, , , , , , ,

Friday 29th September 2017 ko 19.45

Eastern Counties League Premier Division

STANWAY ROVERS 1 (Blackwell 78)


Att 201

Entry £6

Programme £1.50

Friday night football is something that’s clearly worked for the Eastern Counties League with regular fixtures throughout the season. It makes sense especially for clubs like Stanway with Colchester United on their doorstep as it allows the Football League club’s fans to come and watch too.  From a hopper’s perspective it does allow the chance to tick off another ground on a day of generally sparse fixtures; in fact the only issue is battling Friday night traffic to get there!

In fact my only concern is with other leagues seeing crowds like this; will their impact be diluted? I suppose the answer lies in who Friday night football attracts? If it’s mainly locals, then as long as there’s enough goodwill amongst the visiting clubs then the casual visitor will continue to enjoy a two-game weekend! There were certainly no lack of hoppers taking full advantage at the Hawthorns, although the fixture being a massive Essex Derby I’m sure swelled the crowd more!

Stanway is of course home to half of Britpop band Blur. Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon met at The Stanway School, meeting Alex James and Dave Rowntree at Goldsmith’s College in London.

It comes as little surprise that there are links to Colchester United. Stanway joint managers Karl Duguid and Kemal Izzet (Muzzy’s brother) are both ex-Colchester players, but there are plenty of surprises within the fabric at The Hawthorns.

The first is that they’ve only been here since 1979, and that they’ve only been in the ECL since 1991, four years after the league expanded to two divisions. Make no mistake though the extra set of turnstiles and the added cover makes this a ground an Isthmian League ground in waiting, and a return to those loftier climes is also what drives Wivenhoe.

But lets put my hopper’s hat back on. I’d seen pictures of the “Arena” stands and battled the M25 seeing this one as little more than a box-ticking exercise. So you can imagine my delight when the turnstile clicked at I gazed at the sheer ingenuity of the place. I haven’t met a groundhopper that doesn’t love a ground built out of the “Heath Robinson” school, the ultimate probably being the wonder that is Bucharest’s Stadionul Fratia-Vulcan.

But just look at the bits of cover, the snack bar, even the “Thurlow Nunn” feature! The Hawthorns is full of those little nooks and crannies that give it character in abundance. That does mean though that the notice in latin over the tunnel,

“Exspetata ut Abyssus” 

meaning “Welcome to Hell” is manifestly inaccurate, it’s anything but!

This is the kind of place to enjoy even when even if the game isn’t a classic (which this wasn’t) as there’s still plenty to explore and enjoy! And while the game didn’t really spark, it was clear that either of the two sides could easily cope a division higher. The only question is when will they get the chance?