Saturday 28th December 2015 ko 15.00
Eastern Counties League Premier Division
FC CLACTON 2 (Cowden 56p 83)
STANWAY ROVERS 4 (Shaw 12 29 55 Palmer 87)
It may have been a case of a 25 minute drive from Felixstowe to a game in the same division and league but the Rush Green Bowl is a step up in quality from Dellwood Avenue, and the sense of occasion was obvious. It wasn’t easy to find a parking spot but once through the turnstile the club’s sense of unconscious competence was impressive.
Even though this is a purpose-built ground, the club moved here in 1987, there is much to love here. Whether its the sign up behind the bar, which means you will donate to club funds, the generous grass banking or the cover on three sides. I was surprised the place is as new as it is!
The crowd was of such a magnitude that just about any Step 5 club should have coveted it, but despite the masses the club coped admirably. It was greater even than the 197 that attended the ECL’s “Groundhopper day here in 2013. I don’t remember any significant queues either, but as with one or two non-league clubs that have moved to edge-of-town locations there have been problems.
The issue is always the same. For a small club to thrive it has to either has to have a benefactor with deep pockets, or more sustainably has to place itself in the centre of its community. The latter is so much easier if you’re in the middle of town, the clubhouse and bar become a community hub that becomes so much more than just a football club. The clubhouse gets used all week, the club profits, and can progress. Move the operation out-of-town and all too often the link to the community is broken, and I watched a club local to me do exactly that and die. Witney Town moved to their new ground in 1992, folded in 2001, were revived, but folded again in 2013.
I hope that fate never befalls this friendly club, although the club were forced to restructure in 2007 and change names from Clacton Town to FC Clacton. But any facility or club in any town exists because people support it, so if the people of Clacton want their club, then their responsibility is obvious. Am I not the only commentator who’s sick of the handwringing when a club dies? Did you ever go?
This was a game worthy of note too. Two talented sides, and a darned good game. I’ll probably slightly disappoint the hosts by commenting that the correct side one, but Jamie Shaw was close to unplayable, and his 20 yard blockbuster to complete his hat trick was a wonderful way to record the feat.
Christmas fixtures always bring out the crowds, and there were plenty of groundhoppers here too, but despite the reversal I hope plenty of Clactonites will return and support their club. After all, the facilities are good, the team committed, so why not?