Monday 4 March 2019

Tennis Ball Time - Hadley FC Vs Wembley FC, Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier Division, Brickfield Lane (20/02/19)

As much as I love and adore my two children, half term brings about a severe case of overexposure, testing my tolerance levels to near breaking point. There are only so many times in a day you can answer “what should I draw?” or how many times you can tell a nineteen month old to get off the windowsill, because she thinks she is one of her grandmothers cats, before you seriously consider driving to Dundee in your bare feet.

My eldests new found obsession with the confectionery named DJ Marshmello, means the soundtrack to seven days straight of family time is awful. Visits to the park where my daughter hands out bark to strangers and trying to make trips to Starbucks sound like an outing, because Daddy needs a venti shot of caffeine, can only go so far to placate them both. I need a break.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to wax lyrical about the evening sky, such has been the state of the weather as of late. A stunning late winter sunset bathes my car in glorious sunlight and the sparse scattering of wispy clouds in the pale blue sky have been turned the most mouthwatering shades of copper and orange.

Weaving through a textbook leafy North London street, I turn to the radio for company as I’m minus Tom. It flirts with Absolute radio, but not for long. The reception is poor and the voice of the presenter is too crackly, so back to Greek London Radio it is. Although I shouldn't, I take much glee in hearing on the hourly travel update, that it’s absolute carnage on the M25 and M1. The benefit of today's ground being only fifteen minutes from my house, means it's unlikely I’ll be stuck behind a caravan that has shed a tire.

“Fresh” says Tom through the open passengers side window of his car, having just pulled up next to me, a little bit closely for my liking, in the gravel floor car park of Hadley FC’s (HFC) home, Brickfield Lane. Steve, HFC’s General Manager in his club tracksuit top, is also in the car park, retrieving some odds and sods from the boot of his car and I can’t wait to ask him of all things, why is the match is kicking off at 19:30.

“Condition of the planning permission on the lights” he tells me. The person who lives in the nearby windmill, yes windmill, it's white sails are visible over the top of a nearby fence, don't want the inconvenience of bright fluorescent light flooding into their boudoir late into the night. So stringent are the conditions they “can't play games here that go to extra time” Steve explains, and ones that do like in the FA Cup, forces them to “rent” other pitches for the fixture.

Looking more like something off a golf course, than the clubhouse of a non league football team, the single storey tiled roofed building is very smart and all very new. Inside it has the touch of a wine bar about it, bare white walls and white leather topped bar stools. In his hand Steve has a canvas, with a picture of the clubs badge on, the start of putting their own stamp on the place.

“This was falling down” he says gesturing at the room we’ve just stepped into. The development as it is, is quite in contrast to what was here only three year ago, which he tells us was “nothing” but a “field”.

The bar is being stocked as we take a seat, the whole place in a gentle state of motion, so we do our best to keep out of the way. Behind the bar the fridges are filled with what you might call proper beer and not the usual watered down swill, you find in so many pubs. In one corner and where I’m sure Tom will be loitering at some point tonight, a dark wooden hatch is eased open, in preparation of food service.

Something to eat may well be in order, if only to fuel me for the long walk from the clubhouse to the pitch, which must be a good seventy five metres. Struggling through the door, Tom offers his help to the lady laden with goodies for the food hatch, “oooohhhhh cake” he says, at the sight of what to my well trained eye looks like a Victoria sponge, under a see through cloche.

With plenty of time to kill and Sky Sports News on the big TV not quite enough to entertain us, except it enables Tom to inform me that Mesut Ozil has started a new “trend” of the “double snood”, I ask him how his wedding planning is going. “Ask Charlotte, I’m staying out of it” he replies curtly.

Every new arrival is greeted with a friendly hello and the newly arrived referee almost goes the full Cheers, “how're you doing ladies?” he asks, before quickly getting the teas in. “I’m Kay, Steve's mum”, says the lady laying out the red table cloth on the table behind Tom, “I get roped in” she laughs, as she puts out the condiments.

“Can we play here?” asks one of the Wembley FC (WFC) coach's at the bar, in his bright red jacket, just as in awe of the facilities as we are. Tom has had what he thinks is a bit of a brainwave, “think the cake is for the boardroom” he says disappointingly. Using the power of his zoom lens, he gets his first glimpse of the menu, having already admitted to being a bit surprised to see “Branston pickle” on offer, he is in for a shock. There is a distinct lack of burger and chips, instead it’s “paninis”, “soup with a crusty roll”, “homemade fruit cake” and a “selection of herbal teas”, we are most definitely in North London.

Dejected probably doesn't go quite far enough to describe Tom's mood at the realisation he won't be having his usual staple tonight. He is though soon perving on one man's cake, “you get a big old wedge” he says salivating, and his spirits take an upturn when our tea arrives in a china mug, you can't beat tea in a china mug.

With forty five minutes to kick off, Tom asks me to confirm the start time, with the floodlights yet to come on, “it's all looking a bit dark out there” and as he points out some players are “still arriving”. “You sure 19:30 not 20:30?”. A board displaying the ‘Bricks Specials’ is erected behind the bar and a ping from the kitchen in the back, makes Tom think the “pies” are “done”.

With the floodlights now on, it means we can get our first look at Brickfield Lane, after we’ve completed the considerable hike from the clubhouse to the pitch. Simple but neat, much like the rest of the place is probably the best way to describe it. The wooden henge with the club's name across it, over the single turnstile, is about the only thing to differentiate the place from any another ground at this level. The man within his small wooden hut, makes the point its a “night to keep on the move”, the good weather in the day may catch a few people out, in his opinion it's going to be “deceptively cold”.

The wind has certainly picked up since we got here, my hands are starting to freeze and I’ve forgot my gloves in the car, walking all the way back to it, despite my new health kick, just feels like too much effort.

HFC are warming up on the pitch, their coach asks for some focus, “switch on” he snaps, when it's not forthcoming, he ups the ante, “stop fucking about”. With roughly ten minutes to kick off, we’re concerned to still see both teams going through their drills. Tom thinks he can “smell onions” but I think it’s his mind playing tricks on him.

Having heard them well before actually seeing them, it feels like an eternity before the teams finally appear at one corner of the pitch, having made the long walk from the changing rooms, down the conifer lined corridor. The arrival of the players is accompanied by the ticking over of the nearby turnstile, those from the clubhouse, which was a fair few have timed their exodus perfectly and take up position as HFC go through the last few drills of their very energetic warm up and from somewhere among the crowd, goes up a shot for the visitors, “come on Wembley”.

The full moon in all its glory, hangs what feels like just out of touching distance above the pitch. The man on the turnstile was bang on, its chilly. Tom has his fingerless gloves and I’m happy to report only the single snood on, I have nothing, and my new haircut means I'm getting cold. As the team's swap ends following the coin toss, Tom puts ‘match the clubs kits with a teams from the football league’ to bed with the game only seconds old, tonight was an easy one, “England Vs Orient”.

Not far from us a man is coaching the WFC players from our side of the fence, “keep the fucking ball” he shouts. When he attempts to get the attention of one player, it all gets a bit Rocky, “Adrian!”. Simply repeating single words seems to be is philosophy, “angle, angle” he shouts and
then “platform, platform”.

“Boys a bit of fucking urgency” demands one HFC player, it's hardly been the most scintillating opening ten minutes. “Got 1 - 0 written all over it” mutters Tom, he’s not been convinced we've seen much to imply we’re in for a barnstormer. Squirming and turning half away from the pitch, he almost can't bare to look at the aftermath of a HFC tackle, that has left one WFC player on his back holding his shin.

Minutes later and another HFC challenge stops the match. “Ref how late is that?” asks an incensed WFC player. They do their best to coax one kind of card or another out of the referee, for a tackle as Tom puts it “if that was in the Premier League he'd get a straight red”, but it's just a talking to for the home player, “and he doesn't even get a yellow” says an astonished Tom.

There is plenty of Denis The Menace red and black on show on the narrow terrace to our right, the other side of the barking coach, why he is not in the dugout I’m not sure, maybe it’s down to how absurdly far apart they are. “Come on you Bricks” shouts one of the scarf wearing home fans, as the noise level starts to rise from within the gloom of the only bit of cover here, other that given by the small all seater stand opposite..

On occasions Tom’s reputation can precede him, and one HFC fan, in the seemingly obligatory scarf, I think we are about the only people not in one, tells him that he’s “not sure” if they've got “hot dogs” tonight, but “they're always good” or he could always have a “panini” a word I’m sure only until very recently you would have heard at a football match.

The noise of the road behind the main stand, and the constant buzzing of the ambulances making their way to the local hospital is verging on being more absorbing than the first quarter of the match has been, where quite literally nothing of any note has happened. HFC are looking for the ball over the top for their bearded number 9, but neither team has had a shot on target yet.

Thankfully we don't have to wait too long for a brief spike in the entertainment, “that's a fucking wake up call” screams one HFC player, after their keeper has had to mop up after a lapse in concentration at the back. With a WFC player bearing down on goal, he's cleared both the ball and the man. WFC are claiming for a penalty. The home fans stirred by their man in goals heroics, let out a few lines of “come on Hadley, come on Hadley”.

“This bush is awful” says Tom, in what is not a moment of Alan Titchmarsh’ness, but because it's just “eaten” its second ball of the night, and it's so thick there is little chance of retrieving them. A new one has to be hoofed over from the far side to allow the HFC player to take the throw in. The row of trees along the busy road are nowhere near as dense and the lights of the passing double decker buses, flicker as they drive by.

It's not goals or chances flying in, but tackles, meaty, full blooded tackles. Each team are partial and it riles up the home fans who offer up more songs, “we are Hadley, we are Hadley” and then one about them progressing up the league, which does not exactly roll off the tongue, “up the Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier we go”.

Twenty five minutes gone and we are treated again to another oh so brief moment of excitement and I’m grasping at straws here a bit, but the way the HFC defender just dropped a shoulder and played the ball out of defence like a disciple of Guardiola, got me going. Tom on the other hand is thinking about half time, and for once I don't really blame him. “Looking forward to my panini” he tells me, but when I show an interest in maybe joining him , he has to consider the long walk before he can commit to getting me something.

“I'm not sure if I can carry your soup. How do you carry a bowl of soup two hundred yards with a hot dog in your hand?”.

The home fans apparently can see something we can't, “we’re gonna score in a minute”, they sing. If the HFC keeper, in his delightful green jersey keeps standing on the halfway line, “he's brave” says Tom, when his team have a corner, it might be WFC who are going to score first.

Leaping with the WFC keeper, the HFC number 9 reaches the long ball before the man in goal, getting enough on it to send it over the stopper, the crowd thinking its looping in, they let out a collective “ahhhhh” as it clears the crossbar and the home forward ends up on the floor, getting a considerable whack for all of his efforts. “Nearly concussed again” says my Tom and I say my Tom, because we have just been joined by the reason we are here tonight, Tom H, who I think it's safe to say has badgered us for about the last year, to come and join him for a game.

Tom H a disillusioned Barnet fan, who felt after the way the move away from Underhill was conducted by the Barnet owners to the neighbouring borough of Harrow, leaving HFC the only team now to play in Barnet, he had to find somewhere else to get his football fix.

After placing a large black sports bag at my feet, he told us that HFC’s number 9 has “just got back from a concussion”, after a similar aerial duel, where he came off worse for wear that time, but still “scored”.

The reason for the holdall is not because Tom H has just come from the gym or he is off on holiday, but to contain the myriad of luminous green tennis balls within. He goes on to explain its HFC's take on the 50/50, no gaily coloured paper tickets here, how passe is that and it instantly becomes my favourite thing we have encountered in the last four years.

“One ball for £1 or four for £3, special deal” Tom H spells out, my reputation now proceeding me, it goes without question I’m going to take him up on his offer. Handing me ours I squirrel them away in the deep pockets of my jacket in anticipation of the break where we and anyone else taking part, will have to try and get theirs as close to the “centre circle” as possible, the “nearest” taking home the prize. “Give me your numbers” asks Tom H, taking a note of the digits scribbled on our tennis balls and Tom is already sizing up the distance to the spot, “think I'll be good at this, I love a fairground game”. That statement will come back to haunt him, I can assure you of that.

His bag now back over his shoulder, Tom H is off to find some other participants, “I always miss the first half” he tells us, but he seems OK with that, “all the action is in the second half” he adds as he walks away.

I want it on the record, please let all the relevant government departments know, that the thirty minutes that we have just witnessed, is hands down the dullest I think we have ever seen, where WFC are still yet to have a shot on goal. Like any fan base worth their salt, what is happening on the pitch, shouldn't affect what is going on off it and the reasonably sized mob to our right, continue to sing, “Come on Hadley, come on Hadley”.

The moon now sits behind some translucent clouds, but they don't stick about for long, ruining the view. From a free kick, one HFC player is inches away from connecting with a header at the back post, which brings about a sizable “ohhhh” from the crowd.

Although neither team are setting the place on fire, Tom shaking his head as WFC give the ball way, “sloppy, sloppy, sloppy” he says to himself, something both teams have been guilty of, at least HFC look like they might be able to score if push comes to shove, WFC look toothless.

Into the final ten and it's one way traffic, an over the top appeal for a HFC penalty is waved away, after a surging run from deep in midfield and a spot of luck sees a player break into the box, and go down. They fashion another half chance a minute later and a minute after that, through in on goal the number 9 as Tom described it, “tried to Henry it” opening his body up to curl it into the far corner, but he gets his technique all wrong and it's right at the keeper. “He should have aimed for the far post” says a passing supporter.

Just as frequent as their shots on goal are, are the shouts of support from the travelling fans “come on
Wembley”. We keep up our fine recent form of seeing a non league dog, as one passes us wearing a woolly jacket and another ambulance whizzes by, immersing the place in intermittent strobes of blue light. The emergency vehicles are just about as regular as the crunching tackles, the latest one I heard, and did not see, the sound stomach churning. WFC want a free kick, Tom is unsympathetic to the plight of the downed player, “he’s OK”.

A group has formed behind the goal next to the turnstile, ready at the first blast of the referee's whistle to set off in search of some halftime refreshments. Tom would have already joined them, if it wasn't for “tennis ball time” which he says likes he's doing a voice over for an Arnold Schwarzenegger film. Staying put means he is able to make a new friend, “oh hello” he says when his new acquaintance starts sniffing his feet, “he looks like he is going to bite me” he says nervously.

Looking like the smokers huddled around the doorway of a pub, it's not at first apparent what the WFC players are doing on the edge of the HFC box. When we realise it's because they have been awarded a free kick in the dying moments, the levels of procrastination between them through the roof, before it's finally agreed on who is going to take it.

“Get in there” hollers the WFC keeper, as his teammates embrace their number 10. The taker of the free kick has well and truly leathered the ball, with little finesse, but it's still bypassed the HFC wall completely and has left a few people, including Tom and I scratching their heads. “Was there a hole in the wall?” Tom asks himself.

Their first shot on target, brings the first goal of the match. The half time whistle comes not long after the restart. The players leave, and the singing of the home fans is replaced by the noise of the traffic. Tom and I ready ourselves for “tennis ball time” but are clearly stood in the wrong place, feeling a little bit like tourists on the tube at rush hour, we are nudged and buffeted more than once by the throngs making their way for a herbal tea and some tennis balls have already been launched, before Tom and I are clear of the commuters and can try our luck.

Whatever gave Tom the impression he would be “good” at Tom H’s carnival game, was sorely misguided. He is shit and I am even worse. Not one of our four limp and lofty attempts even goes inside the centre circle. Tom H and an assistant are on hand to scoop up the lousy throws and get them back in the sports bag. Toms excuse for his pitiful showing is first because he has his camera around his neck, but when has taken that off and there is no improvement, he blames being nearly consumed by the bush like the missing footballs, on why he was so crap.

Such is the accuracy of someone, Tom H is knelt down on the centre spot with a tape measure, “this is serious business” says my Tom quietly, so as to not disturb Tom H’s important scientific work. Having failed miserably, Tom heads off, leaving me a little downbeat after our poor showing, but as ever in the world, there is always someone worse off than you, and in my case tonight it's the HFC sub warming up, who took a ball straight into his groin.

“Not sure how I've managed this” says Tom, marvelling at his own exploits, impressed at what he has achieved, considering how impossible he thought the challenge of getting us both something to eat would be, just thirty minutes ago. Crammed on to a flimsy paper Christmas plate, is a scene that sums him up so perfectly as a human being, a slice of cream cake balanced on top of a pastie. Being the good friend he is, teetering on top of his food, is the bread roll to accompany my cup of soup.

“Cornish” he mumbles having taken a hefty bite of his pastie, the flakes of pastry falling from his mouth and dusting his cake. With nowhere appropriate to put my roll, I end up losing half of it and my napkin onto the pitch, after foolishly thinking it would stay put, preciously placed on the green barrier. “Good for your diet” says Tom, seeing the positive in my loss.

HFC are out well early, punishment perhaps for conceding what was on reflection a bit of a cheap goal. They try to keep warm by all running headlong towards each other, only to stop and then run away from each other just as fast.

“Time to wake up now” snarls a WFC player, HFC have got off to a quick start. Getting the new half under way at a furious tempo, the home fans suitably buoyed, their even louder now than they were before the break. Their support is rewarded minutes in, with a much deserved equaliser. “Proper fuck up there” snigger's Tom, the WFC keeper having had a bit of a shocker, gifting HFC their goal, and a way back into the match.

Closed down by the HFC number 10, the WFC keeper attempts a clearance, but under pressure his hurried swing at the ball hits the encroaching home player, striking him in the midriff, the rebound perfectly setting up the number 9 whose on hand to poke it in to the empty net. A goal from the Gary Lineker book of tap ins. Such a faux pas by any footballer, would not be complete without a few hummed bars of Entry of the Gladiators, and the HFC supporters do not disappoint.

The fans continue to sing, “ole, ole, ole Hadley” and their team go close to taking the lead, only for the feet of the WFC keeper this time saving a goal from going in, rather than giving one away. “Fucking hell, team talk” comments Tom, HFC have come out a different team, having taken the WFC goal very personally and are looking for revenge.

Two fans late back to their spot are still discussing the WFC free kick, “over this shoulder” thinks one, an explanation maybe for the optical illusion. Taking their chant game to the next level the HFC choir moves on from those in the standard football supporters songbook and whack out a few verses of one to the tune of Pink Floyd's, Another Brick In The Wall, “We don't need no Tottenham Hotspur. We don't need no Arsenal”.

Only twelve minutes into the second half and HFC are looking blood thirsty and could easily be well ahead already. Their number 9 tries an ambitious walloping volley from way out, that is off target, but not long after, his eye is well and truly in and he sends a long range drilled shot, back off the foot of the post. “We’re gonna score in a minute” sing the supporters, who are only getting louder and like their team can sense the visitors are there for the taking.

“I bet that hurt” grimaces Tom as not one but two thunderbolt shots from the edge of the box are blocked by a WFC defender, the third in the quickfire trio of attempts is straight down the throat of the WFC keeper. HFC are well and truly on the front foot and it simply feels like a matter of when not if. The fans mix it up further, not with a prog rock classic this time, but something a little bit more Soul, their latest song to the tune of In The Jungle, “we’re the Hadley, the mighty Hadley” complete with high pitched “a-weema-weh”.

After another outing for what might be footballs only tongue twister chant “ up the Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier we go”, I notice a couple of red and black flags, nothing huge, rippling in the breeze at the front of the terrace. WFC are getting desperate, when an HFC forward looks to be away, he is unceremoniously hauled to the ground and the home fans want blood, “off, off, off”.

WFC are allowed to keep their full complement of players on the pitch, but HFC have the bit between their teeth, and it feels like it's going to be a tough last quarter for the away side, however many players they have. The lack of a dismissal, does not go down well with the HFC fans, “the referee is Mr Bean” shouts one, but it can't be because he looks like him, so I’m assuming it's because they think he is a bit thick. Another suggests that someone will be having a word with him, after what they feel was a glaring error, “that’s one for the assessor”.

With the attention the HFC number 7 was getting from his marker, it looked like the defender was
trying to get in his shirt with him, he had no right to be able to turn on a sixpence on the edge of the WFC six yard box, and falling still managing to get a shot away, and score HFC's second. Spiriting away towards the dugout, his teammate soon catch up with him to celebrate.

Clearly feeling the three points are now theirs, even with still over ten minutes left to play, some may say the HFC fans are slightly jumping the gun, but they are soon singing, “we are top of the league, say we are top of the league”. WFC almost ruin the premature party, by very, very nearly grabbing their second moments after the restart, but the score remains 2 - 1 and the home fans let out a few relieved, “come on you Bricks”.

It's either that they are all blessed with the powers of an end of the pier clairvoyant or that they are so confident in their teams abilities, but whenever the HFC supporters sing, “we’re gonna score in  minute” they inevitably nearly do. “Arghhhh” they groan on mass, as a flying header veers just off target.

When WFC are awarded a free kick in a dangerous position, one HFC player asks that they “dig in” and they do just that. Snuffing out any glimmer of a threat. Things then finally boil over, when the first half physicality, that had not been so prevalent in the second half, rears its head. HFC number 9 is scythed down, and doesn't take kindly to it.

“Ref have a word” asks someone angrily from the HFC bench, the flare up having just about simmered down, the man in charge looking a little overwhelmed, he does his best to try and get to grips with the situation. Of course the WFC players think there was nothing in it, “ref wasn't the ball there to be won?” asks one player, the HFC players think surely the only outcome is a red card. Walking about the pitch being followed by a gaggle of squabbling footballers, the referee is not exactly stamping his authority on proceedings.

“That’s not yellow card worthy” insists the HFC manager from the edge of his technical area, when his number 9 and the player who fouled him, are both booked. The reaction of the HFC forward to the tackle, in the eyes of the referee was not acceptable. Channelling their inner panto dame the HFC supporters “boooooo”. “Fucking tosser” adds one, not something I’ve ever heard in Puss In Boots.

More abuse for the referee is dished out in his direction, “you don't know what you're doing” and one person implies he is not exactly impartial, “the referee is Wembley”.

The stop start, stop start nature of the last five minutes can only add to home nerves. Having been so supremely assured that the win was all but theirs, the fact that the whistle is never far from the referees lips, causing the end of the match to feel like it's never going to end, means there's still time for WFC to pop up with another goal.

“Is he not allowed to compete?” asks the HFC manager, rhetorically I’m sure, when one of his players is brandished with a late yellow card. Not feeling like any call is going their way, as the game winds down, there are jubilant cries of “hallelujah, “hallelujah” when the referee awards a foul in favour of the home team.

Far from sitting back and soaking up whatever WFC have left in the tank, HFC are on the hunt for a third, and if WFC could just string a few passes together, they could really take advantage, and pounce on the counter. At every opportunity the HFC keeper hangs onto the the ball that little bit too long, soon I’m sure he will start to test the referees patience. Falling to the floor, completely unnecessarily every time he catches it, he’s doing his best to buy his team every second he can.

“Ref how long” asks the HFC bench, before instructing the team to “stay alert”. The home fans are back to bragging about being at the “top of the league”. apparently “where they belong”.

Watching his team drop deeper and deeper, the HFC keeper tells his teammates to move “up, up, up” waving his arms frantically to get them further up field. “Jesus” sighs a nearby WFC fan at the sight of his team giving the ball away in the final third, at what might have been their last chance to get in the HFC box. Where HFC have all but stopped the sloppy passing that plagued both teams in the first half, WFC have continued to be profligate in possession.

With confidence close to turning to arrogance, “we’re so good it’s unbelievable” sings one home fan, it is not though completely unfounded, as HFC almost grab a third, the shot going just wide. Well, well into added on time, the supporters are getting jittery, “come on ref for fucks sake” says one, another pointing out very sensibly “we’ve got light restrictions”. The latest round of falling to the floor for no reason by the HFC keeper, is greeted with applause by the fans.

More Pink Floyd permeates out from the terrace from behind the flags, and there next song is and adaptation of an oldie, “Wembley Wembley, were the famous Hadley FC and we're beating Wembley”.

One last check with the referee of "how long" is left from the HFC manager is inconclusive. "Check your watch ref", pleads one fan, at this rate they are going to have to turn the lights off with the match still playing. When the final whistle comes, the WFC player with the ball smashes it high into the night sky in frustration. Satisfied "weyyyyys" emanate from the HFC fans, who are quick to rub salt into WFC wounds, "one nil and you fucked it up".

The lights stay on just long enough to let everyone leave, but they are soon off , plunging Brickfield Lane back into darkness until next time. Tom climbs into his car and is soon away, being so close to home I can be a tad more leisurely about things. I amble back, mulling over the evening, just quite how much I liked "tennis ball time", quite how much I was bowled over by HFC's fans, and the welcome they and everyone else extended our way.

Much can be taken away from tonight, which will go down as one of the best for a long time. The match was drab, the ground far from memorable, minimalist really. It was refreshing to hear someone other than Tom say "squeaky bum time", so HFC were on to a winner in my eyes before the game had even ended. There wasn't a ginormous bustling crowd, but the those who call HFC their team, those there in attendance tonight, those who sang songs to the tunes of Pink Floyd, Tony Christie and the one that Ross in Friends sings to his Monkey, like Tom H, have whittled out their own small corner of the non league world, one I would happily revisit, again, and again, and again. 

Whats interesting about our journey is not so much what we have discovered about a world until four years ago neither of us knew anything about, but what we have learnt about ourselves. I already knew Tom was basically a human waste disposal unit, who can eat a pastie and a quarter of a cream cake in less than four minutes, but until tonight I had never had the courage to admit to myself, just how bad at throwing I am. We all have our crosses to bare in life, I've just added another one to the list.

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