Saturday, 10 April 2021

Finchampstead - Memorial Ground

Finchampstead FC
The Memorial Ground
Finchampstead
Berkshire
RG40 4JU






Ground Number: 945
Saturday 10th April 2021
Finchampstead 1-3 Newbury
Thames Valley League - Premier Division






FINCHAMPSTEAD FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was established in 1952, following the creation of the village's Memorial Park. They played in the Ascot & District League at first with them winning Division 2 in 1955 and Division 1 the following year. Following the latter title, they moved to Division 2 of the Reading & District League. They were champions in their first season and went on to gain promotion and win Division 1 in 1960. After reaching the Premier Division the club had a missed period, tumbling back down to Division 2 in the 60s but recovering to win Division 2 in 1978, Division 1 in 1979 and the Premier Division in 1983. They were league runners-up in 1987, after which they moved to the Chiltonian Premier Division which they won at the first attempt. Finchampstead were runners-up twice more before the league was merged into the Hellenic League in 2000. They were Division 1 East Champions in 2002 but were unable to take promotion due to insufficient facilities at their ground. The lack of floodlights and cover bit them once again in 2017 when they were thrown out of the Hellenic League despite a 4th place finish. Since then, they've played in the step 8 Thames Valley Premier League Division 1 for a couple of seasons, finishing 4th and 6th. Last season, they were 7th when the season was abandoned and this time out, they lead the league, winning seven and drawing three of their ten games so far.

In terms of cups, Finchampstead's facilities have always held them back from competing in the FA's national competitions, but they've had plenty of success locally. Trophies won include the Chiltonian Bon Accord Trophy in 1994, the Reading Senior Cup in 1987, the Berks & Bucks Intermediate Cup in 1984, the Berks & Bucks Junior Cup in 1961, the Ascot & District Charity Cup in 1958, 1980 & 1984 and the Yateley & District Cup in 1959 & 1982. The small village of Finchampstead has a population of just 668. Famous residents to live there include Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth who has also played for Finchampstead FC's Sunday League team.



MY VISIT

Originally on this date, I was going to carry on with my exploration of the Herts County League with several decent options within striking distance. With the rules still unclear on whether fans were allowed or not, I had set myself some basic rules - namely, I'd go on my own, I'd limit my mileage and I'd stick to public parks, albeit those with a rail around the pitch. The waters were further muddied on Tuesday when the DCMS announced that games in public parks were fine, but those on private sports grounds were not. This meant a lot of work to find out which areas of land were public and which were private, all after the FA promised us that 'grassroots' (step 7 and below) would be permitted to return after April 12th. I had myself a nice treble planned in the Central Midlands League, clubs had started selling tickets and ordering badges only to have the rug pulled from under their feet, pending the FA actually standing up for their sport, which they've continually failed to do. It was the latest in a long line of baffling decisions from the powers that be. Non-League football had operated safely all throughout the pandemic with zero infections at thousands of games. Yet it was effectively banned, but the grounds could be used for car boot sales, hospitality and festivals, whilst pretty much everything apart from indoor hospitality (another sector that had suffered from the bigotry of the DCMS) was allowed to open.


The week had started so brilliantly too, I'd gone into work early on Easter Monday so as to get home early for the Rotherham United v Wycombe Wanderers game on iFollow. The Chairboys surpassed my expectations with a brilliant 3-0 win, though other relegation rivals picking up full points took the shine off of things. Normally I can't stand watching football on a screen, but I enjoyed this one and it's better than nothing. With this in mind, I saw that Finchampstead were at home against Newbury, a decent looking game and one that had easy access in the local park. Another bonus was the 2 PM kick-off, meaning that I could listen to the second half of the Wycombe v Luton game on the way home. It was a fixture that we've failed to win in 14 attempts, but even so, I wanted to listen and our luck has got to change sometime. My mind was made up on Wednesday when the Football Traveller arrived and there wasn't any option to tempt me away from my revised plan. By sheer coincidence, a programme that I'd been wanting to get for ages - from the game Holmer Green 0-4 Finchampstead on Saturday 24th April 1993 came up on eBay and I was happy to be able to buy it as finding it was like searching for a needle in a haystack. It was the first game ever that I went to on my own, the mile or so's trip permissible, even though I was only 13 at the time. I was looking forward to getting it and reliving some old memories as well as seeing if I could find anything out about the history of Finchampstead FC for this weekends visit. The opponents for this game were Newbury, another club that has been given a raw deal by the powers that be. They had a lovely stadium and played in the Hellenic League, only to suffer financial issues in 2015 and be thrown out of their ground by the local council the following year.

It was a quiet day the day before the game, though the news was dominated by the death of Prince Philip at the ripe old age of 99. It was sad, but then again, hundreds die every day and they don't give wall to wall coverage on every single TV channel and cancel Coronation Street. Personally, my favourite coverage was a tribute song by comedy band 'Kunt & The Gang'. I spent the evening finalising my research for tomorrow and arranging to get some local cider from a shop on the way to the game. With the inconsistent restrictions lifted early, I tried to rope in other hoppers and was pleased when Anwar agreed and plans were made to meet him in Wycombe en route. I was asleep around 11 and as a result, up around 7. I read the Daily Star in bed on my tablet and watched a few random YouTube videos before getting up and having breakfast and a shower. I then went on a walk for a couple of hours before returning home and placing a football acca and some bets on the Grand National with Paddy Power who were paying six places each way. I left at 12.25 and met Anwar at the train station 15 minutes later. We got to my arranged stop, the Hive Craft Beer and Coffee shop at 1.20 and I was pleased to be able to get a couple of bottles of local cider from Jars Cider, based in the nearby small village of Barkham. We got to the ground at 1.40 and after a look around were pleased to bump into hoppers Terry and son and a few of their mates who had travelled done from Retford in North Nottinghamshire. They are always good company and Terry had some great stories to tell and pictures to show which kept us entertained throughout the afternoon. They were part of a crowd that varied throughout the afternoon but numbered 37 when I counted. There was a two-minute silence for the death of Prince Phillip before kick-off.


As stated above, Finchampstead were sitting top of the league and unbeaten, though a couple of those 'wins' had come against the defunct side, Woodley Royals, via a walkover. Last Saturday, they beat Wraysbury Village 2-1 and this would be their last home game of the season, due to cricket taking over the ground. Newbury were going well in third place, also unbeaten, having won five (again with two walkovers against Woodley Royals) and drawn two. They'd not played since December 12th when they won 5-1 at Marlow United. The hosts lined up in their away kit of light blue and white stripes, with Newbury in their orange home strip. Newbury started well and they were ahead after 5 minutes when Danny Langford's excellent shot from 20 yards went in off the right-hand post. A  minute later, the visitors had a chance to double their lead and get Langford a brace early on but the Finchampstead keeper made a fantastic save to tip the effort onto the underside of the bar and away. Newbury dominated but they had their forward yellow carded for a heavy challenge on a home defender. Langford did get his second on 34 minutes, another lovely curling effort from some way out. With the last kick of the half, Newbury grabbed a goal back through Callum Vallance who finished nearly from around 10 yards after a nice through ball.  Newbury confirmed their win on 55 minutes, a good run and finish from Toby Humphreys from around ten yards. There were chances for both sides, but neither keeper was seriously threatened. 



The game finished around 3.50 and we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the car on what had been an unseasonably bitter day for April. We were in good spirits on our way home with Wycombe 1-0 up and even though another farm shop drew a blank for new ciders, the good mood continued. I dropped Anwar off at 4.40 but Wycombe had been reduced to ten men after Josh Knight was debatably sent off. Ten seconds after I dropped Anwar off, it was all square and by the time I got home ten minutes later, we were 3-1 down, I watched the dying embers of the game whilst drowning my sorrows with an excellent Barkham Mad cider. I then typed my blog and sorted my pictures out. A modest profit of 88p was made on the Grand National, with a small each-way bet on Minella Times coming up trumps as it was the first time a female jockey won the race. I had a Chinese takeaway for dinner, then it was the usual Saturday night Jay's Virtual Pub Quiz and whatever else I decided to stay up for. 

THE GROUND

The Memorial Ground is a basic venue set in very pleasant surroundings. It's great for the level, fully railed on three sides and a hedge on the 4th. There's a pub nearby and the village is a short walk away, though it is mainly residential housing in the immediate vicinity. Overall, well worth a visit though.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Mill End Sports - Mill End Sports & Social Club


Mill End Sports FC
Mill End Sports & Social Club
Penn Road
Mill End
Rickmansworth
Hertfordshire
WD3 8QN




Ground Number: 944
Saturday 3rd April 2021
Mill End Sport 3-0 Evergreen Reserves
Herts County League - Division 3 Cup




MILL END SPORTS FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The original Mill End Sports FC was established in 1937 and from what I can tell, played in the Watford & District League during their formative years, I couldn't find any league tables from that period but they moved to the Middlesex County League in 1968. A 7th placed finish in their first season was respectable but they gradually slipped down the table and even finished bottom in 1972. Results gradually improved after that and by the mid-late 80s, they were far more successful, finishing as runners-up in 1984 & 1985 before being crowned champions the following year. In 1987, they joined the Chiltonian League and were Division 1 Champions in 1989. The following year, they achieved what was probably the best-ever finish in the club's history, finishing 4th. Whilst the league never had a defined place in the non-league pyramid, it supplied clubs to the South Midlands League which itself was a feeder league to the Isthmian League. They were demoted to Division 1 in 1992 due to ground grading issues and left the league altogether the following year. There was a serious possibility of them getting floodlights in the late 1990s, but plans fell through. A Mill End United would finish 11th in the Middlesex County League in 1997 but the original club would not emerge until 1999 when they joined the Herts Senior County League Division 1. In 2003, they'd finish 3rd but left to join the West Herts Saturday League. They'd rejoin in 2006 and the following season, a 3rd place finish was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division. Though they struggled at the higher level, they spent all but one season in the Premier, with a best-ever finish of 10th in 2009 and 2015. Despite this, the club appears to have folded after this. In cup competition, the club won the Hertfordshire Junior Cup in 1969 and were runners-up in 2005 when Marina OS Sports lifted the trophy.


In 2019, a new Mill End Sports was established by former Oxhey Jets FC stalwart Jim Wagner whose aim was to provide a platform for youngsters to progress to senior football. The club was placed in the Herts Senior County League Division 3, which sits at step 10 of the non-league pyramid or level 14 of the English football league system overall. It has been a bit of a false start for the club so far, last season was interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic and the records are nowhere to be found. I did learn it was a poor season, with just 7 points gained all season. They did, however, attract around 150 fans to their games, as locals flocked to support them. This season, a decent start has been made and Mile End Sports sit in 6th, having won 5, drawn 1 and lost 2 of their games so far. Once again though, the pandemic has thrown things into chaos and the season looks to be curtailed for the second season in a row. The semi-rural village of Mill End is located near Rickmansworth which has an underground station on the Metropolitan Line. It is also located close to junctions 17 & 18 of the M25 Motorway. The population is just under 24,000 and it was once home to George Orwell and Val Doonican. It is also a popular filming location, having been used for shows such as Grange Hill, Harry Enfield's Television Programme and Ashes To Ashes.


MY VISIT

It had been a long and stressful time without a game. 15 weeks or 105 days since my last game at Newport Pagnell on 19th December. We all knew that a break would be coming, but cruel Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised us the world for Christmas, only to snatch it away with a few days to go. I myself had a nice double in Dorset planned as restrictions were due to be relaxed for a few days but this was taken away after working weeks of 50+ hours. The void was filled by watching Wycombe on the iFollow service, but generally, it was a tedious, miserable and empty experience that I'd not enjoyed one bit. It was also poor for my health, with extra food and drink taken and I'd put on a few pounds. But gradually, the death and cases fell. Of course, the most infectious places - schools - opened first and so cases levelled out, but deaths continued to fall as the NHS worked brilliantly on the vaccine rollout. I was then, looking forward to going to football with the authorities blessing. I jotted down a shortlist of five games in the Hertfordshire League. I chose Mill End Sports as it was the nearest at just over 12 miles away. The FA and DCMS then threw a spanner in the works declaring no spectators. This was despite fans being allowed in even the worst areas back last year and absolutely no infections occurring. How they expected clubs to police open fields is beyond me, but that was what the brainless authorities were saying, even though you could meet in the self same park as long as you were obeying the outdoor mixing rules. There was even talk of fans having to wait until May 17th to return, even at Non-League which was ludicrous. I'd already arranged in advance to film the game for the club and put up some brief highlights, just so as to stay on the right side of the 'guidance'. In the week before the game, a few hoppers had been put and about innocently enjoying their hobby in a safe manner, but even so, there had been a few holier than thou people on social media criticizing them.


The few days before the game saw me back at work after 18 fruitless days off. As ever, the Bank Holidays saw the store rammed and while my employer has been decent in recent times, you can't legislate for the stupidity of the general public. The packed beaches and litter-strewn parks laid testament to that, but that was all fine and dandy according to the authorities. Good Friday saw Wycombe record a well-deserved win over Blackburn Rovers, which was most welcome and I celebrated with a sensible afternoon's drinking after work. I had a fairly early night but not the greatest sleep, waking up in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep. I watched TV for a while before reading the Daily Star on my tablet before getting up and having a shower. The morning was spent going for a walk, around 6 miles in total while I caught up with my podcasts. I came back and had a decent jalapeno burger stack for lunch which I'd bought from work yesterday - reduced from £4 to £1.37. The last hour at home really dragged and I was glad when it came to 2 and I could leave. The journey had a slight diversion, but even so, I was there by 2.30. I was delighted to bump into pals Dan, Nigel, Richard and Giles who by sheer coincidence had decided to take their daily exercise in this nice local park. After a strenuous lap of the pitch, a breather was needed and the railing surrounding the pitch provided an ideal stopping point. I also met some people from Mile End, Jim and Glenn gave me an excellent welcome and were really friendly. I was going to use my tripod, but it proved far too low to be comfortable to use and a chair would be preferable. I did manage to capture all the required action though, using the camera as usual.


Mill End Sports sat 6th in the table before it was abandoned, having won five, drawn two and lost one of their games so far. Those two defeats had both come at the start of the season with Sarratt Reserves completing the double over them in their first two games. Since then, they'd been unbeaten, with their last game on 5th December seeing a 5-0 win over Stanmore Jaffreys. Evergreen Reserves were 11th in the league, having won two, drawn two and lost five of their games. Their last game had also been against Stanmore Jaffreys with them winning 2-1 on 12th December. It was a decent game, with Mill End well on top. However, at the time of going to press, the scorers had not yet been announced. On 24 minutes, it was 1-0 when a cross was headed home. The lead was doubled on 38 minutes when the Evergreen keeper came for the ball but did not get it and the ball was poked home from close range. Evergreen hit the post and probably deserved a goal for their efforts but it was 3-0 on 66 minutes, a Mill End man got away down the left, cut in and finished past the keeper. It had been a decent game in great company and the referee had a good game too. For my mental and physical health, it had been the best Saturday of the year and no doubt that would stand for the 44 people that were using the local park and abiding by the outdoor mixing rules. I said my goodbyes and got on my way, half an hour later at 5.25 I was home. The evening was spent blogging, video editing, having dinner, drinking cider and playing Jay's Virtual Pub Quiz. I was glad to have the Sunday off, due to it being Easter Sunday. Reflecting on my filming debut, I didn't really enjoy it and have nothing but admiration for those who do it week in, week out. I did manage to get all three goals though - they are below.




THE GROUND

MILL END SPORTS & SOCIAL CLUB is a tidy setup, similar to Tring Town. The clubhouse was closed on this occasion, but there's a fully railed pitch with plenty of hard standing. The club has a good spirit and friendly nature and you will be made to feel welcome. In normal times, pubs and shops are nearby, whilst Rickmansworth underground station is 1.5 miles away.