This year’s Southwick Wanderers AGM will take place on Sunday 12th November 2017 at 4pm.
The venue is:
Steyning Community Football Club
Shooting Field, Steyning, BN44 3RX
Please arrive in time for a prompt start.
Any specific items for the agenda can be sent to Ian Fennell by email at:
The season averages are currently being worked on.
The options for voting on awards will follow soon.
Please do your best to attend. This is your club. Have your say.
Any outstanding subscriptions for this season need to be paid for voting rights.
The weather having relented, Thursday provided the first opportunity for some proper bat ‘n’ ball. And indeed all who attended were given an opportunity to get involved. The afternoon’s fare took the shape of a twenty over game in which ten on each side were to bowl a couple of overs each and a batsman was to return to the hutch upon reaching 25 and only return to the field once all others had either been dismissed or retired in the same way.
This format, though admirable, was to be Wanderers Achilles heal. Still, a match that includes everyone and is played in a spirit of both entertainment and competitiveness rightly dwarfs such analysis. Luke went out to attend the toss and, of course, Brittany used the result’s natural default to make a choice of batting first….
Brittany’s early efforts were hampered by a slow and long outfield that wasn’t being addressed by any aerial routing. Taylor Sombrero, Lord Sponge and Mr Lincoln were three of the opening four bowlers and went for less than ten runs each. The run rate gathered pace, however, once The Author was forced to bowl and others, although far more capable these days, entered the fray too. Batsmen Scanlon and Morgan retired at the 25 threshold and Mr Snelling, in his new part time bating role, tucked into some dangerous Fennell leg side long hops to ceremoniously join the retirees.
A left field record was probably broken by The Author in this innings which ended on 149 with Baker Joe the pick of the bowlers at 2-12. The most unfortunate, and most affable, batsman Valace was bowled by a Fennell delivery that actually pitched and did so in line. Whilst Peter may be able to cite shock as the cause of the castle this meant that a Fennell wicket appeared in the Wanderers score book for the first time in 19 years (May 1998). Probably the longest distant between wickets.
|Britanny All Stars|
|1||Valace P||b||Fennell I||16|
|5||Akroyd W||c||Naidu R||b||Baker J||22|
|6||Cox D||Not Out||11|
|7||Ward J||b||Baker J||2|
|8||Heard D||Not Out||10|
|Fall Of Wickets||45, 126, 132|
Nibbles were had in between innings. Not perhaps the original intention, but as Mr Slaymaker had made the effort to bring food in the previous day it was decided best not let it go to waste. Alas Master Wilson wasn’t present to give it full homage.
Wanderers replied at blistering pace. Ronnie and The Big Bear opened and, in a reversal of the previous innings, it was the opening five bowlers who took a clubbing. With the top five being initially placed in the score-book it was suggested that the rest may not be need- especially as the 50 came up in only the fifth over. Ooops….
You see, as I said earlier, everyone gets a game. And, in a strong sense, we get a better look at relative strength. Alas, on this afternoon, the robust top order of Wanderers made way for a soft, well, rather squidgy, underbelly.
The Big Bear and Ronnie were retired to the hutch. Baker Joe made 16 (including a rare six) and Mr Lincoln rolled back the years wielding the bat like a caveman’s club. Unfortunately, batsmen six to eleven could not even muster a retirement score between them, using up the overs in the process. Thus only 39 runs came off the final ten overs. With the order ran through Ronnie came to crease again needing to clear the boundary every ball for the match to be won. The reality was, through steady bowling, and clear all round ability, Brittany added cricket to their skittles success with a 19 run win.
A special mention here must go the Slaymaker. Wanderers current holder of the bowling trophy shone at the death. Four miserly wickets in two overs. His uncomplicated slow medium pace hitting the deck and forcing batsman to improvise, or in this case implode… A special mention to the other Peter for some competent keeping.
|3||Baker J||b||Cox D||16|
|4||Smith L*||Run Out||7|
|6||Johnson M (wk)||c||Snelling L (wk)||b||Slaymaker P||9|
|7||Fennell I||st||Snelling L (wk)||b||Valace P||4|
|8||Wadey D||lbw||b||Slaymaker P||5|
|9||Walker A||b||Slaymaker P||0|
|10||Salerno T||Not Out||4|
|11||Barrs K||c||Cox J||b||Slaymaker P||0|
Another day of fun and much merriment was nicely topped up with a couple of brews and a meal at The Duke. Lovely stuff.
The British summer, having decided that BREXIT means BREXIT, greeted our French friends last week with a first cricketing day of climatic misery. After all, a morning of dry weather with a depression moving in from the west- just in time for cricket- is the lot of a Sunday journeyman in these parts. Having realised that most of our guests were English anyway, and the West Indian among them would also be familiar with rain too, it eventually decided to try the tactic of turning dry instead. We were quite happy with that- and so was anyone else tasked with the job of tea preparation.
The festivities had started in the Duke of York Inn at Sayers Common- although The Author, unfamiliar with such a setting, had missed the jollities thinking that a watering hole with such a grand old title could only exist in an urban scrawl and got ready for an evening out in Brighton. It seems that, however irregular my appearance during, a season will always have a Fennell story attached somewhere.
As Wanderers and the Brittany All Stars (some folk troubled when spelling the region of our southerly neighbours) made there way to the ground for the first match ominous clouds hung overhead. Muggy and dark an hour before play was due to start, it was soon raining heavily. The track at Sayers Common, in common with most clay soil in Mid-Sussex, holds water like a grudge and play was thus called off very quickly.
So what to do. Well, the starts of Brittany seemed less bothered by this eventuality as they were mostly still in the pub. And why not ? So accepting the weather’s poor judgement of inconvenience, a spontaneous and happy gathering was had. But there was not be an ending there. With an evening table booked at the Plough in Pyecombe a few hours were yet to be had. So a small convoy of cars made is way to Henfield for the first and unofficial challenge of the tour. A game of Skittles…
The teams were evenly divided according to, well, which cricket team they played for. The Slaymaker representing France. In fact, the games were billed as England v France- although it may well have been San Marino v France such was the thumping Wanderers took. French Dave (every team should have a ‘Dave’) and Mr Snelling were the pick of the overseas bunch. Six strikes were to be had on the french side with only Lord Sponge responding for the home team.
So Wanderers first match had ended in defeat without so much as a ball being bowled. But no-one seemed too fussed as some attendees then made there way to Pyecombe for a splendid evening meal.
For some reason I thought it was Engelbert Humperdinck who sung ‘Happy Anniversary’ but it was Slim Whitman who sung the 1974 classic so engrained in my mind as it was repeatedly played on Radio Brighton when I was a kid. I wonder if DJ Dave has this in his collection of reminiscent numbers.
They’ll has been no ‘last waltz’ for Wanderers though- despite the ruthless decline of Sunday cricket. At times the club, like others, has suffered for playing personnel. It should, perhaps, have suffered more given the lack of a league structure and a colts section. The secret of the teams endurance could be pontificated over many an evening pint but with so many references to the ‘Wanderers spirit’ one would be inclined to believe that such an oft used colloquial to describe a team with guts and determination is not miss-placed here.
This week sees a few matches of celebration to mark the clubs 90th year. The original plan was to run a cricket week in a tournament format although unnecessary delay from the masters of Wanderers home of the last 21 years, Plumpton College, put the plan into turmoil. As a result of this and other frustrations we have now wandered to Berrylands Farm, the home of another former club that has met sad demise, and have de-camped there at this current time. It seems the destiny of Southwick Wanderers to be forever rural in its station but that is part of the fun. The term ‘village cricket’ could hardly be applied to an urban recreation ground with a power staion for backdrop. You cant beat a warm summer Sunday in the sticks.
Our friends from Brittany our joining us as opponents. Wanderers have enjoyed splendid tours in the area and our looking forward to their company. A number of guests and friends from other clubs will feature in the matches during this week.
The agenda for this week is below:
Wednesday 9th August- 40 over match, to be played at Berrylands Farm BN6 9XH. 1pm start.
Thursday 10th August– T20 to be played at Berrylands Farm 4pm start.
Friday 11th August– Lunch at Days in Brighton (all you can eat Chinese buffet, with other food available.) 7pm @ Sussex County Ground -Sharks v Gloucester. Tickets £28
Saturday 12th August – 40 over match to be played at Berrylands Farm 1200 start. Slow cooker curry and beers at the ground, with end of tour presentation.
Join us if you can. We are looking for more numbers for the Saturday fixture.
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…
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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 Voldemort 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…
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