Wednesday, 25 March 2015

11 Sharapova's - Haringey Borough FC Vs Greenhouse London FC, Essex Senior League, Coles Park Stadium (21/03/15)

Today’s journey is a very familiar one, one that I have been doing quite regularly since 1996. The W3
bus from Wood Green station, in five or ten minutes will take you to White Hart Lane N17, the home of Tottenham Hotspur. On this occasion however I will not be going to Tottenham High Road, to see Spurs Vs Leicester, but in fact getting off the bus a bit early, to somewhere I have passed and looked at through the window of the bus on many, many occasions, but other than a car boot sale one Sunday with my Mum, I have never ventured in to before.

On White Hart Lane, opposite a huge complex of warehouses, next to the branch of the Haringey Sea Cadets, which at one time had an artillery piece outside of it, is Coles Park Stadium, the home of Haringey Borough FC (HB), and with a slight quirk of fate it also happens to be the home of the away team today as well, Greenhouse London FC (GH) from South East London, a San Siro type ground share in North London, or as the situation was perfectly described by the HB twitter account, “the landlords v the tenants”

Haringey Borough has been playing football in the area, in various guises since 1907. The clubs history, littered with more name changes and mergers, than you can imagine, stretches back to the forming of Tufnell Park FC, but have not been known as Haringey Borough until relatively recently. Edmonton merged with Wood Green town who played at Coles Park Stadium, who themselves had been a breakaway of Tufnell Park FC in 1911, to form Edmonton & Haringey in 1973. In 1976 the name was changed one final time to Haringey Borough FC.

The clubs opponents and “tenants” also have a very interesting history, not perhaps as old, as they were only formed back in 2000, but they have a foundation set around international football and a charity set up to help young people in South East London. In 2000 Mauritius Sports were founded as an opportunity for the Mauritian community in London to play football, as well as a way to recruit British born Mauritians to play for their national team. Again, after various name changes and mergers they moved to Coles Park Stadium for the 2011-12 season, and settled on their name in 2013, to reflect the clubs involvement with the charity of the same name. They also are very active in youth football, and are considered one of the most competitive community clubs in the UK, with their coaches offering advice and mentoring on and off the pitch.

On arrival at the ground we were met by George Kilkita, a director, who told us he had been involved with the club for twenty years, who was enthusiastically manning the gate in his HB tracksuit jacket, welcoming us to the club, and with £5 each later we were in.

As with any game, it’s vital to get a match day program, so with a quick visit to the club house, and past the two tables set out for the “Home Team” and “Away Team”, signified by a picture frame on a table surrounded by four or five chairs, the home team table was occupied by three guys, their drinks, studding the program, the away table empty, the lady behind the bar took my 50p and presented me with my program.

Today was an outright miserable, grey and cold day. The clubs café perfectly dispensed two scalding cups of tea, though an open double glazed window. We climbed the steps of the yellow and green stand opposite the café, and made our way to our seats. The terrace itself contains the changing rooms on the ground floor, and perched on top under a green roof, is the seating, green plastic back less chairs in various states of disrepair.

The elevated first floor view on the half way line, gives you a great view of the pitch, and the football hungry allotments that surround the ground on one side, which must of devoured three or four balls as a result of mightily defensive clearances during the match.

Not long after sitting down, a man in a woolly hat approaches us, and introduces himself as Aki Achillea, the clubs Chairman. We quickly get down to discussing the teams great season so far, and their push for promotion. Currently they are second in the Essex Senior League, with a healthy four game advantage over Barking, who sit in first place. In his own words he said the league title was “theirs to throw away”, and the team they were “looking over their shoulder” at, were Bowers & Pitsea in fourth, who have a four game advantage over them. HB finished second by a point last season, and with only one team going up and no play offs, they do not want to miss out this time. The mission he said was promotion, a better standard of football and with a league with play offs, climbing the pyramid is more than achievable.

Aki took what seemed like his regular perch, arms crossed standing at the back of the stand, watching the teams emerge from below us. A voice came over the stands PA and sounding almost like something from a war time radio broadcast, welcomed the players, fans and officials, as the coaching
staff and subs crossed the field to the dug outs opposite, covered in the name of the local building merchants who are the clubs sponsors. Both teams huddle on their half of the pitch, the home team in yellow break with a loud shout of “WIN” and the away side in purple follow suit with their own shout “GREEN ARMY”.

The first half had two shots, and two goals, each team scoring against the run of play. Aki behind us did his best throughout the half to gee his team on, he is clearly very hands on. Every so often he would below “Lets lift in Borough” and “come on Borough we are better than this”, but the game was very tight and congested in the middle, each team offered very little threat, the two pacey wingers for GH, who were swapping sides regularly, were their main outlet, but their good intentions never really resulted in any final product.
It’s not until around thirty-five minutes in, with a foul on a HB player just on the edge of the D, that results in the first shot on target and the first goal of the game. The direct free kick was spilled by the GH keeper, and the resulting fumble falls to a HB player who lashes it in to the roof of the net, 1–0.

Their joy was short lived as bang on half time GH grabbed a goal, and it was the least that they deserved. The tenacious and lively GH winger was small and fast, and his absolute reluctance to give up the ball, resulted in a GH free kick, just over the half way line of the HB half. The free-kick was pumped into the box, bypassed the whole HB defence, and fell ever so kindly on to the chest of the GH captain who poked it in from short range, the home keeper lies motionless for an uncomfortable amount of time, as GH celebrate, gutted that they conceded,  half time 1–1.

Half time requires a much needed second cup of scalding tea, as we are slightly frozen, and we take refuge in the club house to thaw out a bit.

The second half consists of much of the same again, except for a very exciting final few moments, that perhaps cemented HB’s credentials as promotion front runners, as those people in the know always say it’s the teams who are not playing well, but still win, that will always be at the head of the pack, and just before the hour mark, HB take a 2–1 lead, a free kick from the left corner of the box is crossed in, gets knocked down and the chance is taken by the HB player.

The rest of the half reverts to type, congested in the centre of the pitch, GH offering very little, and as they chase the game, they become more and more susceptible to the counter attack and the pace of HB. At one point, the HB Captain is so annoyed at the performance of his team, is so overwhelmed by unbridled rage, I wonder if he will explode. In fact the whole team seem to shout louder, than I have ever noticed at a game before it’s like a team of 11 Sharapova's.

It’s the final five minutes where the game really comes alive. GH are going all out, and with a ball hooked high into the box, the HB unit of a keeper jumps to claim the ball, is challenged in the air by a GH player, which then results in him dropping it, and the loose ball is tapped in.

For a split second the whole crowd gasps and everyone is focused on the referee,  for the blow of a whistle and a free kick for a foul, but he deems the challenge acceptable, and gives the goal 2 -2 in the dying moments, the GH players and fans are delighted, and HB the polar opposite. I must admit I thought it was a foul, but what does that matter, the man with the whistle saw it otherwise.

However this was really only the beginning of the excitement as what happened on the ninety third minute, may well be the turning point of HB’s season, and help them get that all important promotion. It would have been easy for heads to drop, and for everyone to settle for a point, but when you are hunting for the title, you must always think you will have one last chance, one last chance to grab the victory when it would seem otherwise impossible.

A stunning diagonal ball from right to left, perhaps the pass of the game, finds a HB player unmarked and with time to cross, and by the way the cross is a nice one, it misses the first few HB players only for one player to make a late surge forwards into the box, unmarked at the back post and heads in the winning goal, 3–2!

The goal scorer removes his shirt, lets out a ROAR and flexes his muscles, as the whole team rush to celebrate with him, the goal keeper runs the full length of the pitch to join them, people on the side lines jump on the mass of HB players, the Chairman skips and runs along the car park behind the goal, where he just witnessed his team grab all 3 vital points. The crowd, a mixture of home and away fans, young and old, are in various states or jubilation and depression.

I’m slightly ashamed of myself for never coming here before, for passing it so many times, but never watching a game and supporting a local team. If this adventure we are having has taught me one thing, it is that without these clubs, we have nothing. They are the building blocks on which, this whole game we love are resting on. Their big neighbours down the road may be my first team, but the atmosphere and welcome at these supposed “smaller” clubs, is unparalleled.  

I cross all my fingers that they get the promotion they deserve.

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

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