You are here: Home > Uncategorized > The Nightingale

The Nightingale

My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains pains

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

But being too happy in thy happiness,

That thou, light wingéd dryad of the trees,

In some melodious plot

Of beechen green and shadows numberless,

Singest of Summer in full throated ease

From:- “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats (1795-1822)




Monday 5th May 2014 Combined Counties League  k.o.:- 11.30am

Premier Division

Badshot Lea                                                     2

James Pilgrim 8,

Jack Howard 66,

Camberley Town                                            2

Brad Smith 20,

Jon Burch 60,

Referee:- Tristan Greaves                       Attendance:- 75


‘The Nightingale’ is a song for the end of the season, when the crack of willow on leather replaces the thud of boot on ball and the crunch of a well timed tackle. Like the nightingale, I want to hide away in matches numberless! But the cricket season beckons…..!


So it was a great adventure and great fun, to turn a Bank Holiday Monday into a quest for three games in a day! I chose to launch an assault on The Combined Counties League because of my pitiful record in that part of the world! First stop was Youngs Drive in Ash, near Aldershot. Ash United are the hosts, but it was their tenants, Badshot Lea whom I had come to see today. The tenants will still be competing in The Combined Counties League Premier Division next season. The hosts have just been relegated!


It is a pleasant enough stadium in a seedy sort of way and it certainly helped that the sun was shining. There was a stand for perhaps a hundred spectators down the far side of the ground and cover behind the nearest goal for standing supporters. Otherwise it was open to the elements. The Chairman, Mark Broad, was high profile and seemed to know everyone who entered the ground. He ensured that team news was posted next to the refreshment bar and furnished me with the official attendance midway through the second half.


Badshot Lea are struggling to find a new home, but they believe that there is a possibility of moving to a former rugby facility in the season after next.

Today, they were playing what could be termed a ‘local derby’. There was a large contingent of Camberley Town fans inside the arena, not least because their team were still in with an outside chance of the championship. It seemed that they must take all the points in this match after a blistering start saw them twice rattle the home woodwork, but it was the home side who struck first after only eight minutes. Camberley huffed and puffed and scored a deserved equaliser midway through the half and conjured up a second goal to take the lead after an hour. Badshot Lea, despite their lowly league position, were not to be outdone and they shared the spoils after a 66th minute equaliser


Monday 5th May 2014 Combined Counties League  k.o.:- 3.00pm

Division I Challenge Cup FINAL

Spelthorne Sports                                           1

Lee Staples 80,

Staines Lammas                                             0

Referee:- Damith Bandara                   Attendance:- 209


The Windsor FC incarnation obviously came after my last visit to Stags’ Meadow, because then, they were known as ‘Windsor & Eton’ (Saturday 24th November 2007, FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round: Windsor & Eton 1 Newport County 2 attendance:- 274). Apparently, they have gone bust since then, and Windsor FC is the phoenix rising from the ashes! On a bright sunny afternoon, the stadium looked clean and neat and tidy, but the hosts weren’t playing.

This was the cup final for The Combined Counties League Division 1 clubs (so I suspect, not without a touch of schadenfreude, that Ash United will be competing in it next season). There were officials of the league everywhere, but none that were very helpful. One even told me that they had team sheets but not for everyone (the implication being that they were for ‘important’ people!). Naturally, that set me a challenge, which I conquered successfully, but it left me with a fairly low opinion of the officials of the league.


Stags’ Meadow is quite an impressive little stadium which has enjoyed a lick of paint and general tidying up since my last visit. Sadly, however, someone had missed the huge amounts of very unsightly bird dung (guano?) which lined each side of the main stand and stood quite six inches thick beneath the opaque glass walls.


The two teams contesting the final were very evenly matched. Spelthorne Sports are champions of the division and Staines Lammas were not far behind them! They served up a pretty poor fare for the enthusiastic supporters of both teams. Defensively, the sides were pretty impressive, and the only goal of the match, just when I was beginning to accept that there would be extra time and penalties before a winner could be found, came with but ten minutes to spare and the champions also took the Division 1 Cup!


Monday 5th May 2014        Middlesex Charity Cup   k.o.:- 7.30pm


Wembley                                                          1

Yassine Kehmir-Gil 70 (pen)

Uxbridge                                                          3

Chris Moore 28 (pen)

Chris Moore penalty saved 36

Mark Woods 45+1,

Max Hubbard 78,

Referee:- Jason Richardson                          Attendance:- 195

DSCN3761 Roughly translated:- ‘From possibility to actuality’

The final game of the day was at Vale Farm, home of Wembley FC. I’d been to Vale Farm before but not to Wembley’s ground, it was a match played at The Sports Centre, next door (Sunday 26th September 2010 Hellenic League Division 1 East – South Kilburn 1 Milton United 5 attendance:- 158). Wembley’s ground is within sight of Wembley Stadium (see below). It had been considerably brightened up following a campaign when Budweiser, The FA Cup sponsors, tried to get the club to include former star players in an attempt to get closer to the real Wembley via The FA Cup route.


I had hardly got into the car park before I was accosted by James and Chris, who hail from somewhere over Oxfordshire way and had themselves been on a day’s footballing odyssey. There were more ‘hoppers’ in the bar and outside there were collections for “Help for Heroes”, not one of my favourite charities. I have no idea why our soldiers were sent to Afghanistan. I know that the country will return to anarchy as soon as they leave, and I believe that if a country wishes to send its armed services to fight abroad, then they should be prepared to support them when they or their families suffer and not ask them to rely on charity! Here endeth the rant!


Apparently, The Middlesex Charity Cup Final venue is chosen at the beginning of the season and it was just serendipity that Wembley found themselves in the final on their own ground. Mind you, they were playing Uxbridge who were a step higher than them in the pyramid. It was a comparatively expensive match and I exercised my ‘old man’s’ right to half price entry. Otherwise it would have been ten pounds to get in and a further two pounds for the programme.


Wembley started the more brightly and I really believed that they had a chance, until Uxbridge snuffed them out with two goals (and a missed penalty) towards the end of the first half. Wembley pulled a goal back twenty minutes from time, but Uxbridge had the last laugh with their third goal on 78 minutes which sealed the victory and the trophy.


Chris Moore’s penalty in the 36th minute saved by Wembley keeper Grigori Zulmatashvili 

Tuesday 6th May 2014  Central Midlands League     k.o.:- 6.45pm

Black Dragon South Division

Swanwick Pentrich Road                                              1

Mitchell Robinson 52 (og),

Real United                                                                     5

Kieran Whalin 19, 68,

Tyrell Shannon-Lewis 34,

Dallen Stephons 83, 90,

Referee:- Martin Watts                                          Attendance:- 46


Swanwick is a large village, just south of Alfreton in Derbyshire. Swanwick Pentrich Road were playing Midland Regional Alliance football up until the start of this season. Allenton were champions of The Midland Regional Alliance last season, with Swanwick PR and Mickleover RBL in sixth and seventh places respectively. All three, however, were promoted to The Central Midlands League South Division.


This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the club in 1964. In the early days, they played where the primary school is now situated, just a few yards behind them. The County Council threw them out so that they could build the school and offered them the land adjacent. That piece of land sloped away alarmingly, too steep for football to be played on it. However, the A38 dual carriageway was being built at the time and tons of earth removed from that site were used to flatten the area and create a reasonably level playing surface.

Above can be seen ‘The Peter Walters” stand. All the ground fixtures were removed and re-erected on the new site. Peter Walters  is a former player, coach and present supporter of the club and he was actually present at the match tonight. He is now wheelchair bound, but enthusiastic, nonetheless.

On 20th July, Mark Draper, formerly of Aston Villa and who lives in the village, will bring a team of ex-Midlands professional footballers to Swannick for a match to mark the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary.


The only entry into the ground is via a single track lane which invites players and officials ONLY to make their way in. I drove down anyway and parked in the fairly spacious car park behind the nearest goal mouth. There was a clubhouse with basic refreshments and I enjoyed a soup and a roll before the match. The corrugated, black painted fence surrounding the ground (or most of it!) also sealed off the covered  area down one side. There was plenty of good will and teams were readily made available and all the chatter was about the end of the season and the anniversary celebrations.

Just before the match commenced, Lee came in and we watched the massacre together. Swanwick have performed reasonably well in their first season in The Central Midlands League and sit in the lower half of the table but well clear of any danger. Real United are in the top half of the table. They arrived late and the game kicked off at 6.45pm.

Two goals in the first half and a further three in the second completely eclipsed the home side. Even their goal was scored for them by the opposition, a fifty-second minute header by a Real defender which sped unerringly into the net. After the match, Lee and I discussed where we might go the following evening, but we departed none the wiser!



Wednesday 7th May 2014   MDH Teamwear Northants Combination k.o.:- 6.30pm

Premier Division

Brixworth All Saints                                                  1

Nick Ling 53,

Ryan Duffy s/o 90+2

Milton                                                                          0

Referee:- Trevor Martin                                  Attendance:- 36


It was a cold, breezy evening in Brixworth with its Saxon church (after which the team is named) and St David’s Playing Fields were already in heavy use when I arrived as a score of young children were involved in football activities adjacent to the football pitch. Having spent the previous evening with Lee at Swanwick PR, he turned up again this evening, as did Laurence, who also turns out a very readable blog, heavy with local and cultural interest and long on folklore.


Tonight’s match was no classic. Brixworth All Saints hold all the trumps in the end of season championship chase, but this evening, they were curiously out of sorts. A first half ‘goal’ was disallowed and the match was won by the hosts after a scrappy goal early in the second half.

The Milton management and supporters were less than impressed with the referee, feeling that their team should have had two penalties awarded to them, but I felt the referee coped remarkably well with a difficult match. Right at the death, he dismissed the home right back for a second bookable offence. After being cautioned for something he said earlier in the game, he was deservedly dismissed, for stupidly kicking the ball away at a free kick, deep into added time at the end of the match.

I was glad to get to the warmth of my car when it was all over!



Thursday 8th May 2014   Midland Combination    k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Pelsall Villa                                                                0

Racing Club Warwick                                             7

Harry Jervis 3,

John Harkin 10, 78,

Jamie Corrigan 23, 31, 44, 76,

Referee:- Trevor Sharratt                               Attendance:- 21


Because of congestion on The M6, I decided to take the M6 Toll road to Walsall and pay the £4 charge. I arrived in good time for the final match of the season in The Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice Midland Combination Premier Division. I had hardly driven into the car park when I espied Dave from Reading who had accompanied me on the recent Northern League ‘hop’.


The ground is behind The Bush Inn on the Walsall Road and has seen better days.There is a covered seated area behind the goal at the near end of the ground and down the left hand side there are discrete changing rooms in a purpose built brick edifice. Next door to that is the board room and adjacent to the corner flag is a small refreshment facility. Beyond the changing rooms, and on the half-way line, is the only other building (except for the dug-outs on the opposite side of the pitch) and its function is rather uncertain. You can see a picture of it below – last but one in this match. It could provide covered shelter, but for a limited amount of spectators, or it might at one time have been the refreshment kiosk. Now, it just looks extremely dilapidated.


The chairman, the secretary and the groundsman are all one and the same person and it seems that he is going to call it a day at the end of the season. Without him, I wonder how the club can survive. I well remember Chipping Norton Town, where everything was done by one man, even down to the cleaning of the kit. He asked for help in running the club, but had no response. When he resigned, the club folded!


Pelsall Villa – what a wonderfully evocative name – are rock bottom of The Midland Combination. Racing Club Warwick are comfortably placed in mid-table. Tonight, the visitors could have scored ten. Indeed, by half-time, they had five and doubling that score didn’t seem beyond them. Pelsall Villa were a tougher proposition in the second half, although they presented little threat on the Racing Club goal. It was only in the final fifteen minutes that Warwick added two further goals to their tally.

It was sad to see a club so worn down, dilapidated and demoralised. There was a definite feel of the Sword of Damocles hanging over the place. I really hope that they are there, and still playing next season!

After the match, I drove Dave back to his hotel in Walsall and came back down the M6.


Matches this season:-   217   New grounds:-  151

Matches this year:-  99     New grounds:-  65


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Twitter
  • RSS