Saturday 23rd May 2015 ko 14.15
Maidstone & District League Premier Division
THREE SUTTONS 2 (Barham 22 Todd 68)
WEST FARLEIGH 2 (Nibbs 33 Foster-Couch 44)
When the games begin to run out at the end of the season, you also have to contend with the possibility that sides will simply decide not to bother playing the game. It doesn’t help when some leagues award those ties as 0-0 draws; you can actually be better off not playing which can’t be a good thing. My original idea was a Middlesex League game at Paddington Elite, but the visiting team couldn’t raise a side so I cast my net a little wider. With that propensity for call-offs having two games in the same league less than 3 miles apart looked a good plan for me, the idea being is there were no signs of life at the first, simply drive on to the second!
The village of Chart Sutton lies around 5 miles south of Maidstone, and is one of 3 villages named Sutton, the others being East Sutton and Sutton Valence. East Sutton is famous for being where King Edward VII used to visit Pleasure House for liaisons with his mistress Alice Keppel. Keppel was great-grandmother to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall second wife of the current Prince of Wales, and great grandmother to Judith Keppel, the first winner of £1million on the UK version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” She is distantly related to Eleanor of Aquitaine who was the subject of her million-pound question!
The other game was due to be at Leeds SV, Leeds Castle is nearby, and SV stands for Sutton Valence. I was fortunate, I aimed straight to Chart Sutton, benefitting from the club’s active Twitter account, and the line of hoppers’ cars along the narrow Warmlake Road told me both that the game was on, and that I’d found my destination. the ground was awash with hoppers, some having been to SV first, seen no signs of life, so diverted here. It meant that the travellers made up three-quarters of the attendance!
Kent is often described as, “The Garden Of England,” and the Chart Sutton Memorial Playing Field is by that description quintessentially Kentish. The adjoining field is a hop garden, and partially hidden beyond the trees is an oasthouse. The pitch was in excellent condition, the rain held off and we were treated to an excellent game of football.
Travellers new to the hobby tend to set themselves parameters as to what they are prepared to watch, often with little or knowledge as to what lies beyond. Nominally this league feeds the Kent County League placing this game 11 promotions from the Football League. So some would turn their noses up at this, and claim the standard is too low, and you know what? I’m quite happy to let them labour under that misapprehension. You’d never park the extra cars down Warmlake Road.
The truth is that once you drop below Step 6 the standard evens out considerably. This game reminded me in so many ways of games I’ve seen in the North Berkshire League’s top flight, supposedly 4 levels higher. The passing was crisp, the goals well-taken and the company excellent, and in the final analysis anyone who’s watched football at a variety of levels will know that you can see a good game of football anywhere.
The league’s profile amongst groundhoppers will be enhanced by the Football Traveller‘s decision to carry their fixtures, and the word-of-mouth following this match will no doubt help too. By any standards this was a good afternoon’s entertainment.