Tag Archives: VCD Athletic

Beckenham Town

4 Sep

3 September 2011

FA Cup Preliminary Round

Beckenham Town 3 v Walton Casuals 1

Eden Park, Beckenham

Team Talk. Non-league day comes but once a year. The day when Premier League clubs are not in action and their supporters are encouraged to sample the delights of non league football. While non league day represents a much needed cash injection for the clubs, for me it is also a chance to show that the non league game is serious business with clubs, players and fans for whom the game means every bit as much as their league counterparts. It is a matter of pride god damn it.

Beckenham have started the season in pretty reasonable form. Something that fans of the club must be pleasantly surprised by as their pre season was horrendous. This included back to back 6-0 losses against AFC Wimbledon and Tonbridge Angels and a horrific string of defeats against Maidstone Utd (1-5), Welling Utd (1-5) and Herne Bay (2-4). Unfortunately Beckenham Town cancelled their final pre-season friendly against the mighty (and free scoring) Dulwich Hamlet. This was reportedly due to the Eden Park pitch being unavailable for the game. Naturally many amongst the Hamlet faithful opined that Beckenham’s dreadful form had led to them wussing out on the fixture.

Visitors today, Walton Casuals, could perhaps have done without the spotlight of non league day shining on them having started the new season with four straight losses, a start that is described diplomatically on their website as “indifferent”.  Surely they would be hoping that a victory in the FA Cup Preliminary would be just what they needed to get them out of their funk. Those turning up expecting Walton Casuals to put 5 or 6 past lower league opposition would however be disappointed.

Beckenham Town FC, the team formally known as Stanhope Rovers, have been knocking around the Kent league since the 1982/3 season. Beckenham’s best performance in the Kent League was in the 2005/6 season where a team managed by current Dulwich Hamlet manager Gavin Rose missed out on promotion in the last game of the season. The team has a long standing link with Crystal Palace, having been a feeder club for Palace in the 1950s. More recently, former Crystal Palace owner Mark Goldberg played for and managed the club in the 1980s.

Park the bus. Beckenham Town play at Eden Park, a few minutes walk from Eden Park rail station which is served by frequent trains from Charing Cross and Canon Street. Parking is available on site but is not advised as it’s a bit of a free for all.

Total gridlock

Home Advantage. Beckenham Town have called Eden Park home since 1980. The entrance is rather unassuming and the masses of parked cars (see above) on the narrow strip of land that takes you to the turnstiles does not make for much of a welcome.

This all changes once you get beyond the turnstile, as the cluttered feel is replaced with an expanse of green, provided by Beckenham’s main playing pitch and large warm up/reserves pitch that runs parallel.

Turnstiles

The timber club house that runs most of the length of the turnstile end of the pitch is a real treat, housing the bar, burger bar, dressing rooms, and no doubt a fine board room for treating those visiting dignitaries. The building looks like it dates from well before the 1980s and makes you wonder if it was brought in from elsewhere. Or perhaps it dates from pre-Beckenham Town days, as it resembles some form of cricket pavilion, a feel that is added to by the grassed area between the clubhouse and the pitch which is effectively used as a beer garden for chilling and watching the game, lovely.

Clubhouse

Clubhouse entrance

Cover around the pitch at Eden Park is limited to four short and open pigeon stands (two at the turnstile end and one on either side of the pitch) and a similarly short seated main stand on one side. The lack of cover did not matter to us as (1) it was scorching hot and (2) our seating was sorted early on as we stumbled upon a timber bench that can only be described as pure luxury. Whilst it resembled something my granddad would put in his garden, this was easily the most comfortable seat I have sat in at a football match to date and it kept us from moving for most of the first half. Even the local children, who were stood in front of us, sat down to give us a better view of the pitch (cheers kids).

Clubhouse end

Clubhouse end pigeon stand

Side pigeon stand

Main seated side stand

Seating in the main side stand

While we basked like pigs in muck on our luxury bench, guarding it jealously from all those who dared to even look twice at it, we were slightly crestfallen as we saw what was by far the best seat in the house. This must have been the directors box, a single seat placed on raised scaffolding between the dugouts. Accessed from a window cleaner’s ladder at the rear and resembling something between a tennis umpires seat and a diving board, this clearly gave a panoramic and unrivaled view of the action.

VIP seats

The directors box

Other features of interest at the ground included a classy “Welcome to Beckenham Town FC” etched (almost certainly with a stick) in the concrete at one of the entrances to the pitch, and the variety of warning signs placed around the pitch, including the obligatory “no ball games” (always a classic).

Prawn Sandwiches. If the exterior of the clubhouse at Beckenham has something of the 1950s about it, the bar inside is altogether different. Clearly recently refurbished and done out like a trendy wine bar, even the part of the bar referred to as the “old gits corner” was plush by non-league standards. To maintain the slightly seating related theme, the bar was set off by flash sofas that would not have looked out of place in the houses of Kensington and Chelsea. Drinks were very reasonably priced (ale – £2.70, cider £3) and there was even the option of watching Come Dine With Me on a telly in the bar if we didn’t fancy the second half. Beckenham Town really know how to treat supporters and visitors alike.

Inside club house

Bar - old gits corner

Similarly well priced were the burgers (£2) which were served up with a smile by hospitality manager Yvonne from a hole in the wall next the bar.

Burger hole

and the game. Despite the reservations beforehand, this turned out to be a fine game. This never looked like a game between two teams that were low on confidence. Nor did this Beckenham side look like the same team who were described as looking “a little out of shape” by the authors of this blog during our visit to VCD Athletic last season.

In fact the football on display was of high quality with Walton in particular showing some lovely touches early on and making a push for goal. This effort was rewarded with the award of a penalty after 15 mins which allowed the visitors to go one up. Becks responded fantastically by pinning the Walton defence back for long periods of the first half. The leveler for Beckenham was the conclusion of an incisive breakaway on the half hour mark that was coolly finished by the outstandingly named Elstrom Die.

As they had played at such a high tempo in the first half we suspected that Beckenham would run out of steam in the second and could be ripe for a pounding. However this proved not to be the case and, led by their talismanic striker Die, they soldiered on. Yes I can confirm that Beckenham Town DIE HARD (sorry).

In reality it was always going to take something pretty special to separate these two teams. And special it was, a goal of such sublime comedy that even the Edinburgh Fringe’s annual comedians v critics charity match could not have produced it. Starting harmlessly enough from one of the many Becks breakaways, things descended into madness with an edge of box drive that looked set for the top corner. To the surprise of many the ball hit the underside of the crossbar, remaining in play and then cannoning off an unsuspecting Walton defender in the six yard box. The ball then somehow managed to find its way to hitting the keeper square in the face before landing in the back of the net. Even the linesman could not help but laugh uncontrollably as the keeper sat clutching his face in agony. While I was not able to film the incident this video should give a flavour of the hilarity.

Oh yes, and Becks scored a third to guarantee their place in the next round of the FA cup and leave us having watched a thoroughly entertaining game.

Shots of the action (but unfortunately not one of the keeper taking one in the face – so to speak) can be found here

Man of the Match. “Non league day is a brilliant idea” not my words but the words of ex England winger and mullet wearer Chris “looked a bit lazy but was actually mint” Waddle. Waddle should know as he is the proud ambassador of non-league day. More importantly the day is also endorsed by Dulwich Hamlet man mountain Francis “the Count” Duku, and trust me you do not mess with the Dukes if you know what’s good for you. In fact, to maximise support for next year’s non league day I would suggest a poster campaign like this:

Seriously though, non league day is only in its second year and already feels like a much anticipated part of the non-league calendar. This can only be down to the hard work of my men and women of the match, the organisers of non –league day. Let’s also not forget those of us who attend non league games week in week out who have also done a great job spreading the word.

Post-match rub-down. Right, Beckenham Town. What can I say other than they appeared to be a well supported club with a team that play the game the right way. Did I also happen to mention the quality of the seats?

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VCD Athletic: Avoiding the Internationals (part 2)

27 Mar

26 March 2011

Kent League Premier Division

VCD Athletic 1 v Beckenham Town 0 (att – 67)

Oakwood, Old Road, Crayford, DA1

Please note this is Part 2 of our double-header. Part 1 (Dartford FC) can be found here.

Team talk. Founded in 1916, VCD Athletic (or Vickers, Crayford & Dartford Athletic F.C. to give them their full name) are one of only a handful of clubs to have been formed during World War I. The club was founded by workers at the Vickers armaments factory in Crayford. The Vickers factory was well known for its manufacture of warships and machine guns.

VCD joined the Kent League Premier Division in 1996/1997 and have an impressive record of finishing in the upper reaches of this division. The club had its most successful season ever in 2008/2009, winning both the Kent Senior Cup and Kent League Premier Division, and earning promotion to the Rymans League. Despite finishing in 8th in the Rymans North Division in 2009/2010, the club were cruelly relegated back into the Kent Premier for failing to make necessary changes to their Oakwood, Old Road ground to bring it in line with league rules. Following this, the club’s then manager Paul Foley left to join Chatham Town taking most of the team with him.

Rymans League officials really rub it in with this sticker on the Old Road sign

Despite these problems, the team have had a strong 2010/2011 season and at the start of play today were third in the league, with Beckenham Town in sixth. Both teams were looking to bounce back from midweek cup defeats – VCD lost 5-1 in the league cup to top of the table Hythe and Beckenham were narrowly beaten 4-3 in extra time by AFC Wimbledon in the London Senior Cup.

Park the bus. Barnehurst and Crayford are the nearest train stations (Zone 6). Frequent trains from London Bridge will get you there in about half an hour. If approaching from the M25 by car it may be necessary to leave more time to negotiate Dartford and Crayford.

Home advantage. Whatever the folks at the Rymans League say, VCD’s Oakwood ground is a cracking little place with bags of character and certainly no dearth of facilities. From the moment we passed through the turnstiles and paid our entrance (£7 including programme) we got the impression that this is a club at the heart of a community and a ground that is well looked after.

Drat...no ball games !!!!

What you are not prepared for when you enter Oakwood is the sudden change in ground level between where the turnstiles, directors box, shop and bar are and the pitch. This makes for a great entrance. The concrete path meandering down to pitch side gives a sense of occasion to the whole thing. If Dartford’s ground (visited earlier in the day) is about intimacy then VCD’s is about space.

Ski jump anyone? : guys cling on for dear life.

On finally reaching pitch side you are faced with the only seated terrace at the ground, the Gary Rump stand. We later discovered that Gary Rump is the current chairman (insert your own joke about a guy called Rump being in charge of a club that sounds a bit like an STD).

VCD Chairman Gary Rump with former England internation Terry McDermott

Rumpy pumpy : Gary chums up to Terry McDermott during Huddersfield visit last year

We

Facing the Rump on the other side of the pitch are two smart timber pigeon stands with roofs not unlike those seen at Dartford earlier in the day (a bit less showy maybe). These stands were added in 2006 following a grant from the Football Foundation and had some input from local sports architecture firm Opensport

The future of pigeon stands.. today?

A certain symmetry?

UPVC dugout windows were perhaps not part of the Opensport vision for VCD.

UPVC dugout windows were perhaps not part of Opensports vision for VCD

Prawn sandwiches. Refreshments are available from a hole in the wall selling tea for around 80p and bacon roll, burgers, etc for between £2 and £2.50. There is also a bar, which is accessed from outside the ground.

Other half time entertainment included a golden goal, with a prize for both the first and the final goal.

No ticket, no prize.. No woman, no cry

…..and the game. This would have been a more enjoyable game, had we not learnt at the beginning that we had missed Dulwich Hamlet beating Fleet Town 6-0 to come to see VCD . The first half wasn’t much to write home about. Both teams looked a little lacklustre after really tough mid-week games. The second half was a real improvement, with VCD running Beckenham (whose players looked a little out of shape) ragged. VCD played some really entertaining stuff, lovely touches, and moved fantastically as a team and certainly deserved their goal.

The naughty corner. The latest sanction open to referees.

Man of the match. We had not heard much from the match announcer before kick off. As such, we could not have been prepared for his half time impromptu a’capella version of Bobby Darin’s “Dreamlover“. He was so in to it that he forgot some of the words, went away to look them up, and started singing again as the second half kicked off.

Dream lovers

Dreamlovers

Post game rub down. My Glasgow Rangers supporting fellow Pigeon Stander will disagree with this (due only to the green and white hoops that the team play in) but you would be hard pressed to find a reason not to like this club. VCD is a proper community club that is clearly well cared for and long may this continue to be the case. Recommended.