09 April 2012
Isthmian League Division 1 South
King George’s Field, Tolworth
Team Talk. Corinthian Casuals was the second leg of our Easter Bank Holiday double, following on from our trip to Chessington and Hook United which you read about last month. After a relatively subdued morning in the rain, we were hoping for brighter things in the afternoon. Sadly, we were to be disappointed.
Starting out life as Corinthian FC (not to be confused with the club of the same name in the Kent League) and The Casuals, Corinthian Casuals can claim to be one of the oldest clubs in Britain. A claim that led the FA originally naming one of Wembley’s premier hospitality packages in their honour before renaming it in honour of diamond thief and Escape to Victory star, Bobby Moore.
As well as learning more about Casuals’ storied history, we were also keen to see if we could spot wicket-keeping icon, Alec Stewart, whose dad was a former player for Corinthian Casuals. Stewart is apparently a regular down at King George’s Fields. However, unlike us, he had better things to do with his Easter Monday.
Along with Dulwich Hamlet, Corinthian Casuals are the only team in the country to sport a pink home kit, meaning they’re the primary reason why the two teams require an away kit. Unfortunately, Casuals’ current home shirts seem to have been through the wash once too often and their historic Pink and Brown has turned into a rather miserable Pink and Burgundy.
Corinthian Casuals are also the proud founding fathers of the reigning Brazilian champions of the same name who came into existence after the South West Londoners toured Brazil in 1910 as part of missionary efforts to save Brazilian souls from the devil…or Pete Winkelman. The two clubs remain close and in 1988, Corinthian Casuals flew over to Sao Paolo to play their continental counterparts who fielded no less than seven internationals (take note Guyana). It was in this game that Socrates got his first taste of English non-league football, playing 45 minutes from Corinthian Casuals before reigniting his love of the Pyramid many years later by playing for Garforth in 2004.
Park the bus. The approach to King George’s Fields is one of the least attractive in South London, in fact, I’d rate it as the absolute worst to date. Tolworth (twinned with Mordor) is your nearest railway station, that’s about a 10 minute walk from the ground along the edge of the Kingston Bypass. That’s about as attractive as it sounds.
If you’re trying to avoid emphysema, you can cut through the playing fields and along the road at the back. Past the concrete factory and the motocross track. I noticed there was a bus stop on that route and although it’s probably only a two minute ride, it would be worth every penny.
Homefield advantage. For a team steeped in history, I was really disappointed by King George’s Fields. It’s a rather tatty place severely lacking any real character. Probably because it has only been home to the club since 1988.
The deceptively named “Tiny” Liddle Stand makes up the only seated area in the ground and is in fact, rather sizeable. Seating works in a sort of North-to-South grading with benches (albeit relatively plush, cushioned benches) at the far end, followed by a large swathe of more traditional plastic seats and ending in a portacabin (yes, a portacabin) which doubles up at the executive board room. Although the tiny bit of white picket fencing around one corner of the cabin/executive lounge suggested opulence was awaiting indoors, I’m not quite sure how Bruce Badcock and the rest of the Isthmian brass let Casuals get away with such shabby facilities in Step 4 but I think it’s safe to assume that they won’t be hosting any regional cup finals down in Tolworth any time soon. Not unless they fancy cozying up to Alec Stewart on a banquette.
Opposite the Tiny Liddle is, well, nothing: A couple of dugouts, some patio paving stones (possibly concealing the horrific secrets of the Jordache family) and a few floodlights. Nothing to see here folks.
Behind either goal was a rather solidly constructed shelter made out of good old fashioned scaffolding and corrugated metal sheets. Now, it’s easy to get precious about what a Step 4 team should have, but I bloody love a good bit scaff to keep the rain out especially but when there’s a plaque recognising the hard work of the chaps who built the stands (thanks to Grounds for Concern for that photo), that’s even better. King George’s really is the most scaff-tastic ground we’ve been to. Even parts of the Tidy Liddle main stand is just scaff and sheet metal. It’s like a Meccano enthusiasts wet dream.
Prawn sandwiches. The bar and tea hut are located at the back of the Tiny Liddle. The two are joined by another bit of scaff which provides a smoking shelter for patrons. Whilst the pebble-dashing makes the whole building look a bit like a council-owned golf clubhouse, the away team dressing room which is attached to the far end of the bar was actually more reminiscent of my old nan’s bungalow.
The bar itself was pleasant enough, with plenty of memorabilia from Corinthians’ and Casuals’ historic past. Slightly upsetting was a Celtic pennant which seemed to have pride of place next to the bar. Not the kind of warm welcome I was I expecting.
The queue for the tea hut was pretty sizeable at all times, however, there seems to be short cut if you order from the bar as opposed to the hatch outdoor.
…and the game. After a morning of Combined Counties kick-and-chase, I was hoping for something a tad more sophisticated, in actual fact, I think Molesey would probably have given both of these two a run for their money. Maidstone are a club I have always had bit of a soft spot for having lived in the town for a bit a few years ago (even though the Stones were still exiled in Sittingbourne at the time). They remain one of the best organised defences in the Isthmian 1 South and are the only team to keep back-to-back clean sheets against free-scoring Dulwich Hamlet in the 2011/12 season. Up front, I have been expecting to see big things from Stones Striker Shaun Welford and whilst he seems to have all the physical gifts, I’m yet to see him shine. On this day, his performance was dwarfed by his strike partner Baff Addae, who looked dangerous throughout and scored an opportunistic goal from a slip by Casuals keeper Adam Peck.
Corinthian Casuals started slowly are rarely threatened in the first half although they came into the game a bit more in the second half. However, even then they weren’t particularly dangerous. The Casuals were inspired/terrified by Scott Corbett, their own big number 7 and dead ringer for Tubes from the once popular, now dreadful, Soccer AM. Corbett was so angry at his premature baldness that he was lunging in for every tackle, contesting every decision and generally giving talented the rest of his team a rough ride for everything they did (good or bad).
The absolute best thing about Maidstone United (apart from my Father-in-law’s plans to deck out his buses in team colours for their homecoming this July) is StonesTV, a website broadcasting highlights of every Maidstone game. For those who are interested in seeing something more detailed about the game with Corinthian Casuals – opposed to a few flaky paragraphs from me – can check out their website.
Post-match rubdown. I hate being too critical of clubs on here. The whole point of the Pigeon Stands is to try and open a few eyes to the generally good times you’ll have visiting your local club. However, I’m just not sure there are that many good times or indeed locals (apart from the Stewart family) to be had round here. Casuals aren’t a great team on the pitch and there’s not exactly a brilliant wedge of stuff off the field. I suppose if you live within a five minute walk, you could pop along, but there’s a much better afternoon to be had at Raynes Park, Kingstonian or (dare I say it) Met Police and it won’t take you much longer to get there. I’d love to say that everyone should make a pilgrimage to King George’s to bathe in the history of the club, but sadly, there’s not much at the end of an unpleasant journey. When the highlight of the trip was a £5 all day breakfast from one of Tolworth’s insalubrious greasy spoons, you know you’ve had a shocker. Sorry Corinthian Casuals, it’s a massive ‘could try harder’ from Pigeon Stands HQ.