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Saturday 1st August 2015 ko 16.30

Peterborough & District League- Division One

STAMFORD BELVEDERE 1 (Saddington 42p)

WITTERING 3 (Middleton 17 McRoyal 23 Watson 76)

Att 314

Entry £4

Programme £1

Badge £3

So, on to game 3 of the day, and the slot that proved to be the most problematic to fill. The original idea was to visit Uppingham Town, they turned us down so we then turned to Oakham’s Rutland Dead Rabbits FC, but due to a small committee and an unhelpful landlord we had find another host club. That was a real shame, we loved the name, it was another Rutland-based club and those of you who saw their badge on sale by Terry’s Badges, the club crest was a corker! But Dead Rabbits’ loss was Stamford Belvedere’s gain, and they made the most of their opportunity.

In fact the only trick I felt they missed was on their catering. As good as the barbecue was, I reckon if they’d phoned Elmer Fudd and bought some rabbit for the grill they’d have made a killing….

So there we were in Queen Eleanor School in Stamford, but who was Queen Eleanor? She was wife and consort to King Edward I Longshanks a king hated by the Scots. Despite their marriage in 1254, being like so many aristocratic matches being one of political manoeuvre they were devoted to each other. So when she died in 1290 in Harby, Nottinghamshire Edward ordered that her body be transported back to London, but everywhere the cortege stopped overnight a cross would be erected in her memory.

Crosses were erected in Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham Cross (the cross name here isn’t a tribute to Eleanor), Cheapside and finally at Charing in London, the name Charing Cross is now a direct reference to Queen Eleanor!

If you are organising a hop game you always rely one of three things going your way. For people to have a good time at a club, you need to have either an amazing ground, an exciting game, or a have the club present themselves well. You can’t control the second, the first you have extremely limited impact, so you have to concentrate on the third. If you want the ultimate example the hop game at Cilgerran saw a ground with few facilities and a poor game, but everyone remembers a friendly club with frankly amazing catering. For Bels that had to be the aim and they succeeded.

It was the little things that made me smile. One of the coach party asked why no one had bothered to check his match ticket, it was because we’d told the club that everyone on the coach had a full ticket so they took the view that they needed only to wave the coach through the gate and concentrate their efforts on those paying on the day.

Yes I know the ground is on a school pitch, and there was no football furnuiture save for the dugouts, but once I’d sorted out the line-ups board, I was able to blend into crowd and admire the scenery behind. The visitors Wittering turned out to be interesting. They’d love to host for but wonder whether their ground in the village is big enough to cope with a crowd. They have use of a floodlit ground in RAF Cranwell, Sleaford Town used it for a spell, but they were concerned that the security issues would scupper that idea. You can imagine their surprise when we told them we have experience of such things… (click here)

The two sides are newly promoted to the division and the drop in playing quality was obvious from our previous game at Blackstones. On another day Bels could have got something from the game, they seemed to be slightly behind the pace on this occasion, and Wittering recorded a morale-boosting win.

I grabbed a final cup of tea to stave off dehydration on a sweltering day, allowed myself a smile at another bumper attendance, and made for the coach. It was time for arguably the most anticipated game on this hop weekend.