Swaffham Town (Saturday, December 15)

SATURDAY DECEMBER 15

Swaffham Town 4 Whitton United 2

A FRIEND tempts me east with a promise of a bit of birdwatching and a new ground. I need three nanoseconds to accept his invitation!

So, after a morning on the north Norfolk coast, it’s down to business at Swaffham Town.

I arrive at Shoemakers Lane to find Whitton United, today’s visitors, trying to get into the ground. The players’ entrance has been locked and someone rather rudely shouts at them over the fence to use the spectators’ entrance.

I nip inside to get a programme before heading to the town centre but can’t find anyone to ask. I start chatting to an affable official from Whitton when we are interrupted by the gateman with a curt “have you paid?” We are made to feel like criminals.

After a slap-up fish and chips in town, I return and pay £5 at the gate, including today’s neat Barnes Print programme.

When I tell the (same) gateman I am putting the prog in my car, he asks “well how will I know you have paid?”

Another Whitton official finds this very amusing. I will be gone all of 30 seconds and am what you might call distinctive looking. When I return, the Whitton man winks at me and whispers, “have you paid?” as I try and avoid further conversation with the thoroughly unwelcoming gateman.

The clubhouse seems far friendlier. There is a large ‘welcome’ sign over the bar and the white Christmas tree looks very festive. On each table is an advert for a quiz taking place on November 24th; 21 days ago (or 11 months and nine days from now).

The match is hard-fought and very entertaining. The final score is 4-2 but could have been triple that. It’s a good  old-fashioned, end-to-end, no prisoners taken skirmish that every Premier League player and manager (and spectator, TV pundit and commentator for that matter) should be dragged to see.

I must visit Whitton soon: everyone I meet involved with the club seems extremely nice. I think they should give customer service lessons to Mr. Miserable from Swaffham, or perhaps he was just having an off day?

sad.hopper@ntlworld.com

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