Thursday, 15 April 2010

Hedon is no longer United

The demise of the town’s original club is a sad loss to local football

What happens to changing rooms after the club departs

The latest ER County League fixture newsletter confirmed the news that Hedon United AFC has finally ceased to exist.
Its future was in doubt from the moment former driving force Dave Gatti announced his intention to emigrate, with his son taking up the mantle. “I don’t think he knows what he’s letting himself in for” admitted his dad at the time. He soon found out.
However, even allowing for the feeling that this was always a likely scenario, it doesn't lessen the impact felt at the demise of such an established club.
Despite being overtaken in recent years by “new kids on the block” Hedon Rangers, to many – including me – Hedon United remained THE Hedon team.
This was partly because, in open-age terms, Hedon Rangers are actually Keyingham FC. Their name (and location) change came about after an amalgamation with the well-established Hedon Rangers junior club, following the local authority’s rejection of development plans at Keyingham’s Saltaugh Road ground.
 Hedon "opened" the new-look Farm in 2002 - and conveniently lost the game as well

According to the engraving above the main door of their dilapidated changing rooms at Drapers Lane, which reads “Hedon AFC 1949”, the other Hedon club has been in existence for considerably longer.
I’m not in a position to present a fully recorded history of the club here but a glance at the list of South Holderness Cup Winners hints at the pedigree of the club we’ve lost. And I was by no means ever their biggest fan!
Hedon United were the first ever winners of the South Holderness Cup when launched in its present format in 1956. Controversy surrounded the Final, as reported in the official competition minutes: “comment was made on the Final between Hedon and Patrington which Hedon won in the closing minutes by 3-2, the ball being over the line, hitting a spectator and coming back into play from which Hedon scored. Referee L. Howarth unfortunately although present was unable to officiate and his deputy who took control being far from satisfactory.”

Revenge for 1995 came in 2004's 3-1 win at Withernsea

Hedon went on to lift the trophy twelve times (including one shared). Among these victories was a 1995 penalty shoot-out one over us (avenged nine years later).  Their most recent success came five years ago when they triumphed 3-0 against the wonderfully named Patrington Stanley in the final at Easington.
By that 2005 final, Hedon had returned to their familiar moniker “United”. Previously the club had played as “Hedon & Marfleet United” (mid-Sixties to circa 1971) and briefly in the Nineties as “Hedon & Saltend Social Club AFC” following various mergers.
In 2000/01, as a member of the ER Amateur League top division, Hedon joined Easington as the only Holderness clubs to become founder members of the Humber Premier League, the new FA Supply League launched by the East Riding County FA.
In only our third game, we “entertained” Hedon at our temporary home of Humbleton and were humbled 4-1. Despite an improved showing in the return, at Christmas, we lost again, 1-2.

April 2005 - Hedon were shit again this season but won at Low Farm!

The fortunes of both clubs would soon head off in different directions and while we gradually became one of the top four sides in the competition, Hedon’s HPL campaigns became a perennial struggle at the basement.
When manager Gavin Kenny resigned, Hedon’s withdrawal from the HPL soon followed. A place in ER County League Division 2 became their home for the final two seasons of their existence.
Similar to Holmpton’s demise some years earlier (2002), the disappearance of Hedon United leaves a hole in the Eastenders’ calendar in terms of an annual memorial trophy competed for by both teams. Since December 1991, Easington and Hedon (albeit originally via the latter’s Sunday League side) have competed for the Melvin Douglas Memorial Trophy, in memory of the Eastenders’ legendary record goal scorer who plied his Sunday footballing wares at Drapers Lane. Missed a couple of times due to fixture congestion and/or ground problems, the trophy has been played for fifteen times, the most recent occasion being in April 2008, with our Reserves emerging as winners by the odd goal in three.

Hedon and Easington's players remember Melvin in 2002.
Now the club represented on the left has also met its end

Personally, my abiding memory of Hedon's oft-criticised Drapers Lane home is tinged with regret; namely the aforementioned 1995 South Holderness Cup Final. As Mickey Bo’s asst-mgr, I helped oversee us throw away our first chance to lift the trophy; a couple of substitutions towards the end of a game we were leading 2-1 allowing Hedon to regain the initiative and take the game to extra-time and subsequently penalties. I can still remember the words of one player (still with the club) in the immediate aftermath: “If we hadn’t made those subs we’d be sat in the pub with the cup now.” Ouch!
There were better times at the ground and, in fairness, I witnessed far more wins there than defeats. It was also a fixture that never took on the status of an Easington v Withernsea “derby”, despite the aforementioned Mr. Kenny’s constant attempts to “spice things up” by belittling our style of play.
And so, as we look forward to challenging Hedon Rangers once again for the bragging rights in this little corner of Holderness, my sympathy goes to my old mucker Dave Gatti who, whilst soaking up the Portuguese sun, may well take time to reflect on what he himself called “the demise of a once almost great football club”.

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