Tag Archives: Kingstonian FC

Imber Court (Met Police FC)

6 May

30 April 2013

London Senior Cup Final

Kingstonian FC 01 vs Bromley FC 02 (att 469)

Imber Court, Thames Ditton KT8Imber

Pre-match warm-up. “What makes a man turn neutral? Is it a lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?” The words of Captain Zapp Brannigan rang loudly in our ears as we disembarked our train in the suburbs of South West London. We didn’t care. After three years of near constant must-win football matches at Dulwich, a hearty bout of neutral football was exactly what the doctor ordered.

After Dulwich’s majestic championship victory over Maidstone, Leatherhead’s craftsmanship and the entire Isthmian Executive Board (Fuck you Alan Turvey. Who’s laughing now???) our love of the beautiful game has never been so full of lustre and vim. So the opportunity to watch a real east vs west London Senior Cup Final between two of our favourite South London clubs (outside of Dulwich, of course) was not something we’d want to miss.

Team Talk. We feel like we’ve got somewhat of a special connection between both of these clubs. Kingsmeadow was the very first ground we blogged, albeit a game featuring their squatters-cum-landlords, AFC Wimbledon before we returned to co-incidentally cover a Kingstonian London Senior Cup game last year. Bromley’s Hayes Lane has also received the Pigeon Stands’ treatment and we were more than a little enamoured by their fondness for signage. However, it was a previous trip to Hayes Lane in the winter of 2010 that first got us thinking about blogging. If anyone is to blame for our self-indulgent babble, it’s Bromley.

Say what you like about Imber Court but with signage like this, no wonder Bromley felt at home

Say what you like about Imber Court but with signage like this it’s no wonder Bromley felt at home

Bromley and Kinstonian have had up and down seasons, with both ending in mid-table obscurity, both would relish the opportunity for a bit of end-of-season glory. Bromley’s path to the final saw a splendid win over Tooting and Mitcham (of course, all victories over Tooting and Mitcham are splendid) and a nerve biting (if not for the football then for the anxious race for the last tube/train) penalty shootout win in the semi final away to Wingate and Finchley.

Kingstonian have seemingly cruised into the final. Wins over Hanwell Town and Dulwich Hamlet (which we’ll skirt over with haste) set up a semi-final with Cray Wanderers. Whilst we’re fond of the Ks, a Hayes Lane derby would have added something to the occasion.

Park the bus. Imber Court is a ball-ache to get to but is not nearly as difficult as it seems on the start of the journey. It’s all about timing. The Ground is located in Thames Ditton, a sort of urban village without the urban or the village. Thames Ditton station and its hourly train service to Waterloo is a 10 minute stroll from the ground. Esher Station is about 15 minutes away through some woods, a pitch and putt golf course. 

Homefield advantage. Imber Court is notorious amongst fans of non-league football as being the ground that the Isthmian executive board and the London FA love to use for their cup finals. This is due entirely to the ground’s hospitality set up and has absolutely nothing to do with convenience for fans or supporter experience. As the Isthmian board (in a rare moment of clarity) decided not to force Dulwich Hamlet and Concord Rangers to schlep across the capital town for the League Cup Final, the Lodnon FA were only too happy to oblige.

When it’s not being used for the wining and dining of non-league football’s top brass, Imber Court is home to the Metropolitan Police Football Club. A team flush with cash and featuring precisely zero policemen. They have built a main stand on forces lottery funding and list Commissioner of the Met on their website alongside the club’s chairman and football board. They attract an average crowd of around 100 supporters who are seemingly oblivious to the vast number of genuine football clubs in the local area. In short Met Police FC are the kind of heavily-bankrolled ghost club that is ruining the Isthmian League. 

Kingstonian fansDespite being a horrible excuse for a club, their ground is not without its charms. Upon arrival, through the pebble-dashed, Mock Tudor faux-opulence of inner-M25 Surrey, you will be greeted by a smashing inter-war brick building that has been criminally been wreathed in a quite vile 1970s extension. This complex is the Met Police Sports Club and acts as the bar for the football ground. Herein lies the problem. The bar is not within the curtilage of the ground. What’s more, no drink can be taken into the ground. If you do manage to sneak a beer in, you’ll be kettled – a hobby of the Met – behind a floodlight with heavily obscured view of the pitch, in fact, you’ll see virtually nothing.

The ground is in good shape with the publically subsidised main stand looming over the pitch. For some reason there appears to be a chimney coming out of the back of it. One can only assume that it’s used to burn evidence. The main stand was full of suits from around the league including the best chairman in football, Jack Payne of Dulwich Hamlet. Although Isthmian Chairman, Alan “#CockPissTurvey” Turvey had decided that he couldn’t be bothered to cheer on his league’s representatives, Kingstonian, as he was presumably too busy devising a plan to screw over Dulwich next year.

Jack (Payne) in the Box

Jack (Payne) in the Box

The only other covered stand is behind the goal nearest the entrance. It’s a fine stand but is overshadowed, literally, by a giant privet hedge which runs around most of the ground. Whilst this doesn’t come close to comparing to the Glebe Park hedge in Brechin, the ornamental gates and all-round high quality topiary was a rare pleasure particularly in Isthmian grounds.Hedge and gatehedge

Prawn sandwiches. As noted above, Imber Court is a dry club despite having one of the largest bars in the division. So big in fact, that it’s split into two. Sadly, on cup final Tuesday, the rozzers decided to disconnect the hand pumps and made us all drink fizzy lager or cider. But it’s not just about the booze here, y’know. There’s Comedy, Jimmy Somerville and UB40 to be enjoyed here. Apparently Billy Ocean played here a few years ago which was pretty brazen of him considering the multiple warnings from the police that telling girls to get “out of my dreams and into my car” would end in a certain custodial sentence. Let’s just hope he wasn’t going to turn up to the next big policeman’s gala at Imber Court. Although, frankly the prospect of a black-tie buffet and some Billy Ocean at half-time was very tempting. Luckily, half-time was full of distractions without the need for a tuxedo. Firstly, the trophy cabinet included the first award to a simian that we’ve spotted at a ground, then the first scratch-card machine we’ve seen at a club. It was hard to tell if this was an upgrade from a fruit machine or not, either way, it was clear that The Old Bill love a gamble round these parts; when their not shooting Brazilians or killing Evening Standard vendors, they’re always having a flutter.

A Gibbon

A Gibbon

Half and half scarves? No thanks.

Half and half scarves? No thanks.

Inside the ground, your options are tea or toilets…

Choices

Choices

We chose tea. However, as we wanted a refreshing brew 10 minutes into the second half, we were too late. The Met take their curfews very seriously and if you want a drink in the second half, you’re shit out of luck but with a bit of local knowledge, you can get the guys at Domino’s Pizza to throw a Pepperoni Passion over the hedge. 

pizza

The toilets, I’m pleased to report, stayed open all game.

…and the game. We came to Imber Court in the hunt of an enticing match between two teams looking to end middling seasons with a bit of silverware. We weren’t disappointed. Bromley – favourites despite a troubling bit of form – started brightly taking the lead within 2 minutes with a neat finish from Elliott Buchanan. Kingstonian came into the game but seemed unable to get a shot off. Bromley looked clinical and capitalising on from an unpenalised foul, they doubled their lead on 38 minutes with a breakaway goal from Aaron Rhule.

For the rest of the game, Kingstonian looked like the far superior side and challenged hard, especially after Orome was sent off for fouling the immensely talented Jamil Okai who was clean in on goal. Okai caused the Bromley defence trouble all game long and was finally rewarded for his efforts in injury time. Disappointingly for Kings, it came too late and Bromley just held on to lift the cup. A miracle for any team featuring Sanchez Ming.match

Man of the match. There were a few contenders for this one. High on the list is @putajumperon, one of the pre-eminent football bloggers in London and jolly nice bloke. To top off his general niceness, he drove us back to Surbiton Station to save us from waiting around at Thames Ditton for ages. A pigeon salute to you, good sir.

Our other contedors came mostly from the Bromley support. We enjoyed the collection of inflatable animals, ranging from Whales to Monkeys. I don’t know for sure whether these were cup final specials or whether they were following the unfortunate trend of somewhat tiresome Dulwich Hamlet “mascot”, Ged the Giraffe who seems to be on show every week. Then there was the immaculately well behaved Bromley dog, hard not to love a non league dog he’s lucky that the Peelers didn’t conscript him for action. Of course, a special mention also has to go to Bromley Manager/Chairman/all round good egg, Mark Goldberg (not to be confused with Goldberg), who still manages to look like a pristinely dodgy second-hand car salesman whilst knocking out some quality football.dog

However, of all the contenders one stood above the rest. Tuesday’s win was the first Bromley’s first trophy since 2003, obviously Tuesday was a time of great joy and excitement. This coud mean just one thing. INVAISON! Sadly for one fan, the emotion of the occaision become too much and as the Lilywhite hoards piled over the fence, this poor guy was left wrestling with a gate be couldn’t open. Fortunately, he made it onto the pitch eventually and when last seen he was in tears on the phone shouting “we won the cup! We won the cup!” Who says the County Cups don’t matter?? Definitely a good way to end 2012-2013.

The eternal struggle of Man vs Gate

The eternal struggle of Man vs Gate

Post-match rubdown. Make no mistake, Imber Court and Met Police FC is an abortion of a football club and ground. If you live nearby, I’d urge you to take a leaf out of @putajumperon’s book and head to any one of about other 15 grounds in the area. That said, if you team is unfortunate enough to make it to a cup final, take a thermos full of gin, admire their magnificent hedge and make the most of a bad situation.LegendPresentation

Kingstonian

25 Mar

19 March 2012

London FA Senior Cup Quarter Final

Kingstonian 02  v  Dulwich Hamlet 01 (att 178)

Kingsmeadow, Norbiton KT1

Team Talk. Avid readers (hello to both of you) will know that this isn’t the first Tale from the Kingsmeadow Pigeon Stand, having opened our blog with a trip to last season’s game between AFC Wimbledon and York City. However, it’s only fair that we give Kingstonian, the rightful natives of Norbiton, a fair crack of our Pigeony whip. So we girded our collective loins and headed south-westerly for the last remaining 2011-12 London Senior Cup Quarter Final.

Despite roots dating back to 1885, Kingstonian’s current incarnation is the result fo a merger between Old Kingstonians and Kingston-on-Thames. Old Kingstonians, then of the Old Norbiton Sports Ground (now Kingsmeadow) acted as the reserve team, whilst Kingston-on-Thames were based at Richmond Road, the club’s ground for nearly 70 years between 1919 and 1988.

Kingstonian are somewhat of a cup specialist, despite only winning the FA Amateur Cup once (compared to Dulwich Hamlet’s impressive 4 titles) they were twice successful in winning the FA Trophy in the 90s thanks to the Midas-handed management of non-league icon Geoff Chapple.

Your Clothes. Give them to me.

These days, Chapple is ensconced in the boardroom of Conference South champions-elect, Woking, and Kings are stewarded by Geordie and all-round good guy, Alan Dowson whose coaching staff also includes the only non-sexist at Sky Sports, Martin Tyler.

Whilst the glory days of the mid to late 90s have passed, Kinstonian are currently enjoying a stable period in the Isthmian Premier having recently escaped the clutches of Step 4, following promotion in 2009. I was (un)fortunate enough to see them lift the Isthmian Division 1 South title that year as they beat Dulwich 2-1 in Craig Edwards’ last game in charge of Dulwich. That was the last time I saw Kingstonian and here I was, back with the Hamlet; determined to see the Pink and Blues depart victorious.

Park the bus.  Norbiton Station is about a 10 minute walk from Kingsmeadow, although if you are after a few jars on the way to/from the ground, I suggest you go the extra stop into Kingston. The walk out of town along London Road and then Cambridge Road will take you no more than 20 minutes at the very most. If you’re coming by car, there is plenty of parking although access is via a single road so it might take a while to get out on busy matchdays.

Homefield advantage.  We covered a lot of ground when we visited last year, so I’m going to focus on the bits restricted by the Blue Square Powers that be.

Entry, despite being cheap (reduced to a bargain £7 for this County Cup tie) was potentially more tricky than expect as Kingmeadow seem to be operating some sort of No Fat Chicks policy on the turnstiles. Luckily, it was more spacious than initially feared but non-leaguers aren’t exactly renowned for their svelte physiques and I can think of some who would struggle. Still, it means there’ll be plenty of chips for the rest of us so no bad thing.

Once through, I was delighted to see some badges for sale.  Terry’s Badges, a massive highlight of visit #1 and of many visiting supporter’s trips to Kingsmeadow were not there but another vendor with the same level of passion for pins had turned up. WHilst his collection was admirable (especially for a monday night match, he didn’t seem to have the same gravitas Terry.

Either the button-on business isn’t as lucrative as he hoped or he didn’t think the Dulwich massive would be big spenders. Whatever the truth, instead of a majestic table in the style of Terry’s Badges, had been replaced with the top of a wheelie bin.

Get your badges/recycling here

Optimistically, they were trying to push a Hamlet badge for £20. We might be pink and blue dandies from the right side of the tracks but we’re not idiots. In fairness, the amiable bin/badge attendant admitted that badge might  not actually be worth £25 and in fact he seemed willing to let it go for a fiver. I guess when you’re trading out of waste receptacles, you don’t have much leverage, especially when the colours are wrong. Maybe that’s what drove the price up.

Come on you Pink and...er...Reds?

It’s always hard to imagine Kingsmeadow as a league ground, it feels very Step 1-2 and it seems fitting that the K’s still call the place home, and rightly so. Few improvements seem to have been undertaken to account for their tenant’s/host’s lofty new position. A few extra seats were noticeable on each end of the main stand and a subbuteo-esque TV tower now sits above the stand on the other flank. Unlike the prissy world of League 2 or even Step 1, there’s an easy path to allow you to roam freely around the ground.

Being able to explore to our hearts content, we marched into Kingstonian’s excellent, if not slightly hidden bar. The bar can be reached either from the back of the main stand or, far more pleasingly, down the tunnel. As we marched onward for a Monday evening livener, my eye was drawn to a small broom cupboard next to the bar. Adorned with red and white, this tiny wee room was a goldmine of Kingstonian swag that almost rivalled the majesty of Sutton.

As well as a plethora of Kingstonian related goodies, I was delighted to stumble (quite literally) upon a pile of old programmes and second-hand books and VHS tapes, many of which were familiar from my youth. The Saint Michael (M&S to our younger readers) guide to American Football was a particular highlight from my childhood but it was the History of Soccer, a three tape epic through the beautiful game, that I have the fondest memories of. As a young lad growing up in deepest darkest Spain, this boxed set, together with the Story of the World Cup, ET: The Extra Terrestrial and a fuzzy feed of Gibraltar TV from 300 miles away were my only English Language companions. If only they had a copy of Alex Kid on the Sega Master System, I would have been in my element.

Prawn sandwiches. The bar itself is a good space and manned by couple of proper old school bar-types complete with short-sleeved shirt and tie. Unlike Champion Hill which promises much from its four real ale pumps but perennially fails to deliver anything more than London Pride (if you’re lucky), Kingsmeadow seems to have a rotating guest ale, on this occasion a taste of the motherland in the form of Deuchars IPA.

The main tea bar was shut so food and hot drinks came from of a burger van parked at the end of the main stand. I didn’t partake in anything but there seemed to be a hell of a lot of smoke or coming from there. Maybe some Steamed Hams were on the menu.

Kingstonian's Blernsball honours board

…and the game. As you might expect, neither team fielded a full strength eleven. However, considering both sides were in action two days before, it was heartening to see both sides come out and have good go. Still, you know you’re in for a cracker when the teams run out to Rule the World by Tears for Fears.

Kingstonian are a decent looking side and they looked comfortable throughout most of the first half. They seem like a well organised bunch for the most part although questions do have to be raised about their big number five, Ian Gayle, who looked decidedly uncomfortable throughout.

Kings opened the scoring early with a bold shot-cum-cross from Allan Tait from fully 40 yards, deceiving all and sundry, including most of his own teammates.  Despite this pretty slow start from the Hamlet (due in part to massive delays on the trains meaning the some of the squad didn’t exactly have their game-face on), the pink and blues improved steadily and were unlucky to fall behind to a goal from hapless defender turned super striker, Gayle, midway through the half.

The second half started positively for Dulwich as Ian Gayle’s dodgy back-pass let Omarr Lawson clean through on goal to make it 2-1 in the 46th minute. In truth, I was still raiding the club shop when Dulwich scored so the above description is pieced together from the most reliable sources of the Hamlet Rabble although I prefer the double-overhead kick, ricocheting off the back of the goalie descriptions that also seemed to be doing the rounds.

Kingstonian looked more than happy with a 2-1 lead and seemed over complacent at times as Dulwich continued to attack but Kingstonian dealt with the pink and blue onslaught with ease as the Hamlet rarely tested Rob Tolfrey in the Kingstonian goal. In the end Kings were worthy winners…just, and will go on to face Cray Wanderers in the semi before a potential final against either Hendon or (squatters) AFC Wimbledon.

Post-match rubdown. Kingsmeadow is a great wee place. It’s hardly cut out for league football but for Step 3, it’s a bloody nice ground. Kingstonian were relatively entertaining and whilst it’s hard to judge a team based on a performance in a County Cup against a team from the division below, they seemed to have a number of talented players who, with a few additions, may make them highly competitive in the Isthmian Premier next season. I just hope Dulwich are in there with them.

AFC Wimbledon

13 Feb

12 February 2011

National Conference Division

AFC Wimbledon 1 v York City 0 (att 3532)

Kingsmeadow, Kingston KT1

Team talk. The recent history of the now defunct Wimbledon FC is well documented,  including how AFC Wimbledon was formed by fans wanting to keep their club local. From the dizzy heights of being top division stalwarts and winning THAT 1988 FA Cup final to… well, Milton Keynes. What is less well documented is the meteoric rise of the club from the non leagues to the top of the English footballing pyramid between 1977 and 1986.Today, as AFC Wimbledon take to the pitch in the distinctive blue shirts they sit on top of the English National Conference. AFC have been promoted 4 times in 7 seasons and could perhaps be on the verge of repeating the impressive achievements of their namesake.

Home advantage. AFC currently play home games at Kingsmeadow, a ground that they have shared since their formation in 2002 with Isthmian Premier Division side Kingstonian FC.

I got to the ground early which was fortunate as in the car park I stumbled upon Terry’s Badges, a stall selling badges from pretty much every non league club in the country. Terry has a website that is well worth a visit for anyone who likes shiny badges, which is surely everyone.

 

Terrys all gold

Being of Yorkshire stock, and having a particular affection for York City, I was tempted to enter the away stand with the 700 odd visiting supporters who made up a sizable chunk of the overall attendance. The away stand was the appropriately named “John Smiths Stand”, which looked like the oldest of the three covered standing terraces at Kingsmeadow. Seating is available in the main “Paul Strank” stand. I resisted this temptation and followed the home support, standing at the Kingston Road End. The low covered terraces, and the enclosure that it brings to the pitch normally provides a good atmosphere, quite intimate and therefore appropriate for a Valentine’s weekend fixture. I have to say that throughout the game many of the guys around me seemed more concerned with what the Crawley score was (Crawley are currently challenging with AFC at the top of the table) than getting behind their team. That said, a shrug of acceptance is really the only possible response to the York City chant of “Vinnie Jones is a w%£nker”.

Prawn sandwiches. Hospitality was pretty standard fare. There was a bar, but the real action was in the burger van where a foot long hot dog (with accompanying heart disease and curiosity about the meat content) could be yours for just £3.

…..and the game. The teams entered the arena to a fun megamix of the Pearl and Dean theme and Josh Wink’s Higher State of Consciousness. The match was always destined not to live up to this entrance and the game was not a classic. The teams lined up and played in very similar ways, each relying at least initially on a long ball to the big man up front.  In AFC’s case this was fan favourite Danny Kedwell, who looked impressive. Perhaps AFC were a bit more inventive on the day, but it came down to a well struck free kick on 20mins to separate the two teams. I feel York City would have got more from the game if they had followed the away crowd’s wise advice and went “for’ed” rather than “back’ed”. Indeed, York had a few close chances towards the end which made for a more exciting conclusion to the game.

 

Man of the match. Surely nothing is more likely to unsettle a visiting team than a giant Womble. Haydon the Womble did a great job entertaining the younger (and older) fans and even tried to get the crowd going by banging out a rhythm on a wheelie bin, or perhaps he was just reinforcing the Wombles “keep Britain tidy” message. Legend.

Haydon limbers up

 

Post game rub down. Not the greatest game in the world. I did not really leave with any great sense of what AFC Wimbledon are about. At the end of the day, I got more football related entertainment from this estate agent board found outside the ground (snigger, snigger).