Tag Archives: Chipstead

Chipstead FC

29 Dec

26 December 2012

Ryman League Division 1 South

Chipstead FC 00  v  Dulwich Hamlet 01  (att 124)

High Road, Chipstead


Team Talk. Christmas is over. 19 years on and I’m still bloody waiting for someone to buy me a proper Tracy Island.

To cheer myself up and to forego further family ‘banter’, we packed ourselves off to the other side of Croydon to see what was going down at Chipstead FC.

The Chips were founded in 1906 as a works club for the builders constructing the nearby Netherene hospital. Times were tough in those early years and much like the current financial struggles of non-league clubs, Chipstead relied on a number of handouts and initiatives to make it from one season to the next. The club used legal and above-board Whist drives to cover the costs; something Dulwich Hamlet should consider if rumours of financial instability persist.

Two seasons ago, the club celebrated 25 years of playing senior football club by finishing in 10th place in Division 1 South, their highest ever league position.

The 1906 Chipstead lads. Not enough moustaches for my liking. (thanks to Chipstead FC for the pic)

The 1906 Chipstead lads. Not enough moustaches for my liking. (thanks to Chipstead FC for the pic)

This season has seen Chipstead once again fighting at the top end of the table. A fine achievement as despite not being particularly well-supported, they also have not gone down the Whitehawk/Crawley Down International Airport/Met Police model of buying their way out of the division without any fans. They are a seemingly well run wee club for the local community.

Their opponents this day were fellow advocates of thrifty success; Dulwich Hamlet. Yes, we are aware that this blog has turned into somewhat of a Hamlet away-days travelogue but when your team are playing a style of football that can only be described as Hot Angry Sex, I wager, you’d struggle to watch other teams as well.

Park the bus. High Road Chipstead is a description more of the ground’s surrounding topography than of its land use. It is remote, 5 miles south of Croydon and in the middle of nowhere. There was a genuine turkey farm opposite the ground and not a Barrett Home in sight.

The nearest station is Chipstead which is about a mile away down a country road. Delightful in the summer, however; in the pissing rain it was less attractive. It’s not often we’ll say this, but drive if you have the option. Clearly lots of people felt the same way as we soon discovered it wasn’t just the drains that had overflowed, it was the parking too.

Homefield advantage. High Road is another one of those odd grounds that seems baffling close to failing the FA’s Ground Grading regulations. There’s a semi-sheltered scaffolding arrangement behind one of the goals which on a normal rainy day would be sufficient but when the weather resembles the rapture, the half-metre gap at the top is most unfriendly.Pigeon Stand

A MAJOR defect in the Pigeon Stand

A MAJOR defect in the Pigeon Stand

Located next to the stand is an area of uncovered seating, more conventionally referred to as a park bench. This was dedicated to Stanley Isted with a well-intentioned but ultimately creepy inscription “Sit down for a while, think of me and smile…nice and gentle”. Still, I’m sure the Yewtree squad have got little to worry about here and on a pleasant day, I’m sure many a Chipstead supporter has taken full advantage of sitting on Stanley’s bench and enjoying an ale or two. Boxing Day, however, was no time to be uncovered, one brief foray into the elements was enough for me.

Park up and sit on Stanley

Park up and sit on Stanley

The only other stand of note was the Louis Thompson stand, a conventional 100ish seater stand which on this day was nearly full. Normally we don’t do sitting down unless we absolutely have to but as the Hamlet spent the second half kicking toward the uncovered end of the ground, the Louis Thompson was as close to the action as we were likely to get. Little did we know that we’d be much closer to the off-field entertainment too (more on that later).

Prawn sandwiches. Two options for sustenance presented themselves at Chipstead (as they do at most places). A bar and a tea hut, as the rain was coming down faster than the odds of Tooting being relegated, we headed for the bar.bar

Inside we were treated to a nice bit of mock-Tudor ‘beams’ and some rather jazzy Christmas decorations. I was grateful for the well stocked, well run bar and at less than £3 for an ale and a Twix, there were no complaints about the price either.

I was impressed by the rather splendid Ryman Division 1 South scoreboard that had been lovingly assembled if not updated with the half-time scores.

Scores on the doors? No.

Scores on the doors? No.

However, of most pleasure was a lone Christmas Card stuck on the notice board…

and may all your Christmases be filled with a Pink and Blue pumping

May all your Christmases be filled with a Pink and Blue stuffing

Now, I don’t know whose back you have to scratch to get your paws on one of those bad-boys but I’ll be doing everything in my power to get hold of one in 2013.

As we were almost in earshot of the M25, this must be Chelsea Country. Unlike on trips to some clubs not too far from here (Sutton United, I’m looking at you), I was delighted by the lack of league club paraphernalia around the place. One nice touch was the plaque and newspaper clippings from the opening of the bar by then-Chelsea manager and former England man (who I believe was part of the 1966 World Cup squad), Geoff Hurst; although the picture of Geoff’s arrival has a touch of the “what the fuck am I doing here?” about it.


Chairman Colin Hughes shows off his bar AND his ‘tache. Take note Chipstead players of 1906.

The tea hut provided much needed hot beverages on a truly rotten day. 80p for a brew is about standard in our division but frankly, they could have charged double and most people would still have had one. The tea hut also seemed to be the primary vendors of merchandise with hats and scarves seemingly available to purchase with your Bovril. Next to the tea hut is a gigantic tree stump which look like it fell victim to Chipstead’s plans for expansion. Captain Planet would shed a tear if he ever found out.tea hutstumped

…and the game. First things first, getting through 90 minutes in apocalyptic conditions is a tremendous achievement and both teams performed admirably in the circumstances.

Somehow the Chipstead groundstaff had managed to get a surface that allowed both teams to pass it around without resorting to a muddy game of kick and chase. Sadly, only one team seemed capable of playing attractive football as Chipstead resorted to a more physical approach of manhandling some of the Hamlet’s undersized players. Perhaps no surprise then, that the game ended with a Chipstead red card.ground

The game’s only goal came from a Danny Carr header in the 1st minute of the second half, I can’t tell you anything of the build up as we were only just re-entering the ground but it looked like it was probably a header…I’m sure/hope nobody reads this blog for the in depth match analysis; my commiserations if you do.

Chipstead created a few chances and found Dulwich’s kryptonite – the low cross into the box – but seemed to lack a genuine goalscorer to bury the pass. Defensively, when they weren’t garrotting our Turkish superstar, Erhun Oztumer, Chipstead were painfully well organised and apart a couple of darting Nyren Clunis dribbles, The Chips were up to pretty much everything thrown at them. On balance, it would have been hard to complain at a draw but this year, narrow wins seem to be the Hamlet way.game

Man of the match. Upon celebrating the Hamlet opener, trying to establish who and how the goal was scored and a further complaint about the weather we took our place in the Louis Thompson main stand with little expectation of anything fun.

We were wrong.

It seems the arrival of Erhun Oztumer has brought with it a small smattering of Turkish supporters. Though the grizzled silence and casual sweary encouragement from the Rabble (the Hamlet’s most loyal supporters) is one of the most charming aspects of watching Dulwich, it was brilliant to hear a handful of guys singing in Turkish with “Dulwich Hamlet” implanted into the chants. There was loud but respectful banging of seats a (failed) attempt to get the Rabble in the scaffold pigeon stand to join in with some sort of harmony and finally some honking of car horns in the car park (partially encouraged by us). Roll on an FA cup tie with Leeds…

One of the Hamlet's Turkish Ultras. Excellent stuff

One of the Hamlet’s Turkish Ultras. Excellent stuff

Post-match rubdown. To judge Chipstead on a miserable day like this would be unfair. It was a truly awful day and the football on the pitch was always going to be compromised by the conditions. The club officials, supporters and volunteers seemed chirpy enough (as we all were by the opportunity to get out of the house for a few hours). High Road is one of those grounds that when the sun is out would capture all that is good about non-league football and whilst it’s a nightmare to get to, it’s probably worth a return visit at some point.SONY DSC

Dulwich Hamlet

13 Mar

12 March 2011

Isthmian League Division 1 South

Dulwich Hamlet 3 v Chipstead 2 (att 241)

Champion Hill Stadium, Dulwich, SE22

Team talk. I suppose I should warn you in advance, this is not going to be a particularly objective post. As those who have read our very first blog post will have noted, we are Dulwich Hamlet supporters and therefore this is going to be more than a tad one-sided, however, I’ll try to keep the unnecessary praise to a minimum.

Before today Dulwich Hamlet sat 11th in the league but entered this game with a spring in their step. On Tuesday, they successfully made their way into their first cup final in 7 years with a 5-1 win away to high-flying Leatherhead in the Championship Manager Cup (including this magnificent free kick). At this stage of the season a game between two mid-table sides would not normally yield a particularly decent crowd but thanks to the semi final victory, a decent attendance was expected and duly turned up.

The Hamlet players celebrate their semi final victory (also pictured: Tales from the Pigeon Stands) (c) Andy Nunn

Mid-table is sadly the best way to describe the Pink n’ Blues’ recent seasons, since relegation from the Isthmian Premier 10 years ago, Dulwich have never quite succeeded in bouncing back, in fact they’ve only mustered one playoff appearance in that time. If history has taught us one thing about Dulwich, it’s that promotion and relegation are not often encountered. In their 117 years history Dulwich have remained in the Isthmian League in either the Premier or First Division (due in part to the historic segregation between amateur and professional game which was finally abolished in the 70s).

During the amateur age, Dulwich Hamlet were a feared side. They won the FA Amateur Cup (equivalent to today’s FA Trophy) on four occasions during the inter-war years helped in part by Hamlet legend Edgar Kail who during his time at Dulwich received 3 full caps for England and represents the last amateur to wear the 3 Lions. Kail is an icon at Dulwich and after a vocal campaign, the street leading to the Stadium was named in his honour.

Back in the present day, the Hamlet are led by talismanic player manager and player assistant manager Gavin Rose and Junior Kadi, both close personal friends of Rio and Anton Ferdinand. Rose and Kadi split their time between managing Dulwich and running ASPIRE, an academy for kids who are released by professional clubs after their youth contracts expire.  It’s a noble cause but Rose’s first step as Dulwich manager was to, remarkably, release the entire squad and fill the roster with ASPIRE kids. Needless to say, this didn’t work. Luckily Rose has learnt his lesson and the team look set to have one of their best seasons in recent years.

The ASPIRE crew

Park the bus. Access to Champion Hill via public transport is very simple. Train services run every 15 minutes or so from London Bridge to East Dulwich Station (taking 12 minutes) or from West Croydon to East Dulwich every half hour (taking 28 minutes). East Dulwich Station is a short walk to the ground, through St Francis Park. It’s like the approach to Anfield through Stanley Park, only a thousand times better. There are also numerous buses from all over inner South London which will drop you off by the park.

There’s currently plenty of parking available at the ground, all of which is free, although get in early to avoid the Polish car wash which occupies a good 30% of the car park from about 2pm onwards. Sainsbury’s is next door, if you go and by a pack of mints, you’ll be fine to park there for a few hours.

Home advantage. The original Champion Hill was one of the most historic grounds in South London. Used in the 1948 London Olympics it used to happily accommodate 20,000 spectators. However the development pressures of the 20th Century were too much to bear and when Sainsbury’s opened up their giant wallet, the club (already struggling financially) graciously accepted the donation. Fortunately, thanks to some outstanding Planning Gain, Sainsbury’s planning obligations meant that a new home was to be built for the Hamlet’s continued existence.

The old Champion Hill in 1947 (thanks to thehamlethistorian.blogspot.com for the picture)

The new Champion Hill, opened in 1993, boasts a main stand – recently renamed the Tommy Jover Stand – which seats 500 spectators, a partially covered stand on the opposite flank, home to numerous pigeons – many of whom seem to have the pigeon equivalent of explosive diarrhoea – and two uncovered ends.

Tommy Jover Main Stand. The clock hasn't worked since it was struck by lightning mysteriously in 1956...

Champion Hill's Pigeon Stand

Upon paying your extremely reasonable £6 admittance, you’re greeted by the club shop (more of a table than a shop) where a busy collection of replica shirts, mugs, scarves and badges can be purchased along with the match day programme. You’ll then be cheerfully and politely fleeced for another £1 for the Golden Goal competition with a nice wee £20 prize for lucky entrant who pulls out the ticket with the correct time of the first goal.

The Club Shop/Table

Unquestionably, the club’s premier assets are its facilities. Hamlet’s Heath Club, a private gym run out of the main stand and the 5-a-side pitches at the back of the Stadium both keep the bank manager at bay. Of all the ancillary attractions, the best is the clubhouse/bar which is located at the top of Tommy Jover Stand. It’s jam-packed with brown faux-leather chairs, fruit machines and tired carpets. Just like a wonderful step back into a 90s soap opera.

Players, officials and spin classes

One of the reasons for the bar’s popularity is  that supporters can take a pew at the window which runs the full length of the stand/bar and watch both the Hamlet on the pitch below and Sky’s Soccer Saturday on the telly without ever having to brace the cold outside. Whilst I’ve never done this, it’s been awfully tempting on more than a few occasions. Especially on Champions League Tuesdays in the Autumn.

Outside of the Bar/clubhouse which offers unrivalled views of the action

The bar can also be hired for private functions and gigs. The likes of Martin Carthy, Dick Gaughan and Alistair Roberts have all graced the clubhouse’s rickety stage, although sadly the club has been rocketed into the press for all the wrong reasons following the recent murder of a local teenager who had been attending a birthday party in the clubhouse. Whilst this had nothing directly to do with the club or the team, it still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Prawn sandwiches. If booze isn’t your thing, the club also has an excellent snack bar where you can get a cup of tea for 80p. They also serve the usual range of burgers and bacon rolls but boasts a potentially deal-clinching partnership with local organic butcher William Rose…or so the advertising claims. Having eaten there, I can confirm the food is tasty, but I have my suspicions as to the organic properties of the club’s sausage in baguette.

Organic? Patrons queue at the snack bar to test the quality of William's meat

…and the game. Dulwich Hamlet and Chipstead put on an entertaining game of football largely played in the right spirit.  The first half saw three stunning goals. Chipstead took the lead with a lovely free kick after 14 minutes only to see an equally stupendous free kick from Hamlet assistant manager Junior Kadi. For the second game in a row, I picked the right time to press Record on my camera.

The Pre-match Hamlet Huddle

The goal was actually bettered a few minutes later when ‘Razor’ Ray Powell turned on a quick pass to hit a sumptuous shot with pace, curl and dip which rattled the back of the net. It might have been the best goal I’ve seen Dulwich score; it was certainly one of the most technically proficient.

The second half was a little less extravagant but with both teams continuing to play a tidy passing game. Chipstead equalised with about 10 minutes to go when they were awarded a penalty for a point-blank handball. It certainly didn’t look deliberate to me, what made it all the more galling was that a similar incident had occurred in our box about 5 minutes beforehand. Even the Chipstead subs warming up on our touchline thought it was a little harsh. Sadly, this is the sort of consistency one has grown to expect Isthmian League officials; they’re not biased, they’re just no good.  James Dunn in the Hamlet goal did well to save the first effort only to see some panicky defending result in Chipstead following up about the 3rd or 4th rebound. Luckily the Hamlet didn’t let this deter them and a few minutes later they were back ahead as recent acquisition Vernon Francis slotted home after a goalmouth stramash stemming from the Chipstead keeper’s awful punching.Man of the match. For me the man of the match and possibly the man of season (at least the 2nd half of it) has been Gavin Rose. I’m using this as an opportunity to eat some humble pie. I rounded on Gavin Rose early in the season (and most of last season), I was concerned his connection with ASPIRE had turned Dulwich into a vanity project where he could further the reputation of his own business at the expense of our old club. I was concerned that he played himself too much despite looking seemingly out of shape. I was concerned that this mentor of youth seemed incapable of communicating with his youngest players during a game. I was concerned that after one game last year he had to be restrained by his bench after one of my fellow supporters made an innocuous comment about his choice of substitutions (a point I think most of the support agreed with). I think you get the picture. Gavin Rose concerned me.

But this year, we’re seeing a new Gavin. He’s more approachable, he seems to be enjoying himself  and enjoying his role, he’s communicating more, he’s not playing as regularly (and when he has, he’s actually looked pretty decent) but most importantly, he’s found a balance of youth and experience, the Hamlet squad is still full of youngsters but there’s now a healthy slice of astute non-league veterans. It’s a combination that’s working and whilst it’s taken 18 months of management and mis-management to get there, I think Gavin Rose is now firmly on the right track. It’s not always been easy and Dulwich won’t win every game they play, but they’ve found a style of neat, confident and intelligent football for which Gavin Rose should be commended.

Post game rub down. On first impressions, Dulwich Hamlet and their stylish pink and blue kit (historically chosen due to original Hamlet player, WT Lloyd’s connections to Westminster School – ‘The Pinks’) paint a rather dandy picture. However, under the surface they are a pretty passionate bunch on the field and in the terraces. On a good day, The Rabble behind the goal will get the crowd going, however, non-league at the Hamlet is about more than just football and there is no one set of supporters that dominate the other, spectators range from small babies in pushchairs to 90 year old men…in pushchairs. If you want to stand round have a chat, a beer and watch some football, so be it (mine’s an IPA). If you want to your kids to get some fresh air while you discuss what happens if little Monty doesn’t get into Dulwich Village Infant School, fine. If you want to learn about the history of club from people who have been following them their entire life, great. It’s safe to say that you get of Champion Hill whatever you want to put in. To this end a trip to watch Dulwich Hamlet at Champion Hill represents the quintessential non-league experience. AND they play in pink!

Dulwich are 9 points off the play-offs with 10 games to go. It’s safe to assume that they probably won’t be going up, but with a strong finish (which looks ever more likely) and cup final in a few weeks Gavin Rose will have done what 4 previous managers have failed to do; have a widely acknowledged good season.  If Dulwich can retain some of their better players in the off-season I genuinely think they might be promotion contenders. In the relatively small number of years I’ve supported Dulwich, I’ve never been able to say that. In the words of Oscar Wilde (presumably when questioned about the Hamlet’s chances of promotion): “The future belongs to the dandy. It is the exquisites who are going to rule”. Up the Pink and Blues!

I told you it wouldn’t be very objective.