Tuesday, 17 January 2012

18. GE Hamble FC

The Red Arrow Gnat that greets visitors to GE Hamble FC.
Oh my, oh my, but I've been poorly over the last few weeks! I feel like I've been nibbled by miniature metal squirrels who think that the muscles holding my ribcage together are an ideal place to bury nuts. The pain, the excruciating pain! More ill than when I first heard the Beastie Boys back in 1987, that's been me recently.

I've missed some football during that time: that empty seat on the Lower North Terrace at Fratton Park during the Pompey v Saints match? That was mine. The Havant & Waterlooville v Eastleigh derby day at Westleigh Park suffered a drop in attendance of one - that was me too. Oh, and last week, my intended destination of United Services Portsmouth was lacking a little something - that little something was me, not leaning on a barrier, not watching their 1-0 defeat to Brockenhurst.

So, having largely flushed out the daemonic vermin attacking my innards, it was time to return to the playing fields of Hampshire for the Wessex League match between the high-flying Planemakers of GE Hamble and the rock-bottom Humbugs of Hayling United. It was certainly good to be back.

Part of the old name board from the stand from when the club was known as Hamble ASSC.
GE Hamble FC (1) 3 v 1 (1) Hayling United FC
Sydenham's Wessex League Premier Division
Saturday 14th January 2012
Attendance: 45-50
Entrance: £5
Programme: £1
Club shop: No
Colours: Sky blue / Maroon / Maroon v Black & white stripes / Black / White
National Grid reference: SU4707

The stand and covered standing area at GE Hamble.
Older readers may remember watching Play School as children. You may remember the toys. There was lovable old Big Ted (the original was stolen and never recovered - luckily, no-one noticed when he was replaced with an identicle bear); scampy scalliwag Little Ted; flighty posho Jemima; and the rotund and accident prone Humpty...all much-loved characters, apparently befriended by comic genius Eric Morecambe and fondly recalled by anyone currently in their thirties and forties.

There was one other Play School toy that scarred our generation as much as the scary lion and the bear on Teletubbies have turned today's teenagers into quivering wrecks whenever they go near a zoo: Hamble the doll. No-one liked her, not even the programme's presenters. Whether or not this mother of Chucky had anything to do with the village of Hamble-le-Rice, I don't know, but I was aware of the place as a child, knew it was near my home, and was petrified that I might be forced to visit one day and see hundreds of cackling Hamble dolls sat in every window, beckoning me inside with their pointy, witchlike fingers. It was the stuff of nightmares. Having now visited the village several times as an adult, I can gladly report that Hamble the doll is nowhere to be seen. Panic over.

I don't know why, but this photo reminds me of the bit in Father Ted where Ted has to explain to Dougal the difference between far away and small!
Hamble-le-Rice (nobody ever calls it that!) is known throughout the county for its oil terminal, for sailing, and for its aircraft factory. The football club are based within the grounds of the factory, currently owned by GE Aviation. Because the factory has changed owners and names many times over the years, the football club has itself gone through more names than Jonathan King. They started life in 1938 as Folland Aircraft FC - several Pompey and Saints players turned out for them whilst working at the factory during the war, and due to this, they won a number of wartime trophies.

The first name change was to Folland Sports FC, then subsequently to Aerostructures Sports and Social Club, Hamble ASSC FC, and since the summer, GE Hamble FC.

The Royal Victoria Hospital peeking out from behind the trees.
GE Hamble aren't one of the more successful clubs in the Wessex League. Only one top half finish in twenty years for the Planemakers. They're flying high this season though, bothering moneybags Winchester City and Bemerton Heath Harlequins at the top of the Wessex League, like an irritating gnat that the Big Two can't quite shake off.

Talking of gnats, the most striking thing about Hamble's ground is the Red Arrow Gnat that greets visitors as they turn into King's Avenue. This was apparently made at the factory in 1960. Standing beneath it, it seems very small. It was never meant to be a passenger plane though, so it was big enough for the purpose it served.

Some of the finest tea in Hampshire can be purchased from Mugs Corner.
I don't know much about planes. What little I do know, I've learnt from reading WE Johns' Biggles books. For starters, I know that you have to yank up your joystick to take off. This is something that GE Hamble failed to do in the Hayling match, as the visitors flew into attack mode as the Planemakers were still taxiing on the runway, expectantly fondling their joysticks. The quick take-off tactics paid off for the Humbugs as they took the lead after five minutes with a skilfully taken flicked header from a right wing cross.

The home team lumbered into action during the rest of the first half, as they launched attack after attack upon their brave foe. It was like watching eleven Hurricane fighter jets against eleven Sopwith Camel biplanes. After half an hour, Hamble won a penalty as one of their players was shot down in flames in the area (fortunately, he parachuted to safety and was shortly back in action). The stout-hearted keeper earned a virtual medal as he saved a low hard shot to his left.

The courageous Humbugs couldn't hold out forever though. Before reinforcements could arrive in the form of a half-time cup of tea, they were penetrated by a bullet header from a corner by Hamble's centre-half. 1-1 at half-time, and a decent match.

GE Hamble's stand post-match.
The second half reminded me of the majority of Biggles books that took place between the wars. These were invariably tales of treasure hunting in various exotic locations throughout the world. Hamble spent the first forty minutes hunting treasure (or goals!) without success. Just as the reader thought that they would never succeed, they eventually broke through in the penultimate chapter. A flat and direct punt from central midfield skimmed off the top of Jamie Musselwhite's head and rippled the net like a stone plopping into the River Hamble.

In a game dominated by headed goals, another soon followed to complete the scoring at 3-1 to Hamble. It might have been easier to boot the ball in as it was six inches off the ground and a yard out, but the home side's centre-half obviously didn't want to spoil the game with a side-footed goal, so he got down on all fours to butt the ball with his forehead in the style of a disgruntled bison instead.

Both teams played well in a cracking game full of intrigue, just like the best Biggles books. Hamble deserved their victory, but Hayling look like a team that should avoid relegation at the end of the season, despite being bottom right now.

Goodnight from Gnat Lofthouse!
Oh, and I recommend the tea from Mugs Corner if you're thirsty. Comes in a large mug. They don't do delicate thimbleworths of tea at Mugs Corner. It's mugs only. Lovely.

Assuming my inner squirrels don't return, I should be reporting from another ground in two weeks.

1 comment:

  1. In that Father Ted pic, there's no way the corner-kicker is going to hit the huge, close-up and faraway target of the pitch.