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Molesey FC

18 Mar

10 March 2012

Combined Counties Premier Division

Molesey FC 01  v  Farnham Town 00  (att c. 75)

The Herds Renault Stadium, Molesey

Team talk. It’s March and that means the highly anticipated return of white matchballs, undoubtedly the second best colour of matchball after orange Tangos, as they bring with them the promise of sunshine.  Taking full advantage of the glorious, if not still bloody freezing weather, we hightailed it over to deepest south west London to see what was going down at Molesey FC.

The Mighty Moles of Molesey started life in their current form in 1953 when they joined the Surrey Senior League. Their first and last major success came just five years later, when the team lifted the league title.

After some all too familiar sideways moves from the Athenian and Spartan Leagues, Molesey landed a place in London’s leading non-league ranks, the Isthmian League, where it remained until relegation to the Combined Counties Premier in 2008.

The Club is responsible for launching the career of 80s and 90s hero Cyrille Regis who top-scored for Molesey in the 86-87 season. The club also welcomed family man and facial furniture pioneer, Neville Southall, as manager-cum-director in 2003 under the dubious reign of shady South African businessman Norman Clark whose meddling and misdemeanours undid the good work of current Dulwich Hamlet suit, Martin Eede, and set a course that ultimately led to the end of club’s 30 year run in the Isthmian League and into the sticky situation they find themselves in today.

The elusive Regis 92 Panini. How you escaped my grasps, I'll never know

Molesey are facing the financial dire straits, the second worst type of dire straits after Knopffler and co. Luckily, the club’s plans to build a small number of houses on waste ground at the back of the stadium were approved by the Council’s planning sub-committee last week. Whilst the decision will be met with derision from the Daily Mail reading NIMBY neighbours, Molesey’s Save the Moles argues that this is the best way to keep the club in the area, and the club continue to seek a secure future.

Unlike their trials and tribulations off the field, Molesey have been in good form on the pitch and sit 7th, with games in hand on all of the teams above them. While Guildford have all but secured the title for a second season in a row, Molesey look like they’ll be finishing towards the top of the table for back-to-back years after last season’s 3rd place nearly saw Molesey return to the Isthmian League.

Gracing the away dressing room on this day were Farnham Town, a side who have no fewer than 96 names on their Available Players roster, a list more dubious than Russia’s electoral register. Edgar Neubauer, Prudence Goodwyfe and Humphrey Boa-Gart are all accounted for. The dead have risen and they’re playing for Farnham Town.

Park the bus.  Molesey play at the snappy-titled Herds Renault Stadium (presumably named after Jean-Pierre Herds Renault, Molesey’s French international…maybe not) in West Molesey, which from what I observed runs seamlessly into East Molesey. The nearest station is Hampton Court (45 minutes from Waterloo) so if you like the idea of visiting the home of a rotund, bearded gentleman but don’t want break into my flat, you can always pop into the palace before the game.

The Ground is located about 15 minutes walk from the station, or less than 5 minutes on the 461 bus which leaves from the station entrance.

Homefield advantage.The Herds is a classic example of a great non-league ground. Once through the classic turnstiles (a mere £6 for adults), you’re greeted by a small table, a smashing-looking dog (and its owner) and a merchandise shed. Baulking at the £2 for the programme, I was reassured after finding out that it came with a free Molesey FC coaster. Here at the Pigeon Stands, we love free stuff so this was a gigantic plus point.

Coasting to victory...sorry

The merchandise shed was a small but marvellous treasure trove of fob key rings, programmes (including some proper rarities) and a fine array of Molesey shirts through the ages. Unlike the recently erected Dulwich Hamlet Megashed, which operates more like an over-the-counter kiosk, the Molesey shed, was open for supporters to awkwardly shuffle round. Brilliant.

Unusually for a step 5 club, Molesey has a covered stand on all 4 sides, the main stand offered excellent elevated views of the action but as usual we were drawn to the ends, both of which feature quality pigeon stands. The Mick Burgess Stand is a little on the tatty side, although not as dilapidated as the sign might suggest, and the other end seemed nameless.

Along the other flank was an unusual low-roofed stand that seemed less inviting as it involved negotiating a path around a couple of sets of floodlights and some sort of trawler’s net to keep the ball in the park. These are commonplace behind the goals before, but I’ve never seen one on a flank before, let alone in front of the stand and up against the barriers. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement of Molesey’s strikers.

Prawn sandwiches.Beveraging opportunities were plentiful at the Herds Renault. Despite a foreboding sign on the turnstiles which implies that beer is not an option once inside the ground, we were delighted to find that not only was there a lovely bar selling a range of Samuel Smith’s beer, but also a dartboard. Sport of kings. Alongside this was a small display board summarising the club’s history.

Abandon all hope...

Outside, there was a nice wee patio for patrons to enjoy the early March sun and sink a beer as well as some sort of party shack. As is mandatory for the Combined Counties Premier, there was also a BBQ pit although in spite of the glorious weather, the sausages remained uncooked.

A canteen is located at the foot of the main stand and served the usual array of stuff as well as rare treat, orange squash. It’s like being at the tennis except, y’know, actually entertaining. As if my purchase couldn’t get any sweeter, I was also presented with a Save the Moles sticker, yet another freebie!

…and the game. Molesey play a fairly no nonsense style and don’t look to do anything too clever. They set up in a traditional 4-4-2 and stuck to it rigidly. Their defence looked stellar throughout and apart from a couple of minor lapses in concentration, their goal remained relatively unthreatened. The only goal of the game came after about 10 minutes when predator, Arnie Tawonezvi terminated all hope for Farnham Town, with a barbaric strike from a corner I was delighted to (Kindergarten) Cop a picture of the goal….

Arnie Tawonezvi: Goalmouth Predator

The rest of the match was played out fairly routinely. Molesey sat back but were unable to really benefit from the counter attack. While James McShane looked promising up front, he plays rather flat and seemed reticent to try anything new. Farnham him a few half chances and force a couple of saves from Wester Young in the Moles’ goal. In the end, Molesey deserved the win, but considering the amount of goals which have been inundating the Combined Counties of late, I was a tad disappointed that we had landed a mono-goal afternoon.

Man of the match.Nobody knows what the future might hold for Molesey town. Despite their planning permission, the future is unknown; perhaps this is the reason why they club are turning to Simon Lock for an evening of Mediumship. We’re hoping he’ll be able to summon Edgar Kail to tell us all where he’s buried his treasure.

All aboard the MediumShip

Post-match rubdown. I found Molesey an excellent afternoon out and a real gem in the Combined Counties Crown. It’s a great local team in a nice bit of town, run by a family who clearly love the club. After years of chaos, chairlady Tracy Teague has helped the club find a degree of stability off the field whilst manager, Steve Webb, longest serving in the division, continues to help the team grow sustainably.

In spite of this, the club’s future is anything but secure and there is a lot of hard work ahead to ensure they keep their head above water and most importantly, remain in Molesey. Speaking on behalf of the club’s Save the Moles Campaign, Club spokeswoman Debbie Harry (hopefully the Debbie Harry) noted that the ground at Molesey doubles up as a community centre, a church and a school; it is clearly the epitome of a community asset, indeed, they are the epitome of a non-league football club. I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the Moles and help to ensure that they don’t burrow into football’s undergrowth forever.

You didn’t honestly think we’d get through this without some sort of lazy reference to moles, did you?