Di­ary of a Ground Hop­per

The Non-League Football Paper - - RESULTS SERVICE -

SATUR­DAY, SEPTEM­BER 16 Thame United 2 Money­fields 3

AF­TER tak­ing in a low-level Hop game in the North Berk­shire League, Divi­sion Three in the morn­ing, The Fox and I head for Thame in the af­ter­noon. An easy 20-mile drive through pleas­ant Ox­ford­shire coun­try­side sees me pull in to a large car park at the ASM Sta­dium in Meadow View Park. The com­plex re­minds me a bit of a scaled-down St. Ge­orge’s Park, Eng­land’s soul­less but spick and span train­ing ground in Stafford­shire. I re­mem­ber vis­it­ing Thame’s pre­vi­ous home at Wind­mill Road. It was far more to my taste than to­day’s cor­po­rate but char­ac­ter­less venue. Hav­ing said that, this is a tremen­dous fa­cil­ity for the com­mu­nity. I pay £7 at the gate and an­other £1.50 for the pro­gramme. The en­trance opens out onto the con­course of the im­pres­sive main stand. I say main stand but ac­tu­ally it is the only stand! It stretches along most of one side of the sta­dium with the tea hatch at the far end. The rest of the ground is open to the el­e­ments. Once in­side the ground, there is no ac­cess to the bar un­til half-time. I try and or­der drinks from the hatch but the PA sys­tem is blast­ing out the lo­cal Smashey and Nicey ra­dio sta­tion at ear-split­ting lev­els. We re­ally strug­gle to hear each other. United were cham­pi­ons of the Hel­lenic League last season and so now find them­selves in the EvoStik League South East Divi­sion. Their op­po­nents to­day, Money­fields, were also pro­moted last season and this is the first meet­ing of the two sides in their his­to­ries. Since climb­ing the Pyra­mid, the two clubs have had dif­fer­ing for­tunes. The vis­i­tors find them­selves in sec­ond place while Thame lan­guish in 18th. This af­ter­noon could prove in­ter­est­ing. From the out­set, it is ob­vi­ous one guy on United’s bench – I think it is their man­ager – hasn’t read his own club’s ground rules. I quote: ‘Thame sup­port the FA’s Re­spect pro­gramme and any in­ap­pro­pri­ate or of­fen­sive lan­guage di­rected at any match of­fi­cial will not be tol­er­ated’. That seems pretty un­equiv­o­cal. How­ever, within five min­utes, his ridicu­lous foul-mouthed, com­pletely un­war­ranted rants at the of­fi­cials have be­come a source of great amuse­ment and fine par­ody to Money­fields’ bench. Some­one needs to tell this guy to amend his be­hav­iour: af­ter all, Thame boast many chil­dren’s sides and they are not be­ing set a very good be­havioural ex­am­ple at the mo­ment. The rant­ing man’s be­hav­iour transfers to his play­ers and they are con­stantly ar­gu­ing with match of­fi­cials. This dis­tracts from the busi­ness of ac­tu­ally de­fend­ing and they find them­selves 3-1 be­hind at half-time (it is the ref ’s fault, not their poor play, of course). The home fans also show a sim­i­lar vo­cal lack of knowl­edge of the laws of the game mak­ing this an un­wel­com­ing place to visit. The vis­i­tors are re­duced to ten men af­ter a re­ally bad chal­lenge but ex­pertly keep United at bay to claim an­other three points. My ad­vice to Thame: con­cen­trate on your foot­ball, for­get about try­ing to ref­eree the match and you may just stay up at this higher level!


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