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.

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