Tuesday 21st February 2018 ko 19.55
Essex Senior League
BURNHAM RAMBLERS 1 (Hughes 10)
SAWBRIDGEWORTH TOWN 2 (Mays 52 Thomas 90)
“Huh, because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth”
Pharrell Williams “Happy” 2013
My car came to rest in the Leslie Field’s car park. It was a cold, dank evening; even the operatives in the “Hand Car Wash” operating here had gone home. But Pharrell Williams’ hit could be heard from within the football ground, and all felt well with the world, sadly the song served only to mask the club’s problems.
I chatted to a Ramblers’ fan, called Dave, who summed up the problem eloquently if rather inelegantly. “We’re in the arse-end of nowhere” he said, and it’s fair to say the little club in Burnham-on-Crouch is rather isolated. The Dengie peninsula is the chunk of land that lies between the rivers Crouch and Blackwater in Eastern Essex. Sailing is popular here, but the rail service only escaped Dr Beeching’s axe due to it supplying traffic to and from Bradwell nuclear power station. But at Leslie Field one name is never far from anyone’s lips- Gordon Brasted.
As a player Brasted started his career here in the 1950’s before transfering to Arsenal playing mainly for their “A” team before transferring to Gillingham, then back to Burnham. He became involved in the clubs management and the move to Leslie Field in 1987 and the facilities you see now are down to his efforts. The stand with its double gable should made any scholar of stadium architecture salivate. Tragically Brasted died in 2000 and the Essex Senior League Cup has been named in his honour ever since.
The club reached the Isthmian League in 2013 but their stay was brief, returning to the County League after only 2 seasons. Since then the club have struggled at the lower reaches of the Essex Senior, but doing so in the knowledge that there was no Step 6 league to drop into in Essex. But that’s about to change, the new Essex/Eastern Counties division is ready to swallow up the bottom 4 in the current set-up. Suddenly Pharrell’s little ditty sounded hollow….
As a groundhopper you learn to observe and you soon pick up the signs of a struggling club. The slightly distressed facilities, the volunteers doing several jobs, and the complete absence of players’ sponsors in the programme. Still friendly to a fault, but struggling against the tide of only 16 people turning up and watching them play.
On the pitch things aren’t going the club’s way either. The reserve team has been disbanded after a series of drubbings and the first team’s last win was in December. After seeing Sawbridgeworth’s demolition of Hullbridge recently I thought I’d be seeing something similar here.
It really didn’t work out like that. If Ramblers are to face relegation then on the evidence of this game they’ll go down fighting. They were by far the better team in the first half, but Sawbridgeworth found a way of playing on a difficult pitch after the break and it was only a mixture of inspired goalkeeping from Josh Strizovic and profligate finishing that kept the visitors out.
And despite enjoying the Sawbo management’s company in the stand I rather hoped Ramblers could at least steal a point. It was denied them in the cruelest of circumstances, Aaron Thomas’s strike was late enough to allow only the kick-off afterwards.
I hope Ramblers can find a way of squaring the circle of their existance. I suspect it needs either an administrator of Brasted’s talents or someone who’s willing and able to back the club financially. Either way I hope they’ll find a way of keeping the club going in a form Gordon Brasted would recognise.