Sunday, 7 March 2010

It's A Farming Bonanza!

Saturday 6th March - Morning
Hutton Cranswick United (home) Won 3-0

Bonanza at the Farm

At 5.45am the alarm went off. I ignored it. It was getting on for seven before I eventually dragged myself out of bed, leaving barely half-an-hour to make the prearranged rendezvous.
Having briefly checked in with my fellow Committee members, it was into work to fire off another 20 standby programmes – good job they were only “standby” as the copier was well and truly kerfunckenschaften (as I believe they say in Germany). The pink hue of the previous day had now become a serious deposit of magenta (red to you and me), accompanied by equally hideous blotches of cyan (blue to you and me) with the coup de grace being supplied by the various images being “transported” to pages other than those they were intended for. Thank God I hadn’t chosen today to do the full batch!

I was back at Low Farm before eight, just in time to meet “The Cat In The Hat” (at least I think it’s Cat?) CML Registrar and Bonanza co-ordinator, Rob Hornby, who immediately greeted me with, “Hellooo mate, where were you yesterday when all the work was being done?” I resisted the temptation to clock him one.
While sorting out where Rob wished to pitch his plot and that of the Black Dragon Badges brigade, he regaled me with tales of the previous day at Spurn Point and Friday night in The Granby where he’d been until half-one this morning (it later transpired that he'd also managed to wipe out the weekend’s supply of Strongbow in just over six hours – I don’t know where he puts it?)

An Ale Cart

Just after eight the first “Hopper” came through the gate. Apparently hailing from London the gentleman had travelled across from Wales where he’d watched a Friday night match. His plan for the day was to take in our game then head off up to see Scarborough Town of the Wearside League and rejoin the Bonanza Brigade at Louth for the 7pm kick-off…before returning to London in time for work the next day. It was the sort of tale we were to become accustomed to by the end of the day.

Let's Go To The Hop

By half-past-nine our two stalwarts on the gate, Maccer & Threv (over a thousand apps between them) were reporting a steady trade...

"Your name's not down you're not coming in"

Brisk business was also being reported inside the Tombola Tent by Chairman Doug and Biffy (over a thousand apps between them)…

"Can these be consumed on the premises?"

…and on the Hot Food where Jeff, Bill & Sue (sadly no appearances between them) were serving up “bacon butties to die for”...

"Then you put the bacon in...then the tomato..."

The ladies in the Tea Hut were also starting to feel the heat – there had never been as many boilers on the go in there (and I don’t mean Judy, Josie & Maude!). Over the course of the morning some 300 cups of tea and coffee would be served – it took me back to my days as a Civil Servant!
The only place not feeling the squeeze was the car park.  We soon found out why...

"I spy with my little eye something beginning with C..."

“They don’t like paying for parking…”
This was just one of a selection of quotes being constantly fed back by roving photographers/reporters Burt and Andy.  Others included:
“The shirts are going well…”
“We’re nearly out of badges”
“They don’t like paying for parking…”
“They love the bacon butties”
“Ah’ve nivver seen so many beards!”
“Are they allowed on with dogs?”…"What position does it play?”
“They don’t like paying for parking…”

Spot the Steward
"If that dog pisses on my boots..."

In what was becoming something of a surreal atmosphere it was hard trying to keep a tab on the “normal” match day duties, such as welcoming the various officials, sorting out kit & equipment and completing the relevant paperwork. Indeed this last task was given another dimension by having to display team details on the newly situated White Board on the front of the Hospitality Hut. A job that brought me into direct contact with our new-found visitors…
“Can you put first names as well?”
“I’ll start again then…”

We're more used to listing the crowd!

While all this was going on, Mack was busy preparing the lads for what should be remembered was a very important game. Having suffered back-to-back defeats, this “local derby” was a must win fixture if we were to retain our already faint hopes of a promotion place.

What this year's self-respecting Hoppers are wearing

Opponents Hutton Cranswick arrived on the back of a 4-0 thumping at Kiveton Park, a result that left them deep in re-election trouble along with their previous week’s opponents and bottom club Welbeck Welfare.

For some the excitement was simply too much

Formed back in 1990 as junior club, “Cranny” (as they’re referred to locally) have enjoyed a similar path to ourselves over the past two decades. Graduating from the lower levels of their local league (in their case The Driffield & District) they became founder members of the Humber Premier League in 2000/01. Similar to us they endured early struggles therein before tasting success, namely a runners-up spot in 2002/03 before going one better the following season when they pushed us into second place.

Synchronised badge hunting

"Ah, a 1946 Skeffling United...well I never"

During this period we built up excellent relations with the Rotsea Lane outfit and matches between our two clubs became a chance to catch-up with old friends. Today was no different.

Believe me the sight from the front is worse...

...Told you

Our visitors enjoyed their first season in the Central Midlands League in 2008/09 despite a New Year dip in fortunes that effectively ruled them out of the promotion shake-up. The summer then proved difficult with new manager Ollie Ezard having to virtually rebuild the squad following the departure of previous boss Andy Dixon and many frontline players.
After a struggle for much of the current campaign, a recent run of improved results had hinted at a possible move away from the wrong end of the table until last week’s reverse provided another unwelcome jolt.

"Smile, me dad's taking a picture"

As both teams entered the field in front of the biggest crowd they’re likely to see this or any other season, I was curious as to which Hutton Cranswick side had turned up – the one that would be fired up for their “Derby” and desperate to bounce back from the previous week or the one with brittle confidence that would prove vulnerable to the first goal. I didn’t have long to wait for the answer.

The joys of having two cameramen catch the same goal!

Just 9mins in Chav whipped over a free-kick from the right and Mozzer, completely unmarked, had the straightforward task of heading past keeper Leon Sewell from barely six yards out. While our players celebrated, the dejected looks on the faces of the visitors back four told their own story...

Barely another ten minutes had elapsed when Mozzer repaid the compliment by setting up Chav for the second – though it must be said the aforementioned Sewell will be far from happy as he appeared to palm the youngster’s 25-yard shot inside his near post.

"Chav it!"

In the goalkeeper’s defence he came into the game with a hip injury sustained at Kiveton Park, which was further aggravated by Farny’s full-blooded challenge early on.
“He likes to put it about a bit the big number nine. Is he dirty or just ‘whole-hearted’?” asked visitors’ club president Denis Cox.
“He’s just a clumsy bastard” I replied.
“Ah” said Denis…with that knowing look!

A clumsy bastard

Away from those with a partisan interest in affairs on the pitch, there was a strange atmosphere inside the ground, indeed bordering on surreal at times, especially after a goal. Aside from the brief cheer from some thirty or forty of us and the polite applause of perhaps a dozen more, there was almost complete silence. Or, worse, the continuation of conversation by those seemingly completely indifferent to what they were watching.

"Great goal Chav..."

"...Why's nobody cheering?"

And this is where my understanding of what motivates a “Hopper” perhaps falls short. I can see the attraction of wanting to visit grounds of vastly differing standard in far-flung parts of this country and beyond, recording the particulars of each and then exchanging said info with other like-minded souls. That bit I get. But surely an integral part of the day must be the football and, more specifically, an appreciation of the game even if you have no real interest in either of the participating teams? The reaction of some of those around me would suggest not (I realise I now risk a sine die ban from Tony Kempster and all other similar forums for publicly stating such an observation).

"Ooh, come 'ere you b......!"

After 'Man Mountain' had seen another potential chance spin away inside the penalty area, there was a third goal for the crowd to ignore on 33mins. Another fine build-up down the Eastenders’ right culminated in a low cross from Farny that Jamie C controlled before drilling home from twelve yards – although again the keeper may well feel he should have saved it.

Three Nil

And that was it, almost. Mark Frampton had a couple of chances for the visitors either side of the break – one a wasteful free-kick from the edge of the box, the other a cracking strike that pinged against the home bar – while Sewell redeemed himself to some extent with a fine save to deny skipper AG. There was a late penalty shout for the visitors and Mozzer headed wide when it perhaps looked easier to score; otherwise there was little to keep the spectators from revisiting the Hot Food Tent.

"Head like a threepenny bit, Mozzer"

Checking in with photographer Andy he told me a cracking conversation he'd overheard between two Hoppers just before half-time, in which one had suggested to his mate that the teams cross onto the “Pitch across the Ditch” for the second half- that way they could tick another ground off!

Friend of Rob

Early in the second half I’d been handed the official attendance by co-organiser Chris (resplendent in a 2002/03 Eastenders shirt) which I duly recorded on the board. Little did I know what trouble it would cause.
At the time I wrote “209” I thought it seemed about right. From looking around the ground just before kick-off I knew we’d come nowhere near the three-hundred mark that had been an optimistic target. However, bumping into our usual attendance man Mickey Bo set me thinking.
“Official attendance is 209 Bo”
“Never. I’ve already counted 237”
“Well, that’s what I’ve been told”
“’Ere, I’ll count ‘em again then…”
And he did. A few minutes later…
“234…some must be in the toilets now!”
Now this may seem like trivial stuff to the outsider. But given that this was easily the best recorded crowd for a home league game during my time with the club it would be nice to be accurate. I decided to count it myself.

Go on - count them

I’d got 72 on the South Side, 65 along the Farm End and was up to 68 halfway up the Popular Side when I was interrupted by an excited female (which doesn’t often happen these days)…
“I’ve won on the Tombola”
It was the lovely Mrs Slush, accompanied by both Slushettes. I bet they hadn’t been recorded in the official figure!
The Chairman loves that "Kerching!" sound

With the attendance argument left to rumble on, referee Jim Sharp – who can’t have had many easier morning’s work this season – blew for full-time. Three points for us and renewed hope of kicking-on; more worry for Denis and co.

Not the best day these chaps have had

Thankfully, along with Jim, Paul and the rest of the party, Denis had been able to console himself with Judy’s fruit loaf in the Hospitality Hut and by the time I joined up with them in The Neptune, several pints of Worthington Cask had helped put a smile back on his face.
I must admit to surprise at being informed our guests were enjoying the Worthy’s. It’s by no means a popular choice aside from its price. Having said that, the Tetley was also on fine form this particular lunch-time and four or five had been downed by the time our visitors eventually departed. 
As we said our goodbyes I glanced at the clock.  Bloody Hell, it was half-past two, I was supposed to be watching the Casuals this afternoon...

"Is that the Pitch Across The Ditch?"
"No, that's Norway"
(Tony Kempster Forum in-joke)

Thanks to Andy Medcalf & Burt Graham for the photographs
For other far more intelligent reviews of Saturday's 7th Annual CML Bonanza Ground Hop check out Tony Kempster's Non-League site or the following Blog Posts:

1 comment:

The Rambler said...

Finally got round to having a proper look at your take from a "club" point of view on the hop. You made some interesting points about hoppers which I do tend to agree with. Also loved the piss taking of Rob Hornby.

All the best to Easington this season and in the future. Hopefully our paths will cross at another CML game.