Monday, 28 March 2011

7. Brockenhurst FC

Night-time in Brockenhurst. Mmmm, IPA!
I was young and stupid once. Hard to believe, I know, but I was. It wasn't my fault - it was the people I hung around with - bad influences, one and all. One of the things we did was celebrate Brusher's Day on July 1st every year. "What was that all about then?" I hear you say...

Well, Brusher Mills was the celebrated snake catcher of the New Forest in the latter half of the 19th century. He lived on his own in a cone-shaped hut in the forest, catching snakes with his snake tongs and selling them to scientists to help cure gout and suchlike. He enjoyed his bread and cheese and a pint at The Railway Inn at Brockenhurst (which was the main reason we celebrated him - he was just like us - except he caught snakes!). After his hut was burned down by the authorities (boo!), his health deteriated, and he died in the outhouses of what was to become The Snakecatcher (named in his honour) after enjoying one last pint and a pickle, on July 1st 1905.

My group of ne'er-do-wells did get a little drunk on Brusher's Day. One year, we went to visit his grave at midnight to recite Brusher's Prayer ("Our Brusher, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy snake staff..."). One of our number was so overcome with emotion that he lay down beside the great man's grave and fell asleep. Young and stupid indeed!

The fact that Brockenhurst were playing on a Friday evening was the perfect excuse to go back to the village and enjoy a pint or two at The Snakecatcher.

Oh yes...and to watch a game of football!
My hero, Brusher Mills.
Brockenhurst FC (0) 0 v 5 (2) Bournemouth FC
Friday 25th March 2011
Sydenham's Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 70
Entrance price: £6, including good quality programme.
Club shop: No
National Grid reference: SU2902 / SU3002
Subbuteo colours: 51 v 41
A French badger in bovver boots! Found at the back of the stand. Possibly used to stand outside a French restaurant in the village.
This was supposed to be a special occasion - it wasn't as special as Brusher's Day, granted, but it was the next best thing - the 25th anniversary match of the Wessex League, played between the only two ever-presents, Brockenhurst and Bournemouth Poppies. Brockenhurst (or The Badgers, as they are known locally) have had many a scrape with relegation over the years. This season looks as though it might be a scrape too far, as they are second-bottom with only a handful of games to go. And their form isn't good. They went into this match on the back of a 6-1 home defeat on Tuesday night. Tonight's programme editor was not impressed:

"...Without being rude, we were not facing Messi and co at the Nou Camp, but Laverstock & Ford. We endured forty minutes of average fare, followed by fifty minutes of utter rubbish..." Ouch!

Unfortunately, it was to be another difficult evening for The Badgers.

Brockenhurst's frog-eyed tractor. He looks like a character from Bob The Builder.
Opponents Bournemouth FC, or Bournemouth Poppies, were the oldest* club on Hampshire's mainland for 99 years up until 1974, when they were shifted into Dorset by local government restructuring (along with AFC Bournemouth, Christchurch, possibly Verwood Town. Hants also lost all of the Isle of Wight clubs. Bizarrely, New Milton was not annexed, despite it being very much a part of the Bournemouth/Poole conurbation). Apparently, many of Bournemouth's older residents still believe the town to be a part of Hampshire - indeed, the Hampshire Senior Cup Final is still regularly played at AFC Bournemouth's ground. Well, they were in Hampshire from the Domesday Book up until 1974, which is a very long time.

* I believe the oldest Hampshire club may now be Fordingbridge Turks, but this may not be the case. Brading Town on the Isle of Wight are four years older than the Poppies, and were thus the oldest club before the boundary moves.
Poppies take a corner under the Brockenhurst floodlights.
Before I start the actual match report, I just have to mention the hopelessness of taking a decent action shot at an evening match with a basic snappy camera, thus the inclusion of the two treated shots either side of this paragraph. The one above is supposed to be a tribute to Echo & The Bunnymen's Crocodiles album cover.

The photo below is surely proof of the existence of ghosts - that cannot possibly be Bournemouth's keeper taking a goal-kick? Can it?
Poppies' ghostly gazelle-like keeper at Brockenhurst.
So, it was Badgers v Poppies tonight. It started off as an even contest, but before long, the Poppies began to dominate.They were 10% stronger, 10% quicker, with 10% more mad skillz. Brockenhurst weren't as bad as their programme editor suggested, but they were obviously the weaker team.

It really was men against boys, or less clichéed perhaps, and in honour of Brusher, wild deadly cobras versus docile pet corn snakes. It took a while, but when the scales tipped towards the Poppies and the goals started, they arrived with the regularity and precision of the atomic clock.

Goal 1...a Poppies forward slithered through the Badgers' defence and cold-bloodedly slotted the ball beneath the advancing keeper.

Goal 2...a hissing header which strangled the life out of the Badgers.

Half-time arrived. The Poppies had been just like a hungry anaconda hiding beneath a gigantic lily pad in a South American marsh, waiting for a thirsty coypu to come trotting along for a drink. In other words, the result was inevitable. Poor old coypu.
Brockenhurst's impressive stand.
Talking of thirsty coypus, the clubhouse bar was the place to be at half-time for a second pint of brown beer which tasted of ginger and chillies. I liked it, but my companion had adder nuff after the pre-match thirst-quencher and had a Guinness instead.

What with the pre-match beers and the half-time gingery tipple, the second half is as blurry in my memory as my action photos, so remembering the Poppies' three second-half goals in detail is beyond me. However, there is a proper match report here. I do remember one unstoppable venomous strike, and I do know that the Poppies' impressive number 9, Matt Kemble, scored a hat-trick. You're probably sick of all the dreadful snakey puns and analogies by now though...

5-0 to the Poppies. we got a thumbs-up from one of their players as they left the pitch. I took several photos of the old tractor in the far corner of the ground, then it was time for a couple more pints in The Snakecatcher before catching the train home.
A Poppies player is giving the thumbs-up as the players troop off the pitch.
So, did we go and visit Brusher's grave at midnight? No, not this time. Not now that I'm old and sensible! There's a time for being young and stupid, and that's when you're young.

Rest in peace Brusher, and fangs for the memories.

Next time: off to the north-east of the county...

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