Tag Archives: Athletics tracks

Croydon FC

3 Nov

24 October 2012

Combined Counties Premier Division

Croydon FC 03 v  Horley Town 01 (att c.50)

Croydon Arena, Croydon

Team Talk. Croydon. It’s a bit like Holland. There are loads of trams and everyone’s selling drugs. Cliches? On here? No chance.

Whilst we’d love to perpetuate the stereotypes of South London’s great metropolis but instead, we thought we’d go for the novel approach of talking about football and our trip to watch “The Trams”.

Croydon FC changed to a transport-based nickname (from the Blues) a few years back due to their ground’s immediate proximity to the jewel in the Transport for London crown, Tramlink, made famous by this woman:

Mercifully, there was no sign of that or any other hideous cow at Croydon FC. The club has been in existence since 1953 with the aim of providing the newly built sports arena with a senior team for the good people of the Norwood/Croydon borders to cheer on. Thanks to an awkward Surrey Intermediate League team of the same name, the team were forced to use the moniker Croydon Amateurs FC until 1973.

Croydon FC have historically flirted with the Atheanean and Spartan Leagues and had found refuge in the good ol’ Isthmian League, where their 32 year tenure ended in 2006 and the club moved into the Kent League.

Croydon also possess a unique triple-crown; having won the Kent, Surrey and London County Cups. Quite how a team can flirt between FA regions, I don’t know, but it seems to be something a few clubs (the Hamlet included) have tried in the past. I guess some people really like midweek football.

Park the bus.  Croydon FC share a privilege usually only reserved for clubs higher up the pyramid: their ground has its own dedicated station. Arena Tramlink stop is located right outside the ground and is easily reached from East Croydon Station.  However, if you’re feeling frugal (as my fellow Pigeon Stander was) or fancy a ride of the Overground, you can give the Trams a miss and walk to the Arena from Norwood Junction station in about 15 minutes and hop on the Ginger Line.

Homefield advantage. Following our trip to Ladywell Arena, we once again found ourselves at a football match in an athletics stadium. However, unlike Lewisham Borough’s humble home, Croydon Arena is in a far more advanced state and feels, oddly more suited to football than any other sport.

Upon arrival you’ll be greeted by a classic turnstile where, after handing over £8 (including a nicely put together programme) and a quid for a shot at glory in the golden goal (typically, we were unsuccessful), you’ll be in a vast expanse of a courtyard. From here there is virtually no view of the pitch, although a sign bearing non-league football’s most foreboding words will be just in front of you:

In the history of unwelcome signs, this ranks up there with “Ken Dodd’s Sex Festival”

The main stand upon which this hateful sign is displayed is host to the dressing rooms and rather substandard directors’ box, although, for a council facility to include any sort of directors’ box is pretty good going. It’s also unusual for an athletics track to have a marked area for the player’s walkout.  However, at Croydon, they have the best bloody entrance to the field of play any footballer could wish for: a stoic guard of otherwise redundant high-hurdles.

Would anyone fall at the first hurdle?

Hurdles weren’t the only piece of athletic apparatus in the Arena as the obligatory Throwing Cage dominated one end of the park. More on this later. Behind this bit of surely unnecessary kit (seriously, who in this country is ever going to take up the hammer??) was a large single storey building which we desperately hoped housed the bar referred to in the programme. It didn’t. Instead, our casual glance through the window ended with us seeing rather too much of a moonlight yoga class…at least…we think that’s what it was.

On the far side of the pitch are three, count e’m, THREE, pigeon stands, each more glorious and pigeony than the last. Being sociable types, we avoided the two with people in them to stand around in the empty one. As with the main stand, these stands were in good shape and looked like the cleaner, smaller brothers of the Toilets Opposite Stand (aka the original Pigeon Stand) at Champion Hill.

Watching the actual game at Croydon Arena is tricky. Pitch-level views aren’t great. Unlike South London’s other athletic track grounds at Erith and Ladywell Arenas, where you can get pretty close to the action, Croydon keep you a good 20m away from the pitch. Being so detached from the action is a bit annoying, so stick to the elevated terrace or main stand if you’ve got a vested interest in watching the game.

The “Yoga” Hut.

Prawn sandwiches. With no bar or clubhouse, we were forced to find solace by the tea hut. Luckily, it was an excellent if freezing cold nook for a half-time refuel. Riddled with cold, thirst and hunger, I was delighted to be supping a decent cup of tea and chowing down on a proper old fashioned cone of chips. Both were top class and easy on the wallet. Sadly, the burger was a little more underwhelming; although considering it was cooked in a fryer under a main stand, it was never going to beat MEATliquor so it’s certainly not a complaint.

…and the game. Well, having stated that Croydon was much like Holland, I was expecting Total Football. Sadly, it was a little more like your standard Step 5 mid-table battle. Horley were the better placed side but apart from a breakaway opening goal from the ever-so-slightly overweight Leroy Hyett, they never really dominated.

Croydon equalised just before half-time thanks to a goal from the Portuguese master, Claudio de Almeida. I can’t tell you much more than that because we were in the process of walking round to the tea bar and our view was obscured by the hammer net. An observational hazard but woeful timing on our behalf.


The second half was a fairly cagey affair for the first 40 minutes but, with time running out, the Trams seemed to find an extra gear and pulled ahead thanks to a lovely pass by Danny Davenport which Taylor Smith just managed to get his boot to. The clichés kept rolling and Karl Doughlin put the icing on the cake with a stoppage time goal for Croydon to lift them into a rather more healthy league position.

Man of the match. Now, at 7:45pm, a ballboy is probably hard to come by [insert lazy Jimmy Saville jokes here]. Not a problem for Croydon FC, who have charged a fully grown man with the responsibly of fetching errant passes and wayward shots.

It would be a fairly brutal task at a normal ground, but at an athletics track where you’re being asked to cover three sides of the pitch, it’s a heck of a challenge. Still, this Kramer-esque ballman did a splendid job was hopping fences, rooting through apparatus and sand pits with scant reward (although he did get into the boardroom at half time). A Pigeon Stand salute to you, sir.

Post-match rubdown. Obviously, this is a Council funded ground so it’s in pretty reasonable shape and despite the lack of a bar (which, as a sick joke, is even advertised in their programme and on their website), it was a nice evening out. Out of the three athletics arenas we’ve visited, Croydon definitely comes closest to looking like a genuine football ground and with a strong Isthmian League pedigree, that’s no surprise. Being so close to Palace probably doesn’t help the Trams attendances but I was pleased to see nearly 50 people turn up on a Champions League night. Let’s be honest, that’s more than some clubs get on a sunny Saturday in April.

I’d recommend a trip to the arena; there’s trams, tea and a trifecta of pigeon stands…oh, and did we mention the trams?? In the words of Croydon’s programme editor, Simon Hawkins, Ding Ding! Ding Ding!

Walton and Hersham

2 May

30 April 2011

Isthmian South Division

Walton and Hersham 0  v  Dulwich Hamlet 2 (att 236)

Stompond Lane Sports ground, Hersham

Team Talk.  Walton and Hersham were formed from the amalgamation of Walton FC and Hersham FC in 1945. The club’s notable achievements include winning the Corinthian League in three consecutive seasons between 1947 in 1949 and impressively winning the FA Amateur Cup in 1973.

More recent times have seen the team yo-yo between the Isthmian Premier Division and the Isthmian South Division, where they currently play.
Today’s game against Dulwich Hamlet was a chance for one of the clubs to secure the final play-off place in the division (5th). Before kick-off Dulwich were in the driving seat, equal with Walton and Hersham on points but with a superior goal difference. The chances of Burgess Hill (the remaining team who could mathematically secure 5th place) leapfrogging both teams seemed unlikely on recent results, so all eyes were on this fixture.

There was some pre-match chat about the fairness of the play-offs, as it can be argued that a league is played over thirty some games and that promotion should be the reward for the teams that have secured the most points over the course of the season. The play-offs allow seemingly less deserving teams to secure promotion.   This point is highlighted by the fact that the team that would take 5th place today would finish some thirty points behind the 2nd place finisher who would also go into the play-offs. While I can see the arguments here, personally I feel that the play-offs assist in keeping leagues as competitive as possible for as long as possible. This is ultimately a good thing for the league itself and the clubs, particularly in the non leagues where the bigger attendances achieved for more important games make a real difference in financial terms.

Walton and Hersham are currently managed by former Dulwich Hamlet player Chuck Martini (or Chuck Norris as he has been hilariously referred to on Wikipedia). It is also worth noting that paper and pen magnate Theo Paphitis is one of the directors of the club, giving the team a link with the league’s main sponsor Rymans the stationers. It is safe to say that Walton and Hersham will never be short of free biros and ink cartridges.

Home advantage. Walton and Hersham play at Stompond Lane sports ground, which is located in a leafy part of this London suburb that can be best described as well-to-do.

The sports ground itself is separated from the main road by the car park, tennis court and a small turnstile building and club house that have something of the Hi-di-hi -holiday camp about them that I quite like. The turnstile building had a notice board on it advertising the day’s fixture, with the name of the away team printed in much larger type, quite the welcome.

Turnstile building

The main event

The main feature of the playing arena is the running track that separates the pitch from the stands. The track is part of the multi-use sports function that the arena performs, which also includes a hammer throwing net.  Recent news stories about the use of the London Olympic stadium (with its own running track) for football has made it fashionable to see running tracks and football pitches as completely incompatible and a threat to the atmosphere of a football game. With this in mind, I went to Walton and Hersham prepared to dislike this feature. However, I personally felt that it made no real difference to the overall atmosphere although the track makes standing behind the goal a difficult proposition due to the distance between the flat and open standing ends and the action.

The pitch is flanked on one side by a large seated terrace and on the other by a pigeon stand that runs the whole length of the pitch, probably the prime spot to watch the game.

Main stand

Pigeon stand and running track

Inside pigeon stand

Park the bus. Hersham train station is a few stops outside the London zones and is reached by direct and frequent trains from Waterloo, taking 25 to 35 min.

Prawn sandwiches. The clubhouse has fairly standard offerings in terms of ale and clearly has some sort of link with Tottenham Hotspur, evident from the sketch of Teddy Sheringham over the bar and the signed Spurs shirt at the entrance. There is also a burger van.

Club house

Club house bar

Teddy over the bar

A warm welcome... really

…..and the game. As a follower of Dulwich Hamlet I was of course delighted with the result. Truth be told, I’m sure that both teams have turned out better performances. Walton and Hersham  never really looked like troubling the Hamlet, which I think gave the away team the necessary confidence to put on a more attacking display in the second half.

The Hamlet lads come to celebrate with fans

Man of the match. I went to the game with some nerves about the outcome.  Such nerves can be broken only by moments of pure comedy. This comedy was duly delivered early in the game by the spectator who was leaning against a timber fence that gave way, resulting in him falling through it. Fair play, the guy picked himself up and continued watching the game like nothing had happened.

Man who fell through fence

Post game rub down. Waltham and Hersham seemed like a solid local club with a friendly support, happy to mingle in the clubhouse afterwards with the away support despite what must have been a disappointing result and performance for them.