Tuesday 25th March 2014 ko 19.45
Sussex County League Division One
CHICHESTER CITY 1 (Groom 7)
Chichester and I go back a long way. My ex-wife loved Butlins so regularly we’d spend weekends at the nearby Bognor Regis stockade, to watch the likes of Coghlan’s Quo, and a version of Bucks Fizz with only one original member. We even saw Limahl in support of The Wurzels once, which looked less like entertainment and more like a gentle nudge towards alternative employment for the former Kajagoogoo man.
There was one massive advantage to the place, and that was on Saturday afternoons I could escape the high fences and security patrols, and find a game locally. Even now, a look at the grounds I’ve visited in this part of the south coast show a marked slant to Bognor Regis. Nice town Bognor, if nothing else for the annual Birdman of Bognor competition, and the heroic David Purley, but as for Butlins, well I’m rather with King George V on that one!
The city of Chichester is dominated by the 11th Century Holy Trinity Cathedral, with its separate bell-tower and statue of former MP William Huskisson. He I’m sure would like to be remembered as the President of the Board of Trade responsible for the reform of the Navigation Acts, and Corn Laws, but is best known for his death, being the first person to be run over and killed by a railway engine, Stephenson’s Rocket, in 1830. A more modern edifice is the hexagonal Festival Theatre opened in 1962 in Oaklands Park, the park also being the home of the city’s football team.
On Twitter there’s an account called Floodlight Fancy where football ground fanatics enthuse about floodlight poles around the world. Few are as impressive as those at Budapest’s Puscas Stadium, but few places can have as many as Oaklands Park does! There’s lights for a community 3G pitch, tennis courts, and the car park. At the back the football ground is a modern edifice revamped a few years ago, and that is why I hadn’t paid Chichester City FC a visit until now.
In 2000 Chichester City merged with Portfield United, another Sussex County League team in the city, and moved into their Church Road ground. The new club was named Chichester City United, City’s history adopted, and monies from the sale of Church Road were to help pay for the revamp at Oaklands. I paid a visit soon after the merger, and found a rather down-at-heel ground seemingly waiting for the bulldozers to arrive. I accidentally won a bottle of wine on the raffle, loved the character of the place, and was most surprised it took the club until 2010 to move back to Oaklands. The last link to Portfield, the United suffix, was dropped, with only a single photo in the bar a testament to their existence. But let’s not look backwards too much, the ground is secured, the clubhouse is excellent, and it will take very little to get the ground grading for promotion to Step 4, even the seats in the stand are padded!
The game was a typical mid-table battle, with Chichester clearly the better team, but they will wonder why they didn’t win by a far wider margin. Tom Groom’s sharp shot early on should have been the start rather than the sum total, with Ringmer unable to maintain possession long enough to trouble the home defence. It was a decent game, easy to watch, but I left thinking that lack of a cutting edge is why they’re mid-table at Step 5. Surely a city of this size ought to stage football at a higher level?