Wednesday, 23 November 2011

It began as a needle in a haystack...

A needle I have yet to prick my finger on, but I did manage to get under the skin, at least, of the 1934/35 season as a result. Let me explain...

I do enjoy participating in a good messageboard, & the main forum I use, after the unofficial Dulwich Hamlet one, is the 'Non League Matters' one; established by the late Tony Kempster many years ago. One of the sections on there is entitled 'History' & back in mid-August of this year somebody called 'waparesult' posted the following:

"Chelgrove FC.. Dulwich Amateur League?

All, first post so please be gentle :-) I am researching my Grandad, George Gambrell, and trying to find out some more history about him and wonder if the good people on here can help? He played for Chelgrove FC in the Dulwich Amatuer League from 1930 - 1934 winning the league on 4 straight occasions and gaining promotion each year. I am trying to find some stats, figuresabout him but cannot find anything on the net. can you help please? "

He also clearly posted pictures of the engraved league medals & two team photos. Now if there's one thing I'm sad enough to enjoy, it's spending hour upon hour trawling through the microfiches of local papers, so I headed off to the Southwark Local History Library, on Borough High Street, to see what I could unturn.

As it happens...not a lot, next to nothing about Chelgrove at all! In fact there was no mention of them in the divisions of the Dulwich League, when they were reported, so the medals are a bit of a mystery to me at the moment. I'm not sure who won the Dulwich League in those years yet, as my reseaerch is very much a slow work in progress.

I did enquire as to whether he knew if his grandfather had ever stood on the terraces at Champion Hill. Understandably very little anecdotal tales were handed down. The minimal info he had was that: "The History is my Grandad lived in Ansdell Road SE15, until he passed away in 1954, he worked for the gas board and was a very keen football fan.. he used to play for Chelgrove had trials at Crystal Palace and Millwall and allegedly ( I am trying to find out) played for Millwall, from what my mum said he was a regular at Dulwich and used to take my uncle along who was more interested in fishing than football :-) My nan remained in Ansdell Road until 1972 when she moved to WGC, my parents moved out in 1965 to Aylesbury and then to Plymouth where I have lived for the last 40 odd years. "

Of the three seasons mentioned I decided to start at the last one, 1934/35, as that was when Chelgrove were supposedly in the top division, from which I hoped they would have had more copy in the local press. All I managed to discover was the make up of the Dulwich League, & that season the Premier Division appears to have consisted of: Dulwich St John's; Sparks; Oxford & Bermondsey O.B.; First Surrey Rifles; Heathens Athletic; Southwark Greyfriars; Norwood; St. Barnabus Institute; Old Hollingtonians; St George's Cathedral; Waverley; Streatham Manor; and Alaska Sports.

The name Chelgrove did later appear in a single small match report, from their match against Dolcis; more delving into the archives further along will tell me that these two sides competed in the Brockley & District League Division One, & that this organisation had a Premier Division above it. In the nineteen thirties there were many local leagues, some I have been aware of, others not. Two of them not ringing a bell being the Central London League, and the South London Oddfellows League.

I suppose I'm waffling on a bit now, it should be clear that this has very little, if any, Dulwich Hamlet connection, and a total wild goose chase! But at the same time my eye was being caught by all the Dulwich Hamlet news of the day, & decided to include some of it in an article for the 'Hamlet Historian', which I hope you will find interesting. Those of you you who know me will realise that I'm not really a 'facts & figures' man, but that I am more for the quirky & 'socially observational', so please accept my lame apologies in advance, if I veer off course away from Champion Hill now & again!

1934 was, without doubt, a great time to be a Hamlet fan. We had just lifted the Amateur Cup for the third time, having beaten Leyton by the odd goal in three at Upton Park, in front of a crowd of over 33,000; in which a depleted Hamlet side suffered injury after injury & finished the match with only seven fit men! And had a held over Surrey Senior Cup final from the previous campaign to come. It's well recorded that the '34/35 season was very much a 'nearly' one, battling on to not one, not two...but THREE semi finals, then losing them all! This, probably the first article of a few on this period will not tell you who wond, drew & lost to every week ; although some of that will be covered. I hope to re-aquaint you with the snippets surrounding the statistics, and for that to begin it's time to turn the clock back to September 1934...

One of the first things I spotted was a passage from the Dulwich Amateur Football League handbook of that year, that caught the eye of the sportsdesk of the 'South London Press', & mine over three quarters of a centre later, so much so that I included in the first Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' Team programme earlier this season: " A sportsman is a man who does not boast; nor quit; nor make excuses when he fails. He is a cheerful loser and a quiet winner. He plays fair and as well as he can. He enjoys the pleasure of risk. He gives his opponent the benefit of the doubt,and he values the game itself more highly than the result". Good to know we adhere to some of that ethos in the twenty first centry, having quietly won our divisional 'Fair Play' award last season, as opposed to teams who loadly preach it, but don't put it into practice, if you take Corinthian-Casuals as your benchmark this season!
Our own Club handbook was praised, with the comment that we were " believed to be the only amateur football club to produce their own handbook" & that it was "...73 pages for extremely good bargain...the Amateur Cup prominently on the cover, printed, of course, in pink and blue, the club colours".
Back in those days the football season did not start until into September, as there was no real overlap between the cricket & football ones. Leather ball in winter, wooden bat in summer! There wasn't any pre-season programme. Not like today, where sometimes clubs send out two 'equal' XIs to two different away games at the same time! And a dozen warm up games or more, from as early as the first week in July, sometimes! Up until the early 1960s pre-season matches were not even sanctioned by the FA, & the general annual warm-up was a game between the players in an internal match, under the guise of 'Possibles v. Probables' or 'Blues v. Whites'.
Our pre-season match at Champion Hill in 1934 was 'Whites v. Colours' & our first football headline of the new season told us: 'BIG CROWD AT THE HAMLET TRIAL Good Football Seen at Champion Hill'. Rather than pick out a titbit from the report I shall copy it word for word, as-certainly for me-it seems so strange to see what would nowadays be seen as a training session having such standing over three quarters of a century ago:
"Nearly 3,000 turned out to watch Dulwich Hamlet's trial game at Champion Hill on Saturday. They were not disappoited for an excellent match took place, resulting in a win for the Whites by two goals to one. Although seven first team men appeared in the Colours' side, matters were balanced by the good selection of players chosen for Whites. Nearly all players appeared very fit, and it was good football from start to finish. Court (a first team man) scored for Colours within 20 minutes with a long shot after picking up a pass from Tanner at centre. Just before half-time a good move among the inside-forwards was finished off by Ball, the score being 1-1 at the interval. Ten minutes before the end there was a good piece of work by Ball during which he beat two men and passed to Spearman. Spearman (centre-forward) then scored with a splendid shot. Club officials seemed quite pleased with the trial.
The teams were:-
Colours: Cox, Waymouth, Robbins, Clark, Hamer, Toser, Morrish, Miller, Tanner, Murray (T.), Court.
Whites: Cooper, Standaloft, Osmond, Aitken, Sollitt, Barnes, Ingleton, Rudd, Spearman, Ball, Jones.
In similar matches there were over 8,000 at The Den, as Millwall's Blues beat the Reds 6-2; while over at Plough Lane the match must have given the Wimbledon selectors much food for thought as the Possibled beat the Probables two nil.
Nowadays The Hamlet are earning quite a reputation for producing their own talent, under the excellent eye & guidance of First Team supremo Gavin Rose, being nurtured through his ASPIRE Academy. This is not a modern thing really, as in our pre-War heyday we were famous for developing our own junior talent, with the crop of the South London schoolboys at our disposal, and having them come through the ranks via our junior sides and the reserves. As you can see from this headline: ' Hamlet FC's Reserve strength '- "Like the Arsenal, Dulwich Hamlet have long been famed for the strength of their reseve talent. Last season they had an Irish international, P.J. Roche, playing in their reserve team. This year it appears that another player who has gained representative honours may have to be content with a place in the second eleven. He is P. Neale, an inside right, who has just joined Dulwich from Ilford. While with the Essex club he played for Essex and the Isthmian League. "

Someone else also got a name check in the paper that day: 'From Forward to Goalkeeper'- "Another Dulwich Hamlet player who is far above his present class is Cyril Cox, who is at present keeping goal for the juniors and the "A" team. Originally he was a forward, and then a half-back. A bad knee injury caused him to turn his attention to goalkeeping, and he played so well he decided to stay there. Now he is providing the Hamlet selectors with a problem. Cox is the second Hamlet player in recent years who has changed from the front line of attack to the last line of defence. Alfred Solly, who later joined Newport as a professional and is now with Aldershot, was the first."
The season opener was at home to a name long forgotten. Optimism was clearly high, judging from the previews in the press: 'STRONG SIDE TO MEET TUFNELL PARK Murray the Only Cup Finalist Out of the Game' It was reported that "all the amateurs have hard matches-Wimbledon are at Leytonstone and Nunhead at Oxford. Even Dulwich Hamlet will have to strain every nerve to beat Tufnell Park on their own ground." But the game should not really have been that troublesome, as the scribe went on to tell us: (we) "...are fielding ten of the men who won the Amateur Cup, the only absentee being Murray, who, I understand, is still on holiday. His place will be filled by a very capable deputy in Aitken, so there is nothing to worry about in the way of a weakened half-back line. Miller did sufficient in last Saturday's trial to show that not only has he completely recovered from his Amateur Cup final accident, but has also used the interval since he last played to think out a variety of bewildering new tricks. Four of tomorrow's team- Cummings, Hugo, Benka and Court-did not play in last week's trial, and Aitken was in the reserves' side. It was pity, I think, not to have included Aitken with Hamer and Toser, for the three men's experience in working together would have stood them in good strad tomorrow. But unless the visitors have imported several dangerous forwards during the close season, they will probably not present a very strong attack-defence is their forte-so all should be well. "
The result? A nil nil draw! And the local journalist was not a happy chap! "If Dulwich Hamlet are to sweep all before them this season, as, of course, they confidently anticipate doing, they will have to take their matches a little more seriously....Until the middle of the second half they dillied and dallied while the 7,000 spectators were on edge lest Tufs should snatch that all-important goal...With only 20 minutes left they seemed to realise it was time the game was livened up and made attack after attack only to be repulsed. The game ended on a goalless draw, but the Hamlet have only themselves to blame for not notching at least four. Maybe it was the hot sun and that beginning of the season feeling,but they seemed to be playing with a "plenty of time to score yet" attitude..." The scribe concluded with a comment that modern day Hamlet fans can still relate to: "The forwards must remember that good, hard shooting is of much more benefit than footling about trying to beat six men in front of goal".
One of the early season matches was away to Wycombe Wanderers, at their old Loakes Park ground, which had a really nasty slope on it. Indeed when I first saw The Hamlet play at the old Yeovil Town ground, Huish Park, in their first Isthmian spell in the mid eighties I thought their famed slope was not as bad as the Wycombe one! Back in 1934 we were informed that: " Wycombe's ground is notoriously difficult for visitors. The peculiar lay of the pitch is worth at least two goals to the home team, though it is one of the marvels of the game that South London clubs do quite well there. This is a phenomenon of football that nobody has yet been able to explain, so I'm not going to try it!" Clearly our luck deserted us, as we went down by the odd goal in five!
An unusual match that caught my fancy was not an Isthmian League fixture, but a charity match at the home of London Leaguers Streatham Town FC, against a "Tom Barling's XI", on Wednesday 18th September. Barling was a Surrey cricketer & was bringing a side to their ground in Hassocks Road, Streatham Vale to raise money for the Tom Walls' Cancer Fund, & a 'good crowd was anticipated'. The Hamlet connection was the make up of the Barling XI: "Barling's team includes four of Dulwich Hamlet's Amateur Cup winning side, in Morrish, Goodliffe, Benka, and Hugo, another Surrey cricker in F. Gamble, while Barling himself will play at inside-right." The match was to be refereed by the famous ex-Chelsea player Alex Jackson,whose most succesful spell was at Huddersfield Town from 1925 -30. He was one of the so-called 'Wembley Wizards' when Scotland beat England 5-1 in the Home Championships in 1928, scoring a hat-trick himself. the main raffle prize was a cricket bat autographed by the England and Australian teams, as well as five county sides. I wonder what that would fetch on Ebay nowadays?

The match itself was won by two goals to nil, by the hosts, "In the first half there was some pretty exhibition football,but no score, The Town throughout the game had the advantage, being obviously more used to playing together, but Barling's team put up a remarkably good show." Unsurprisingly Barling was reportedly the "outstanding man in his own team", but our own Hugo was called one the most outstanding defenders on the field, the other being Aylwin the Streatham centre-half. Who '"bottled up Goodliffe, the opposing centre, very successfully"; so not such a good evening for another Hamlet man! But a happy night all round for the Aylwin clan, as a Mr. G. Aylwin, of Western Road, Mitcham won the bat!

In the FA Cup we were exempt until the First Round Proper, by virtue of being Amateur Cup winners, but it is worth noting how some other local teams did at the start. Our 2011 conquerers Sutton United had a "deserved victory" at Tooting & Mitcham, while Streatham Town drew one apiece at home to Hounslow Town, with a tale of more injury woes than our aforementioned Amateur Cup final! They could not put out their strongest side as Earl had put out his knee in training & Harvey was "indisposed with a poisoned arm." During the game, one of the replacements, Fear, was injured & had to be carried off the field; Rimmer reappeared after a weeks absence through a pulled muscle, but was a "passenger" after only ten minutes, when his leg gave out again. Don't forget there were no substitutes back in those days. Even the keeper got hurt! Speckman was fouled while making a save and was carried off "badly shaken up"! I don't know about you but I'd have been more than happy with the draw. And they won the replay!

But to put those injuries in perspective, think of an Isthmian League game around the same time, when Nunhead travelled to St Albans City & played out a nil nil draw. The game was played on a very slippery surface, following a heavy thunderstorm pre-match. During which one of the spectators was struck by lightening & killed. One of the bandsman was also struck, but he was not badly injured.

The same afternoon, on the pitch, The Hamlet had a 'minor disaster' of their own, throwing away a three goal lead at Clapton, to share the points in a 3-3 draw. 'Hamlet Caught Napping' as the headline said! In front of a "disappointingly small crowd" (presumably down to the same poor weather) Curtis & Benka put Dulwich two up at the break, with the latter adding a third soon after half time, with the scribe writing then that "it was all Lombard street to a china orange that the visitors would get the easiest of victories". The Tons forward Jarvis being their saviour, completing his hat-trick just beofre the end. It was a "pathetically surprised Dulwich that trooped off the field at the close. For more than half a game they had been the only side in it, but as so often happens, easing up proved fatal." Perhaps not the best choice of words after what occured at Clarence Park!

The Hamlet Reserves were also across the water, at Ilford, where the previously mentioned PJ Neale starred against his old club. As the report told us: "Neale has often delighted the Ilford crowd, but although his play on Saturday earned him rounds of applause, the audience must have viewed his success with mixed feelings. Neale led his old colleagues a fine dance,and in addition to scoring two goals he had a large share in the other two,both of which were scored by HJ Ball. The Hamlet first team do not always fare particularly well at Ilford, but the Reserves certainly showed how easy it is to score on the pretty Essex ground. Straight for goal they went every time. Ilford made a few spasmodic attacks, but these were few and far between, and the home forwards rarely looked like scoring".

One of the most important men in the early history of Dulwich Hamlet, while also being a modest one, was reported as being in ill-health. Word for word: "It will come as bad news to every follower of South London amateur football that Mr. H.W. ("Bert") Hardy, the very popular secertary of Dulwich Hamlet's Reserve team, is in hospital for a serious internal operation. Mr. Hardy is probably the oldest official of the club,and except for one short interval, has been secretary of the reserve team for nearly thirty years. Football is more than his hobby. The members of his team he regards as his own children,and more than one amateur international today has to thank Mr. Hardy for the care and attentionbestowed on his football childhood and upbringing. Schoolboys too, have a lot for which to thank him,for he has been their guide, philosopher,and friend for many years. I personally feel a sense of loss, which although only temporary-he expects to be away about a month-will be very deep while it lasts.I spoke to him just before lunchtime on Monday,when,as always, he told me with great enthusiam of the latest exploits of his "children." A few hours later he went into hospital. Unless I am greatly mistaken he will be back at the secretarial part of the work as soon as he can sit up in bed, but his coaching activities will have to be suspended for a little. In the summer, Mr. Hardy's chief hobbies, apart from thinking football, are bowls (he is a member of Temple BC) and cricket. President of the Dulwich Hamlet cricket club,he also arranges the famous annual fixture between the Isthmian League cricketers and Oxford City. "

The same paper that week told us that the AFA side Old Westminster Citizens, were moving from their ground in Dulwich, to Tamwood Lane, Mitcham; where they still paly to this day, Thier opening match there was against an AFA representative side, though we are not told at which sports ground in Dulwich was their previous base.

Another Hamlet first team game worthy of a mention was the comfortable 4-1 victory at home to Leytonstone, with the report headlines catching my attention: 'Hamlet Now the Isthmian Leaders' then ' Court's amazing goal against Leytonstone', followed by: 'Keeper knocked out by shot, Le May also a "Heavy Ball" Casualty'. So what happened? As the scribe tells us: "The Leytonstone game was featured by a remarkable goal by Court halfway through the second half. The winger broke through and a terrific left-foot drive struck the Leytonstone keeper, Barlow, on the head,knocking him senseless. As he collapsed on the ground, Court regathered the ball and placed it into the net over the goalkeeper's body. Barlow was not seriously injured but it was several minutes beofre he was able to resume. Later a second Leytonstone man was knocked out by the heavy ball. Le May, the left half, received the full force of it and was off for nearly half-an-hour, returning just before the final whistle." It was actually Leytonstone who took the lead, through Garnett (perhaps a relative of the fabled and famous Alf!) before The Hamlet hit back, first through Court, then Goodliffe gave the Hamlet the lead, just after the interval. After that Robbins failed to score from the spot, his penalty hitting the post, before the Court lob over the prone keeper; with Benka "capping a fine game" with the fourth.

Meanwhile a humourous sideline from another sport. Do you remember all the furore a couple of years ago when the South African 800M runner Caster Semenya was forced to take a gender test to prove she was a not a man? Back in 1934 a local champion bowler wwas proud to admit she was male! After the South London Press bowls finals, Mr. Berry, chairman of the Balham BC, remarked that it was strange that the ladies champion should be a Male (Mrs. Male). To which she responded that even before she was a Male she was a Champion. (As that was her maiden name!)

Going back to local football, if you thought that Court's 'shot' on goal against Leytonstone was a bit 'unusual' what about this 'one' in a one minor match?- "Eleven shots in a match between the 30th Camberwell Scouts and Christ Church on Saturday found their way into the net. A twelfth shot "scored" an unusual goal. Whether it was intended to pass between the posts or merely to right across the goalmouth is a moot point. All that is known is that the ball, travelling at great speed, went out of play somewhere near the corner flag-and knocked over a passing cyclist!" Now that's something I've NEVER seen at a game before. And in case you're wondering, the Scouts won 10-1.

Back once more to all things Dulwich. The Hamlet went down by the odd goal in five, to Wimbledon, at Plough Lane, where they played all their home games of course, before the club moved out for pastures new, first across South London to Selhurst Park, then further afield to Milton Keynes. But there were no Isthmian points at stake, for this was a first round London Charity Cup tie, & the first of two games against them, as the following week would see the delayed Surrey Senior Cup final from 1933/34, or to be more precise the replay, as this was way before the days of penalty shoot-outs deciding cup ties, following a no score draw at Champion Hill, the previous May. So perhaps-if we had to lose one of them- it was the right one! But this Cup clash, despite being lost, wasn't bad by all accounts, for 'R.S.', in the 'SLoP' began: "If next week's Surrey Senior Cup final replay is only half as fast and exciting as was this game, all of London will want to see the match. I cannot call to mind a match between amateur clubs which was played at such a breath-taking pace throughout,or which had so many heart-throbbing moments. Hamlet supporters may truthfully aver their team's traditional and much-exaggerated cup luck temporarily deserted them, for it must be said that the Dons were extremely lucky to get away with it" What a word! 'Aver'. Not the meaning, but it's just like a modern Hamlet report by Griff, on the official Club website nowadays, where you need a dictionary in one hand to understand it!

It was the Charity Cup, & The Hamlet were somewhat charitable 'early doors', with the Dons hitting the post in the first minute, & they then took the lead a mere three minutes later. They then doubled their lead less than ten minutes later. But the fightback, albeit ultimately in vain, began. Ten minutes later Morrish crossed, for Benka to "breast into the net". From the centre Wimbledon pushed forward immediately, but Dowden headed against the bar, Waymouth hit the rebound up to our forwards, for some sustained pressure, but no goal. Not long after, Dowden for the Dons, shot hopefully wide from 35 yards, with the resulting goal kick being hoofed up the park, where Bridge & Irish dithered as to who would clear the ball, leaving Miller, for the Hamlet, to nip in and sent the ball across the goal. From this he somewhat fortunately scored as "whether he meant his kick as a shot or merely a pass is difficult to say, but the ball, which appeared to be travelling wide, suddenly changed its direction and went into the net." Two apiece! End to end chances followed, but Murray had to leave the field for over ten minutes after twisiting a groin muscle, but being a man down inspired Dulwich & we tried even harder! But our keeper Cummings then injured himself, after a scramble when he came of worst, bottom of the pile, after a challenge & his little finger on his left hand was put out of joint. Ouch! With only five minutes left on the clock Murray had a good chance, but Irish, for the Dons, beat him to the ball, only because of the earlier injury that was hampering him. Only two minutes to go, and some of the crowd were on their way, believing it was to be a draw. But Zenthon picked up the ball in the middle, beat Miller, went past Hugo; & having drawn the defence passed to an unmarked Dowden. Panicking as Waymouth & Cummings were in a direct line to him, he managed to push the ball to Batchelor, who then had an open goal, for the cruel, late winner.
That Cummings injury got it's own note in the paper. Under the heading "Where was Norman?" we read that: 'The inevitable wag who is always to be found at big football matches gave me a hearty laugh at the Dulwich Hamlet-Wimbledon encounter on Saturday. Norman Cummings, the Hamlet goalkeeper, put a finger out of joint turning a hot shot for a corner, and ran off to get someone on the line to pull it straight. Apparently the referee didn't notice him, for he was just about to blow his whistle for the corner kick when my wag raised a howl of delight by crying "Where's George?" Shortly after Cummings again dislocated the same finger-and this time the referee did notice it." As to why the cry of the name 'George', we are not told. But at the time there WAS a Scottish international called George Cummings, who was playing for Partick Thistle, known as the 'granite-hard full-back' who moved south of the border to sign for Aston Villa the following year. Perhaps the 'nickname' George came from this player?
No doubt The Hamlet men went skulking off home, to lick their wounds. Unlike the Streatham Town team, who had a night out on the town at the Streatham Hill Theatre, in their feature 'In Town Tonight'. The team were introduced to the audience by the theatre owner, from the stage, and they received a fine reception from them; with their captain them addressing them. Probably not worth a mwntion in itself, except for the tenuous link that the proprietor was a Mr. Jack Payne, which just so happens to be the name of the current Chairman of Dulwich Hamlet! He must be a little older than we all thought! ;-)
So next up was the immediate re-match with the Dons, back at Plough Lane, for the replayed final of the 1933/34 Surrey Senior Cup competition. The records books tell you that the Hamlet lifted the cup for the ninth time in our illustrious history. But if you want to know how the game went...I'm afraid you will have to wait for 'part two' of the 1934/35 season, in the next edition of the 'Hamlet Historian'! With the benefit of hindsight we shall find out the Final was never in doubt, from our perspective. But did the players know that? Perhaps in the nervous week before one or two of our boys popped over to Nunhead for some pastoral guidance from 'The Sporting Vicar of Nunhead', that man being the Reverend Browning, of St. Silas. He moved to Nunhead seven years previous from a parish in Southwark, & became a keen fan of our then local rivals Nunhead FC, where he was very popular with the players. He even began holding a number of "Sportsmen's Services" which were not just a hit with the Nuns' players, but many other local sportsmen. We are not told if any Hamlet players themselves attended some of his services, but it would be very surprising if some did not, as I am sure he was always there to listen to footballers from all over, & not just his own parish. And on that note you can 'praise be' that this somewhat lengthier look than I expected is now at a close for this issue!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Altona 93:

Is it possible to fall in love at first sight? Well I think it is, following my visit to the Adolf Jager Kampfbahn on the 28th November last year. Well ok, not quite 'first sight'. The last time I was in Hamburg, back in December 2005, I tried to see the ground, you were away that weekend, but the gates were locked, so I could only get a tantalising, teasing peek through the fence outside, as if I was having a naughty look through the doors of a Reeperbahn club! It got me excited...I wasn't in love yet, but my 'crush' had begun! I vowed to return to Hamburg one day, & catch a match here. Not just because of the beautiful old ground which just oozes history from every pore, but the clincher of the '93'!

For I am a lifelong fan of a small non-league club from London, called Dulwich Hamlet, & we too began in 1893! So I am naturally drawn toward that year. I have been to Germany a few times in the past, the first before some of you reading this were born, back for the European Championships in 1988. The opening England match was in Stuttgart, & they too are an '1893' club, so I have always thought of them as my 'German side'. I saw them a couple of times back in the late eighties/early nineties. I've always liked to travel & watch football, but sadly liked a drink a bit too much, & soon after stopped long distance football, as I craved beer too much, above everything else & needed all my 'spare' pennies for drinking. I eventually came to accept that I was an alcoholic, & finally stopped drinking in May 2002, & fortunately have been sober ever since. Although I still don't have much spare money, it does mean that I can now afford to pop over the Channel a few times a season, to various places, & I decided early last year that I trip to Hamburg was a must, & a long weekend was booked, with the 'main event' being an Altona game!

Most 'normal' folk, when they take a break somewhere, head for the nearest museums, galleries or spires. Well I don't mind a bit of culture, but for me... I go straight to the nearest football grounds, or ice hockey rinks, as that is my secondary sport. My plan was a full one. Friday night at Viktoria Hamburg. Another delightful old ground. I had heard that you Germans don't let the little matter of snow get in the way of a football game, but this was unreal! I had arrived at the start of some heavy early winter weather, & the pitch was covered white, with layers of snow settling in the second half. There was no way this game would have even started, never mind finish, back in London!

Saturday saw me at the Bundesliga clash between HSV & VfB Stuttgart. 4-2 to Hamburg, my ticket was a mid-range one, behind the goal, bought by a friend of mine via the internet, as he could understand some German. Was I rooting for VfB? Funnily enough, not really, I would have been happy enough if they'd won, but not too upset that they lost. I will always have an affection for them, & keep an eye for their results, but I do not really 'love' them. Didn't stop me buying some of their souvenirs though, which I kept in my bag!

What shocked me was the sectarianism on show. Being British I know all about the crazy goings on north of the border, up in Scotland, between Celtic & Rangers. Nominally brought up/brainwashed as a catholic, I have sided towards Celtic, & politically personally support the Republican cause, so have never had time for the bigots from Ibrox. I knew that Celtic had a fans link up with St Pauli, but naively had no idea that Hamburg were tied with Rangers. I was shocked to see sectarianism to exported to northern Germany! On the train back to the centre of town there were even some drunk racist Rangers fans singing in their broad Glaswegian accents "I'd rather be a paki than a Tim!" (Tim being a slang nickname for a Celtic fan). I sadly kept quiet, as a lone Englishman against six of them I wasn't going to risk them turning on me! Wrong, but also right, for my protection!

On the Sunday I was hoping to go to another ground, to see HSV Under 19s, but the gates were locked when I arrived at the venue, which was by the Stellingen 'open' ice rink, where I had seen the Altona hockey team the night before. It had been switched elsewhere at very short notice, as the result was in Kicker the next day, & I ended up watching a very minor game in the Kreissklasse 5 on an adjacent pitch, the home side being called AC Italia. then it was off to the 'main event', for my trip. Coming out of the station I following a couple of people wearing the red & black, & got to the ground about half an hour before kick off. Inside I was tingling, from the nervous excitement of my first visit to see a game here, & not just shivering from the freezing temperatures!

I wistfully walked past the beer stand, doing a good trade in the warm gluhwein. Boy oh boy, it was cold! I headed along the grass bank behind the goal & bought myself a scarf & hat from the club shop, on top of assorted other bits & pieces. Sadly I had only so much to spend, otherwise I would have bought one of everything!

The game itself was never going to be brilliant, being played out on a bone hard snow covered frozen pitch, but I got what I came for...which was a home win! In truth the game was anything but beautiful, not in a physical way. The visitors, Osteeinbeker SV, seemed as though they didn't want to be there at all, while Altona tried as well at they could in the conditions, & did what they had to do, ending up comfortable two nil winners. Believe me, it was brilliant to see a victory for my 'virgin' Altona game. In Belgium I follow a (now) 4th division level side UR Namur. Good friends (through football!) of mine, Danuta & Nicolas, are from there, & I am also Godparent to their beautiful new son Arthur, but that is another story! Anyway I have seen Namur SEVEN times, but have yet to see them win! So you can understand my joy at getting my first Altona victory under my belt straight away!

One of my hobbies is taking lots of photos of football grounds, so I tried to keep some warm blood moving round my frozen body by doing a circuit. In the first half a local came up to me, as I was behind the far goal, & spoke to me..I apologised, saying I was English. Fortunately he spoke it too, which is why you are reading this now. His name is Jan & he edits your fanzine! We chatted for a little while, & sold me a copy, which even had a couple of articles in English!

What really caught my eye in it though was the fact you have Supporters football! I couldn't understand a word of it, as that was one of the many majority German stories, but it put an idea into my head. You see I am part of the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' Team! We are total rubbish, getting old, but playing totally for fun! We usually get beaten, but we have played, on & off, since May 1989; & since 2002 we have played tour matches abroad. We have been to Holland, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, Belgium, Estonia, Finland & Scotland....but never Germany..yet!

I have asked Jan to arrange a game against the Altona fans toward the end of July 2012. We will visit Hamburg for the weekend of July 21st/22nd. The idea is to play a game somewhere, whether on grass or an artificial pitch it does not matter, against the Altona fans side, then watch the 'big boys' play, wherever you are, home or away, the same weekend. We don't take ourselves seriously, & would expect to lose, a lot of us are in our forties & fifties, our oldest player will have a 'cameo' appearance, he will be 62 next year & only has one eye! That is not a joke... ;-)

At the moment I have at least a dozen of us interested in making the trip, but hope to have a party of 15 or 16, by the next next summer comes around.

If we have enough players travelling we may try to get a second match against St. Pauli fans, but I have not approached them yet. Much as it will be great to play them too, with a fans attitude background that looks similar to yours & ours in outlook, for me personally it will be a dream to have an Altona weekend. No matter what though, I will arrange for us to go on a stadium tour at Millerntor! It won't be quite being able to see your own museum, but....

Jan has chatted to me by email, & is hopefull we can play, so it's over to you lot to agree!

I didn't buy the book on sale about your proud history. I was tempted, but it was a lot of money to 'waste'....'just' to look at the pictures. If it was in English I would have paid for it & read it cover to cover, without putting it down! We are very different as clubs, but there are also similarities. Our home is a modest stadium, built on the site of our our previous one, which was demolished at the start of the nineties. The heyday of Dulwich Hamlet was in the era between the two World Wars,when we were the greatest amateur side in England. The old Champion Hill Stadium, 1931 to 1991, could hold up to 30,000 people, nobody really knew the full capacity; & we regularly attracted gates of over ten thousand in the 1930's.

In the olden days it was traditional for many English sides to tour continental Europe at Easter time, & The Hamlet were regular 'Channel Hoppers' right up to the start of the '39 to '45 War. I've just put down our only club history, published way back in 1968, for our 75th anniversary, in total shock! I picked it up off of my dusty bookshelf to see how many times we had been to Germany in the past. Five times, in case you're wondering. But staring right at me, in black & white, is one of the results from the 1924/25 season:

Altona (1893) Hamburg won 4-0.

My gosh! Sadly I have no more details, but I shall check the archives of our local newspapers when I get a chance, to see if there were any mentions of the match. Silly as it sounds, I am so proud there is already a tenuous link between our two clubs & we have met before! That match, incidentally, was the only win of our three match trip well over eighty years ago. Our booklet informs me that we drew 1-1 with Gelsenkircken & lost by three goals to one at Dusseldorf.

I'm not one for 'soundbites'. In June 1963, a few years before I was born, the American President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin & came out with his famous 'Ich bin ein Berliner!' statement. Laughed at for decades, as some claim it was translated as 'I am a jelly donut!' ( or 'jam doughnut' in proper English, as that is what a 'Berliner' from a cake shop is) I don't know how true that is, nor if I am a doughnut or English meaning of it is to mean someone stupid, so I may well be 'a bit of doughnut' for falling head over heels for a small football club in Hamburg. One thing I can hold my head up high & say though, regardless of how it translates, is...

"Ich bin ein Altonaer!"

Friday, 22 July 2011

Ian Wright RIP

It's a sad fact of life, being a Dulwich Hamlet fan, that somebody you know will have passed away in the summer. One of the 'occupational hazards' so to speak, when you are part of an historic Club with a relatively old & loyal support base.
It doesn't make it any easier if someone is past their 'three score years and ten', but it is a heck of a lot harder when a person who is nowhere near that age goes 'before their time'.
As one of the founder members of the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' Team it came as a huge shock to hear the news that one of our own, Ian Wright, had died, after collapsing at work, at the tender age of only 53.
The one thing you find when someone goes so suddenly is how little you really knew them, & how much you wished you should have got to know them better. I, personally, only knew Ian through football. He had been a part of the team for over fifteen years, I'm not entirely sure, we never really kept records. Without a doubt one of the naturally talented players we have ever had appear for us. He only started playing for 'The Rabblers' for fun, when he hung up his 'serious Saturday boots', after a long amateur career, where he was a stalwart for clubs such as Cobham & Colliers Wood United. He also turned out for Camberwell Evangelical Church, for he he laced up on a Saturday, & took a pew at on Sundays. Once the season is underway the Supporters' Team will take on the Church side in a friendly game at Belair Park, in Ian's memory, so we can pay our respects to him doing what he loved most...playing football!
Some might say Ian moaned too much on the pitch, but if you analysed that it was not malicious, but more borne out of frustration, having played at a much higher level than the rest of us. If you listened carefully he always encouraged, no matter how limited in ability you may have been, compared to him. And no mater if he never knew you, he always made a point of talking to new players to the Supporters' Team & putting them at ease.
For sure everyone who has played alongside him over the years will be sure to have a story or two about him, & he will be sadly missed. It was a privilege to have been at his recent funeral service along with a number of the Supporters' Team, & wonderfully uplifting for such a sad occasion to be almost a happy one too, as his life was celebrated.
As well as being a Dulwich Hamlet fan, his first visit to the old Champion Hill was in the sixties, & he could recall amateur internationals being played here, Ian was also a staunch Crystal Palace supporter, so it is truly fitting that he is remembered here this evening with the Eagles as our opposition, & we thank them for agreeing to respect his memory.
No doubt he will be looking down from the 'great football ground in the sky', while chewing the fat with the likes of Hamlet legends Edgar Kail & Tommy Jover, telling them how they should have played!
Among the floral tributes at his funeral were ones from Dulwich Hamlet Football Club & the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' Team; with the Football club itself being represented by Club Chairman, Mr. Jack Payne.
Rest In Peace, Wrightie.

Mishi D. Morath, team secretary, Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' FC.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Belgian connection

There was a welcome visitor to Champion Hill recently, for the Erith Town pre-season match. Not that he will remember too much about for. For the person in question was Arthur Lucas, who was exactly eight months old that day!

He was brought to the game by his parents Nicolas & Danuta, who hail from the town of Namur, in Belgium; which is almost two hundred & seventy miles away, over the other side of the English Channel!

The question you may well be asking is how on earth did a Belgian family become fans of Dulwich Hamlet? Unsurprisingly it's a bit of a strange story...Which begins not too far from Namur, on the outskirts of Liege, back in May 2005.

Andy Tucker & Lawrence Marsh, who were running the Supporters' Team at the time, received an invite to compete in a tournament organised by the fans of RFC Liege, who are one of the oldest clubs in Belgium, & who history claims one of their early playing members was a Dulwich Hamlet man, whose name is sadly lost in the mists of time, if true. They consider our Club their 'founding cousins', & through the internet saw that we had a fans side, & we happily accepted their request. One of the other teams in the competition was a group of Anderlecht followers. Guesting for them was...Nicolas Lucas. Inbetween games he got into a conversation with Myles Quinn, the long time Hamlet fan, who had been going to Champion Hill since the early sixties. Probably the best thing Myles ever did! He doesn't watch the Hamlet nowadays, living down on the Kent coast, not returning in case he's chased up for money owed to quite a few Dulwich people before he left London. ( No doubt there will one or two reading this thinking he only owed them money!)

Anyway, it turned out that Nicolas is one the biggest Anglophiles the other side of Dover, & he regularly travels over to watch English football. His first love though is Paris Saint Germain, & for many years he has run their Belgian Supporters Club...the only branch they have outside of France. A few months after we met him he brought his PSG branch over to London, for a Supporters' game at Belair Park, followed by an afternoon at Champion Hill, where we were unfortunately well beaten by Tonbridge Angels.

Since then the anglo-Belgian link has gone from strength to strength. Which is probably a slight understatement. We played the Belgian PSG in Paris, the venue slightly more upmarket than what we could offer them at Belair. For we were honoured to run out at their actual training complex, with their bemused reserve teamers looking over from the next pitch! much beer, & coca cola for the non-drinkers, followed, then we saw the 'big boys' at Le Parc des Princes in the evening.

We finally made it to their home town of Namur in May 2006, when we entered two sides in a six a side competition ran by Nicolas & his PSG branch. After that, in 2007, PSG Belgium won a three team international tournament held at Champion Hill, ably run by Andy & Larry, where we sportingly came last, with the runners-up being JK Jalgpallihaigla, the supporters side of the Estonian national side, who we have visited twice.

In 2008 we returned to Namur, when we took on the fans of the town side, UR Namur, who Nicolas also takes an interest in, & turns out for their supporters side. They have since visited london & played us, as well as watching a match at Champion Hill. Dulwich fans have also 'guested' for Namur supporters when they played Oxford United supporters, who Nico also has a good friendship with.

Nicolas & Danuta, now with young Arthur too, try to watch a couple of Hamlet games, at least, a season. Such is the bond of friendship two Hamlet fans were both honoured & proud to become godparents to little Arthur, namely Lawrence Marsh & Mishi Morath. The Lucas family are, at least, 'luckier' with their support of The Hamlet than Mishi is, of UR Namur. For he has seen them no less than six times, & is yet to see a victory!

Everyone at Dulwich Hamlet look forward to welcoming our 'Belgian Branch' back in the not too distant future. Who knows, maybe one day their dream will come true & the Dulwich Hamlet First Team will play a friendly on their doorstep in Belgium!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

All change in the Garden of England

Mishi Morath offers his two penn'orth on the new league being formed in Kent (his own personal opinions, and not those of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club)

Some Dulwich Hamlet fans could be forgiven for knowing little to nothing about some of our Kent League pre-season opponents, such as Holmesdale or Erith Town; nor much at all about the level of football they compete in, despite only being one rung below us in the non-league pyramid. After all there is nothing more important in life than our boys in Pink 'n' Blue, with the rest fading into insignifcance.

And back in the pre-professional days of the Isthmian League there were relatively few Kent sides we would encounter, as the Kent League tended to be openly proessional, rather than the majority 'Shamateur' Isthmians. Kent League sides, not being amateurs, tended to join the Southern League if they progressed upwards. That 'gateway' continued, with the official scrapping of amateur status in 1974, & over the next decade, as the Isthmian League expanded into four divisions on a non-geographic basis, there became a serious anomaly in the non-league pyramid. As Kent League champions an ambitious outfit could jump into the Southern League Premier Division, one below the Conference back then as that only consisted of one division, after only one promotion; whereas a Combined Counties side who started on the upward curve would have to go through three Isthmian promotions to achieve the same level.

Eventually divisions were 'equalised' & our Isthmian League now has two divisions of equal status, in Division One North, & south, which we compete in. Now the Kent League champions are promoted, & visit Champion Hill, rather than having to battle through two more divisions to do so.

The Kent League is understrength,numerically. For a number of reasons. As ground gradings kicked in over the last twenty years, with clubs needing floodlights & stands, teams dropped out, some well established, others newer members. Some off the top of my head, Snowdown Colliery Welfare; Metropolitan Police (Area Four); Darenth Heathside; Danson; Kent Police & Crockenhill....I'm sure there are more who have either fallen by the wayside or dropped down to lower leagues.

Then there was the problem of clubs moving upward, without the equivalent going the other way. Think of the Sussex County League. Some of their sides have gone back down, such as Horsham YMCA & Crowborough Athletic, but the Kent Leaguers have progressed onwards & upwards, think Maidstone United & Cray Wanderers; or gain a foothold in Ryman One South, like Whitstable Town; Faversham Town & Ramsgate.

Further to all this there is no relegation from the Kent League, as there was no 'step six' league to 'buffer' the huge gap between the county league & the much lower level Kent County League.

Unitil now! Mooted for many years, talked about over many a fuggy boardroom as chairmen chewed on cigars & knocked back tumblers of whiskey, for many moons. Under the 'gentle pressuring' of the Football Association, the new campaign will see the birth of the Kent Invicta League, to bridge the chasm between basic roped off 'parks' grounds to lit up stadia that can host FA Vase & Cup football in the Kent League.

The make-up of the new league is a strange one. Eminently sensible if you're a blazer from the County FA I'm sure, but how they came to the constitution of the sixteen team division is anyone's guess! You would expect the majority to have been lifted from the Premier Division of the KCL. Nine of them have. Our near neighbours Lewisham Borough are included, who play at the floodlit Ladywell Arena, despite not initially being included! They only got their invite after Cray Valley Papers Mills, who were in it, were parachuted over it (hmmm....can you actually be parachuted over something? I though parachutes floated down, but I digress!) & into the Kent League itself. The other Premier sides from the County League with them are Bearsted; Bly Spartans; Bridon Ropes; Hollands & Blair; Phoenix Sports; Rusthall; Sutton Athletic & Woodstock Park.

The others are a strange mix! Previous status has been ignored, & it's been a bit of a 'free for all' as clubs further down the County League divisions & even brand new senior clubs are accepted. I am guessing anyone who has expressed any sort of ambition to move upwards & establish themselves at Step Six could apply, regardless of how low down the pyramid they were.

Below the Premier Division the Kent County League had been split north & west in their divisions one & two. From the First former Kent Leaguers Crockenhill, who I mentioned earlier, are in. As are their near neighbours Orpington. The numbers are then made up from the two Second Divisions, with Lydd Town; Meridian; and Seven Acre & Sidcup. The latter will be based at the old Cray Wanderers ground in Sidcup, at Oxford Road. A former Kent league venue, which the Wands left as they were unable to get lights there. So what chance have this outfit got of erecting some?

The last two sides are new outfits. One will be huge favourites for the title, playing at a stadium well known to Hamlet followers. Ashford United, based at Homelands, are the club that has finally arisen out of the ashes of Ashford Town, who folded prior to the start of last season. The other will be groundsharing at VCD Athletic, which is in Crayford. But their name is Erith & Dartford Town. Not playing in either, & both really seperate places in their own right, despite the Football Club being called 'Town',as in singular!

Most will be happy to establish themselves at this new level in the pyramid. A few others will be wanting to use this to 'test the water' & push on for Kent League status. Ashford United will clearly see this as their first step to consecutive promotions 'back' to the Isthmian League. the new side Erith & Dartford Town are expected to be the only ones to really challenge them, as they have a wealthy backer. It reamains to be seen if he will be in it for the long hual, or get bored 'boom & bust' style a year or two down the line. Of the others I would expect Bly Spartans; Hollands & Blair; Lewisham Borough & Phoenix Sports, at least, to have Kent League aspirations.

Where does this new league leave the 'old' Kent County? Well it's still going strong, despite losing a division. A brand new sponsor, Haart estate agents, the very same that we proudly wear on OUR shirts! And the 'Dulwich' connection doesn't end there! New, in Division Two West, is an outfit called Dulwich Village FC, based at Dulwich Sports Club in Turney Road. I know nothing about them, but believe they have grown from a junior organisation called Dulwich Magic FC. New kid on the block? Could they be our local rivals one day, if ever the current Hamlet go the same way as Ashford Town? I'm sure the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Trust wouldn't complain, as they sit on their '100 Club' 'war chest', for such a scenario, instead of helping the Club today!

So how will this new level pan out? Only time will tell, I am no 'Mystic Mishi'! Other Isthmian feeders have had a Step Six for many years, as in the Sussex County League & Combined Counties Leagues first divisions. With the formation of the Invicta League the only part of the country now without a step six is the gap below the Essex Senior League. Hopefully this new level will make the jump up more manageable & easier, for clubs who want to progress slowly but surely, without breaking the bank. This can only be good news to 'kick start' & rejuvenate Kent grass roots football. Who knows, I hope not from our point of view, but it may not be too long before Lewisham Borough make the short journey on the 185 bus to Champion Hill for an Isthmian League match!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Crushing the Casuals

I am sat down at home cobbling together this article a few hours after a lone Gary Drewitt goal has put The Hamlet within touching distance of the end of season promotional play-offs. A win in our last match would ensure our participation in them at the start of May. A late surge has seen fans look at points that have been 'needlessly' thrown away, games that should have seen enough points in the bag to make the last match at Walton & Hersham academic.

Having lost fifteen Ryman League Division One South encounters over the 2010/11 campaign there are enough to choose from. One that sticks out like a sore thumb for me was a particularly woeful performance over at Tolworth back in November, when-despite dominating much of the match possession wise-ended up losing by three goals to one by perennial strugglers Corinthian-Casuals. A defeat that left a number of Hamlet followers bemonaing the fact that we 'always seem to struggle' against them.

A statement not borne out by the facts. In the sixteen league clashes between the two of us this century Dulwich have won eleven of them, drawing a further two, with 'only' five ending in defeats, only this 3-1 scoreline being by more than a single goal margin; though they did beat us by the same score,also at their ground, in 2004/05.

While still being a little down by our loss in November, by complete coincidence while looking for something else, I found the perfect Casuals 'pick-me-up' in the local newspaper archives a few days later. A comprehensive thrashing of not the boys from Tolworth, but Kennington Oval. For back in 1959 Corinthian-Casuals were using the home of Surrey County Cricket Club as their headquarters. The actual season was '59/60, & back then the Isthmian League only had one division, consisting of sixteen clubs. We were to finish in seventh spot, three points & two places behind the Casuals. So the Boxing Day game should have been a tight affair, but the scoreline of Corinthian-Casuals 1, Dulwich Hamlet 5 told us differently.

It was a weakened Hamlet side that took the field on a miserable day weather wise. One report told us that 'Dulwich Hamlet supporters who braved the elements on Boxing Day had full value for their money at the Oval'; whilst another informed us that 'the game had everything, including weather conditions that should have made football impossible.'

Football at The Oval was before I was born, so I have no idea how open to the elements followers were, but one person in attendance that day who I am sure was well wrapped up in the best seats in the house was the man who refereed at the first ever match at the old Champion Hill, back on 10th October 1931 against our local rivals Nunhead, none other than the then secretary of the Football Association, who went on to be the President of FIFA from 1961 until 1974, Sir Stanley Rous. (EDIT NOTE: NOT 100% OF THE REF v. NUNHEAD BIT, SO PLEASE EDIT THAT BIT OUT, IF INCORRECT, but from memory I am almost certain he was)

Jim Skipper & Kent were unavailable, due to ther commitments over the holiday period, so Frank Beard stepped up & played right-back & reportedly did a good job in holding off the Casuals Cambridge Blue & England Amateur International P. Neill; while Parsons made his senior debut for the club at centre-half, playing 'like a veteran'. Dicky Smallman was at right-half, so it was virtually a 'second string' defence, but one that didn't look out of place on the day. They did their job, feeding our hungry forwards with pass after pass, & Casuals could 'thank centre-half Reg Vowels that the score did not reach double figures'. Which, if they had would have smashed our record 8-1 consecutive victories against them, in the 1919/20 & '20/21 seasons.

Four decades after those 'Barnstoneworth' scores The Hamlet started off brightly, sweeping forward immediately, an early corner resulting in a Les Brown header being tipped over by their Danish goalkeeper Ahm. Our first goal came after only five minutes, also a header. Ron Crisp sent the ball over Ahm's head from a Norman Field cross., after he had taken the ball round the Casuals Martin Ries.

Five minutes later & it was two, this time the goal starting from a Corinthian-Casuals corner at the other end of the field! Crisp picked up the ball in the box from their failed corner & brought it right up the pitch, crossed it to Vail, whose centre was blocked by Ahm. But he could only patially clear it, the ball falling to Brown. He sent a through pass to Mike Clay, who went round the Casuals Vowels, 'escaping his shadow' a journalist noted, drawing Ahm out of position, before rounding him & pushing the ball into an empty net.

Following this two goal cushion The Hamlet continued to press for more. A Brown shot went just wide of the post, while another flew off the boot of Terry Vail was saved. Clay's attempt was punched away by Ahm; while another from Brown deflected off a defender for a corner.

Dulwich hit the inevitable third on eighteen minutes, thanks to a keeper's blunder, when Purser's successful effort went through Ahm's hand, & into the net. As one scribe put it,giving the impression that this was the moment any pluck the Casuals had was knocked out of them: "Everything could have been so different but for the huge blunder of Casuals' Danish-born goalkeeper Paul Ahm, in the 18th minute, which gave the Hamlet their third goal. He went down on one knee with Geoff Purser's shot well covered but it slipped between his hands and legs."

Just before the half-hour mark the Casuals had their brief spell. Following a free-kick with Darvill out of position, Reg Merritt was well placed on the goal-line to clear; but two minutes on Merritt slipped on the muddy surface to allow Trimble in to beat Dave Darvill.

Despite that it was the Hamlet who were the more confident & dominant, as was noted by reporter Peter Smith, in the 'South London Press'- "There was no doubt about it, Dulwich were always the better side, being that much quicker on the ball and having more ideas in front of goal than Casuals ever dreamed of. That was the mian difference between the teams. Hamlet were much stronger at inside-forward than Casuals and they had somebody who could lay on accurate passesto unmarked players to all parts of the pitch. When a Dulwich forward moved up with the ball he knew there were four other forwards up with him and more often than not, a half-back waiting to pounce on a poor clearance from Casuals defenders. With Casuals it was completely different. When a forward attacked he usually had to do it alone and this was virtually impossible with the rock-like Dulwich defence."

Three minutes prior to the break Dulwich had the chance to really put the game out of reach. Awarded a penalty when right-back Robertson handled a Vail header on the line, not even having the decency to admit his guilt, protesting that he had headed the ball! But Merritt hit weakly. Ahm guessed correctly, as he flung himself at the ball, knocked it down & then fell on it, as Merritt raced in for the rebound. It seems that the famous 'Corinthian spirit' was long dead, even over half a century ago!

After the interval the Casuals came out with more purpose, testing the Dulwich defence more, but we stood firm, soaking up their efforts. Our only chance of note during this flourish from the hosts was a crisp shot from Crisp, though Ahm nearly let this one slip in too. But tide was to turn, & Dulwich became more dominant, getting into their stride once more. Crisp had a powerful drive saved, & a header blocked. While Brown's header was low, but wide of the post.

The Hamlet faithful who had made the short trek along Camberwell New Road had to wait until the 79th minute for the fourth. A strike from Clay was headed round the post by a Casuals defender for a corner. The Vail in-swinger found the head of Crisp who nodded home.

The final goal came with five minutes left on the clock. A bit of a goalmouth scramble found the ball at the feet of Les Brown, who tapped a short pass to Mike Clay, who sent the ball into the empty net,leaving Ahm floundering in the heavy Oval mud. And while Ahm struggled in the conditions our own Dave Darvill at the other end earned the plaudits- "Darvill was superb in the air handling the greasy ball as if he had a magnet in his hand".

There was one victory for the Casuals though. their reserves beat our much weakened second string by four goals to nil at Champion Hill. A letdown for our 'A' side though, who found their game with Westminster College cancelled owing to a waterlogged pitch. Reported as a great disappointment to veterans Tommy Jover and John Hall, who had hoped to have a run out in this game.

Elsewhere there was a shock appearance in the south west London Isthmian League derby between Tooting & Mitcham United and Wimbledon. The Terrors, who went on to win the League, beat the Dons four one, despite going a goal behind to Eddie Reynolds, & starting with only ten men! This was due to the non-arrival of reserve inside-right Dave Grady. And a fromer player, now a committee member, by the name of Les Walters, stepped into the breach! The reason given allows us an insight as to how amateur football used to conduct itself, & how players were selected in the olden days:

Thousands of spectators who flocked to Sandy Lane must have wondered how Tooting & Mitcham United began their game against neighbours and rivals Wimbledon with only 10 men and had to be helped out by an official who last played for the club three seasons ago. It was a player crisis quite unprecidented for this annual derby clash, but the explanation is quite simple. The team selection cards posted to the players got delayed in the Christmas rush. Inside-right Dave Grady, who had been selected to deputise for Welsh international Dave Roberts, did not receive his card, and assumed he had not been picked. But the regular first team players, although in a similar predicament, turned up as usual, realising of course that something had gone wrong. But the emergency produced its hero-former centre-half & club captain Les Walters, a member of Tooting's selection committee, who answered the last-minute SOS for the eleventh player. Les had been playing for Streatham Old Grammarians in the morning.

We can only wonder if this has ever happened to The Hamlet too? If anyone knows please let the 'Hamlet Historian' know.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Under the covers...

Admittedly I work in a library, but despite one of the stereotypes, I don't spend all day with my nose in a book. I do, however, like to read, & am quite a collector of football related books, among other things. A number are individual club histories, a number of which include The Hamlet as opposition down the generations. You can also get a Dulwich namecheck from biographies of former wearers of our famous Pink 'n' blue shirts who have gone onwards & upwards to the full professional ranks.

But for the purposes of this article, possibly the first of a series, I'm not going down that road.

You can find Dulwich Hamlet in the most unexpected places…

Where our Club pops out of a page and hits you when you least expect it. I don’t have too many to offer of these, and would be most interested if others have discovered Dulwich Hamlet mentioned in either fiction or non-fiction titles that you may have read.

The few I bring to you are certainly would not form a definitive list, nor an attempt to be one. But the idea to loosely knit a few bits and bobs together for a piece for the ‘Hamlet Historian’ hit when I was reading a biography of Hattie Jacques recently! The actress, most famed for her parts as Matron in the 'Carry On!' series of bwady (for that era) films of the sixties & seventies. I kid you not, she does have a tenuous Hamlet link. For her father, Robin Jaques (she added the ‘c’ for theatrical reasons) was a keen amateur footballer. Born in 1897, he received an army commission on leaving school, & served in the Army Education Corps in Germany . On returning to Great Britain he left the army & enlisted for the Royal Air Force. He played for forces teams, and also – here comes the Dulwich Hamlet connection- West Norwood , who were one of our local rivals ninety to a hundred years ago.

The book states: “In the early 1920s, RR Jacques played for West Norwood in the Isthmian League and there are various accounts (as well as various versions of his surname) recording his prowess as a centre forward. Under the headline ‘Victory of West Norwood’ on 14 November 1921, there is a report in ‘The Times’ by ‘Our special correspondent’ which enthused, ‘West Norwood beat Dulwich Hamlet in a match in the Isthmian League at Herne Hill on Saturday by two goals to one…West Norwood never quite settled down to any combined work …but R Jacques at centre forward played well. After the interval the attack improved and R Jacques with a clever single handed effort went through several opponents and scored his side’s first goal with a low shot.’ He also played four times as an amateur for Clapton Orient in the Second Division, & signed for Fulham, from the same division as the O’s, in July 1923. Sadly he was killed in a training accident while flying on 8th August that same year.

Moving on to a football book that was published in 1999 & called "London Fields", subtitled 'a journey through Football's Metroland'. Written by South London born Charlie Connelly, who now resides over the Irish Sea, in Dublin. It is a dip into all aspects of football in the capital at the time, not just your Arsenals & your Chelseas; but various chapters cutting right through the layers of the game. From the likes of Clapton, Grays Athletic, Hendon, & our old rivals Tooting & Mitcham United, in the non league echelons. Moving through the professional ranks with pieces about Leyton Orient, Wimbledon & Arsenal. As well as the FA Cup final between the Uniteds of Manchester & Newcastle, that made a once quiet country suburb called Wembley famous all over the world. Articles are in there too on some of the 'movers & shakers' in our metropolis, such as the London Football Association; referee David Elleray & the players' union rep from the PFA, Gary Nelson.

There are numerous Hamlet related mentions, though you'd have to be a serious Dulwich devotee to spot some of them. Take the Leyton Pennant chapter. In the potted history of them, to give you a flavour of their past glories, it mentions their glory years, as Leyton FC, with their halcyon periods of the 1920's onwards & then the fifties, but we get no specific namecheck for our two Amateur Cup victories over them. The game featured is at Wadham Lodge, after they had left Lea Bridge Road, & merged with Walthamstow Pennant. It is in an FA Cup tie against wembley FC, on the road to Wembley. Charlie picks up on a wonderful observation in the matchday programme which looks ahead to the game with the realisation that 'we are only 1,080 minutes away from the Wembley final'. The closest the Hamlet have ever got to the former twin towers was the 1956 amateur Cup semi, when we lost to Corinthian-Casuals, in front of over 27,000 at Stamford Bridge. Though we did play at Wembley in 1979 & '80, for the Berger Isthmian League five-a-side competition, staged at the adjacent Wembley Arena. The genuine Hamlet connection for his visit was the man between the sticks for Leyton,namely Clark Wells. He made two First Team appearances for Dulwich, in 1996/97. One of which was a 2-1 home defeat against none other than Leyton Pennant, in the London Challenge Cup; the other being a 1-1 draw at Heybridge Swifts. He went on to make around fifty Isthmian League appearances, not just for Leyton Pennant, but also Clapton, Aveley & Hertford Town.

Next up to be featured was one of those outfits, Clapton: "If visiting Leyton Pennant is like calling on an energetic nephew, then a trip to the Old Spotted Dog ground in Forest Gate, home of Clapton Footbal Club,is like visiting an elderly aunt who has let herself go a little. Whilst not actually smelling of wee, the club has a ramshackle atmosphere,and the ground, where The Tons have played since 1879,give no hint that Clapton were one of the great pioneers of amateur & indeed, international football." They were the first English club to venture over to the continent, playing A belgian Select XI in Antwerp, in 1890.

Anyone who has ever been to that ground can surely relate to that. He then compares the place to the great amateur grounds of yesteryear, including our own old Champion Hill: "At some of the fine old amateur clubs (Hendon and Bromley, for example) you can tell that large crowds once gathered.Dulwich Hamlet's old ground, a stone's throw away from the current modern stadium, was the best example-a cavernous ground capable of accomodating many thousands of spectators. By the late eighties Hamlet were struggling on crowds of around 200 in a stadium once capable of 30,000. The club did the sensible thing and sold the ground to a supermarket, who,as part of the deal, constructed them a new, smaller stadium a free-kick away from the old site."

Sadly, whilst amost true, factually incorrect, which-once in print-is taken as 'gospel' & the untruth spreads. We did NOT own our ground. We had sold it in the early seventies to Office Cleaning Services, who were then family run by the Goodliffe family, who played in some of our Amateur Cup winning sides. That company in turn offloaded it to Kings College London, who then sold it to the supermarket chain. We simply signed away the remainder of our lease, & in return our current ground was built, to lease back from them. The truth is if we had not done some the old ground was in such a state of disrepair the ground would soon have been condemned & there simply would not be a Dulwich Hamlet today.

Welling United versus Whyteleafe, in an FA Cup tie, was covered. It mentions the humble beginnings of Welling: "Welling United, were formed in 1963, by the Hobbins brothers Barrie & Graham." So far, so good. But more errors about grounds crept in when he stated that they shared facilities at Park View Road with the now defunct Bexley United & after switching from Sunday football, have movedfrom the Eltham & District League under 15s to Conference National. I don't know what their original league was, but they certainly never groundshared with Bexley United, but taking advantage of their demise in 1976 to secure the tenure of Park View Road then. Back to the current, at least the 'current' of the book. In goal for the Wings was Glenn Knight, known to Hamlet fans who recall him as 'Knight-mare', after two halves in our colours, both pre-season matches, where he conceded three goals in each half, at home to Sittingbourne & away to Whyteleafe. Unsurprisingly we never signed him. Perhaps more suprprisingly to our followers he went on to have a long non-league career, turning out against us for Welling, Boreham Wood & Cray Wanderers, to name but three. Also in the Welling line up was Tony Dolby, who is related to Harry dolby, who currently appears in Ian Neal's Kent Youth League North Division side. Tony also started out with the Junior Section of Dulwich Hamlet, before being signed by Millwall.

Connelly also featured the most successful womens' team in English footballing history, & again there is a tenuous Hamlet connection. For their long serving manager at the time was Vic Akers, whose son Lee was a such a great stalwart for our club, albeit in five spells! Interestingly he informs us that the Gooner girls were started by Vic in 1987, when Aylesbury Ladies were brought under the Highbury umbrella. So it wasn't just the men who are a 'franchise' outfit!

Hendon versus Notts County was also covered. This was a few weeks after the Hamlet played there in a league match & part of the pitch perimeter wall collapsed at our end. Luckily nobody was hurt, apart from slight shock.

The author mentions that Hendon one of the great names of amateur football & then notes that their fanzine is called 'The Sleeping Giant'. The editor of this, through the late nineties, had a vindictive bee in his bonnet about his perceived thuggishness of the Hamlet team under Dave Garland, and took every possible opportunity to use his rag to continue his vendetta, while not having bottle to sign his articles. Nowadays I'm sure he's a happy 'keyboard warrior' hiding behind his computer screen somewhere! We played at Claremont Road one midweek night & spent a fair amount of half time, & the beginning of the second half happily ripping up all of their copies, old & new, that were on sale. the bloke behind the jump asked me what on earth I was up to, & in no uncertain terms I explained it was a protest against their cowardly fanzine editor. I don't know if he was responsible or not, but he let me carry on!

Charlie bemoaned the media concentrating on part-time players occupations, which is also a bugbear of mine, where they are described as "postmen,lorry drivers & teachers... a motley crew or ragtag assortment of a milkman or postman to deliver the goods, a teacher to chalk up the goals, or a window cleaner doing the rounds of the opposition defence". He used the comparision to mention his brief 'flirt with fame' at an un-named Isthmian reserve side, but reading between the lines my guess would be Bromley-"as a nimble 18-year old I turned out a couple of times for the reserve side of a club in what is now the Ryman Premier Division.Now I would never make any claims to possess football ability, but I was way out of my depth. The speed of reaction, the pace of the game and the level of technique was far beyond that of even a good-standard Sunday team,and this was regarded as one of the poorest reserve teams the club had produced in many years(which, coupled with an injury crisis and a number of internal ructions at the club was the reason I found myself pulling on a shirt for a couple of weeks)The standard was deemed so poor that the manager of the first team rarely allowed his players to turn out for the 'stiffs' Yet it was miles abve anything I had ever experienced in my admittedly limited & brief football career." Oh how I could relate to that! Not the actual playing-I'm happy just to lace up my boots for a few minutes for the Supporters' side! But in that if I could have a pound for every time I've stood next to someone in a pub & they've told me, pint glass in one hand, cigarette in the other, that they 'once played for Dulwich', on recognising my shirt, but on my gntle probing it turned out that they had a trial for the Reserves in the dim & distant past, but were clearly not good enough, in their eyes 'not given a fair chance' not realising the high standard of even senior non-league reserve sides. Trust me, if ever you want a laugh go along to watch any pre-season open trial training session organised by the is difficult to keep a straight face at the incompetence on show!

One man in the Hendon side in that Cup tie was given a cheeky occupation check,as might printed by one of the nationals: "It was 'banker Paul Whitmarsh' who therefore posed the biggest threat to Notts County's cup hope on this Sunday afternoon; & hopes to 'open his account' in the competition proper." He indignantly continued: "What he does when not turning out for the Ryman Premier side at the weekend is of no concern.He is a Hendon footballer & today that's all we need to know. Are we told, for example, that he is up against the 'golfers, video game enthusiasts, card players & nightclubbers' of Notts County?"

Whitmarsh himself was the mainstay of the Hamlet forward line during the exciting times under Frank Murphy in the mid nineties. Whits made 155 appreances for The Hamlet between 1994 & '97; finding the back of the net 74 times. He went on to play for Sutton United & Welling United, before marrying an Irish woman, & emigrated over there, where he played for a number of clubs, including his 'first one' at Cobh Ramblers where apparently he walked out in a strop after a match in which he was an unused sub and didn't even bother to collect his kitbag from the dressing room! He later played for Belgrove and UCD.

Another chapter was about the Supporters Club during the rise of Charlton Athletic, in discussion with Pete Varney, who was the Chief Executive in at the Valley.

Varney helped oversee the rise of Charlton athletic from (in old money) second division also rans to the heights of the Premiership in 6 years, which was an amazing achievement, considering over the previous decade they were homeless, with the fans leading them in a massive campaign to get back to The Valley Varney didn't want all the hard work to be undone, so he talked of planning ahead, for promotion having a business plan and a long term stategy to turn the club around. He explained the need for a businesss plan,so that the late run, then winning at Wembley didn't catch them by surprise.

To prove how prepared & determined they were, he recalled the club offloading a forward, against most fans opinions: "In February we sold Carl Leaburn, to Wimbledon. As a result of this I went round all the branch meetings getting savaged because we were selling a forward, which meant we wouldn't go up ,had no ambition, that sort of thing,. I couldn't tell them what was actually going to happen, so I just defended the club's position, telling them I was still confident that we'd reach the play offs & they shouldn't write us off yet. At the end of the season, when we'd beaten Sunderland & gone up, I was invited to what was decribed as an 'evening of wine & humble pie' , which was basically the supporters saying okay, you got it completely right and we'll keep our mouths shut from now on." his comments there illustrate exactly why those in a boardroom treat lifelong fans with contempt, always believing those in the boardroom know best...

But that's not the flimsy Dulwich link here, well not the main one! that comes from the mention of Carl Leaburn, who also played for the Junior Section of Dulwich Hamlet, back in their Southwark Sports days. His brother Glen turned out for The Hamlet in the years 1992 to '94, scoring nine goals in 48 appearances; having previously played for Catford Wanderers, Dorking & Croydon.

Varney mentioned that Wembley play-off battle with Sunderland & how it was just the start: "Having reached the promised land, however, the real hard work began. No sooner had Sasa Ilic smothered Michael Gray's spot kick then the world was already damning Charlton's prospects in the top flight." And you know waht? They were right, as immediate relegation followed! Perhaps supporters' are a bit more knowledgable than the man give us all credit for! Charlton Athletic currently languish in Football League One, which is the third division in 'old money'. The hero of that play-off shoot-out Sasa Ilic played against the Hamlet in a foggy 2-1 FA Trophy defeat on the Sussex coast, down at Hastings, against the now defunct St. Leonards Stamcroft. This denied us a trip to north Wales, as the winners were drawn away to Colwyn Bay. This defeat led to the end of manager Frank Murphy's reign at Champion Hill, as he was denied money to strengthen the side by the powers that be. Ilic had joined them not long before from the (then) Yugoslavian side FC Radnicki Nis, now languishing in the Serbian third division. Not long after he appeared against us he was signed by Charlton.

As a footnote, remembering those in power know better than mere fans,perhaps it's just as well that the stadium plan that barmy Varney dreamed of in the book never quite came to fruition: "I look around The Valley and think that if it held 40,000 people we could fill it."

The last professional port of call for Connelly on his cockney crawl was the Crazy Gang of the old Wimbledon FC, then at Plough Lane, now at faraway Milton Keynes. He mentions an oddity of their programme, with regard to featured player profile of the day: "A curious aspect is the fact that when the editor sends the players their profile forms, he actually reproduces them, handwriting and all. Today, Carl Cort's random mixture of upper- and lower-case letters revealed he would spend his last tenner on KFC." Presumably he meant the finger lickin' good chicken, rather than investing in Kingstonian Football Club. Whichwould have been a bit ironic if he had, as more than a decade later when the moral high grounders of the fans club AFC Wimbledon started up at Kingstonian, they DID invest in Kingstonian. Well, their asset stripping owner anyway. Who pocketed a high six figure profit, by not just selling Kingsmeadow to the new Dons, but also loaning them the money to do so, acting as an 'unofficial' loan shark for them! So much for morals, as long as you benefit eh? But that's another story! Back to player profiles...just to say I do miss them in programmes, they are fascinating social snapshots both of your own players and of the period generally. i think it's a shame that they no longer appear in our programmes. Cort isn't asked if there any Dulwich Hamlet connections, but he does have two, again like many mentioned in this article, his siblings. One brother Leon started out in our Youth Team, managed by our current First Team manager Gavin Rose, in his first spell in charge of our youngsters, in 1997/98. he moved on to Millwall, but didn't make any first team appearances there, instead making his professional debut at his next club Southend United, where he played 137 times. he has now reached well over three hundred Football League appearances, at Hull City, Crystal Palace, Stoke City & Burnley. He is currently on loan to Preston North End, whose supporters presented one of his shirts to our Club on the pitch at half time, during our recent 6-0 massacre of Fleet town; after they had beaten our Supporters' Team 9-4 at Belair Park in the quarter finals of the IFA British (supporters) Cup. One of their other brothers, Wayne, also played for Dulwich Hamlet. He appeared briefly in the 2002 pre-seasons, disappearing after it was announced in the local press that he had signed for us! Three campaigns later he did play around half a season for us, before leaving once more, for more money elsewhere.

Going back to that hand-written player profile one thing spotted by Charlie tickled me.He pondered that under the 'boyhood footballing hero' ? he had written 'never really had one'. And noted: "However the 'never' had cleary been written heavily over the name 'Ian'. Which Ian was this? Surely not Wallace? Botham, maybe? Lavender, from Dad's Army? What made him change his mind?" We shall never know!

There was also a chapter on Tooting & Mitcham United toward the end. And a large chunk was in discussion with their chairman John Buffoni, who was overseeing their last moments at Sandy Lane, before their move to their current Imperial Fields home.
It starts off by a descriptive of the inner sanctum of the place: "The Tooting & Mitcham boardroom is as grand as any you'll find at Ryman League second division level. Sandy Lane is like an elderly comatose patient on a life support system." not a bad description, but 'rumour' has it that their boardroom was once much grander, & that during the promotional season of 2001/02 when we groundshared there in exile, a number of their artifacts went missing from those boardroom walls by pilfering, cheeky Hamlet followers. As I say, only 'rumours'!
For the benefit of younger Hamlet fans, back then there was four divisions in the Isthmian League. Premier, One, Two & Three. With the latter two being lower than the current division One south, clubs in those two entering the lower standard FA Vase, for minor non-league outfits; as Tooting did. Dulwich Hamlet have NEVER fallen low enough to play in that competition.

In this chapter Connelly repeats his mistakes with regard to selling Champion Hill to Sainsburys, & also alludes to poor management of the Club, in terms of us still struggling: "The realisation that football is now big business has taken a little longer to filter down through the semi-professional leagues. Many clubs are still run by committees of former players & enthusiasts. Many committee members are purely there for the kudos they perceive they earn. A number of big old clubs Kingstonian, Dulwich Hamlet & so on have tried to move with the times, with varying degrees of success. Whilst Ks are in the Conference & scooped the FAT at Wembley in 1999, Dulwich are struggling on & off the field despite having had the foresight to sell their vast Champion Hill stadium to Sainsbury's & have them build a new stadium a stones throw away as part of the deal. Champion Hill was another famous old ground left to decay by blinkered administration as crowds plummetted from the early '60s. By the late '80s the ground was decrepit, even if it did have an imposing bearing. The club crest was set in marble at the main entrance, and the walls were covered with reminders of the great Dulwich teams of the past. Now they occupy a compact if characterless stadium, but are still struggling to make ends meet."
In actual fact the club crest wasn't set in marble at all. It was a very good quality marble linoleum impression of marble with the badge printied onto it, but it looked the part! This was 'discovered' when the old ground was being demolished at atrempts were made to 'save' the marble! As for the reminders of great Dulwich teams of the past, well like the current ground, they were all hidden away in the boardroom, so 'ordinary' fans will never get to see them. Some things never change...

I hope you haven't been too bored by this slightly strange article. Let me know if you have, otherwise you will have to suffer more of the same in the next issue of the 'Hamlet Historian'!