Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Salisbury FC v Folland Sports

Salisbury FC's main stand at the Ray Mac.
If you look up in to the night sky in the right place and at the right time, you can see a million stars with the naked eye. Pick up a pair of binoculars, and you can see a million more. Set up an astronomer's telescope, and another billion would be revealed.

Obviously, I'm not talking about right here, right now - I'm in the middle of a city with all of its bright light pollution, and anyway, it's tipping down with rain out there. If I went outside at this moment, I would be:

(a) very wet indeed; and

(b) unable to see any stars at all.

But if you could theoretically see all the stars in the universe, there would be more fiery orbs out there than there are people on Earth. Therefore, they say that there is a star out there for everyone. You could have a star named after you, a loved one, or a cluster named after all the members of the most successful squad of footballers in your particular club's history.

If you were allocated a faint, twinkling pinprick of light a billion light years away and an unlimited choice by the Star Naming Authorities (whoever they are), who would you name your personal star after?

From below, looking up...
Salisbury FC (1) 4 v 1 (1) Folland Sports FC
Saturday 3rd October 2015
FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round
Attendance: 538
Admission: £8
Programme: £2
Colours: White / black / white v Burgundy / sky blue / burgundy
National Grid reference: SU1533

Follands on the attack in front of the seated areas on the north side of the Ray Mac.
Difficult, isn't it? You'd probably come up with a shortlist containing beloved family members and personal heroes, and then a day or two of mental torture whilst you crossed them off your list one by one and ended up with...I don't know, yourself?

I think I know one person that Salisbury fans would never have on their star list...Outail Touzar. This was the no-goodnik conman that bought Salisbury City for a quid when the previous owners could no longer keep up with their debts. In a story that would resonate with Pompey fans and their years and years of having the lifeblood sucked out of them by dodgy "businessmen", fake Sheiks and convicted gun runners, this penniless twenty-something would pose for photos in front of flash motors as if they belonged to him, he would give false addresses in Gulf states, and would generally do all he could to take whatever he could from SCFC whilst putting nothing in.

Eventually, his bluff was called, and the original club were liquidated before the start of the 2014/15 season, leaving a gap in the Conference South (with two fixtureless weekends for each member club) and another gap in the Non-League Directory's index between Salford City and Saltash United where a Salisbury club should have been.

There's a lengthy thread about all the goings-on here, with plenty of links to other sources if you have a few hours to kill.

Parachutes descending towards the airport behind the far goal.
Salisbury's year of non-existence is over, and they're back, starting all over again as plain old Salisbury FC at their Raymond McEnhill Stadium, three miles from the city centre. Voted in to the Sydenhams Wessex League during the summer, they have to gain three promotions before they reach the same level as the original club.

I arrived at the stadium by car (and it is a "football stadium" as opposed to a "football ground" - on Ordnance Survey maps, a stadium is defined as a pitch which is "fully enclosed with no gaps between the stands and/or terraces", which means that Havant & Waterlooville's Westleigh Park or Eastleigh's Ten Acres are merely "football grounds" with their gaps in the corners). There is a £1 charge for parking, but there is plenty of room for everyone.

The club shop is situated under the main stand outside. They have shirts, but no pin badges yet (they're on order). There is a choice of turnstiles through which to enter the stadium. I chose one to the left. Clicking through and glancing to the left and right, there is a covered terrace of between ten and fifteen steps. This terrace extends the entire width of the pitch behind the goal which Follands were to attack in the first half.

Walking to the far side, you drop down on to an uncovered four step terrace, which encircles the rest of the pitch (excepting the main stand). Breaking the terrace on the far side are two identical elevated Arena kit stands with a gap between them which looks like it could be used as a stage if they ever wished to provide the citizens of Salisbury with a stadium rock concert.

Hard to see, but the ball is there, hidden behind the near post and just about to cross the line for Follands' goal.
The main stand on the entrance side is the focal point. It consists of black plastic seats with executive boxes on the top level. Only two of the five boxes were occupied on Saturday, but not for want of trying on behalf of the commercial department, as they tweeted some bargain prices on the morning of the match. According to the programme, you could hire a box for twelve people for between £150 and £350 per match, if that sort of thing appeals.

There are snack bars at either end of the stand selling small cups of tea for £1.50.

Anyway, one of the first things I noticed upon arrival was the number of flying machines that were circling the stadium. Triplanes, biplanes, gliders and parachutists were all buzzing or floating gently through the rarefied air. It happens that the Ray Mac is next door to an airport, so there was a constant stream of air traffic throughout the match.

I suppose the sound of all the plane engines overhead could have inspired Follands, who up until recently were the works team of GE at Hamble, who make parts for aircraft. Indeed, the club's nickname is The Planemakers. Sadly though, they were a goal down within two minutes, Sam Wilson looping a header in before Follands had even crossed the halfway line for the first time. The fellow next to me on the end terrace turned round to me and said, "Double figures today".

Well, it didn't work out like that. Salisbury had the better players, unsurprisingly, as their relatively large income means they can afford to attract some of the better players in the area (although they say that their wage bill - at 35% of their total income - is only the third-highest in the Wessex League - which begs the question, who is outspending them on one-tenth of their gates? I can hazard a guess, based on hearsay, but I'm not writing it down as I'll be quoted on Wikipedia as a trusted source...).

Follands hit the bar and had a couple of other decent chances, but had to wait until stoppage time for their equaliser. Sam Craven blasted in a 25 yard free-kick given for shirt-pulling.

Disgruntlement from the home fans: "1-1...against this lot?" If there were any Follands fans in the stadium, they would have been very pleased indeed.

Celebrating the equaliser.
The programme for the match was very good, but something bothered me greatly within. It was the player profile. Now, I love player profiles - ever since I used to read the Focus On feature in Shoot! every week as a boy, I've found them fascinating.

This week's profile in the Salisbury prog was of Sam Roberts. He seems like a decent lad - ate a worm whilst he was at school, and would like to invite Justin Bieber and Lionel Messi round for dinner one day. He'd probably feed them his favourite food - chicken.

Fair enough, we've all eaten bugs before (I ate an ant once - it was disgusting, no wonder so few animals eat them - tasted of acid). It was the last line which bamboozled me:

"If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?" Sam's answer was: "to be wedge".

As I'm over 25, I had no idea what this meant. I decided to ask my teenage daughter to translate this unknown slang term for me. She asked me how old he is, and when I replied "20", she said that he must be talking in Nineties (!) slang, as she'd never heard of "wedge". I had to look it up in the Urban Dictionary. Apparently, it means "to be big and muscly". When I told my daughter this, she rolled her eyes and said, "oh, he means he wants to be hench!"

I never had to consult dictionaries of slang when Ron Davies or Ray Hiron were Focussed On...

An abandoned turnstile hut at the far end of the Ray Mac.
The second half was all Salisbury. I haven't got a clue about tactics, but I'm sure Steve Claridge must have changed something at half-time. It was all Whites pressure. However, they lost Callum Hart to a dislocated shoulder whilst the stewards were queuing at the tea bar for their free hot dogs and burgers. A Follands sub warming up in front of me said that he'd had a dislocated shoulder once - they had to put him to sleep to fix it.

Captain Kane O'Keefe scored from twelve yards a few minutes later to make it 2-1. Something you never hear at Wessex League grounds - crowd noise, proper crowd noise - inspired Salisbury to pile forward and make it 3-1 after 73 minutes. They won a free-kick in a similar position to Follands in the first half, and Wilson dispatched it in the same way.

I took a photo of the scoreboard after 93 minutes, thinking that would be a good pic to finish the report off with. Typically, Salisbury then scored a fourth with the last kick of the game through Ashley Jarvis. They deserved the win - Claudio Herbert was a tricky nuisance all afternoon, and their central defensive pairing were as solid as a very solid thing indeed (a rock, perhaps?).

Salisbury will make the relatively short trip to Calne Town in the next round of the Vase. They must be amongst the favourites to reach the final next May. How about a Salisbury FC v Hereford FC showdown at Wembley? That would be quite something.

Hampshire's remaining clubs have mostly been drawn at home on October 31st:

Hartley Wintney v Wokingham & Embrook
Littlehampton Town v Tadley-Calleva
Andover Town v Newhaven
Cove v Canterbury City
Haywards Heath Town v Alton Town
Plymouth Parkway v Blackfield & Langley
Moneyfields v Corsham Town
Horndean v Barnstaple Town
Lymington Town v Wells City
Whitchurch United v Welton Rovers
Team Solent v Cadbury Heath
AFC Portchester v Abbey Rangers
Sholing v Laverstock & Ford

The action is over and it's time for the post-match roller to appear!
There are competent match reports here and here.

By the way, for any Salisbury FC fans who want to name a star after captain Kane O'Keefe - don't do it, it's a rip-off. Only the International Astronomical Union can officially name stars. Any company offering such a service just wants your money. The certificate you may receive in return is worthless. Sorry to bring bad tidings.

It's Non-League Day next Saturday. I shall be at an FA Cup match (probably Brockenhurst v Wealdstone, cheering on The Badgers). I won't be writing about it - two weeks in a row of doing this is enough. I'll be back on here the week after covering a Hampshire Premier Football League game.

Other than at Brock, there are two other immense David v Goliath FA Cup ties locally - Blackfield & Langley v Maidenhead United and Petersfield Town v St Albans. Either club would love to see you if you fancy a rip-roaring cup tie on October 10th.


  1. Never understood the fascination some fans at this level have for budgets. Clearly, the bigger clubs will have bigger playing budgets. As will those clubs who have a financial backer (for example, Blackfield & Langley).

    I'm sure those clubs who operate on a shoestring, would jump at having more cash for players. So there is a bit of hypocrisy at times in non-league. Expect many of us have experienced some clubs insisting they "never pay players" and then watched their manager dish out cash to players in the bar after a match.

    So, Salisbury have been a bit touchy about this subject recently. Don't see they have anything to hide, their crowds are remarkable, so if they have more money than other clubs, good. That's how football works!

  2. Paul PitchsidePhoto7 October 2015 at 18:41

    Great read again Andrew. Tried to suggest Brockenhurst or Blackfield to the NLP and have been sent to...Bognor. Never mind

  3. I got the figure of 35% of turnover for wages from a recent fans' forum, which can be found at this address: http://www.sfc-fans.co.uk/fans-forum-011015/

    I've no doubt that Salisbury could outspend everyone else within the league quite comfortably to "buy" promotion and still be well in the black, but the people running the club have been burnt before trying to buy success and the new board want to be seen to do the right thing this time. No problem with that.

    However, the fans' expectations are immense, judging from all the comments I overheard. Some people won't be happy until they're back to at least their "natural level" (which on their fanbase would be Conference South). It's when they arrive back at Step 2 that they will really have to stick to their 35% budget, as that's where it all went wrong last time.

    If they are going to be moving in a year or two, they'll need to put aside some cash, but if the Ray Mac is developed (MORE executive housing for Salisbury!) and the developers build them a new ground as part of the deal, how much will they need? I don't suppose they really know yet.

    As for being the "third-highest" payers in the Wessex League, how do they know that? Where is that information, other than from hearsay? I guess players talk to each other and compare payments, but other than that...?

    In the meantime, no need to be so coy, we all know that Salisbury will win the Wessex League and then the SLS&W - until they bump into Hereford or Kettering or Weymouth, there's not going to be too much to stop them. That's okay, like you say, that's the way of the football world!

  4. Nothing wrong with Bognor, Paul, despite what King George V said about the place!

  5. Thanks for reply, Andrew. I agree with you, can't see anyone stopping Salisbury for a season or two. Think we all hear rumours of which team pays what, as long as its done within budget and not putting a club at risk, I have no issue with it at all. In fact, although many clubs struggle and only keep going due to volunteers, there are also those who do very little to attract sponsorship or new supporters.

    Wasn't aware of Salisbury possibly moving ground. Interesting.

    Be interesting to see if Claridge stays there beyond this season.

  6. Only just seen this excellent blog and as a Salisbury Fan I thought I would add my thoughts and answer a couple of points.
    Ref the ground the club are paying a commercial rent to the owners who are the trustees of the estate of Raymond MacEnhill the former chairman who built the ground and allowed the old club to play there for a peppercorn rent. One of the most disasterous outcomes of the the Touzar incident (of which there were many) was that when the old club went bust so did that lease which had another 8 years to run and a covenant ensuring a new ground would be built if this one was sold.

    The old club had been poorly run for years speding above it's means and previous boards had lied to the fans about the state of the finances and that we were out of the CVA when we weren't. I'm glad the club is being run properly now with a sensible wage bill and I (and many others) have no expectations about where the club should be as some do. We are a new club and have no right to be where the old club was, we have to work to get there. I would rather stay where we are and have a club that chase a dream and end up with nothing - if this club fails that will be it. As you say though in time and with our crowdbase we should be a Conf South club - but only if we can do that on a sustainable footing.

    As for Steve staying - he is also a director and has invested his own money in the club, hopefully that is just one of many reasons for his continued and long term involvenment.

  7. Thanks for your comment Neil (and your second comment, Wolfie). I could have written a whole season's worth of articles on Salisbury alone - there's just so much to say about this club. I think you're probably in the majority about wanting the club to be run sensibly over and above chasing the unsustainable dream - I didn't make that clear in the piece above with the overheard comments that I noted down. As a Pompey fan, I'm very much with you, and I have a great deal of respect for the way the club is currently being run.

    Whether or not SFC gain promotion this year, I hope the owners carry on as they are and aren't tempted to spend silly money again for the temporary upgrade in status.