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Saturday 19th September 2015 ko 10.30

North Berkshire League Division Two

HANNEY UNITED 4 (Bishop 16p 41 Woodside 75 Woodside 88)

MARCHAM 2 (Larman 7 Dobbs 24)

Att 171

Entry & Programme £4

Badge £3

You have to be an enthusiast to organise a groundhop. I mean you wouldn’t subject themselves to the kind of day I had unless you enjoy it. Its not often that you find yourself at Radio Oxford at 7.40 in the morning to publicise the hop one last time, then get a lift to the other side of town to collect the last of our 3 minibuses before pick-ups at Steventon and Didcot Parkway station.

Since Hanney replaced the unfortunate Ardington & Lockinge around 6 weeks ago I’d got used to manager Steve Weeks’ regular emails asking “I’ve got a question, can I give you a ring?” I got the impression that he felt slightly worried about bothering me, but the truth was that every time an email landed in my inbox, I knew he was honing his club’s offering. And every question carried he and his club a little further forward.

The War Memorial Hall ground is an open space with the buildings being built in the 1970’s. There’s 2 pitches with a cricket pitch in the middle and at one point I’d pondered having Hanney 66 (who also play here) kick off on one pitch with Hanney United on the other straight afterwards.

That didn’t happen, perhaps fortunately, but the ground was always going to provide a few problems. The first was just how open it is, enclosing it was going to be almost impossible, but by placing all the catering and merchandise by the pay gate the people paying on the day were drawn towards the volunteers with the buckets.

The other issue was the complete lack of pitchside facilities. When Chris Berezai and I organise games at Step 5 and 6 we can at least rely on facilties such as electricity and running water. So when everyone enjoyed the frankly delicious breakfast rolls and the teas and coffees just consider just how hard Steve and his team had to work to make them happen.

Another highlight was the history booth the club set up. The club won the North Berks Cup 4 times in a row in the 1940’s and the telegram from that time was spine-tingling stuff. Special mention should also be made to the Hanney programme which was exceptional. A highlight was the players’ pen pictures for example, “Joe is an average footballer but an excellent plumber. He specialises in gold-plated bathrooms. See him after the game and he may offer you one of his infamous golden showers!”

For all that success Hanney’s big problem these days is getting people to come and watch them. To give you an idea of how acute that problem is when I visited the club last year the attendance was 3. With that in mind I was pleased to see the attendance include at least some curious locals. If just one sends their child to play for Hanney, in my eyes at least then all the hard work will have been worthwhile.

It was by any standards a beautifully hosted hop game, but in that fact-of-life in the off-pyramid game as soon as Steve had convinced himself that everything was well pitchside, off he went to take the team!

He was to score as much of a victory off the field as he did on it. It took a real effort for Hanney, visitors Marcham led twice in an exciting half, but seemed to run out of steam after the break an in the end Hanney were worthy winners. With the short journey to Grove pressing I managed to spend a few minutes with Steve to say thanks, but he turned up an hour later at Grove to support us. That is typical of the North Berkshire League.