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Saturday 23rd July 2016 ko 15.30

Pre-season Friendly



Att 23 at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre

Entry FREE

No Programme

When you look at it Bisham Abbey isn’t an obvious place to stage football. It was built in 1260 for two Knights Templar, before becoming a priory. It was used to imprison Robert the Bruce’s wife Queen Elizabeth of the Scots before being given to Anne of Cleves by Henry VIII as part of his divorce settlement in 1540.

These days the Grade I listed manor house is run by Serco on behalf of Sport England. The Manor House was being used for a Scottish wedding, or at the very least a couple who liked bagpipes judging by the strains floating towards the sports facilities.

There’s hockey, golf, tennis, and full gym facilities, and yes football pitches! There are 3, one 3G, one grass, but in the middle of those is a “DESSO” hybrid pitch of exactly the same type and dimensions as the one at Wembley Stadium. You can see why so many sides like to use the facility including the England team before the construction of St George’s Park.

The game was delayed by half an hour while a Fulham FC youth game was completed on the DESSO pitch. Eventually the cameraman from the Cottagers left his perch up a scaffolding tower, to be replaced by me, I do like an interesting vantage point, and a Southern League Central team could play a side one notch lower, from the Hellenic League Premier Division. If nothing else playing here was convenient, with Marlow being situated the other side of the 1832 William Tierney Clark designed Marlow Suspension Bridge over the Thames. The bridge like the manor house is a Grade I listed building.

Now Marlow does come with a reputation for being well-to-do and their normal home ground, the Alfred Davis Memorial Ground is a genuine must-visit. What was odd was the aggressive approach they took to what was after all a friendly. Tackles flew in and players were immediately in the referee’s face if a decision didn’t go their way. Simply put it was as ugly as the surroundings are beautiful.

You know that in friendly games referees by and large don’t show cards, the ultimate sanction is to ask that a player be immediately subsituted. That happened after a particularly nasty challenge saw an Ascot player go off in some pain. It all seemed so pointless, and the antics of the Marlow goalkeeper at the final whistle were especially infantile. Pointedly shaking hands with everyone BUT the referee is childish and hopefully will be severely punished under FIFA’s new “Respect” guidelines.

But the sun shone, the planes flew over from Heathrow and the Thames meandered behind it all. The players trekked back to the main block as the final strains of “Scotland the brave” wafted over from the manor house, as I left, sharpening my pen as I departed.