Thursday 4 January 2018

Bermondsey Town - Crystal Palace National Sports Centre

Bermondsey Town FC
Crystal Palace National Sports Ground
Outdoor Stadium
Ledrington Road
Crystal Palace
SE19 2BB

Ground Number: 751
Wednesday 3rd January 2018
Bermondsey Town 1-2 AFC Kumazi Strikers


The club was formed in 2013 and started out life in the Metropolitan Sunday League. Their first ever competitive game came on Sunday 29th September 2013 as they defeated Old Bromelians 4-1 thanks to two goals apiece from Gibbons and Manning. Records are unclear as to whether the games were completed that season, but in any case, the following season saw a 3rd place finish in Division 2. The 2015/16 season saw them crowned champions of Division 2. Last season they went even better, finishing 3rd in 
the Ron Hope Premier Division and getting to the final of the George Harley Cup. Following this successful season, they switched to Saturday football. This season has gone well, as Bermondsey Town recorded their biggest ever win as they defeated Ashtead 12-0 in November and currently sit in 5th place prior to the Christmas and New Year break.


With a really limited choice of games this week, I was glad when an option at an interesting venue came up. Combined Counties League club AC London had briefly used the Crystal Palace National Sports Ground a couple of years ago when they were in the Kent Invicta League, but the costs had quickly become too much to bear. With no new tenants taking their place at the ground that was built on the site of the former FA Cup Final venue. However, in the final few days of last year, I was alerted of a game that would be played at the venue by a fellow hopper. It was only a friendly and I hadn't heard of the two teams - Bermondsey Town and AFC Kumazi before, but it was free entry. With little else on and it being a rare game at an unusual venue, it would be a good chance to meet up with some other hoppers who were also attending.  It had certainly generated a lot of interest, thanks to their very decent website and social media channels. There was even a programme being produced, but I wanted to find out as much as I could about the host club as possible before I went. It did involve a bit of digging around various websites but I got a rough idea. It was interesting to note that their opponents, AFC Kumazi Strikers had spent their history playing in the hosts' former home of the Metropolitan Sunday League.

On the day of the game, it was my first 4 am start of 2018. Unusually, work was busy for a Wednesday and I didn’t finish until 1. I drove straight home and got into bed, taking a while to drift off, which was a shame as I hadn’t had the best night of sleep due to the rain the previous night. I eventually did drop off, waking at 4.45 when my alarm sounded. After checking Twitter and seeing that the game was on, I had a lasagne for dinner before leaving at 5.15. Twenty minutes later, I was parked up near Amersham station, with me clocking in 5 minutes later. After another 5 minutes, I was on my scheduled 5.45 train. I’d decided against this, rather than braving the M25. It was doubly good for me as I needed to catch up online and it gave me a chance to start my blog. The sooner Google gets on with inventing self driving cars, so I can do this on every trip, the better. I was glad of my free copy of the Metro on the underground, as there was no phone signal. After a change at Finchley Road, I got off at London Bridge to get my overground train. Usually, I stop here for the brilliant Borough Market, but on this occasion, it was a train to Crystal Palace. The Southern rail service sat around for 10 minutes, before finally kicking into gear 10 minutes after it’s scheduled departure time. It got to Crystal Palace station at 7.30.

From there it was a few minutes walk to the ground which was easy to find. Locating the entrance and then the pitch was easier said than done. I walked up with Mishi, a Dulwich fan, thanks to directions from other hoppers, we had a vague idea of where we were going. It involved the totally illogical method of walking in the opposite direction towards the leisure centre and then going down into their basement. After following signage, that then stopped, we eventually found our way thanks to some helpful people. A lot of the players were lost too, which is probably why the game finally kicked off at 8.15. A lot of the 47 in attendance were groundhoppers including my Braintree supporting mate Dan, his mate Luke, Ken who had come down from Leicester, a couple of hoppers from Sutton and Chris from Kings Langley. There was even a hopper in attendance from Germany who had passed up the chance of a revisit to Arsenal for a rare tick. With entry and a single sheet programme free, he certainly saved a fair bit of money.

The game kicked off with both teams keen to open the scoring. Bermondsey Town came closest in the opening couple of minutes- good work down the right allowed a cross to be put in with the effort thumping the left hand post. It was another cross from the left that opened the scoring for the visitors on 14 minutes with the initial shot being saved but the rebound being put away. Less than 30 seconds it was all square, a thumping shot from a decent distance that gave the keeper no chance. There were chances for both sides, but a lot of times when the game went flat. Bermondsey Town had a kit and possibly team change at half time, but it was the AFC Kumazi who got the winner on 71 minutes. A penalty was awarded for a foul on the edge of the area and it was duly dispatched by Gerald Akosa who slotted confidently into the bottom left-hand corner. A few minutes later, referee Nathan Buckle was forced to call a premature end to proceedings as the lights were switched off thanks to a local curfew.

After the game, I said my goodbyes and walked to the station with a few other hoppers. Google Maps had recommended all kinds of routes, but I decided to play it safe and go back the way I’d come. A 10-minute wait for my train to London Bridge went quick enough, then it was a short wait at Finchley Road to get my final train home. I got into Amersham at 11.25, getting home 20 minutes later. I got straight into bed and tried to get to sleep, however, it took me ages to drift off. I was pretty tired when I woke at 4 am the following morning and needed a couple of hours sleep when I got home the following afternoon. Up next for me, is a game on Saturday. Wycombe Wanderers v Preston North End looks to be the likely choice but leaves me uninspired. Therefore I'm exploring my options and will decide soon.


THE CRYSTAL PALACE NATIONAL SPORTS CENTRE is an interesting and historic venue, with a 16,000 capacity. The athletics facilities make it far from ideal for watching football, but if you sit at the top of the stand, the views are acceptable. Getting in is a bit of a lottery, though I’d imagine things would be more organised if there was a regular team playing here. Facilities at the ground are limited, a few vending machines were about it. Public transport options are good, plus there was plenty of parking. The closest station is Crystal Palace, which has a limited range of takeaways around it. West or East Penge are fairly close and these have a better choice. As for pubs, I’m unsure as I didn’t look.

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