Monday, 21 May 2012

HAH Awards 2011/2012

The award-winning badge of Cove FC.
Good evening! How are you? I'm fine, thanks, since you asked! I've made you a nice cup of tea. Treat yourself to a biscuit or two whilst I hand out the Hopping Around Hampshire end of season awards for 2011/2012...

Harry the Hawk presents a fine selection of condiments at Havant & Waterlooville.
I've had a grand old time this past season, wandering around a wide variety of grounds, ranging from the large level 2 stadiums of Portsmouth's Fratton Park and the St Mary's library (I dropped a pin there and the Saints fan next to me turned around and put his finger to his lips...shhhh!), right down to five grounds at level 10 of the overall national pyramid - the last of which, Hythe & Dibden, was in a public park.

More tea bar essentials at Blackfield & Langley.
I started the season by following the early rounds of the FA Cup - and by "early rounds", I mean the Extra-Preliminary Round through to the 3rd Qualifying Round. Trips to Cove, Moneyfields and Hartley Wintney all produced underdog winners, whilst the matches at Whitchurch United and Basingstoke Town were won by the higher-ranked club.

Each of these matches was intense, with the potential rewards for the winners becoming gradually more and more exciting - the game at Whitchurch, in particular, was gripping, as the village team matched their big city opponents from four levels higher in the pyramid for a large portion of the tie. In front of a crowd of 400, it was their biggest match in decades. Literally half the village turned out to watch, and with the Gloucester City drummer making a racket throughout the match, the atmosphere was that of a small-scale Fratton Park. Add to this mix the fact that it was the hottest October day on record, and that Whitchurch have a characterful old stand (which was full for the first time in years), then the award for my personal Match of the Season 2011/2012 goes to Whitchurch United v Gloucester City!

Tigers TV filming the Whitchurch United v Gloucester City FA Cup tie.
So, I gave out two awards last season - for Best Match (Andover New Street v Tadley-Calleva) and Best Programme (Fareham Town). I did consider extending the number I gave this season so that every club got at least one, but soon dropped the idea as if it was a football covered in warm grease and I was a particularly butterfingered goalkeeper.

The sort of new awards I was considering were Best Cup Of Tea and Best Half-Time Snack (which would have gone to GE Hamble and Bashley respectively), Best Selection Of Ketchups And Other Condiments (a tough call between Blackfield & Langley and Havant & Waterlooville, as you can see from the photos), Most Club Crests On Display (Cove, by quite some distance!), and Best Bench Seats (Hythe & Dibden).

As it happens, Cove's badge has already won an award for Non-League Club Badge Of The Year (1990), so they're obviously proud of the design. They don't need my silly virtual award, and neither do any of the other clubs.

Bench seats at Hythe & Dibden FC.
I'll stick with just the two awards then. For Best Programme, I'm not going to include Pompey or Saints, as they have full-time staff working on their bi-weekly productions (barring the squirm-inducing manager's comments page, the Saints programme is pretty good, and yes, I did forget to buy Pompey's effort whilst I was there, so I couldn't include that anyway!). Lower down, Havant & Waterlooville's colourful programme was much better than Basingstoke's (although, in the Stokies defence, they had no editor at the time, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been) - I've not included these either.

Instead, the award will go to one of the programmes from Step 3, 5 or 6 of the National League System. These are all programmes that are produced by volunteers. Some are a labour of love, others are published only because the leagues demand it in their rules. I do have a lot of sympathy with the latter group of clubs when they are told to publish programmes, despite the fact that they might only sell half a dozen on a match day - there are so many jobs to do around a club to keep it functioning, it's not surprising that writing fresh material for a programme every other week comes low down on their priorities (see also keeping websites up to date).

The best programmes are produced by people that enjoy the task - the pleasure they get out of seeing their hard work turned in to a little magazine going on sale every other week must be quite cockle-warming. I'm guessing that most programme editors are either retired or have grown-up children and thus some time on their hands to devote to the job.

At the other end of the age scale, it would also be a great job for someone at college studying sports journalism - what an excellent addition to a CV being a programme editor would be! If you're a journalism student reading this, contact your local non-league club right now! They'd love to have you help out.

2011/12 programmes, left to right: Top: Pompey (er, a random issue from 1997 as I forgot to buy one for the Middlesbrough match), Basingstoke Town, Blackfield & Langley, AFC Portchester, Whitchurch United; Middle: Cove, GE Hamble, Moneyfields, Hythe & Dibden, Lymington Town; Bottom: Saints, Bashley, Tadley-Calleva, Hartley Wintney, Havant & Waterlooville.
So, without any further prevaricating, the award for my personal Programme Of The Season 2011/2012 goes to Hartley Wintney FC. Most of the other programmes had their merits, but this one had it all. As well as the bare minimum of recent results and league tables, the matchday magazine (and at 44 pages, it was a magazine) contained:
  • Well-written manager's notes
  • Information about Bashley
  • Hartley look-a-likes (did you know that Garth Crooks, Dr Evil and Moe Szyslak all play for Hartley Wintney?)
  • Round-ups from the first team, reserves and youth team
  • Two player profiles
  • A pair of Guess Whos (photos of players when they were younger)
  • A think-piece by the editor
  • A photo caption quiz
  • Highlights from the club forum
...and much much more! Even half the contents would have been plenty - it took me most of the train journey home to read. The best programme that I've seen at their level by a country mile (so far!).

You can view an online copy of Hartley Wintney's programme here, on their excellent website.

Curiouser and curiouser...
Another favourite programme from the season just passed was Hythe & Dibden's. Free with entry, we learnt everything we needed to know about their goalkeeper in a modern-day Focus On profile (Best ground ever played at: Blackfield & Langley; Favourite drink: Fosters,etc), there were manager's notes, a quiz...

But the one thing I've come back to again and again (and I've had sleepless nights trying to work this out) is the list of goalscorers (see above). Consider that Hythe & Dibden had scored 40 league goals up until this match, and that this was presumably their complete list of scorers...

...well, they don't add up. Assuming the smiley faces each count as one goal, whatever round number the explosions are meant to represent (and I've tried the obvious 5 and 10), they just don't add up to 40. Unless each explosion counts as 7 goals? But that can't be right!

Where do those nights of sleep go to when they do not come to me? Only kidding, of course.

That's 2011/2012 over and done with. There'll be four Hampshire Top Twenty tables over the rest of the summer, then the match reports will begin again in August - there should be seventeen in all next season.

I hope you enjoyed your tea!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

End of Season Roller Round-Up

Go-slower stripes at Bashley.
As you may know, I'm inordinately fond of the rusty groundsmen's equipment that I see lying around on my travels. Having compiled photos of various rollers and ultra spreaders from the first half of the season here, I thought it was high time that I showed the second half's haul now that my season has ended.

There weren't a huge number to display, so I've added a fork from Havant & Waterlooville and a couple of nice specimens from Bognor Regis Town to bulk up the article a tad (yes, Bognor is in Sussex...I was intending my last report to be from either Gosport Borough or Sholing in the Southern League South & West play-off final, but unfortunately Poole Town spoilt my plan by barging in front of both clubs towards the end of the season, resulting in the final being played in I went to Bognor Regis Town v Dulwich Hamlet instead).

Unloved of Bashley.
The first two pieces of equipment are from Bashley. The large yellow roller with its go-slower stripes is quite a beast, rivalling the one at Cove for super-massiveness. I presume it would need a tractor to pull it along the pitch. However, if there was no tractor available, there are a pair of hefty horses in the field next door who might be amenable to a spot of roller-pulling.

The second item from Bashley was suffocated by weeds. Once a much-loved tiller (or similar), now discarded like an old and unfashionable toy and left to rust in peace behind the terraces.

Two rollers in one at GE Hamble!
The place to be for groundsman's equipment in January was GE Hamble. Not content with just having a cool aeroplane within the ground, there was also a lovely cup of tea in a mug from Mug's Corner; an old bus shelter behind one goal; an interesting quirky stand, friendly locals and a cracking game of football...

A roller, a spade and a jar of grease at GE Hamble.
...all this, and they also had a great selection of rollers! It was hard to choose a favourite, but the two-in-one effort just shades it right now (I may change my mind and prefer the spiky leaf-picker tomorrow...). Two rollers in one! If the first one fails to squish that pesky molehill, the second is sure to do it!

A spiky leaf-picker-upper at GE Hamble.
The coveted award for Most Colourful Roller of 2012 has already been won by Tadley-Calleva. The bright March sunshine made their already red roller seem even redder. If you wanted to take a piece of groundsman's equipment to Mars and hide it on the planet's surface, safe from prying eyes, then this is the roller for you!

The winner of the Most Colourful Roller trophy is... Tadley-Calleva!
Havant & Waterlooville had a squeegee-roller on show before their immense match against Staines Town a couple of weeks ago. The groundsman carried on improving the playing surface at half-time with his fork. Most definitely the Hawks' heroic twelfth man on the day.

A spot of half-time forking at Havant & Waterlooville.
Other than the previously-shown roller at Romsey Town, that was that for the second half of this season, excepting a short trip to Bognor Regis Town last weekend for their play-off final against Dulwich Hamlet (in front of over 2,000 fans!).

A big rusty hot dog at Bognor Regis Town.
Bognor's equipment was safely locked away in a compound, but by peering through the slats, I could see a big rusty roller protected by dog patrols and anti-climbing paint. I can see why they would be so protective of this one - what a lovely specimen - a big rusty hot dog to rival the one at Moneyfields!

Caged up at Bognor Regis Town.
Their second, smaller roller was resting against the iron bars of the compound, looking lonely. Luckily, it had some training equipment to keep it company - traffic cones and those two-dimensional metal men that footballers line up in a wall to practice their curling free-kick technique.

Rickety TV tower at Bognor Regis Town.
As a bonus (and because I'm not writing a report of the Bognor match, despite it being a good 'un), the final photo is of Bognor Regis Town's rickety TV tower. This is very similar to the one at Havant & Waterlooville, built of scaffolding, string and air. Nice floodlights at Bognor too!