Tuesday 19th September 2017 k0 19.45
Combined Counties League Premier Division
WALTON & HERSHAM 7 (Hornby 13 Abdul 23 59 78 J Newton 41 Nkoma 70 83)
CHERTSEY TOWN 0
I worry for the Swans. I have no connection with Walton or Hersham save for a visit to the ground 10 years ago. But on a slightly dank Tuesday night I was faced with an option. Either head to watch Walton Casuals at the new Walton Sports Hub or revisit Stompond Lane to see what looked like being the Swans last game at the historic ground.
Now plenty of places claim to be historic, but few are. But how many places can claim title to a famous punk band? Legend has it that when Walton & Hersham won the Athenian League in 1969 someone graffiti-ed “Walton & Hersham 1969” on a set of of garage doors. A young Jimmy Pursey walked by the open garage, and only saw the right-hand door, and Sham 69 was born.
Then there was the tale of how Walton & Hersham nearly caused Brian Clough to get into a fight with comedian and actor Eric Sykes. In 1973 Walton & Hersham drew Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup First Round, featuring the likes of Dave Bassett and managed by Allan Batsford. A few short years later they would help Wimbledon into the Football League. Now this wasn’t one of Clough’s more inspired periods of management, he lasted less than a year, and a loss of 0-4 at the Goldstone Ground following a goalless draw at Stompond Lane saw Clough annoyed at some remarks made by Sykes who had connections to the Swans.
The Swans won the Amateur Cup in 1974 and with the abolition of amateur status that year, the club have been on a slow decline ever since. A brief highlight was the development of striker Bas Savage who went on to play for the likes of Reading and Bristol City after leaving Stompond Lane in 2002. The club last played in the Isthmian Premier in 2007 and agonisingly were relegated to the Combined Counties League in 2016.
Stompond Lane reflects that lost status with the ground obviously on its last legs. The stand on the far side is boarded up and the seats in the main stand covered in droppings. The club will play at the new Elmbridge Sports Hub, sharing with rivals Walton Casuals, at a council-run facility adjacent to the site of Casuals former home at the Franklyn Road Sports Field. They’ll be a 3G pitch, and the requisite facilties for the Isthmian Premier but no social club, and no club branding outside of matchdays.
So this was an occasion to say goodbye to a cherished part of the club’s history. I jotted down the line-ups and heard an almighty bang as a group of fans prised away a board or two from the covered terrace opposite. Noone minded, they got to stand on the cherished steps one more time, and unwittingly saved the demolition crew a few seconds.
If demolition was the order of the day then that also applied to matters on the pitch. Like the Swans, I still see Chertsey as an Isthmian League club but they were utterly destroyed here. Chief beneficiary was Abdeen Abdul who collected a hat trick but the highlight of the evening was to be the final goal scored by TJ Nkoma a thumping volley from just outside of the box. It was a fitting final goal for a historic ground, or was it?
That depended on the Swans FA Vase tie at Sporting Club Thamesmead the next Saturday. A draw would see a replay back at Stompond Lane for a positively Sinatra-esque final bow. It didn’t happen, Walton & Hersham won again- this time 8-0 and have now played their first game at their new home.
I wish them well there, and I will play them a visit soon. My worry with it is the loss of identity in a stadium designed to have as little of it as possible. Another issue is the loss of income from their social club, to a professional club that’s a minor irritant, to a club at Step 5 it’s massive, to the extent that it killed off a club local to me – Witney Town.
But this wasn’t yet a time to worry about the future. The players applauded the bumper crowd, before taking their leave. I like the rest of the crowd lingered awhile, collecting memories and imagining Stompond Lane in it’s pomp, before more literally and figuratively the lights were dimmed for the final time.