Earls Colne FC
Green Farm Meadow
Ground Number: 913
Tuesday 4th August 2020
Earls Colne 3-0 Felsted
EARLS COLNE FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
Earls Colne FC was established in 1896, though there is not a huge amount of information about them on the web but they were Halstead & District League Champions in 1948. A large chunk of their history has been spent in the Essex & Suffolk Border League and they saw a good period of success in the late 70s and early 80s. They were Division 3 champions in 1979 and Division 2 champions a year later. Another promotion saw them promoted to the Premier Division which they won in 1983. They celebrated their 90th Birthday by joining the Essex Intermediate League (now Essex Olympian) in 1986. Starting in Division 2, their debut season of 1986/87 was their best here with the ream finishing 10th. Results soon declined and Earls Colne were relegated to Division 3 in 1989 after failing to win a game all season before leaving the league a year later, returning to the Essex & Suffolk Border League. They were Division 2 champions in 1995. A third-place finish behind Haverhill Borough and Maldon St Mary's in 2012 in Division 1 saw them promoted to the Premier Division. Despite an 8th place finish in their first season, they've struggled ever since - last season was declared null and void with the team sitting in a relegation spot.
The village of Earls Colne is named after the River Colne on which it stands and also the Earls Of Oxford (a dormant title in the peerage of England). The 2011 census had the population as just under 3,700. It has its own museum which is located in the Old Water Tower which was once part of the Atlas Works. The dates back to 1885 and was home to R Hunt & Company who exported iron agricultural equipment all over the world. The main part of this closed in 1988 and was converted into housing.
I'd wanted to visit Earls Colne's ground for some time after seeing it in David Bauckham's excellent 'Dugouts' book. It looked a nice setup but opportunities were limited due to them playing in a smaller league. Fellow hopper Dan from nearby Braintree spotted a good opportunity to visit on this Tuesday and I was seriously considering it, what with the unpredictably of an erratic government meaning the plug could be pulled at any time. I made up my mind for sure when Chesham fan Giles contacted me asking if I was going and offering to help out with petrol costs. We both confirmed on Sunday which was my busiest day since returning. Monday was a bit quieter and so in the afternoon, I spent time researching the club's history. This was easier said than done with limited information but I managed to cobble together a reasonable amount of information.
I had a pretty good nights sleep, waking up at my usual work time but dozing off again for a few hours and waking up at 7 am. It was not the best start to the day - I logged in to my bank account and noticed that £214.25 had been taken fraudulently via Paypal for Playstation gift cards at a website called ShopTo.net. The bank directed me to Paypal and so I raised a dispute with them, hoping to get the issue resolved. Reading through several threads online it is a common occurrence and quite a lot of people were having issues getting their money back, so it doesn't look too promising. I took steps to secure all my accounts and also caught up with a number of other things that I needed to do. I went for a walk around 11.30 and came back and had a decent pepper steak bake for lunch. I was delighted with Paypal's response to my morning's problem when said they'd refund me in full, so hopefully, everything will come through. I passed the time for the rest of the afternoon before leaving at 4, meeting Giles at Chesham at 4.20 after my journey was quicker than expected. We were soon on our way but had a good catch up on the journey over. It wasn't too busy and we were at the ground just after 6. Giles had already eaten, so I walked ten minutes to one of two Chinese takeaways - The Golden Harvest- in the village and got myself some five-spice chips and a pancake roll for £4.80. The lady serving said it would take 10-15 minutes but in the end, it took nearly half an hour. At least it allowed me to catch up online, but I was glad that I'd left a bit of time. The food and portions were excellent and I eat the chips as I walked back to the ground, arriving at 6.50. I was pleased to meet Dan who I had not seen for ages and at various points in the evening - Dan's Dad, Richard & Maurice. The game kicked off promptly at 7PM with the vast majority of the fans on the stand side as the low-lying sun was ruining the view from the other side.
Opponents Felsted Rovers were established in 1952 as a Sunday but it was to be only their second game as a newly established Saturday team. They'd kicked off their pre-season on Saturday with a 2-1 defeat at Tiptree Jobserve which was a decent result given that they were in Division 4 of the Essex & Suffolk Border League with their opponents being in Division 1. They'd have an even bigger test against Premier Division Earls Colne though. The hosts were clearly the better side and they had a goal ruled out for offside. The game then started to become more end to end and Felsted blasted a free-kick into the wall. On 18 minutes, Earls Colne had a clear cut chance, but it was hit straight at the visiting keeper. On 33 minutes the Felsted #7 forced a good save out of the home keeper but the corner came to nothing. That was the story of the first half with chances few and far between. Earls Colne took the lead on 43 minutes though and I was lucky enough to get it on camera. A corner was put in from the right, the ball was headed on and slotted home from a narrow angle at the far post by #4 - either Jamie Hudson or Jamie Bull judging by the comments on the Instagram post. Goals on 71 minutes - a header from a corner and #10 sliding home a square ball in the last minute completed the scoring for Earls Cole to see them win 3-0. A friendly club official thanked everyone for coming and it had been a great evening. The game had seen the hosts dominate but not create a massive amount thanks to the visitors' excellent defending.
You'd have thought that everyone would have left in a good mood then, but it was a downcast bunch of groundhoppers that left the ground on a warm evening. The reason why - our Football Association. They'd already banned fans from grounds at steps 1-6 of the non-league pyramid, a ludicrous decision given that they can safely socially distance. Packed beaches, busy pubs, restaurants and shops are all OK according to our money-obsessed government who would trample a toddler to get to a two-pence piece. That was taken by hoppers as an opportunity to visit some step 7 clubs and it worked out quite well with some of the open, more basic grounds being a lot more pleasant to visit on a warm summers day than in the middle of winter. But after hearing of people enjoying themselves on Saturday, the FA sent out a diktat ordering any game to involve a step 1-7 side had to be played behind closed doors. This includes open public parks where clubs have no jurisdiction over who comes or goes, even so, veiled threats were made to clubs that there would be consequences if they didn't comply. To be fair, they were probably scared into it by the worst government in living memory. Even so, it remains ludicrous that 200 people can watch a cricket match with no issues or that 50 people can pile into a club bar but not spread out across a large area of grass. The three matches that I have been to have all seen fans respecting social distancing, so this little deluded fantasy world that the FA and government live in where every football fan is a dangerous criminal does not stack up. The FA have even had the nerve to put out a tweet promoting mental health when they are torturing people by keeping from the game they love and their only release from the stresses of life. It didn't get much better from there - three road closures within about 15 miles of each other meant that Giles and I were treated to an impromptu tour of Hertfordshire, adding half an hour to the journey. I dropped my fellow hopper off at 10.40 and even had to endure another road closure on my seven-mile journey home - adding 10 minutes and 3 miles to my route. I got in at 11, but my head was all over the place after the stressful news from the FA. This meant that I didn't get to sleep for another two hours and so I was jaded when I woke at 4 am the following morning. I caught up with a nap the following afternoon. Next up for me was supposed to be Harrow Hill v Stonehouse Town on Friday but with the FA putting the kibosh on that, it will be my regular walk down to Wycombe for a couple of pints. Instead, I'll have to wait until Saturday for Grendon Rangers v Yardley Gobion, with the tyrannic authorities allowing that for now, but I think it will be a case of 'enjoy it while it lasts'
The Earls Colne Recreation Ground or its lesser-known name Green Farm Meadow is an excellent step 7 venue. The pitch is fully railed and there's an attractive brick shelter that could easily fit 50 in on a wet day. A weather vane on top depicts a footballer to add to the smartness. This area is flanked by two dugouts built into the structure. The ground is shared by the cricket club and they also share a smart bar where a reasonable choice of drinks are available. They also serve hot food for bigger games.
The pretty village of Earls Colne is 5-10 minutes walk away - this includes a shop, a pub, various smaller restaurants and a number of takeaways which include a chippy, an Indian and two Chinese. I can recommend The Golden Harvest which does great food and large portions at reasonable prices - though it's not one to visit if you are in a rush. Overall, it was a great day out at a friendly club and with free entry to all, I'd highly recommend it.