Tag Archives: blue square south

Bromley FC

11 Mar

Hayes Lane, Bromley

Blue Square South

6 March 2012

Bromley 1 v Staines Town 1 (att 233)

Team talk. Bromley FC was founded in 1892 and has the honour of being one of the earlier entrants to the Isthmian League by playing in only its fourth season (1908/09) . Bromley won the league in that year and again in 1909/10, 1953/54, and 1960/61. Bromley’s wilderness years (or a season to be more precise) is the subject of Dave Roberts’ book “The Bromley Boys”. The book is basically the authors account of the 1969/70 Isthmian League season where Bromley finished bottom of the league having been beaten 31 times and conceded 111 goals. The book has the subtitle of “the true story of supporting the worst football team in Britain”, which is why I imagine it is nowhere to be seen in the Bromley club shop. Bromley Boys is a recommended read as, whilst set in the 1960’s, some of the experiences will definitely strike a chord with any football fan who has trailed stupid distances to stand in the cold with 20-30 other people and watch their team get pumped. Non readers can fear not, a film of the book is rumoured and Bradley Pitts has already signed up to play Dave Roberts.

As noted in Bromley Boys, the team’s record attendance (which still stands) at Hayes Lane is of note. This is a game in 1949 when 10’000 people crowded in to watch Bromley play a Nigeria select eleven. Nigeria beat Bromley 3-1 with many of the visitors players choosing to play the game with bare feet. The post of the Nigeria tour from the ever fascinating Hamlet Historian (AKA Jack Mcinroy) is well worth a read for more details on this.

Recent years saw Bromley promoted from the Isthmian Premier to the Conference South as play off winners in 2006/07. Since promotion they have consolidated their position in the Conference South. The 2011/12 season has not been a good one so far for Bromley. At the start of play today they were looming close to the relegation zone. Their opponents, Staines Town, were in a similar position. This meant that the game had the air of the mathematically improbable 6 pointer about it.

Park the bus. Bromley’s stadium on Hayes Lane is approx 15 minutes walk from Bromley South Station – easily accessible from town by trains that take about 15 minutes from London Victoria.

Home advantage. The stadium is approached up a narrow road off the main Hayes Lane. Walking past the stables close to the ground gives it an almost rural setting that may I imagine has not changed much since Dave Roberts’ days.

Through the main turnstile (£12 in for an adult) you are confronted with a small shed/stable that slightly resembles a Punch and Judy booth where the programmes are sold (£2.50).

That's the way to do it.

One of the most likeable things about Hayes Lane is the variety of standing/seating positions to watch the game, each offering a slightly different perspective.

Those wanting elevation and maximum exposure to the elements should head to the east side. Standing at the top of the concrete steps that run the length of this side, with no cover or solid fence dividing the ground from the open fields beyond gives you a great view of the game but leaves you massively open to the gales that blow across the ground. Warning – this is one of the coldest parts of Hayes Lane, and that’s really saying something as Bromley is one of the coldest grounds I have been to.

East side

For those wanting cover, a closer view of the game, and perhaps a bit of nostalgia – head for the south end. Here you’ll find covered seating across the end of the pitch that is close to the action. You also get to sit on some really characterful (if not at all comfortable) timber benches. The opposite end is similar but with concrete steps to stand on rather than the benches.

South end

North end

If you want closeness, elevation, and access to the bars then head for the main stand on the west side. The atmosphere here is nowhere near as good as the ends (where the more vocal support tends to hang out) but you do get to hob knob with the officials who have an enclosure here (or fenced off bit to be more precise).

West stand

Hob nobbing

A top tip when visiting Bromley, particularly if the game is not so exciting, is to play the thrilling Pigeon Stands game “Spot that Sign”. The aim here is to see how many different types of safety signs you can spot dotted around the pitch. We assume from all the signs that either the people of Bromley are the most litigious in all of London or that Hayes Lane is really dangerous (maybe get some insurance before visiting). A select few are below but there are many many more to be seen.

The toilet drop

Secret Bromley ploy to slow down the opposition?

For any fans planning to scale the floodlights

This is not an exit (secret Seafood reference.. YES!)

Prawn sandwiches. Hospitality is one of the things that Bromley does very well. Bromley punches well above its weight in non league football by having two bars. There are not many places you can turn up to, as we did, to be told apologetically at the gate that there would only be one bar open that evening.

The main bar (that was open) is in the main stand and is fantastic. Very similar to the one at Dulwich Hamlet in many ways, in that it is at the upper level of the main stand and has big windows where (on cold nights like this one) you can watch the game in the warmth. A key feature of the operation of the bar itself is the organised queuing system that they have in place for getting your half time ale – far more civilised than the useful free for all and very similar to the level of bar organisation seen recently in Germany at SSV Jahn Regensburg. Ales on offer are also of great quality and include beers from the Shepherd Neame brewery.

An orderly bar

Outside there is a burger van (of course) where a bacon, egg, and cheese burger with chips can be yours for £6:50. The club shop is also well worth a visit if your looking to get kitted out or grab a mug.

Muggins

…..and the game. Turning up at the game we were surprised to see no players warming up on the pitch. We soon found out that this was because kick off was going to be delayed as the Staines players were stuck in traffic on the M25 – we were told was that kick off would be at 8:15 instead of 7:45. Once the Staines players had turned up we then heard reports that there would be further delays. The chat in the club shop (always a good place for semi correct gossip) was that Staines had turned up without kits and that the kit man was still stuck on the orbital. We heard that offers for Staines to play in Bromley’s away kit were turned down in favour of leaving everyone to wait in the cold until the their kits turned up. I’d have made the dicks play in their skins. Perhaps they’d have beaten the traffic with a better map…….

The game finally got underway at 8:45. It’s not hard to see why both teams are struggling a bit this year. Of the two, Bromley looked slightly better, fairly strong upfront and ok at the back (although Staines didn’t really challenge much) but no midfield presence to speak of. The Bromley goal came first and was the result of an awful keeper, defender rebound/mix up. Bromley continued to be the better side for the first half and most of the second – although oddly opted to remove any counter attacking threat mid second half by putting on a big fella who was not as effective at chasing the ball. We missed the Staines goal as it came late in the game and we had trains to catch, but I understand it came from a set piece (the only way Staines were ever going to score in my view). Match highlights can be found here

Man of the match. I was really impressed with the number of local kids who had missed watching Arsenal v Milan to turn out to watch Bromley. Seeing them hounding the Bromley keeper for autographs at the beginning of the game reminded me of a scene from Bromley Boys. Of course this may have been part of a ploy to falsify the signature, knick the keepers credit card, and buy trainers from JJB Sports – but I think not. The kids were also very vocal in cheering on their team and responded hillariously to a Staines player falling over by yelling “get up, are you a man or a jelly”. Bromley is in good hands with these lot.

Da Bromley Boys

Post game rub down. One of my favourite South London grounds. The football isn’t always great but the ground, atmosphere, and facilities make up for it.

Dartford FC: Avoiding the Internationals (part 1)

27 Mar

Pre-match warm-up. International weekend. Yawn. Nothing good has ever come from international qualifiers, nothing. Largely they’re a waste of time, either with big nations humiliating small nations or big nations playing big nations in lucrative friendlies full of reserves and (dare I say it) sponsor’s picks.

In a week where the most intellectual football debate was as to whether John bloody Terry should captain England, I think most of us sensed there was going to be little of any interest going on this weekend.

For those of us with a less than a passing interest these fixtures, this weekend posed an interesting proposition. A number of clubs (in fact I’d say the majority in and around the Capital) decided to move their kick-offs to lunchtime so that supporters could first watch the live game before heading to the bar for the England match. Good idea. Some teams decided that they’d take their chances and go head-to-head with England at 3pm; Brave move. Most of you will see where this is going. Having looked at the fixtures, there was a very real opportunity to catch not one, but two live games. This week, The Pigeon Stands’ choice of games would not be a carefully considered choice, it would be left in the hands of club secretaries and geography.  Only one option presented itself: A trip to greater-Dartford area, first for Dartford v Lewes, then 10 minutes up the road to Crayford for VCD Athletic v Beckenham Town.  Sadly this would mean breaking a golden rule of the Pigeons Stands: Thou shalt not attend another game if Dulwich are at home. You see, Dulwich had decided that 1pm or 12pm or 12:30pm would not do, they would kick-off at 1:30pm, preposterous as it would mean that fans would either miss  the last 15 minutes of Dulwich v Fleet or the first 15 minutes of England. As it turned out, Dulwich were blameless and the bunch of fuckers who run Fleet refused an earlier kick-off as they’d be leaving home too early.

So with heavy heart, we departed on our exciting (yet Dulwich-less) bumper day of football. This was supposed to be great, our first double-header. Whilst this was (to some extent) completed successfully, I think both (my co-blogger) Darren and I feel somewhat hollow. As you’ll read in both my post on Dartford and later in Darren’s post on VCD Athletic, we accomplished our aim of seeing two games in 4 hours but the post-match ales were a more sombre affair following news that Dulwich Hamlet had not only beaten Fleet, but had wiped the floor with them in a barnstorming 6-0 victory. However, as will become apparent, these six goals were not the only goals we missed as the ghost of Edgar Kail showed us no mercy.

26 March 2011

Blue Square Conference South

Dartford FC 3 v Lewes 0 (att 1036)

Princes Park, Dartford DA1

Team talk. Dartford have – for as long as most care to consider – been a bastion of quality non-league football within the South East. History shows us that the Darts aren’t afraid of the big time, signified most prominently by an appearance in the FA Trophy final of 1974 at Wembley where they were beaten 2-1 by Morcambe.

Following last season’s promotion to the Conference South, Dartford are riding a crest of a wave. As with most newly promoted sides, the priority is very much consolidating their status within the division. This week’s opponents, relegation-threatened Lewes were themselves in buoyant mood having stunted table-topping Braintree’s push for the Nationals with a fine 2-1 at the Dripping Pan in midweek.

Home advantage. Princes Park is one of those grounds The Pigeon Stands have longed to visit. At this level, it’s rare to find a brand new state of the art stadia, but Princes Park is just that. I’m delighted to announce that we weren’t disappointed. Built in 2006, the ground boasts some excellent design features to motivate all of our inner sustainability champions. The ground’s heating is provided by solar panels on the roof of the main stand, rainwater is harvested to supply the toilets and the use of concrete has been dismissed in favour of wood. Timber features heavily both on the interior and exterior of the stadium with the internal timber roof cladding and trusses looking truly unique. Whilst this method of construction and indeed finish would look unsuitable on a grander scale, it suits the 4500 capacity stadium down to a tee.

What’s also striking about Princes Park is the closeness of the stands (themselves on a tight rake) to the pitch, this has been achieved by positioning the gangway at the back and sinking the level of the pitch, pushing the sidelines as tight to the railings as possible. OK, being close to the action is hardly unusual for non-league grounds, however, the stadium is also designed to create a bowl, with all four sides connected and by keeping a low roof it feels wonderfully claustrophobic, even when only a quarter full. With a crowd of just about 1000 yesterday, the ground was still buzzing. With a full 4500 spectators in the stands, I imagine it would be an absolute nightmare for visiting sides.

Look! Solar Panels!

However, there are down-sides to every ground. One of the famed non-league myths around our way is that of the heated hand rails in the ground, so attending on a cold day was a must. Yesterday didn’t disappoint, the winter fleece was back out as was the hat and gloves. The only thing that was missing was…the heated handrail, It’s not as if this was there and switched off, there was simply nowhere for this to be located. Dreams shattered.

Park the bus. Dartford is 50 minutes from Charing Cross with most trains stopping at London Bridge. Remarkably for a town on the very outskirts of Greater London, trains depart on average every 15 minutes.  Princes Park is around a 20 minute walk south of the Station, however, Dartford’s Fasttrack BRT (that’s Bus Rapid Transport) has stops by the station and stadium. BRT is basically just the same as a normal bus except they have dedicated roads without traffic lights etc so will hurtle you from station to stadium in just over 5 minutes.

If you plan to come by car. Firstly, make sure your sat-nav is navigating you to the correct location then take the A2 orA225 until you hit Dartford. Access to the club is best achieved from Darenth Road. WARNING: As part of Dartford’s eco-policy, there’s very limited parking so if you can use alternative means, you are advised to do so.

Prawn sandwiches. Food was in plentiful supply courtesy of a little refreshments room at the back of each end. A simple one-way system was in operation to ease congestion and for the most part, seemed effective. However what was a great concern was the food itself. My simple order of one burger and one tea was greeted with a “wait a minute son, we’re just waiting for a delivery”. Delivery? Hmm, now this IS interesting, from where? Of what? Hang about, where’s the hot plate in here? Where’s the sizzling of the burgers? Where’s the slightly vile yet tempting smell of offal and rusk masquerading as beef? Oh no! What have I paid £3 for?? My concern was only heightened by the arrival of a postman’s bag pull of bulging envelopes. Please no, not an envelope…“Enjoy your burger love”. I had been given my envelope. I was now squarely in possession of Postman Pat’s lunch, a lukewarm burger in foil-lined envelope. In fairness it was better than I expected, but that’s not saying much and I’m still none the wiser where the food had been delivered from, therefore I can only assume (judging also by its temperature and cardboard texture) it had made the long trip from Greendale.

Pat arrives with another batch of burgers and pies for the Princes Park faithful

A trip to Dartford’s bar was far more pleasant. Whilst small in stature the area, located in the main stand was bright and airy and featured the team’s relatively well-stocked trophy cabinet as well as some quotes from some of the legends of the game (and Ron Atkinson) which someone must have thought amusing enough to stencil onto the walls.

More trophies than you can shake an Arsene Wenger at

Hilarious AND motivational

…and the game. In total, we watched around 65 minutes the game. Not driving has it’s advantages, many advantages, however, one cannot pick their chauffeur. Yesterday I learned that Darren – one of the smartest and of the most difficult person to bull-shit that I know – is a total slave to his sat-nav. I won’t bore you with the gorey details but sufficed to say, it turns out we had the wrong postcode, twice.

Nonetheless a stellar bit of motoring, right out of the pages of How To Drive In Lewisham, got us to the Princes Park just a few minutes after kick-off. Sadly that was enough to miss Danny Harris’ (apparently) superb opener.

Bow down to the timber god of Dartford and he shall keep you warm in the absence of a heated handrail

Having paid our £12 in and clocked Neil Pearson from 90s sitcom Drop The Dead Donkey in with the Lewes support, we took our place in the north stand right by a carved timber giant. As well as observing non-league tradition of crowding around the end your team’s attacking, a number of Dartford fans wanting to observe from elsewhere chose instead to stand by the timber giant. Whilst being all very Wicker Man, it was nice to see such a good distribution of fans around the ground.

The game itself was rather ordinary, Dartford looked a cut above throughout, with strikers Lee Burns and Charlie Sheringham (son of Teddy) pressing the play on several occasions. Tom Champion looks like a real force in the midfield and although Lewes gave him a lot of time, he looks like a guy who could comfortably play at a higher level.

“I’d rather be watching AFC Wimbledon”. Half Man Half Womble

Dartford’s second came from a corner after a goalmouth scrambler had seen Charlie Sheringham’s shot deflected wide. Sheringham himself delivered the second after a dipping corner was ghosted in from about 8 yards. All very simple.

The third goal, like the first, cannot be commented upon as we had left early to beat the traffic on the way to our second match (for which we only just made kick-off). Now, I’m not one for leaving games early, if I’ve paid to watch a whole game, that’s exactly what I expect to do, however, in these extraneous circumstances I made an exception. Of course, it was inevitable that we’d end up missing a goal, I’m just eternally grateful Dartford hadn’t employed a Boston Bruins-style enforcer.

Man of the match. It’s hard to have a man of the match in what amounts to an hour of football. So for me it’s the Timber Giant. To many he’s just a bit of carved wood adding some semi-public art to a place usually void of meaningful art (Dartford…sorry, I mean stadia), to me he’s an embodiment of 21st century sustainability and construction. He is a fortnightly reminder to supporters that every little helps. If a football club can do its bit for the environment, why can’t we?

Post game rub down. Our trip to Dartford was, on the whole, enjoyable. I think it’s fair to say that I never really settled into the game and I will undoubtedly return to Princes Park for a return visit. In terms of interest, it’s unquestionably one of the better grounds in Blue Square South and costing a snip at just £6m (or one Lee Cattermole in Premiership values) represents pretty good value for money. Dartford looked like a competent outfit although their opponents looked visibly tired after their splendid midweek win. The support seemed friendly enough (a rarity with Kentish teams) and the club maintains the general jolly atmosphere of a non-league club albeit with a well-placed sense of ambition. Although once again I left  feeling that the higher up the pyramid you climb, the less opportunities there are for silliness.

With this in mind, we began our short journey to VCD Athletic…