Sunday, 15 September 2019

El Clasicoast - Worthing FC Vs Bognor Regis Town FC, Isthmian League Premier, Woodside Road (26/08/19)

I can’t bring myself to take the customary glance over my right shoulder to catch a glimpse of the de facto White Hart Lane, after yesterday's shit show against Newcastle. Knowing full well it will be glimmering like a brand new penny, looking quite resplendent with a cloudless backdrop, all lit up by the late August sun, I’m still just that little bit annoyed.

Tottenham's quite dismal run out against Steve Bruce's men, very nearly ruined what was until then a quite excellent Sunday. Ben Stokes heroics at the crease, followed by a BBQ at my Mum’s. I set my Sky box to record, catching the game a few hours after the final whistle hoping with a beer in hand it would be the crowning glory, but it was quite the opposite.

It really doesn't feel all that long ago since we were staggering away from Wembley stadium, exhausted from the FA Vase final, talking about a football free summer, with plenty to occupy us until it all started again, not least of all Tom’s wedding.

It is because of the aforementioned nuptials, which was quite honestly a magnificent affair, that we are getting our season underway a little later than some. Some are already into double figures, and it’s not even September yet.

Such are the heights the temperature is forecast to hit today, mid 30’s if the weather man is to be believed, I’ve taken a leaf out of the book of the late great Barry White and have furnished myself with a towel to mop my brow throughout the day, although I’m not sure Mr White ever used a gingham tea towel, but it should work all the same.

Your carriage awaits I tell Tom, parked up outside his house. He then utters three words he so rarely uses it throws me, “aren't I driving?”. I could count on one hand how many times in almost five years he has sat behind the wheel, and I am touched that this season he wants to share the responsibility, take up a bit of the slack, but it doesn't take long for his real motive to be clear. It’s not a case of wanting to give Parker a rest, oh no, “I’ve got air con” he explains.

I must be honest the thought of driving for two hours, and the chance of this being extended by the threat of Bank Holiday Monday traffic, as everyone and their mother bolts towards the coast, filled me somewhat full of dread. My “tin can” as Tom has christened my motor, can get somewhat unbearable in the heat.

“No your carriage awaits” Tom repeats, snapping me from what I was sure must have been a daydream and when I open the car to his hulking Mini to the roaring sound of the air conditioner set to “max” it’s a welcome one. Retracting my seat as far back as it will go and familiarising myself with my very own temperature control and where my USB charging point is, I’m all set.

Most of our time on the road is consumed with recounting Tom’s wedding. Getting the lowdown on what my co best man got up to with one of the brides best friends, and what exactly his father in law was going on about, finishing his speech with a joke about a Polish World War Two fighter pilot, that included a myriad of iffy accents and a machine gun impression, “tat, tat, tat, tat, tat”.

Having not spent that much time as a passenger of Tom’s, I never realised quite what a middle lane hogger he is. He’s like a Top Gear joke and he doesn't even know it. More worryingly though, and not quite realising that when I relinquished my driving duties today, I also gave up control of the radio, I’m not sure how long I can cope with two hours of KISS FM’s own nostalgic station KISSTORY.

Although he’s only been married a couple of weeks, he’s already showing signs of change. He’s come to the conclusion that at the ripe old age of thirty five, drinking like he’s eighteen, no longer agrees with him, and it’s time to reign in it, however the downside is, and with the pre wedding Tom turning in his grave, for the last thirty minutes he’s been raving about the “Downton Abbey” esq spa retreat he went to recently.

Passing through the stone plinths that signify you are entering Brighton, Tom like me is “dreading getting out the car” once we arrive at our destination. It might be positively polar inside his car right now, but I’m sure I saw some bitumen bubbling by the side of the road, and I’m not sure my tea towel is up to the task, come full exposure.

“Do you ever get sweaty hands driving?” he asks over the sound of some late 90’s UK garage, hovering his hand over the vent next to him. Not quite sure how to reply to his query, it would be a no, in fear of where the conversation might lead us, I instead study a Hogwarts like edifice on a hill in the distance, but his second heat related statement is one I’m more than happy to engage with, “I wouldn't want to be playing today”.

It’s become somewhat of a tradition to get our season underway on the coast, and once over the tidal wave of heat that hits us both as we climb out of the car, with the faint sound of seagulls in the distance, on a particularly pleasant leafy suburban street in this part of East Sussex, it feels good to be back.

Nothing says ‘welcome to my football club’, like a wrought iron gate with the clubs initials across it. In today's case it’s the yellow WFC of Worthing FC (WFC). Beyond it and the chatty steward wearing a scarf, a fucking scarf, a man on a ride along mower is combing the pitch and the food cabin is ready. Peeking out through the open hatch an army of women prepare for what I hear could be quite a bumper crowd, the condiments already neatly lined up on tables in the mouth of a nearby goal.

I was relieved when I eventually worked out that the ground under me is like that in a child's playground, black and rubbery, with a bit of give, and it’s not a case of me starting to faint. The heat is oppressive and I’ve only gone and left my bloody towel in my car. Setting up in a black marque, effectively a human oven, is a local band going through their final sound check. Wailing away on a Yamaha keyboard set to Hammond Organ they are soon in full flow, belting out Southern Man by Neil Young, that’s drifting in the open door of the club bar at the base of the main stand, that feels distinctly like an Ed’s Diner, where it’s cool and they have large ice filled drinks.

“Best wee ever” states a satisfied Tom, joining me at our table and not one of the booths, that only
add to the American diner vibe. The walls are covered in blown up pictures denoting various highlights in the club's history, and by the way in you're greeted by the wide smile of a man who has been hoisted onto the shoulders of his team mates, holding aloft a sizable bit of silverware.

At the bar a family take turns to guess, for £1 a go, what they think will be the attendance today, with the chance to win whatever ends up in the plastic pint glass and I make it clear in no uncertain terms to the lady with the clipboard martialing it, that I would like a go too.

Not only did Tom relieve himself of a litre or so of water he consumed on the drive, but also took the opportunity to scout out the pin availability, and returns with tales of “drama at the club shop” which sounds like one of Agatha Christie's lesser known novels. A Bognor Regis Town FC (BRT) fan is attempting to “negotiate the price of a pin”, having baulked at the £5 price tag. By all accounts the woman in the club shop stood fast, and fell just short of waterboarding the lone BRT supporter, in her attempt to extract from him the name of the website he said he could get them “cheaper”.

The band are playing some quite excellent music, Tom should really take some notes and we are soon joined at our table by the lady and her clipboard, the plastic pint glass full of cash, as well as my new found confidence that unlike last season, I might win something this year. So I toss my pound coin into the glass with a touch of nonchalance, and make my guess.

Behind us a woman squeals excitedly having been given a bag of wool “Ohhhh I've not got any of those colours” she says, only in non league and as Tom puts it the man on the table next to us is “making a right mess of that”, as he deconstructs his footlong hot dog, sauce everywhere, sausage free of bun, consuming it in three hearty bites.

Further gambling opportunities present themselves in the shape of an old gent in a fold up chair situated by the turnstiles. “Can’t guarantee they're winners,” he explains, ripping the tickets expertly along the perforation and handing them to me. In fact the 50/50 tickets are just the start of the Bermuda triangle of matchday essentials. My programme is soon secured from what is essentially a nearby shed and Tom bags his pin, a perfect enamel version of the club's crest, with three shimmering mackerel on it. despite the slightly higher than average price, “£5 bit pricey”.

I’m glad to report he didn't try and haggle, the lady in the big sun hat, who would also sell you a WFC body warmer for £40, doesn't look like the kind of person you want to quibble with about 50p.
It’s the Doors now filling the air waves, the original version over the PA and not a cover by the very accomplished band who are taking a break away from their self imposed sweat box. The only outstanding part of our well established routine is of course Tom filling his stomach and with the rumoured bumper crowd, he’s getting it now, instead of battling the crowds at half time.

“Oh I have missed them” he murmurs, clutching his onion ladened cheese burger, barely contained within its white paper napkin. It was quite hypnotic watching it being constructed. Cooked on the large grill by a big man with a spatula tending to about thirty patties, he passed it down the line down where a well oiled team of three apply all the necessaries, Henry Ford would be proud.

Having ensured he fitted in his dark green suit, the “wedding diet” is now officially over as Tom puts it, but such is his eagerness to taste grilled beef, cheese and onions after his self imposed football food hiatus, he’s a little hasty taking a bite, and proceeds to burn his mouth, “hot, hot, hot, hot”.

Fanned out in his hand above his head, a man wearing a money belt sells the club fanzine the Rebel Yell. As well as being known as the Mackerel Men, WFC are also known as the Rebels, but not I imagine because of some affinity with Billy Idol. Gone in maybe no more than four bites Tom’s burger is demolished and he comments once again on the “good music”.

With lunch completed, we then make the quite unorthodox move of leaving the ground, before we’ve even seen a ball kicked.

Wafting in the breeze, across the roofs of the neighbouring terraced housing, comes a sound more commonly associated with football much higher up the pyramid and very rarely in this country. It’s clear what it is the first time we hear it, no cupping of the ear is required, and it only gets louder the closer we get, the both of us exchanging a knowing glance at the prospect of what is to come.

Our encounter with the fan march by the WFC supporters group the Away Boys, is somewhat hampered by the arrival of the 12:30 from Brighton. The barrier of the level crossing prevents them from getting any further. The various criss crossing trains do little to stifle their singing, the flimsy red and white gate starts to bounce in rhythm with the latest song, “ole, ole, ole, ole”. Their various flags dancing above their bopping heads, in anticipation of it rising.

When it eventually does, what turns out to be quite a sizable group which had not been first apparent because of the succession of passing trains, occupy the width of the pavement. Led by a long white banner that reads “Fanatics”, the Saturday afternoon traffic is slowed by those who have spilled onto the road. One transit van forced to crawl behind the chanting supporters, and as they get ever closer, for a second looking like they were going to consume us, before making a sharp left turn, the drummer within their ranks, someone who we have crossed paths with before, who is quite proficient, keeps the pace. One of their number, a man in a violet jacket, who has a touch of the Kasabians about him, holds a single red flare above his head, the smoke billowing over his shoulder which mingles with the group behind him.

I think it’s fair to say all the stops have been pulled out for derby day, not to say the WFC home support is not regularly both emphatic and sizable, today's opponent being their most local of rivals, means it’s naturally increased.

From one side of the car lined road to another, the supporters are cloaked in a thick red fog. The flare having been extinguished at the foot of a tree, someone at the front of the column has ignited a billowing red smoke bomb, as the march gets ever closer to Woodside Road, the songs getting louder and louder as they go, “we’re the red army” and at one point the crowd broke out into an energetic chorus of “bouncy, bouncy, bouncy”

It doesn't take long for the newly arrived WFC fans, fresh from their procession to adorn the ground with all manner of flags and banners. In keeping with the strict colour scheme, red and white, a thick crimson band encircles the entirety of the 4G pitch, they fill every available space behind one goal. Adjacent to where the BRT fans have set up shop, hanging from a chain link fence, the stance of the home fans is spelt out, “I’d rather be a Rebel than a Rock”.

With thirty five minutes to kick off, the WFC supporters look on, laughing sarcastically at any perceived mistake made by the BRT players warming up in front of them, between their latest song or bout of pogoing in the small covered terrace they have colonised.

“Welcome to Woodside Road” says the buoyant voice of the PA, who then proceeds to read out the starting elevens once all formal platitudes have been concluded. It’s no big surprise the reception for the away players is a far from a hospitable one, a healthy chorus of boos ring out from all corners after each name, and it’s also no great surprise that the reception for the home players names, is the polar opposite.

The look on the face of one BRT player says that his day might be over before it has even begun. “I've rolled my ankle” he says to the physio and coach with an agonised expression, who with their help, his arms on their shoulders, limps off.

“We hate Worthing, we hate Worthing” is all the BRT supporters can muster from their much larger covered terrace, a couple of their own flags have gone up, but nothing close to the home fans display, in response to the Away Boys rendition of Bob Marley's Three Little Birds, a little bit of Amsterdam in East Sussex. The hands of those singing are not idle mind, many knot the necks of numerous red balloons, in readiness of their pre kick off performance.

It’s quite a wall of sound that greets the teams as they appear from the tunnel at the foot of the main stand, where almost all of its red seats are occupied. A mixture of local ish boys Norman Cook’s Right Here Right now, and the constant drumming, sets the scene for a raucous afternoon ahead.
Cascading, the red balloons, plus a single inflatable sheep rain down from the WFC fans onto the pitch as the PA’s enthusiasm takes a noticeable spike, “let's get behind the boys, come on you reds”.

From our position at the very back of the main stand, we have a perfect view of the pitch, both sets of fans and the downs in the distance. The racket from the WFC supporters is more than considerable not only from behind the goal, but all over the ground. However they have a cuckoo among them, in the form of BRT’s very own commentator. With his laptop perched on his knee, him and his co commentator huddled around his iPhone handsfree set, he turns a few heads with his own boisterous shout, “come on you Rocks”.

“A frantic start” is how he describes the opening exchanges, both teams with early chances, BRT’s being the best, a low powerful shot, that’s just reached by the WFC keeper. The odd balloon still bobbles along the pitch, but as of yet have not looked like they're to cause a Sunderland Vs Liverpool situation. BRT beat the offside trap, the forward rushes towards goal, but the man between the sticks claims the through ball in the nick of time.

With both sets of fans more than playing their part, it's a lively start to the El Clasicoast
.
Normally the kind of topic reserved for the sixty first minute of a dire 0 - 0, the conversation going on

around us among some home and away old boys, is one I’m franky shocked to hear ten minutes into a spirited derby day encounter. “If we lose three a year it’s a miracle,” says one man in a BRT tie, at the sight of a hoofed clearance clearing the fence and into a nearby garden.

It’s been a fairly tentative start by the home side, but with ten gone, they have more than grown into it and almost take the lead via the head of a BRT defenders head.

Not long after the visitors are away again on one of their blistering counterattacks. Outnumbering WFC at the back, the wide player looks to find his team mate in the box with a whipped cross, only for an interception by the WFC number 5 or as the BRT commentator puts it, ladened with praise, “what a block by marvelous Marvin”.

The fact that the main stand is chocka, has given many few other options then to brave the unrelenting sun. Most if not all are required to shield their eyes with their hands to have any chance
of making out what's going on.

Manically waving his flag, the home fans and players claim for a penalty, the referee takes heed of his assistants signal and blows his whistle, but points to the extremity of the box instead of the spot. “He shoots” shouts the BRT commentator, expelling far more energy in saying so, then ended up in the eventual set peace, the attempt at goal gathered with ease.

Approaching twenty minutes gone and we've been spoilt for half chances, but as of yet neither team has grabbed one with both hands. BRT are very much set up for the counter, two in short succession almost put them ahead, but on both occasions the final touch or lack of it, kills the chance dead in the water.

“Like a boxer on the ropes” explains the BRT commentator to his listeners, as his side come under their first period of sustained pressure. A free kick is not lumped into the box as anticipated, but is instead slid down the side of the wall with great accuracy, where it is met by a WFC forward whose first time shot is beaten away. Chipped back in, the ball falls to a WFC player who sends another effort goalward from a narrow angle, hitting the post.

An injury to a BRT player gives both sides the chance to head to the dugouts for a much needed water. The break in play sees what until then had been a relentless atmosphere dip ever so slightly, the general hubbub of matchday still simmers away, with the odd sporadic shout from the sidelines replacing the din of before.

“Ohhhhhhh” gasps the home crowd, their team first to register a chance after the restart. A crossed ball finds an unmarked player, but his attempt at a volley is miss timed, and another chance goes begging, not that Tom is paying much attention to the frequent goalmouth action. He as ever finds his entertainment in the minutia, in the strangest of insignificant details. “He’s massive for a left back” he gawps, at admittedly the very tall defender, “he’s like a basketball player”.

Someone is going to have to take one of these chances soon or they are going to end up sorely regretting it. A back post header from BRT that looked destined to be the opener, is somehow clawed out by the WFC keeper and the resulting corner sees them find enough space for another attempt but the shot is scuffed and off target.

Perhaps he was distracted by the intermittent blasts of his supporters air horn or the repetitive shouts of “we’re the green army”, but having been found with pinpoint precision, the ball along the front of the WFC defence, teasingly out of reach for them all, the BRT forward just can’t get the ball out of his feet, and the gilt edged chance can’t be converted. With fans and players alike frustrated at his momentary lack of dexterity, he gets some small reprieve, via the raised flag of the referee's assistant, so it wouldn't have counted any way. Which of course he knew, hence why he didn't really try.

“Off, off, off” demand the travelling fans, a late home tackle was a tad late, but not red worthy. The guilty player takes his talking to and yellow card quietly.

What is the average English fans aversion to a drum? I really don’t get it. Clearly not fans of the home supporters choice of percussion, the away end suggests they “stick that fucking drum up” their “arse”, and this is coming from the people with an air horn, which I could quite happily see disappear up someone's anus, long before the drum ever did. Regardless the air horns cameo is short lived, maybe it did end up in someones bum, because after thirty five minutes, I don’t remember it rearing its head again. It’s owner never really having any justifiable reason to use it.

A clanger, a howler, a real case of butter fingers, call it what you will the BRT keeper has had a shocker. The tamest of shoulder high shots, somehow slithers through his Lurpak smothered digits, over his shoulder and into the back of the net. First blood to the home side.

Sinking to the ground, face buried into the artificial surface, it’s only because of the help from a teammate that the BRT keeper gets back up, otherwise I think he would have happily stayed right there. Arms outstretched like he’s running towards a loved one, the scorer, WFC’s number 5 makes the short dash towards the fans ready to receive him and the rest of the team following up. Both players and fans leaping on top of him, to congratulate him.

The response from the away fans is stirring but oh so brief,  “champions of Sussex we know what we are” however their attempt to rally, soon turns to cries of announce, one shirtless fan punches the air and then crashes his fist off the hoarding. Seconds after the restart they are presented with a sure chance to reclaim parity, but fluff their lines once more.

In on goal the home fans collectively hold their breath, until the shot has cleared the crossbar. “Weyyyyyy” they jeer, a nearby houses kitchen window only saved by the high mesh net, there to do exactly that, in times of such wayward marksmanship.

It’s the latest chant doing the rounds, the one that I automatically associate with Liverpool, but that has been appropriated by countless sets of supporters all over the world I’m sure, that now spills out of the home end. Another “weyyyyy” goes up at the sight of the latest wild long range BRT shot, but instead of focusing on the pitch, Tom is gawking once again, this time at a mother dishing out the treats to her two small kids.

Admittedly I have to concur with his astute observations, yes Cadburys Fingers during a heatwave was a rookie mistake, “I bet those chocolate fingers are a bit soft”, but there is a half decent football match going on. His smug level is through the roof when both children end up looking like they have each applied full face chocolate make up, their hands and about everywhere from their forehead down is now brown.

The half comes to an end with not quite a flourish of chances, more a smattering and in keeping with the narrative so far, nothing comes of them. WFC are first up, the attempt at a flicked finish on the edge of the six yard box, does not quite have the power required to threaten and then BRT, who have probably had the lion's share of possession since the goal, find themselves in the box again, but the shot is limp and they very nearly go in at the break further behind, however WFC can’t make the most of BRT’s mix up in defence.

“Great take, great control” says the BRT commentator through gritted teeth. The cross field pass to the WFC number 7 on the far side of the pitch is plucked from the sky with aplomb. Continuing his run, he winds around the BRT defense like a slalom skier, with only the keeper to beat, his shot is just lacking and he puts it wide.

It’s a rather low key change of ends, the migration of the two sets of supporters, and the potential for aggro, goes off without incident. On the pitch, the person responsible for pulling my 50/50 ticket out the hat, is a man who has just completed “sixty eight marathons in seven days” running all the way from “Istanbul to Worthing”. Before securing me my first win of the season, he does the draw for a “signed ball”, which is won by “Ed Norton”.

“Start as you mean to go on” says Tom, laughing at his own joke. I of course and no thanks to the bearded bionic man below, will not be taking the “£85” prize home with me today.

The home fans more than fill their new spot for the new half, their selection of flags and banners has gone up in no time and the drum is front and centre to welcome the players. With just as much gusto as before, the PA lets out his war cry “come on you reds” and the Away Boys are in fine voice as the game resumes, “what do we think of Bognor? Shit”.

It wasn't exactly an auspicious ending to the first half for the Rocks and their start to the second is just about as convincing. Giving the ball way, WFC are quick to counter, the last ditch defending sees
the forward bundled over inches outside the box, it was all that could really be done to prevent going further behind. The free kick is over, but BRT look rattled, the home team are getting into their stride and the fans can sense it, and only get louder from here on “I'd rather be a Rebel than a Rock”.

“This is poor” says the BRT commentator close to a melt down, almost out of his seat he watches WFC swing in a deep cross that only needs the faintest of touches, but his team get a reprieve, as no one is there to meet it. BRT are under the cosh, they’re being forced right back, the home team pepper the box with cross after cross and this onslaught only riles the WFC fans up further, “can you hear the Bognor sing, we can’t hear a fucking thing”.

WFC go close again to doubling their lead, “If that was in, game over” laments the man in front of me, shouting ever louder into his hands free kit, this time a player on the line is on hand to clear.

It’s not a bout of butter fingers this time, but another BRT error that ultimately sees them fall further behind. What some might call a ‘hospital pass’ across the back line is latched onto. The player with the ball travels further and further into the area, his teammates call for him to pass, but he just keeps on going. At one point it looks like the chance has gone, only for him to roll it home past the hapless BRT keeper, sending the home end into raptures.
“We want 6” demands someone in the main stand, they want to see them from down the coast well and truly put to the sword. The scorer races away with his index finger pushed againt his lips shushing the BRT fans and The Away Boys encourage each other to “go fucking mental” and the scenes under the low slung flat roof terrace are akin to a mosh pit.

Tom is concerning himself with the big stuff once again, wondering why the match is being played with a “yellow ball” as well as the welfare of the man in charge, “the ref needs some sun cream, he’s getting pinker and pinker”.

On twenty three minutes the game is all but over, the BRT commentator has his head in his hands, the home end might have just peaked, “Worthing” they roar, WFC have just added to their tally, now three goals to the good. BRT look like a very different team to the one who started so brightly and are close to getting humiliated if they are not careful. Three could easily become five.

Such is the level of the traveling teams second half performance, not to take anything from the home side, they have looked like they have had a real fire in their bellies since the restart, it takes BRT almost twenty five minutes to fashion their first chance of the half. A low snap shot is kept out well by the WFC keeper who has had next to nothing to do.

A second effort in less than a minute behind, but is not the start of some great BRT resurgence, more perhaps just the case of WFC taking their foot of the gas. The fans behind the goal mind do anything of the kind, “la, la, la, la Worthing” they sing, before reiterating the fact, in case anyone had forgotten, “we hate Bognor”.

Sitting behind the BRT commentator has opened a small window into a world I know very little about. One somewhat takes for granted the silver tongued wordsmiths, who guide us, with varying results though whatever televised match you may be watching. As with life, there are various styles, the fact filled monologues of Motson, the boundless energy of seemingly any Latin American, but one thing they all share is a certain high standard, consummate professionalism, one thing you don't expect are outbursts and personal opinions.

I am therefore a little shocked when following a mistake by the BRT keeper, his attempt to control a pass back sees the ball roll under his foot and in an attempt to reach it, there is a coming together and a fleeting melee breaks out, to see the BRT commentator who until then had been animated but PG rated, leap to his feet, and fire off a tirade in the direction of the WFC player tangling with his, “fucking wanker”.

The almost Paul Robinson faux pax is not the end of the BRT keepers somewhat erratic behaviour, “he’s getting a bit flappy” comments Tom, his latest attempt to punch the ball clear is far from decisive. “He saved a shot, he saved a shot” sing the home end driven on by the tireless work of the drummer, poking fun at one player who is already having a it of a bad day and really could do without it.

In their number 5, “marvelous Marvin” as he was earlier dubbed, WFC have a player who is apparently blessed with an unlimited supply of stamina, an eye for goal which he has already proved and the ability to be in the right place at the right time, all the time. Popping up all over the place, winning back the ball or latching onto loose passes, he is becoming quite a considerable thorn in the BRT side.

When the BRT fans who have been a bit dormant are stirred, making an appeal for a penalty which is waved away, this sudden up turn in noise is quickly pounced upon, “your support is fucking shit”. The announcement of the attendance, something I wouldn't normally acknowledge, but today I keenly listen out for, considering there's a prize a stake, is “1,684” meaning I won’t be bagging that prize either.

My cogitating about what the person who has just fired up their nearby BBQ might be having is only fleeting. “Marvelous Marvin” is back at it, this time in the BRT box, but he just can't sort his feet out, and the ball is poked clear for a corner. The ease in which he got into a shooting position, is summed up perfectly by the now far less sweary commentator, “like a knife through hot butter”.

Despite the conditions, I’m close to melting in the shade with a cold drink, the home fans have been relentless, “oh when the reds go marching in”. More pressure on the BRT back line brings about another chance, a hurried pass is swept up in a flash, and the player with the ball can see the headlines before he’s even scored. Shaping up to shoot, he’s already imagining all the pats on the back and offers to buy him a drink, but his shot is way off target, forcing him to raise an apologetic hand to a teammate in a far better position.

Into the final ten and BRT heads are almost on their chests, the jeers from the home fans as they rack up only their third chance of the half, is almost cruel. Well ahead and the result all but confirmed, “marvelous Marvin” has played his last part, his substitution much to Tom’s dismay, “fives off” he gasps, “oh Marvin”.

Not only is he gutted at the departure of one of the stand out players of the day, but he’s also growing more and more concerned about the state of the referee who he points out is now the “same colour as the Worthing shirt. Get him some after sun”.

With the five minutes of the half remaining, Tom then turns to me all Jose Mourinho, just like he would to his team on the bench, five minutes away from a victory, but falling short of shaking my hand, he looked me dead in the eye, “no way back for Bognor”.

His team might be languishing, but this has far from affected the BRT commentators enthusiasm, “back into the danger zone” he yelps, when the visitors have one of their all too rare forays into the WFC box, however the looping half volley at Tom puts it is “crap” and just about “sums their day up”.

Every pass to the BRT keeper is greeted with derision, he certainly looks like he might have another mistake in him, Tom convinced he’s wearing “two left boots”. That might be the case, but it's one of them that keeps WFC from making it four. The forward points to where he wants the ball, and gets it. He shoots first time, only for the BRT keeper to keep him out, blocking with his feet.

Three Little Birds is blasted out again and such is one man's determination to get his head on a clearance, he completely forgets he’s on the stairs of the main stand, and not terrafirma and almost crashes down them in his attempt to nut the ball back onto the pitch. He neither fell or missed the opportunity to receive a warm “weyyy” from the crowd and looks chuffed.

“Fucking hope not” replies a steward when he’s asked if he thinks there is going to be a “pitch invasion”. The home end is close to erupting, they are the loudest they have been all day by far, “whooooooo, ohhhhhhhh”. The same steward pointing out the home end is “bit different to last week” after their somewhat sobering defeat.

Both sets of players approach their respective supporters come the final whistle, the difference in mood is striking. The BRT players applaud the effort of those that have traveled, however either side of the hoardings be it on the pitch or the terrace, is pretty lifeless.

The WFC players on the other hand are full of swagger, full of all the bravado that comes with a resounding derby day victory. The Away Boys are now like that upbeat Spotify playlist you made yourself to get through the commute to work or to get you up for the gym. Song after song, “red army, red army” and my personal favourite an adaptation of a Celtic chant, but with an obvious change, “come on you boys in red”. Very much without the ads, there are no interruptions, just banging tunes one after another. The drummer at one point so vigorous in his pounding, the white fluffy tip of his drumstick flies off onto the pitch and has to be recovered.

We’ve said it before, we’re never going to tell anyone there is a right way or a wrong way to support your club, you do what suits you, however the way the Away Boys went about it today, the energy, the man in the violet jacket in the throngs of the terrace using two beer bottles as effectively maracas, is the kind of support that I want to be around, the kind that stands the hairs on the back of my neck. The drum, despite what the BRT fans might think, all the flags, is captivating.

In their recent past at least WFC are a club whose history is forged around tragedy, a car crash that left a former player confined to a wheelchair. Investing his compensation money into the club, not on a whim or as a vanity project, but as a long term project to not only save his local team from extinction, but also to give the local community something to be proud of, something to unify behind. A connection that perhaps had previously been lacking.

Talking to Pete Stone the club's Executive Chairman about the clubs ethos he explained their mantra, their core value “ambition without ego”, which was was more than apparent from the moment we arrived.

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE


Watch our video from the match ↓ HERE


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