Walton & Hersham FC
Elmbridge Sports Hub
Ground Number: 738
Tuesday 24th October 2017
Walton & Hersham 1-0 Bedfont Sports
Combined Counties Premier Division
WALTON & HERSHAM - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was formed in 1945 after the end of the Second World War after an amalgamation with the existing club Hersham FC who were formed some 50 years earlier. They immediately joined the Corinthian League and after finishing 7th in their inaugural season, they were champions three times on the trot, still a league record. After that, a twenty-year spell in the Athenian League followed, with the club finishing as champions in 1969. This event also holds a place in musical history as Jimmy Pursey, founder member of the punk band 'Sham 69' took the bands named after he saw the second part of the graffiti 'Walton & Hersham 69' sprayed on a set of double garage doors.
In 1971, Walton & Hersham joined the Isthmian League. Despite finishing 3rd and 2nd in their first two seasons, they were relegated in 1975 after finishing second-bottom. They remained in the second tier for nearly 20 years until another strong spell saw them spend 5 out of 6 seasons in the Premier Division in the late 1990's, with a good finish of 9th in 1998. After being relegated again in 2000 hey matched that 9th place in a two-year spell in the Premier between 2005 and 2007, but were once more relegated. Despite finishing 6th in 2011, they suffered another relegation, this time to the Combined Counties League in 2016. Last season saw a credible 5th placed finish and the club was doing even better at the time of tonight's game, sitting in third, five points behind leaders Westfield.
Walton & Hersham have had a number of decent FA Cup runs, reaching the second round in 1973 and 1974. The latter of these is the most well known. After drawing 0-0 in the 1st Round home tie against Brighton & Hove Albion, at the time managed by Brian Clough, they travelled down to the south coast with most expecting the third division hosts to stroll to victory. The reality couldn't have been more different with the non- leaguers recording an emphatic 4-0 in one of Clough's worst days in football. They lost 3-0 in the next round, to fellow cup giant-killers Hereford United. The club were winners of the FA Amateur Cup in 1973, defeating Slough Town 1-0 at Wembley. In its replacements, they had a notable run to the FA Trophy 4th Round in 2000 (losing to Kettering Town)
Local cup wins include the Surrey Senior Cup on five occasions. Famous former players include Nathan Ellington, Richard Pacquette, Andre Scarlett, Bas Savage and Laurence Batty. The club is based in Walton-On-Thames, the birthplace of Dame Julie Andrews and home to Fay Ripley as a youngster.
I didn't think I'd be going to football on this originally as my car was out of action due to a damaged wheel. However, with its replacement due for arrival on the afternoon, a local clash could be possible. I'd had a good nights sleep the night before with me waking up at 9 am on my day off work. After getting bathed and dressed, I double checked the delivery time and as it was confirmed as between 12.50 and 2.50 pm, I walked down town. After getting various items, I got a lift back with my Dad and waited in for my delivery. I used the time to check tyre prices online and was annoyed to see that to get a decent price, you had to book a couple of days in advance. In the end, the offer of half price tracking from a garage I'd used before, total £82 including the new tyre, which was not a lot more than the cheapest I could possibly find - and without the wait. That was after I'd fitted the two new wheels, although the second needed help from Green Flag as it was stuck on. Most importantly it was all sorted, bar getting a couple of minor jobs done to get it through the MOT next Tuesday. I was a bit pushed for time after all that, getting home around 6.
After a quick dinner of chicken risotto and getting my things together, I left around 6.20. The journey over there was decent enough, especially considering it was the rush hour. I was in the vicinity of the ground by 7.20, but the signposting was non-existent. I spent 15 minutes trying various entrances, although, with so many sets of floodlights in the vicinity, it was confusing. In the end, I went back to the leisure centre that I had started at and walked across a metal fence that had blown down during the recent bad weather. I'd seen other cars driving around confused too, so hopefully the signposting will be improved in the future. My visit had got off on a bad foot and my mood was not improved after I had to pay an above average £8 entry. The quid or two more will make absolutely no difference to me financially, it's just the principle of football getting more expensive. I also picked up a programme for £1.50 which included all the essentials, plus some interesting facts, but not that much to read. With a few minutes until kick-off, there wasn't much time to catch up, but it was nice to bump into hoppers including Laurence, Robyn, Lee and Andy over the evening. In fact, there must have been around twenty hoppers in attendance, with it being a popular location due to the ground being recently opened.
There was a minutes silence before the game, though I didn't catch who it was for. The game kicked off at a decent pace and it was the hosts that were on top with Bedfont Sports keeper Rourke Pickford pulling off a couple of great saves to keep the game goalless. The visitors had a good spell towards the end of the half with Tim Pitt hitting the post. Despite lots of chances, it was goalless at the break. It was a scrappy start to the second half and the game wasn't nearly as free-flowing as the first period. The game was reinvigorated on 62 minutes as Bedfont's Jamie Richards saw red after he clattered Bilal Benali with a late tackle. The home crowd were woken from their slumbers by this and gave out plenty of stick to Richards as he trudged down the tunnel. The hosts went close again when TJ Nkoma hit the post shortly after, but it seemed as if luck was against them. Walton & Hersham finally opened the scoring six minutes later - Jamil Okai got away down the right, rounded visiting keeper Pickford and slotted into the empty net. The hosts deserved it for their dominance and they went on to waste several chances to extend their lead. Despite their numerical disadvantage, Bedfont Sports threw everything at Walton in the last ten minutes, but despite coming close on a number of occasions, they just couldn't find the equaliser.
I'd had a good chat with a Slough fan towards the end about their clashes with Wycombe in the early 90's and I'd been in good company throughout the night, speaking to several familiar faces. Despite the rocky start, it had been a good and enjoyable evening. Before I went, I got some pictures of the outside of the ground a small crest on the door being the only sign that Walton & Hersham played there, For a club with such a rich and varied history and contribution to popular culture, it's a shame there wasn't more on display. It's certainly a decent ground, but the choice of blue seats when one of the tenants play in red and the other in orange is baffling. I left around 9.50 in the end, listening to the Man City v Wolves League Cup game on the way back. I got back at 10.35, just as the penalties were starting. I was glad that my car was back on the road, meaning that I wouldn't be cycling again. I'd still be up at 4.10 am and it was frustrating when it took me ages to drift off to sleep. In the end, I only got a few hours sleep and ended up catching up as usual with a nap the following afternoon.
The ELMBRIDGE SPORTS HUB is a pretty decent new build, with the sole cover being a 500 seater stand. Despite being a fair way back from the pitch, it offers great views thanks to it being elevated. The rest of the ground is open, though it offers decent sightlines that are fairly close to the pitch. The bar at the ground is bright and airy, but fairly bland although it does have sports TV. The tea bar offers a wide range, but prices are fairly expensive.
SCORES ON THE DOORS
1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Decent ground, but lacks personality. (6)
2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Nothing much around the ground, lots of parking, terrible signposting (5)
3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Couldn't fault the welcome (7)
4: Value for money
£8 was above average (4)
5: Social Media & Website
Fairly decent (6)
A reasonable effort, but not a lot to read, £1.50 a fair price (6)
7: Game entertainment
Was a decent game overall, save for a quiet spell at the start of the second period (7)
8: Tea Bar
Good choice, but pricey (6)
9: Bar / Clubhouse
Smart but dull (5)
10: Club Shop
TOTAL SCORE OUT OF 90: 52
AVERAGE SCORE: 5.77