Monday, 21 July 2014

Raynes Park Vale - Grand Drive

Raynes Park Vale FC
Grand Drive

Raynes Park

Greater London

SW20 9DZ

0208 540 8843
Official Website

Ground Number: 384
Saturday 19th July 2014
Raynes Park Vale 7-0 Aldershot Town XI

As part of my football double on this particular Saturday, I needed to select a match at 3PM. I had a fair few options. But I had to be careful at clubs switching venues for the lower key pre-season friendlies. By far the easiest option would be Whyteleafe, a few miles down the road from my first game at Farleigh Rovers. But they had just had a new 3G pitch installed, and I wanted to save it for a rainy day. Besides, it was a venue I had wanted to visit for a while, and I felt that a league game would do it more justice than a friendly. The one I picked in the end, was Raynes Park Vale, who came into my footballing knowledge around 10 years ago, when they lined up against AFC Wimbledon on the Combined Counties Premier Division.

Raynes Park Vale were founded in 1995, following the amalgamation of Raynes Park FC and Malden Vale FC. They have been in the top division of the league, ever since it expanded in 2003. They had a best ever finish of 4th in 1998, and have generally been in the top half of the table for their entire history. They have reached the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round on 3 occasions, most recently in 2004 when they crashed out 6-0 to Folkestone Invicta. In the FA Vase, there has been a trio of appearances in the first round, last time out losing to Peacehaven & Telscombe in 2011. They are yet to win a trophy, but can boast Jermiane McGlashan amongst their ex-players, who went on to play for Aldershot and Cheltenham. They are currently managed by former AFC Wimbledon player Gavin Bolger. I had seen them once before, back in February 2004, back in my phase of watching AFC Wimbledon. They got off lightly compared to others, 'only' losing 5-0 to the Wombles who destroyed all before them

Aldershot Town were a team I had seen a huge amount of times, indeed the Recreation ground is one of my most visited, with me seeing a game on 9 occasions at the Recreation Ground. They were a continuation of Aldershot FC, who went bust in 1992. There was brief hope of a rescue of the initial club, a so called well thought local businessman called Spencer Trethewy  promised a rescue package, but he was unable to deliver on his promise, the teenager even appeared on Wogan, but turned out to be a fake. He has since changed his name to Spencer Day and popped up at local rivals Farnborough, this time actually helping out as they recovered from the mess that they had been left in. They started off in the Isthmian League Division 3, which at the time was step 5 of non-league football. They've made their way up the leagues since, and now reside in the football league. Today's team would be the youth team of course, but over the years there has probably been about 30 players who have played for both clubs. In the early days it was ex-Wycombe legends like Jason Cousins and Dave Carroll seeing out their twilight years at the shots. Lately there was a mass import from Hampshire when Gary Waddock came to manage Wycombe from Aldershot. It's been a mixed bag for us, from the dreadful John Halls, to one of the best defenders I have ever seen in a Wycombe shirt in Adam Hinshelwood. Sadly for Hinshelwood, his career was short-lived due to terrible luck with injuries.

Luckily for me, the previous match at Farleigh Rovers was prompt at finishing and so I was on my way just after 1.50. The journey showed lots of delays, and that was before I got further delays at Carshalton High Street. A bakers had caught fire and the police had closed the road. It was the only sensible option really, I have since read that it took 6 fire engines and 35 crew from 4 different stations to put the blaze out, and there was disruption for 3 hours. It was a poor journey in general, but eventually I got there at 2.50.

As they were not charging for entry, I decided to put something in the club kitty and bought a pint of Strongbow for £3. I then returned to inside the ground and sat down and drank my pint on one of the patio tables. The first half of the game was largely even and without a huge amount of chances. The biggest point of note came when the Aldershot number 4 'Aaron' got stroppy after he claimed to have been hit in the face. He tried to start a fight with the perpetrator and had to be pulled away and substituted. At half time, I went and put my bag back in my car, and took my seat back in the stand for the second half. Aldershot made a lot of changes for the second half, bringing a flurry of youngsters on and being hammered 7-0 by the Combined Counties League side.

After the game, it was a good drive of home, the only leg of the journey that was not severely disrupted by other traffic. I was home by 5.45 and had a dinner of various Chinese stuff. It was my last lie in before I returned to work on the Monday. I wasn't really in the drinking mood though and I only had a few before watching TV in bed and chatting on Facebook.

GRAND DRIVE is a delightfully ramshackle ground that looks like it hasn't seen a lick of paint in years, and is a nice antidote to the grounds filled with Arena stands in this league. The main stand holds around 200 and consists of wooden benches. Despite the supporting pillars, the view is not bad from here. There is a further area of cover behind the goal, but the rest of the ground is open terracing.

The clubhouse is pretty modern though and offers drinks at reasonable prices. I didn't try the tea bar, but other places are certainly walkable, I know this for a fact as I walked to the ground from the station when I visited for a few pictures in near darkness before Wycombe's game at Chelsea in 2007. 

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