Alfie Barker, Baldock Town, Codicote, Football, groundhopping, John Clements, Kevin Phillips, Kim Wilde, Non League, Spartan South Midlands League
Tuesday 31st October 2017 ko 19.45
Spartan South Midlands League Division One
BALDOCK TOWN 6 (Coley 14 A Barker 45 Hoy 47og L Barker 54 Coppin 63 Robertson 82)
Entry & Programme £5
If ever a home of sport was named after a hero it’s Codicote’s. The John Clements Memorial Ground is named after the local schoolteacher who, in 1976 saved several schoolchildren from a hotel fire during a school skiing trip in Italy. He refused all advice as to his own safety and eventually succumbed to smoke inhalation. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross, the highest civilian award for gallantry. It was to be an evening of contrasts though.
Codicote is a pleasant village, home to singer Kim Wilde, who was married in the Parish Church of St Giles. You’re close to the A1 (M) here, placing Codicote in prime commuter belt. The air of quiet affluence is obvious.
The Clements ground is part of a trend of Spartan League clubs returning to their homes, after improving them. The likes of London Lions and Hadley have managed to return home after periods of groundsharing to fulfil ground grading and investment of arounnd £115,000 in a stand and floodlights has allowed Codicote to return home after a stint sharing at Hertford Town.
You can see why they’ve moved back, as it’s a fine facility, the clubhouse being both spacious and high specification. The ground itself is more than adequate for Codicote’s needs despite being 3-sided due to the presence of cricket. In fact the only problem they seem to have is on the pitch.
As I write this they’re 3rd from bottom of the division and took a real hiding here. Former Watford striker Gifton Noel-Williams has been brought in to manage the team, and the saving grace he has is that most of his charges are young; they do have potential. Incidentally Noel-Williams’ son Dejon plays for Oxford United’s youth team, and is a real chip off the block! Here Noel-Williams’ charges got steamrollered, and that was a process made all the more painful by who helped to do it.
Hopefully you’ll read the goalscorer Alfie Barker and not know the name. Others might remember him as being on the books of Hitchin Town. Last season he played on loan at Codicote and at Langford, before he was sacked by his parent club over abusive tweets sent to Bournemouth’s Harry Arter following the stillbirth of Arter’s daughter. The FA banned Barker for 7 months, after which he played again for Codicote before moving on to Baldock.
This shouldn’t be, by the way, seen as any slight against Baldock, and Alfie Barker has every right to earn a living. The club that Kevin Phillips started his career at look to be mounting another promotion bid in their quest to return to the Southern League level that the former, bankrupt club played at.
I suspect that despite this hammering that Codicote will regroup and survive, there are good people at this vibrant club and the potential is there. If it doesn’t happen for them this season, then they may well stay up with the general lack of floodlit clubs to replace them. But if nothing else, far too much as been invested here, both financially and emotionally for them to lose their place in the Spartan South Midlands League. In that I wish them all the very best.
Dedicated to the memory of Dave “Ratty” Rattenbury, groundhopper and speedway aficionado. Rest in peace Dave