SATURDAY MARCH 15th
Great Yarmouth Town 0
Swaffham Town 1
It hurts deeply that I am visiting the best county in Britain for birds, Norfolk, and not actually doing any birdwatching! This is because I am watching three matches in the Eastern Counties League today, in the company of The Fox, and simply have no time to stop and study our feathered friends.
The first is a noon kick off at Norwich United, followed by an afternoon trip to Gorleston and then rounding off at Great Yarmouth Town in the evening. The latter is a revisit for me but one should never pass up the chance of reacquainting oneself with the gorgeous Grade II Listed grandstand here at The Wellesley.
Being a cautious, ‘sad’ individual, I pre-booked my programmes with the helpful secretary. We both fail to factor in a dodgy printer, resulting in a gaggle of anxious ‘Paperchasers’ mooching round the entrance awaiting the arrival of the Holy Grail, or tonight’s matchday programme as normal people might call it. Only fifty have been cranked out of the hand press, and the unlucky ones form a line to leave names and addresses for later posting. Thankfully, mine have been put aside and I may well be the only person on the day to get a full quotient of programmes from the three matches. If the League plan to repeat the Hop day, it is something that must be addressed: at least give a bit of guidance to participating clubs!
I now settle down to take in the magnificent structure before me. The last time I was here, the grandstand – the oldest football stand in the world – was condemned and I couldn’t gain access. It’s now been restored and provides one of the best footballing sights I have ever seen: Victorian grandstand glistening under a full moon.
The pitch is situated in what is basically a seafront sunken garden, complete with flower borders. Beautiful Victorian houses surround the ground, though the ambiance is rather spoilt by the inclusion of an athletics track: spectators feel miles from the football action.
I never really get into the match itself. The first half is a wind-affected bore which sees Swaffham take a narrow lead. Both sides perk up in the goalless second half. I frequently find myself gazing at the grandstand instead of the football.
After the game, I sit with some scrumptious fish and chips on the Yarmouth promenade watching the moonlight shimmering on the sea. It’s all very romantic; it’s just a pity I am sharing the occasion with The Fox and not Rachel Riley from Countdown! Foxy makes up for his lack of smouldering sex appeal by acting as my personal DJ on the long drive home, flicking through his eclectic iPod library for tunes he knows I would enjoy. It is a perfect end to a wonderful day out. Pity about the lack of birdwatching opportunities…
Ticket value: 4; Programme: 4.5; Food: 1.5; Facilities: 3.5; Bar: 3; Welcome: 4; Match: 2; Overall: 5