviously slowed the scoring from the lusty blows of our South African immigrant.
Any suggestion that Rob may crumble under the pressure of the additional scoring required were unfounded as he continued to hit magnificent shots to all areas before he was finally caught just 11 short of his century with Wanderers on 194.
It was a superb innings and easily the best I have witnessed from Mr Black who walked back in on 89 (I did the math for you)
With only a few overs remaining it was up to MJ and Ant to try and bring Wanderers home, but the remaining total which seemed so possible with Rob or Gwyllim at the wicket was too much for MJ who hogged most of the strike and could not get away the pretty average bowling on offer.
Southwick finished agonisingly close on 217 for 5 for their 30 overs
Ant 3 not out
MJ 10 not out
Despite the loss it was a great game which was enjoyed by all
Joint first place this week
5 points Rob B
5 points G-man
1 point Dan
Special mention to Dave F who might have earned himself a point had he turned up for the first 90 minutes.
Whatever the spat between them this week over dinner, Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May are both of the pro-neoliberal centre right, and they need each other
“Praise god it’s not Russia this time!”
The Russian embassy in London neatly trolled Theresa May as she stood on the steps of Downing Street this week accusing Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU of interference in the British general election.
It was an extraordinary claim. Though it has to be said, the leaking to Germany’s leading conservative paper by officials on the Juncker side of what seems to have been an ill-tempered over-dinner meeting with May to discuss Brexit was unusual only in terms of who the target was.
Britain is not Greece. But the behaviour of the Luxembourgeois Juncker came as no surprise to anyone in the southern European country that has been ground in the maw of the European institutions over the…
View original post 1,328 more words
Southwick Wanderers beat Fittleworth by 5 wickets
Southwick Wanderers away to Fittleworth – St George’s Day Sunday 23rd April 2017
We arrived to a slightly chilly and overcast Fittleworth with plenty of time spare. G-man turned up just as the first ball was to be bowled. The reason for this was due to the queue at McDonalds Drive-Thru- I believe it was due to him ogling over his recent purchase of a blue VW Beetle for £100 24 hours earlier.
One of our guest players from St Peters Rich-o stepped up to the plate to partake in the coin toss……and much to our surprise he actually did what Luke cannot – win. It was agreed on a 35 Over outing with the Wanderers tactically (because it would be colder later in the day) opting to field first.
Out strode the opening duo of A Kitchener and M Shepherd for the home side facing off against myself and a returning Tim Warren. No wickets fell until the 5th over when M Shepherd edged behind off myself into an alert MJ’s gloves. First blood to the Wanderers.
After 9 overs and a score of 41 -1 it was then down to the Rich-o and Jordan to take the reins and hopefully some wickets.
It did not take long until Rich-o took his first wicket in his second over trapping opener Andy LBW for 33. It was then a few overs later that Rich-o then took his second of the day during his 5th over when, correct me if I am wrong, P Kitchener edged it to Jordan at slip. The St Peters duo working in tandem then took another 2 wickets between them-Tim catching off of a Rich-o ball and Jordan deciding to do it all bowling and catching out another Kitchener, this time hard-hitting L for 51. By then it was 138-5.
In come the old guard G-man and Luke to dust off the cobwebs and do what they have done for years. The Big G unfortunately this time did not take a wicket but that is a one off that I am sure will not be repeated this season. Lukey rolled back the years taking 2 wickets for 5 runs in his 2 overs. Finishing off was our ‘11th hour 11th man’ signing from the opposition, little J Adams, also pulling double duties bowling and catching his brother thus obtaining bragging rights for the year. He then also bowled another big hitter P Cowell with a floating full toss straight down onto the stumps. In between all this it seemed every other ball was sent Magnet Manvell’s way at point. The opposition stating she stopped at least 30 odd runs.
The Wanderers were led off by leading man J with Fittleworth all out after 31 overs for 191.
Leading the charge for the Wanderers first batting session of the season were Messrs Jones and Barber. Will was the first victim of the season after he was trapped LBW by A Morris for 10.
Debuting guest Ant Walker was next out to the crease, you could see by the way he took his stance that he has played in the past. Unfortunately, and this comes from more than one person out in the field, was removed by a very good ball that cut back. One that would have had the majority of players there Sunday walking back to the pavilion with their bat between their legs. I am sure we will see Ant put some runs on the board this season once the cobwebs have been brushed off.
So with G-man still out there, next out was Jordan who decided that he would carry on from where he left of last season and pile on the……………. runs. However he did decide after an over or so that he needed another bat as the current one felt ‘dead’. Unfortunately for Gwyllim, I had gone in to get said replacement before he could request his heavier trunk of a bat and was caught out after toeing the ball for 35. Had this been the other bat, the ball would have no doubt flown over the boundary. Lesson learned for Gwyllim, go hard and heavy….not home.
Rich-o was next out to complete the all St Peters affair at the crease which lasted a few overs and fine shots until he was caught out for 20. Tim was next out and was sent packing for LBW after attempting to skin the leather off the ball. The shot pre-meditated and no doubt looked shot of the season in his head. Definitely not the only person to have ever fallen this way and not the last.
Somewhere in between all of this Jordan obtained his first of no doubt many 50’s of the season. Apologies Jordie, if I had known I was writing the match report I would have paid more attention to all that was going on. The 50 did include 10 4’s and a 6 with a 4 bringing up the half century.
Out came little J Adams who only needed to survive his brother’s bowling to obtain the bragging rights- and succeeded. He was however removed shortly after by D Hodd.
MJ……all we can say was caught out by a very good overhead catch after slicing the ball backwards of point. I hope that position was correct.
Jordan still out there slaying on around 86 with 5 overs left. After a tactical move by the bench, I was sent out next to assist Jordan in hopefully seeing off the total which we did after a couple of overs with a four by myself securing what was a brilliant team win all round. Jordan the Dragon Slayer finishing on 91 Not Out!!
It was a very enjoyable return to Fittleworth and Gemma has already received a pleasant message from Andy looking forward to revenge next year.
Thank you to all those that Scored and Umpired the match.
Man of the Match Points –
Jordan – 5
Gwyllim – 3
Gemma – 1
After I had left the bus on a cool Good Friday morning in a not so busy North Street I noticed my Dad standing on the other side of the road slowly pacing to and forth looking down the street with an anxious countenance. Troubled by this I hurriedly, and probably recklessly, made my way across the road. Calling to him in a slightly impatient way I waved him towards the Wetherspoons door. We were meeting for breakfast before my journey to the West Midlands. My impatience, which has been inwardly chastised on many occasion, was my worry and frustration at seeing him cut a frail and isolated figure. Dad’s aren’t supposed to appear to have such vulnerabilities for they are a reflection of our own future disposition- and Brighton & Hove Albion’s run to the top flight of English football is serving as a reminder of my own longevity.
Breakfast at Wetherspoons is something of a ritual for us both. As we sat waiting for the culinary delights of the back kitchen Dad asked me where the Albion were playing. I told him once and then again later in the exchange. The same for the kick off time. “Will you be listening on the radio ?”, I asked with a glow of warmth, knowing that he would be, which somehow made me feel he would be there in a spiritual way. He confirmed this, of course, as the radio is his main form of company. “If they win today do they go through ?” he then asked with interest. I knew what he meant and met the question where it was at explaining that we might have to wait a little longer.
My Dad has never been much of a sports person. He did take me to my first match at The Goldstone in 1977 but never again. That later duty fell to my older brother who was even more reticent. I had a cheeky gob which sometimes caused him embarrassment, although others, especially grown ups, thought it quite amusing. For this reason I never got to see the Albion in a league match until 1979. The first home victory of that season against Bolton Wanderers. Some folk reading this may remember that match well.
Football is everything, even though, where life death and taxes are concerned, it is nothing. For those of us who have been its slave for years it plants so many navigational posts in our past history. A memory of what we were doing at any one time is often the outside casing to an away win at Port Vale or a dull draw at home to Brentford. “I remember it was raining and I stood on the uncovered terracing”. Why do you remember so many details of that forgettable occasion ? You remember it because you were with friends, you were bonding in your tribal togetherness moulded in adversity. You also remember it because it was the week you split up with your girlfriend….
………Leaving Wolverhampton station I was reminded of my journey there in 2014. The circumstances, dear reader, you will identify as a threat to your current feelings. It was Hyppia’s last match in charge. The Albion played pretty well but couldn’t hold on to their lead. At the end of the game Albion fans were seen to turn on themselves. That depressing memory wasn’t fuelling the best of stage entrances to this great town so I headed to the pub. I say headed to the pub as if there was a regular watering hole that had a welcoming space reserved. This was not the case in Lichfield Street where the Britannia Hotel had a sign in size 36 Times New Roman exclaiming ‘Home Fans Only’. It’s unusual for me to want to drink before an away match so, most indignantly, I took this affront as an opportunity to find another ‘home’ pub and sit down and talk to home fans as a mocking swipe to the absurdity of the ban.
Across the road, the Moon Under Water provided such an opportunity. There was no ‘home only’ sign but the sparsity of Albion fans in such a large venue suggested that some may have, like the team’s season, slipped in under the radar. I stood at the bar in a spare part role with a pint of cider. Next to me a small group of Wanderers fans were in conversation. “I don’t know why they don’t allow away fans- we should just all get on” said one. “Quite right”, I said. “I don’t understand why a person, in full colours, shouldn’t be able to enjoy a pint with the opposition hoards without the need to go incognito. It’s not as if we’re fucking Millwall…………”
…………………. As you potter behind St Peter’s church and down beside the university complex Molineux appears in its newest form. It is a stadium that would grace any upstairs league. I remember the old ground, my first visit being 1991, with its cavernous ends and old school appeal. The goal ends are equally grand now-especially the two tier Stan Cullis stand that, despite awesome and imposing in appearance, has a slightly polarising effect- especially as the atmosphere comes from the other end. There are plans to expand the ground although I wonder how necessary they are at this time. The powers that be appear to be in agreement as the focus of investment has now shifted to more immediate things……….
……….Albion fans were situated in the lower half of the Steve Bull Stand with blue and white apparel stretching from one corner flag to another. Many were well oiled, the later kick off time forming the catalyst. They had cause to be. Only two weeks prior natural fears, although historically unfounded, had abounded concerning the inevitable choke. Albion have not entered a new year in the top three during the last forty years in which they have failed to gain promotion. Although Huddersfield Town had beaten Preston North End,with a penalty deep in injury time, there was no sense of pending collapse. Everyone was in celebratory mood and, certainly for me, there was a feeling that three points was well within our eager grasp. This feeling was probably grounded in the knowledge that even a point would be fine. Any air of anxiety had evaporated a few days prior. Newcastle United, whom many had alluded to as an irrelevance in our ultimate quest, have been the subject of a change in focus as to who the real rival was. The ‘P’ word, the Voldemore of recent weeks for those who’s every move is now cast in superstition and ritual, was now the ‘C’ word. ‘We’re going to win the league’ was now cautiously sung in different sections- although tentatively.
The match got under way under the full glare of the cameras from Sky. It is most satisfying that they may not be there to record live that moment of promotion which may occur during intoxicated celebrations in the bowels of the AMEX on Monday. It could, of course, happen next Friday- in which case Murdoch will retrieve his pound of flesh. No-one seemed conscious that we were live like in the old days. Such intrusions are part of the weekly experience now. We cared even less.
For the first twenty minutes Wolverhampton looked far more comfortable than the fella standing next to me who realised just how much he’d had to drink. Folk were crammed into my section at more than one to a seat. I didn’t mind as it gave a feeling of the old terraces- something that promotion upstairs will not afford us. Albion defended in numbers and created better chances, Hemed striking the bar from a familiar Albion counter as well as heading narrowly over from a precision free kick. Solly March shot narrowly wide from a pre-planned corner arrangement and , despite Wanderers having regular forays into the final third, it all felt very comfortable.
A breakthrough was needed, and it came. David Stockdale’s long clearance downfield was met by a missed header from Hemed and a stand off from Kortney Hause that allowed the Little Magician in. Easily moving inside the chasing Hause and aided by the positional uncertainty of Danny Batth, Knockeart unleashed a precision drive from the edge of the box that squeezed inside Lonergan’s post. The travelling hoards erupted and Knockeart came running over as eager stewards rose from their perches. Sometimes I feel that the excitement of the crowd is sanitised too much by over anxious patrolling these days. However, given the squeeze where I was, as well as the encroachment in the aisles, the Black Country stewards seemed quite relaxed. As the half time whistle blew many made the journey downstairs to have a good old sing on the concourse. We were allowed to smoke in a more open area at the back of the stand. This is an ‘arrangement’ that happens at Villa Park also. I’m not sure of its legalities and, given our current position, it may be less necessary than usual, but it certainly it has a feel of more freedom in football’s orchestrated experience of today.
Wolves did their best to bring the game to Albion in the second half, Cody forcing a reflex save from Stockers close in when he would have hoped to do better. Another decent save from Marshall came a while later. The away quarter, again, seemed untroubled. There has always been a feeling in the Hughton days that going behind or being pegged back is not a chore. The main problem that Albion fans had at Molineux was the fusion of singing. With a large contingent spread along the pitch side the lead vocals can be a bit spread-eagled to many parts although ‘We’re on our way’ needs no conductor. Everyone joins in.
Much of the second half had a tepid feel to it, but in the 82nd minute the points were sealed. Another counter attack saw Murray and Knockeart leading a retreating Wolves defence. Murray headed the ball onto Knockeart who cut inside and unleashed a shot under the hapless Longeran. Murray looked a little miffed not to get the return pass but the reality was that gap on Knockeart had been closed too sharply. Two goals to the Frenchman, three points to the Albion, and a fourth visit to the Championship play offs almost certainly avoided.
The final whistle was greeted with triumphant choruses from the Albion faithful. As the gentle April rain set in on a grey Midlands evening, and the light began to fade, a sea of blue and white spilled out on to Molineux Street as happy folk made their way back to their chosen mode of transport. I slowly walked back towards the town intent on oiling myself for a packed and naturally acquired Seagull Special on the way home. Largely well behaved folk sang songs of now and yesteryear on 1745 to London Euston. The underground was a cacophony of ecstatic sound. As much as there were no singing careers in their infancy here the infectious joy could be felt. Even the assigned Transport Police officers seemed little bothered.
In a quiet moment later my thoughts turned again to my father. I wondered whether he had taken as much from the radio commentary as I had from the match itself. Probably not. He’d mentioned the Albion quite a bit recently as he takes The Argus and has Radio Sussex as a background accompaniment to his endless ground hog days. I felt a little sadness that, despite my efforts to see and speak to him regularly, he may be on the fringes of this most special of seasons. At 86, going to the AMEX is beyond him. I resolved to try and bring the experience to him more although I’m not quite sure how I could enact this.
It also occurred to me that when Albion were last promoted in 1979 my Dad was the same age as I am now. Whatever intoxicants Friday has left in me were repelled by this sudden sobering realism.
Life is too short, seasons like this are rare, enjoy the ride while it lasts.
In April 1997, Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club was staring into the abyss. Rooted to the bottom of the football league, with asset-stripping bastards in charge off the pitch. We arrived at games back then, with no clue as to where the club was going. All we wanted was for Archer & Bellotti to leave, so we could re-build and consolidate.
Albion v Doncaster Rovers 26th April 1997 – last game at The Goldstone
Our ground was about to be bulldozed, meaning our shrine to the Albion, which had stood for nearly 100 years, was being taken away. “Homeless, broke – the Board’s a joke!” read one of the many banners on display at the various marches that had taken place in the the two years previously.
In one of those curious little coincidences, Just 20 short years later to the month, that same club, my club, stands on…
View original post 1,390 more words
I wasn’t going to write this up. You can blame the encouragement of Tim Jones, the cancellation of morning football practice and a general urge to be living in the Brighton and Hove Albion bubble 24/7 for that.
Despite the blog title this was my third away this season. I wrote up Fulham, an amazing day when I was still marathon training and devoted to Dry January. I didn’t bother with Cardiff which was very much an alcohol fuelled “what goes on tour, stays on tour” sort of day when almost nothing of note happened on the pitch. Last night was a sort of mix of the two.
It’s a good job that regular readers know not to expect some slight deviations from 100% accuracy in the attempt to write this up as an account of the day out, from memory, rather than just another football report. I do often…
View original post 659 more words
Your first FA Cup Final, well the first one you remember, which year was it ? I’d be interested to know, especially if you are, say, over 30. Below is a link to the Wiki directory, it may help.
So we’ve established that you were 7 years old. If you weren’t, a huge number of people were, or at least within months either side. You may remember that May afternoon, the 12.00 Grandstand theme, the teams on the coaches, the long build up, and the magical game itself….
As regards the first final we remember, and the age we were, I accidentally realised this likely nugget of irrelevance on a drunken night out with some friends many years ago, and it seems to be endorsed by people I’ve asked ever since. So what of it ? And why just people over the approximate 30 ? Well, it is an appropriate foreword for my own personal views on the Cup itself, and its dreadful decline in the nation’s psyche in last two decades.
Now when I speak of decline, some may have arguments against. The television coverage of the tournament is pretty much unprecedented these days, a number of matches will be screened on every weekend it is played. Every goal will be shown on whatever channel owns the rights. Whichever organisation holds those rights will champion the viewing figures as an endorsing evaluation of their decision-but for me this is a hollow crown. It’s a bit like saying that because you have single item on the menu, and your restaurant is making a profit, then people love your food. But if you are the only outlet for miles around, and people are hungry, they will come. Folk watch the matches because they want to see football, or their teams playing, it doesn’t mean that they have any more than a passing interest in nourishing qualities of the event itself-it’s football.
There was a time when ‘the FA Cup’ was devoid of the limpet like prefix of the word ‘only’ and Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa, home or away, wouldn’t have been an easy draw for a lower league side. Identifying the reasons for its shift in importance is not a difficult task though, as they follow a simple, and inevitable, sequence of events.
Beyond English silverware lays the higher goal of European glory. 25 years ago the tournament structure was somewhat different to the one we see now. The European Cup, the fore-runner to the Champions League, was the senior trophy. The bizarre scenario here is that only champions of any given international league could enter the former, but eventually teams as low as fourth could enter the latter. The Cup-Winners Cup was the second most prestigious tournament, the winners of the respective national titles entering.
The UEFA Cup, although third in ranking, was still an important fixture too, mainly for teams who had finished near the top of their respective leagues- their achievement not going unrecognised. As winning the title of champions in most European nations was beyond many a side come the last vestiges of the winter, the Cup Winners Cup remained a noble goal. And naturally, because it was senior to the UEFA Cup, it contained huge clubs within. During the 80s winners included Barcelona (twice), Juventus, Dynamo Kiev and Ajax. By the late nineties, and the expansion of the Champions League to include extra teams from the more successful leagues, it was deemed surplus to requirements as the bigger clubs were entering the Champions League, and that remained their season long goal.
So from the later 1990’s, having once qualified automatically for the Cup Winners Cup, victory for the FA Cup winners meant entry to the now second ranked, and increasingly less important UEFA Cup, if they weren’t already there, and if they hadn’t found their way into the Champions League. In that case it would be the runners-up. Effectively the rewards had been lost and all that was left was the honour the title of winners bestowed. Yet the erosion of the FA Cup had already started a few years beforehand. But this is perhaps a mildly supporting and academic footnote to the most pressing reason for its decline. Money.
Whether we like it or not, a football club is a business. And where the money is, so the club will try to be.
Domestically in England a major change had began in 1992 with the carving up of the leagues within the Football Association. The First Division broke away to form the Premier League and thus controlled it’s own television rights. Within 5 years the sales had doubled in price and rocketed to the point that the rights from sale for the three seasons from 2013 realised over one billion pounds a year. Survival became the ultimate goal for many of its participants, relegation causing a potentially disastrous drop in revenue. In the FA Cup receipts would primarily come from the gate, as TV payments and prize money are linked to the quantum of rights fees received from The FA’s broadcast partners for the competition, and this has not grown much over the seasons. In 2015, winning the FA Cup will land a club an approximate total TV and prize-money of just over £3 million pounds. Cardiff City, who landed bottom of the Premier League in 2013/14, received £67.3 million pounds for their endeavours before gate receipts. Hull City, FA Cup runners-up of 2014, are believed to have scooped around £6 million pounds including gate receipts.
So, in the lust of new money, and the commercial attraction of higher bounties and wage demands, tradition has given way to hard faced economic reality. Rupert Murdoch knew we wanted football, and we got it. Consequently, the chase for the Champions League, and the desperate need for Premier League survival meant priorities changed. Even for the Championship sides (Second Divison-please) chasing promotion, with the play-off system making the season’s hopes last longer, is even more of a priority. The romance of the FA Cup seems confined to earlier rounds, and the ‘smaller clubs’ (such a demeaning but appropriate phrase) seem the only ones who still believe in its magic.
It could be expected that a rebellion may have ensued, and clubs would fined for playing weakened sides, yet a recent online survey showed that more than half of football watching folk are against any such fines. We could hope that the media would have tried to rekindle an appetite within the general football fraternity, that expressed incredulity at the chipping away of a public institution would be rife, but most people support bigger teams, and Rupert Murdoch owns a lot of the media coverage….
The fact remains that the gate has shut, and the cash cow has bolted. Younger generations of football fans no nothing of the glory of the FA Cup being born into a different era. So it seems that those of us with long memories of the days when a ‘giant-killing’ really was that, and the Cup draw was greeted with excitement and not indifference, are becoming less and less in number.
The FA Cup was once about the football in its purest sense, it was a beautiful leveller. A lower league team would have the opportunity to be drawn against a club with some of the best players in the land. And those individuals would be on the park too, because defeat was unthinkable. I hauntingly remember Malcolm Allison’s shame in 1980 as Manchester City were beaten in the mud of The Shay by Fourth Division Halifax Town-after he had claimed victory was simply a matter of turning up. Former Albion players Joe Corrigan and Michael Robinson were in the City team that day…
Being a Brighton & Hove Albion fan I have witnessed both sides of the coin. Non-League sides accounted for us on one or two occasions in the 70s and 90s, once with Brian Clough as manager, and then there was the fourth round victory over league champions. My abiding memory of victory was at The Goldstone in the fourth round of January 1984, when the League Champions, Liverpool, arrived with a full strength team and were despatched 2-0. Ten of that side started the European Cup Final in Rome that year, the other a substitute. They certainly didn’t see that loss as a minor irritation, and this meant that our victory was real, not a small fillip to the season..
It seems, that whilst the structure still remains in place and the lower leagues meet the mighty, the substance and emotion of the FA Cup has mostly departed. What was once part of the national fabric, a compulsive indulgence, is now an often inconvenient sideshow.
Whenever I rally in support of the tournament, I do get support. But tellingly, that support tends to come from people of a certain age. And it will get less over time. So for now, whenever the day comes around, I am left with the videos of yesteryear-and those wonderful memories of crowding round the radio on a Monday lunchtime to see who next lay in store for our magical journey.
For every cricketer, at whatever level, who claims he or she is not interested in averages, old scorecards, and anything else statistical, there is another one who claims that they are not. Half of them are telling fibs. Indeed, the pointing out of an erroneous scorebook, or indeed the scorebook’s central purpose to cricket itself, is not a vestigial practise. Gathering around the hallowed matrix at close, much like aspiring politicians hover round the Friday morning count, is one of the few traditions that is surviving. One senses that the scorebooks of the future will need more lines for logging the prowess of the blade and its ever increasing domination of the Sabbath. Wanderers will not be immune to such requirements as the batting in the latter half of the season has shown.
The rudimentary task of producing the averages this year has been a joy because The Author has watched as many matches from the boundaries edge this year as played in. I had a discussion with Mr Lincoln towards the end of this season concerning this. We both agreed that one of the joys of cricket, especially on a Sunday, was that one could participate and make a contribution at some many different junctures. No one ever need feel peripheral to events. Umpiring is a joy on a warm summers afternoon, scoring is also a joy as long as Dave Field gives me the odd over off for a fag break. One also gets hustled to the front of the tea queue. So I always sharpen the pencil for Jevington…
The season began at Littleworth. Although ‘began’ is a loose and almost mischievous term. It reluctantly farted its way into existence like a resentful early riser whose sleep had been disturbed by a vindictive, yet dutiful, alarm. Wanderers collapsed that day to the biggest defeat in living memory. At least it couldn’t get worse. The team were unprepared, to use a pre-watershed term, and had clearly not used, or benefited from, the pre-season nets properly. It was a disappointing day of careless and irresponsible cricket that could have easily weaved its way into the social fabric of the club; such was the enormity of that embarrassment. But really, we needn’t have worried.
Two better bowling performances, aided by an enigmatic Plumpton track, began to claw things back. But after the third defeat in a row only one Wanderers batsman had posted more than twenty- The Big Bear, Gywllim. This was to prove no flash in his amply stocked pan. Mid-May was to provide the start to the first turn of fortune. Wanderers suffered another defeat in a highly competitive match at the cycle track against St Peters. Jordan had been dismissed third ball by a straight one that had wisped its way through the gate- much to the mirth of his Saturday colleagues. What followed was the innings of the season from Will Barber. A masterful and elegant 104 not out. His selfless century was brought up in the final over with a beautiful and flighted on-drive to the south boundary. Although Wanderers had to suffer another drubbing in the field that afternoon we saw Peter Slaymaker introduced into the attack. The Author commented about how, despite unsuccessful on this occasion, he was the only Wanderers bowler who really hit the pitch when he was bowling. This observation was to be rewarded as time went on. The Tykes were leading the way.
A comfortable victory over a weak, yet very amiable and spirited, Gully side sent Wanderers into a closely fought and narrow defeat to the Auld Enemy at St James. The Baker brothers, most capable players of all-round ability and characters of all-round decency and warmth, had by then joined the bus. A return to Plumpton the following week saw a season that was now in full motion. June was upon us.
From then on the team were to play consistent and sometimes remarkable cricket. Having lost six of their first seven matches, Wanderers only lost four of their remaining eighteen- all said defeats coming in close and competitive matches. The bat was to dominate the summer, which, despite its usual contradictions, mostly left Sundays to its own devices. Aside of one second innings abandonment, not a single match was lost to weather- although the odd one perhaps outlived its usefulness when rain set in late on.
June saw a defeat two draws and a single wicket victory in a hastily arranged 20 over match that formed part of the Brunswick Village charity day. The twenty run loss to Worthing Gents on the 5th had seen a net of 400 runs in the afternoon. Our very own Lloyd Crathern venting batting fury against us from a lowly number ten. His 76 not out had created a seemingly unassailable two hundred plus target. A month earlier Wanderers would have collapsed under such weighted pressure, but a steady stream of useful, if not substantial scores, had kept the result in the balance for much of the way.
The biggest stand of the season came in the following match against the Hackney Umpires, the big man Jordan topping the seasons individual efforts with 133 not out. His second wicket stand with Will Barber being worth 139. It was this match that saw Peter Slaymaker make his mark with the only five-wicket haul of our season. This was a match noted for a comical incident in which Jordan was unwittingly struck by an errant ball that was lofted in celebration in the outfield. It would have been even funnier had he not appeared hurt. He had, in fact, retired hurt when appearing undamaged after his swashbuckling innings earlier. Cricketing karma ? Both his batting prowess and his miss-fortune that day could be nominated as a champagne moment. I’ll let you decide.
July was hardly the height of summer, but the matches were played. Well, except one on the 17th where an established club pulled out at 7.30 on the morning of the match. Such late withdrawal was met with understandable disdain- especially as the weather had forgotten its vocation. A mixed bag of close results kept the month interesting. There were two six run defeats and a tie in the gathering gloom of a 20/20 evening at Lower Beeding. These were interspersed with a victory over Worthing Gents and a draw with age-old opponents Heathfield Park. What was noticeable was the good-natured spirit of these games, often commented upon, and the general contentment of those who attended the matches.
Interestingly, July had produced a match run aggregate of 376 (including 20 over matches). Surely amongst the highest I have ever known for any sustained period. With the results becoming so balanced and close in their outcome they almost became peripheral to the enjoyment of the occasion. However, there seemed to be an unconscious effort on behalf of Wanderers batsman to avoid the 50 jug. Five batsman were out in their forties, four in these fifties. Five times out of six Wanderers batted second. It doesn’t take a schooled statistician to work out which discipline was flagging.
Max Wheatley’s colossal 73 against the Zambuca attack was as embarrassing as it was devastating, the regularity, and the distance, of which the balls cleared the boundary was an indicator of how Sunday cricket often needs a balance. In contrast, and ironically, Wanderers were to lose that match by six runs. One Goliath doth not make an army victorious. The Big Bear, with equal aplomb, was to smack 98 off a young and inexperienced Heathfield Park attack, only to lose his head to possibly the youngest and most inexperienced bowler amongst them. Gwyllim had entertained us all with an array of splendid stroke play but fell as the moving pictures rolled and spectators poised to clap enthusiastically. This innings was an indicator of his newfound confidence, which peaked later on in the summer. It should be noted though that Wanderers did take plenty of first innings wickets, if expensively, with Prash being the pick of the bunch. His left arm swingers accounted for four top order Zambuca batsman shedding a miserly nine runs. Prash is the leading bowler of the current crop yet needs time and regular cricket to hone his masterful technique and awareness of conditions.
Wanderers ground out an attritional draw against Greys in early August and then played their part in a superb foray against Preston Nomads at the splendid Fulking. Setting Nomads 207 to win on a clear evening, with Gywllim again taking the opposition bowling apart with 94 from his colossal club, the home side eased home with talented youth and the unhinged stability of experience. It was at this time that Wanderers bowling troubles were most exposed. Yet despite this the match was rightly remembered as a perfect advert for the Sunday game- and Luke Smith the perfect example of a Sunday captain. Rather than closing off the game, and negating opportunities for players to be given a chance, the bowling was still spread among the team. This could be seen to contradict and challenge the earlier bowling lament. But those who are rightly given these chances need coaching as well as the overwhelming encouragement they receive- and nets before and during the season is the time.
A poor match at Angmering on a pitch and wicket deserving of the same description was abandoned a little later than necessary. Wanderers then ended the month with two victories. One, again in poor conditions at West Hoathly in a match that got ever shorter, and another at Lingfield in what was, by all accounts, a complete team performance. Will Barber’s 59 in the north Sussex rain was a testament to his gritty and tuned technique. The victory at Lingfield was on the back of batting first and posting another 200 plus total. Lloyd Crathern and Rob Black, two irregular but most affable and welcome Wanderers, were among the runs that day. Rob is a talented batsman and self-effacing spinner of the ball. He lives in Leicester but joins us when he can. His dog, Darwin, was the club mascot until Junior took his place like a lion chasing off the head of another pack. The club should consider a sponsorship deal with Pets Corner.
September came and saw Wanderers undefeated with four very absorbing games. A sweating Jevington pitch saw a game of attrition with the level headed Barber leading Wanderers total to 134. He was dismissed for 49, with a camera again at the ready, to market the new 40s club again. Wanderers bowled well, and ate well, that day. Peter Slaymaker picked up four and the opposition fell a few runs short in a drawn affair. The draw the following week at Chailey saw an opening 50 from the unstoppable Bear as Raunak Naidu treated us to a display of batting destruction that eclipsed anything Jordan, Max and Gywllim had blazed the trail with previous.
For those who wish to analyse an extraordinary innings for future annals, the statistics of Raunak’s Chailey bash are not fully recorded in TMS details. He was in, however, for a period of 14 overs, probably around an hour. His innings of 99 contained seven sixes and nine fours. The 29th over went for 29 runs (doubtless one of the most ever recorded by a Wanderers batsman in a main match). Raunak scored 99 of the 127 partnership. Joe Baker also carried his bat during the carnage for a more sober and anchoring 35 not out. This hasn’t happened, that I can remember for sometime. If only we had kept such detailed records before. The match ended in a draw with an excellent century from opener Demberry- the only one against Wanderers this year.
With two matches to go players were keen to get their chance on the field. Wanderers travelled to Rudgwick with a strong side. Batting first another fumbling search for the absent annals was sub-consciously made. The opening four partnerships all yielded fifty runs. Surely a record. What was most discussed was how retired batsman, two in this case, should be recorded in the averages. I wont start that again. A simple peak at tomorrow’s averages by the individuals involved will reveal an answer… Another draw occurred here, although prospects were briefly raised of an unlikely win when seven wickets fell in as many overs. The final pair held out.
And so to the final game. A jolly affair and a splendid end of match barbecue against Arundel at a temporary Chailey home. Arundel were weak and Wanderers had too many wanting a final bite at the cherry. Three players were leant, none of which caused vengeful embarrassment (they did volunteer) and Wanderers won comfortably. Another fifty from the Big Bear leading the way at the end. To ensure that any collapse wasn’t too dramatic Wanderers used every outfield player to bowl. A reflection, again, of the nature and spirit of the club these days. Arundel set another probable record when opening with a bowling partnership that had 72 years between players (the eldest was 86). One wonders if in a couple of decade’s time this will not be beyond us. Keep loosening up, Dave.
The Wanderers log has seen scores of visitors this year and a number of comments have been made about how folk are feeling in touch with events at distance. One article, about the Brunswick Village charity match, had 139 readers. It seems that for everyone who plays in a match there are four others who want to read about it. The club is clearly held in much affection beyond the playing field itself. Southwick Wanderers, despite the erosion of Sunday cricket in the county, is in a healthy state at present. This season has shown this more than any I can remember. But much of this emanates from the attitude we see on the pitch. An old Physics teacher told me, when I was twelve, that attitude + ability= Success. Let that continue to be our platform.
The Big Bear, Gwyllim Jones had finished the 2015 season in poor form. The match report from Warninglid on last year’s penultimate game claiming: ‘Normally an influential presence at the crease, one senses time is running out for the Big Bear to turn it round this season, but he will doubtless be back and firing next’ He started the season with a duck, but 681 runs later we have the product. Gywllim only knows how to play one way. His timing and shot selection this year has been more measured and his defence more focussed.
Joe Baker has a steady and impenetrable defence that could calm many a potential collapse- although, after having carried his bat for two and half hours at Chailey, he may be suited to the opening roll. There is a need for more time exposed at the top order and an encouragement to overcome his reticence to drive or pull the ball the times. That’s what nets are for.
As a former, and rather frustrated, bowler myself my judgements are more likely to be harsh than fair. Yet Peter Slaymaker proved that it’s often age and cricketing wisdom that mends an ineffective attack. Peter’s focus was a traditional line and length and believes in hitting the pitch hard. Bowling no more than medium pace off a few steps he caused batsman to think a lot more about pursuing the cavalier approach that permeates the game nowadays.
Prash Meshram is the best bowler in the club. But with his commitments he cannot play as often as he would like. His flowing action and ability to cut the ball across the batsman would prove even more effective if he was able to give the game more time. He’s also an all-round decent chap.
Shall I call them ‘Wiljo’ or ‘Joiam’ ? The Baker brothers took sixteen catches between them this year and provided outstanding support to all the bowlers in the field. In fact, the fielding this season was of a high standard in general.
The approach on the field sets the standard for environment of it. Luke Smith is the best Wanderers captain in the The Author’s time for fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment. History shows that folk follow this lead. Whilst many have made a huge contribution to the club again this year, Luke’s attitude and approach has held it together. Even as captain, he will sit out to give others a chance. Folk understand that giving an inexperienced bowler opportunities can cost a match, and it has, the fabric of the club is made stronger by people accepting this. Luke, unlike many others in this form of the game, will do this. There are club’s who would have been in civil war over the start of the season. Wanderers just carried on. That’s why the club is so strong in a melting environment of Sunday cricket.