Banstead Athletic

20 Mar

19 March 2011

Combined Counties Football League Premier Division

Banstead Athletic 04 v Dorking 01 (att – up to 50 )

Merland Rise, Tadworth, KT20

Team talk. Banstead Athletic were formed in 1944 and enjoyed almost instant success in the Surrey non leagues until the mid 1960s. Current President Gordon Taylor was part of the 1964/1965 Surrey League title winning team. This was the last time that the club won a league title. The current Director is Terry Molloy, who is better known as the actor who played Dr Who’s evil arch-nemesis and creator of the Daleks, Davros. Not to be confused with Harry Enfield’s kebab selling alter ego Stavros.

Davros with the Banstead centre half

With this evil overlord director in mind, the team are bravely managed by the duo of Bobby Knock and Russell Harmsworth, or Terry’s henchmen if you will. Bobby Knock can only be described as the joker in pack, listing his previous clubs in the match programme as “Stringfellows, Easy Streets, Cats Whiskers, and Tiffanys” and his marital status as (perhaps unsurprisingly) “ok”.

The club’s position in the Combined Counties Premier Division is certainly no laughing matter. The team sat in 18th place in the league at the start of play today. As Dorking were in 20th place the game was set to be a real bottom of the table dog fight.

Despite the lowly league position Banstead had improved of late. With impressive wins against Chessington (4-0) and Ash Utd (3-0) the team would be hoping that the 2-0 away loss in their last game at Hanworth was just a blip in their otherwise improved form. Dorking were comprehensively beaten 7-1 by high flying Camberley Town in their last game and would no doubt be looking to bounce back.

The previous Tuesday’s game had been called off due to a waterlogged pitch so whether the game would go ahead was touch and go due to heavy rain the day before.

Park the bus. Banstead sits on the edge of Epsom, in an area that can best be described as “where country meets city” that even the TFL bus people do not regard as London (evident from the change in bus operator, bus stops and bus colour from red to black).

Regardless of the semi-rural location, Banstead is within the M25 (just!) and was therefore due a visit from the Pigeon Stand guys. The ground is perfectly accessible in just under an hour from central London and the nearest station is Tattenham Corner in zone 6.

Home advantage. Banstead Athletic have a ground just moments away from the famous Epsom Downs race course, located close to a leisure centre and other local entertainment venues that included the “Phoenix Centre” (Brain Potter would be proud).

The Phoenix Centre

Arriving at the ground entrance we were a little confused by the large notice board advertising the fixture “Today’s Game: Banstead Athletic v Your Mum”. It turned out that this was just the local youths messing around and that the “Your Mum” addition was not a change of fixture or a nickname for Dorking FC.

Change of fixture

The club car park doubled as storage for some smart looking old style Routemaster London buses and also served as a spill out area for locals having a pre match al fresco drink at the club house to make the most of what was a gloriously sunny day.

All aboard

The ground itself has two old-school turnstiles. The change was £7.50 for entrance and a programme.

Around the pitch there are two small covered pigeon stands and a small main stand with some seating, including reserved seating for visiting directors and the press. These seats had been commandeered by local youths, or perhaps they were members of the press providing minute by minute updates to a local newspaper via text message.

Around the ground

Main stand

Seating main stand

End pigeon stand

Prawn sandwiches. There is a nice little club house with a well stocked bar. The club house has something of the gentleman’s club feel about it (perhaps not the type that Bobby Knock likes to visit). This is due to all the timber wall panelling, the framed jockey shirt and picture of a horse. The club house doubles as a venue for hire and was to be the settling for “a night with the stars” after the game. We assume that this was a “stars in their eyes” type event where participants could dress up as their favourite singer and pelt out a number of two. Unfortunately we couldn’t hang around for this, but it sounded like good fun. Much effort had also clearly gone into setting the room up.

Club house

The stage is set...

Unfortunately food was a bit thin on the ground as the burger van was closed and the ice cream van that could be heard circling the ground for almost the entire game never stopped off. Thankfully some wrapped sandwiches had been prepared and were for sale at the club house.

…..and the game. We were at the ground early and got the chance to have a chat with the referee before the game. He was a nice chap who was looking forward to what he hoped would be an entertaining game of football. It is sometimes easy to forget that referees are extremely likely to also be fans of the game who also want to see a good game of football.

Reflecting the respective positions of the two teams, I guess it is fair to say that this was not to be the free flowing spectacle that the referee had hoped for. The game was a scrappy affair, one of moments rather than a game to savour as a spectacle. In fairness, Dorking’s first goal was a brilliantly timed run by their forward followed by fantastic composure to round the keeper and put the ball into the open net. Banstead’s third goal was also something to behold, a lob from the best part of 40 yards. While others may question whether it was as shot or a cross, I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt and say it was a stroke of genius.

What was more impressive than this goal was the ability of the Dorking players to get the words “fuck” or “fucking” into every sentence. Now I am well aware that football is a sweary game. I am also guilty of yelling the occasional expletive from time to time, normally to turn around to meet the disapproving stare of a parent whose child has been potentially scarred by my careless language. But, the Dorking guys really are something else.

So relentless was this that we assume that the players of Dorking have been struck down by some unfortunate version of footballers tourettes . The worst example of this was a poor unfortunate midfielder who, on delivering what was an admittedly poor cross, felt the need to punch his own face and call himself a “son of a fucking bitch”. It was not confined to just the players, even the management could not help themselves. Early in the game they called the whole Dorking team a “bunch of lazy fuckers”. These are the funniest examples, otherwise it was just an absolutely relentless tirade of “fuck me’s”, “fuck you’s”, and just plain old “fucks” from beginning to end. These were aimed at the other team, themselves, team mates, linesmen, and our referee friend. At the conclusion the Dorking players were so worn out by their cursing endeavours that they collapsed on the pitch. Fans of the club could have a really great (and expensive) time inventing a drinking game based on the swearing of their team.

Dorking goalkeeper calmly discusses performance of a team mate

Ol' dirty Banstead

Man of the match. For me, this game only went ahead because of the hard work and dedication of the Banstead groundsman. He worked tirelessly right up until kick-off to make sure that the pitch was in a state that was playable. He then disappeared like the modest unsung hero that he is. We saw you Brian (generic groundsman name). Bravo sir, bravo.

Tireless worker

Post game rub down. An enjoyable visit to a club that, despite problems on the pitch and what looked to be a low attendance, clearly had people behind the scenes willing to work their socks off to make sure that the club carries on. I guess this is the case with most non league clubs. However, this commitment is particularly valuable in an area such as this, where there are so many non league clubs for the fair-weather fan to choose from where, frankly, you can see better football for the same price. While 4-1 flattered Banstead today, we expect they will beat the drop and hope they are able to improve and do better in coming seasons.

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One Response to “Banstead Athletic”

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