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Saturday 1st August 2015 ko 13.45

United Counties League Division One

BLACKSTONES 1 (Evans 64p)

RUSHDEN & HIGHAM UNITED 1 (Cormack 30)

Att 327

Entry £5

Programme £1

Badge £3

So back to the UCL for our second game of the day, and over the border to Lincolnshire and the historic market town of Stamford. Blackstones take their name from their background as the works team of the Mirlees Blackstones engineering firm (more here) but I did wonder what the crowd would be like here.

It all boiled down to exactly what type of hopper we were attracting to the Rutland Weekend Groundhop. On one hand we’d just seen a game in the Peterborough & District League, at Ketton, and were destined for another at Stamford Belvedere after this. Would we lose a significant number of pattons to the local hostelries, or even a mad dash to a pre-season friendly at Chatteris?

In the end my worries added up to nothing. We lost very few, gained many more, and those who attended couldn’t have helped but been impressed by the club’s staging.

I shouldn’t ever get used to good practice, after all we at GroundhopUK have been preaching it for years. So when your pre-booked ticket bypasses the queue at the gate, the club has enough programmes, and there’s interesting catering including a vegetarian option, then thank your hosts because it isn’t a given. When it doesn’t happen, then question why, and ask whether the host club has been given the chance to make it happen. Did they ever have a fighting chance?

Fortunately Blackstones did, made the most of it, and added the magic ingredient- charm. We don’t ask the chairman to greet the coach party, or to supply mugs of tea for the organisers, but it made a wonderful impression when he did. It was another of those occasions when all I had to do was distribute programmes, count the crowd and enjoy a club at ease with itself and its visitors.

Sadly the game didn’t live up to the size of the crowd. Blackstones have struggled in recent years, I still can’t see them as anything other than a Premier Division club, but that struggle manifested itself in new management and a new team. That is clearly taking time to gel, so I suspect they’ll be happy with a point under the circumstances.

As the game wound down I looked around, and spotted John Weeks the UCL chairman sat on his fold-up chair. If you’ve enjoyed these hops then look out for John, and thank him. Chris and I make them happen but the original idea was John’s and it was his drive that saw the us appointed and the project sold to the clubs. I tend to take my cue from how John’s enjoying himself, so when I glanced over and he grinned I knew we were going well, or was that because he’d just won the raffle?