|A friendly welcome sign for visitors to Fawley AFC.|
A gang of teenage boys are gathered around a pub table on the Waterside (the collective name for the villages squished between Southampton Water and the New Forest). A typical mixed group of the cocky and the dysfunctional. Anthony has been sitting there all evening, scraping dead skin off of a wart on his left index finger whilst listening to Ryan boast about his latest female conquest. Anthony's face is cratered with old acne; his pullover emits a slight odour of vinegar, as his mum hangs out the washing to dry in the kitchen whilst cooking chutneys for holiday money. He leaves his wart-slicing Swiss army pen-knife on the table as he wanders off to the gents, fed up with his alpha male companions.
When he returns, Ryan has opened up all the various knife blades, saws and scissors, and his mates are throwing the pen-knife towards each other, playing a dangerous game of catch with what they have named the spinning death star. Anthony asks for it back, but they tease him by standing up and throwing it over his head in the world's stupidest game of piggy-in-the-middle.
The landlord sees what is happening. The boys have been getting rowdier as the evening progressed and a timid pair of strangers on a date have walked out, nervously glancing towards the noisy table on their way to the door. The landlord likes the boys - they are regular Saturday night visitors, spending a great deal of money at the bar on beer and nuts, and on the triv machine in the corner without ever winning more than a couple of quid in return. He sees himself as a young man in them and doesn't want them to leave and never come back. Even so, they need to be calmed down...
|Bench seats in the new stand at Fawley.|
Fawley AFC (1) 1 v 2 (0) Bemerton Heath Harlequins FC
FA Vase 1st Round Proper
Saturday 13th October 2012
Club shop: No
Colours: Dark blue / Dark blue / Light blue v Black and white halves / Black / Black
National Grid reference: SU4304
|Silhouetto allegretto. A sunny day on the Waterside.|
You can see the Fawley Oil Refinery for miles. It's visible to walkers and horse riders in the nearby New Forest National Park; you can see it from the Isle of Wight; take a lift to the top of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, a good twenty miles away, and the chimneys and flare stacks poke up rudely above the non-specific greyness of the surrounding land. And there's always a flame burning at the top of one of the flare stacks, gobbling up excess poisonous gases.
The landlord's mate had texted him to say that the flame had gone out and that it was panic-stations in the refinery. He suspected a vacuum had somehow been created within the stack which may have caused a backdraft. The flame was making its way slowly down the stack. If it reached the bottom, there was an open tank full of crude oil nearby, and if the flame met the oil, then there was no way to avert disaster. The refinery would go ka-boom! and take half of Hampshire with it.
The boys listened quietly. Seven pints never felt so sober. Ryan made his excuses and left. The others followed him. In ten minutes, they were far enough away to feel safe.
But they were back the next week, older and wiser and a little less cocky.
|One of two home-made shelters at Fawley AFC.|
Thus, in 2002, Esso (Fawley), became Fawley AFC, run by independent volunteers as part of a larger sports and social club in Holbury (the actual village of Fawley is a couple of miles away to the south-east). Founded in 1923 as AGWI United (not sure what those initials stood for!), changing their name to Esso (Fawley) in 1949, the club have never been very successful. Trophies won include the Southampton Senior Cup (1935), Hampshire League Division Three West (1953), the Southampton Wednesday League (1961 and 1968), the Southampton Senior League (1980 and 1988), and finally Hampshire League Division Three (1995). Actually, written down like that, I've seen worse imaginary trophy cabinets!
|A splendid rusty roller at Fawley.|
A fact about Fawley? How about Britain's longest pier? There's no slot machines, funfair or dirty dancehall on this pier - it's strictly for tankers delivering oil.
And another fact? There's a theatre at the sports complex. They'll be doing Calendar Girls - the story of the WI creating a stir with a naked calendar, I believe - between 18th and 20th October if you're down that way. Now, did the WI in Fawley's original name, AGWI, stand for Women's Institute? That would be novel.
FA Cup heroes Blackfield & Langley are Fawley's nearest footballing neighbours - just 1500 metres to the south - Mo Farah could run there in four minutes. As B&L were also in FA Vase action on Saturday, it was a pity they couldn't stagger kick-off times on what was Non-League Day - I'm sure plenty of people would have gone to watch both games as the two grounds are so close (for the record, B&L won their tie 5-1 against Westbury United).
|A ticking off and a yellow card from the ref.|
There's a friendly welcome at the pay hut. As you walk in, there's Pinky & Perky's Bistro to your right (tea £1). Beyond the bistro are changing rooms in rusty green containers, sited on an old tarmac tennis court. The high fences surrounding the disused tennis court are still in place, which prevents spectators from watching the match unobstructed from behind and to the right of one goal. You can walk past the changing rooms though to the right-hand side of the pitch, where two small home-made shelters are bisected by brick dugouts. Beyond the second shelter is a large shed with a green door (Shakin' Stevens would approve).
On the opposite side is a new stand with wooden bench seats. The far end is out of bounds, so effectively, the ground is two-and-a-half-sided! Plenty of room for their average crowds of around fifty though. I liked it.
|Pinky and Perky's Bistro, AKA the refreshments hut at Fawley AFC.|
...again, action-free for the first ten minutes...until Bemerton's number six was shown a red card for an elbow on a Fawley player as they both chased a loose ball. Not unusual, except the hot-headed Harlequin then threw the ball at the ref as he reached in to his back pocket. The ball bounced off the ref's forehead and out of play near the dugouts. The crowd of 50 or so gave a collective gasp - enough sucking motion to change the direction of the sooty smoke belching out of one of the tall chimneys behind the theatre. The talk was all about how long the ban would be. "A minimum of five matches" seemed to be the consensus.
For the final 35 minutes, the match could have been played out on the stage of the aforementioned theatre, with the referee playing the part of the baddie in the eyes of the home crowd, as well as the miffed away supporters. Fawley tried to hang on to their lead, but ten-man Harlequins were having none of it, as they bought a parking permit for Fawley's penalty area for the remainder of the game. The inevitable equaliser came via a penalty - Bemerton's spot-kick maestro was as cool as a bucket full of liquid nitrogen as he waited for the goalie to move to his right. Penalty duly slotted to his left.
As full-time approached, talk turned to whether there would be extra-time and penalties if it remained 1-1. Nobody seemed to know. However, a second penalty for the team from Wiltshire put paid to this collective conversation. The ball appeared to strike the chest of a Fawley defender as it flew towards goal, but the ref signalled handball. By the trotters of Pigling Bland! The man in black was not popular!
Penalty number two was walloped with aplomb to the keeper's right. There was no coming back for poor old Fawley after that. The team from Salisbury went in to the hat for Monday's second round draw - they will travel to St Austell in Cornwall on November 17th. They could visit the Eden Project whilst they're there. Make a day of it.
|After the match, it's across the fields to the shower block.|
I would have liked to go to another Vase match in the second round, but sadly, all three of my remaining unvisited clubs were knocked out on Saturday. I'll be concentrating on the league for the rest of the season then, same as Fawley.