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Friday 27th July 2018 ko 19.45

United Counties League Division One


IRCHESTER UNITED 4 (Harewood 46 Lovell 57 Taylor 63 Bell 75)

Att 245

Entry £5

Programme £1

Of all the organised events GroundhopUK are involved in the United Counties/ Peterborough & District Leagues’ hop is the easiest to organise. A lot of that is down to John Weeks and Wendy Newey at HQ, it really does help when you know that if you ask a favour it’ll get done, but much as due to the high standards that the two leagues have set over the 3 previous years the hop has run. In fact the measure of how good those host clubs have been was the reaction of all concerned when the standard dropped slightly.

The great advantage of having two leagues involved is the sheer volume of the clubs we can visit and the corollary of that is the amount of knowledge of how to host well is there too. So when Raunds Town didn’t turn up to the hop planning meeting we didn’t worry too much, I mean, a former Southern League club should be able to host well shouldn’t they, and after all we ran 4 years worth of Ceredigion Hops successfully without ever holding a planning meeting- the geography made it impossible.

The alarm bells started ringing when the club failed to keep us updated on our progress sheet. The excel sheet is our tool for clubs to compare notes, and get ideas for their own offerings. Then when there was trouble getting the prepaid programmes over to Chris we saw that the club had clearly decided to run the game as a normal league game.

Or did they? A Silver Band isn’t a normal feature of a Step 6 game, and was the hideously overpriced chilli meant for our benefit? Whatever the whys and wherefores of the piece, the great advantage of an organised hop at Step 6 and above means that so long as the club does the absolute basics, by and large the visiting throngs will be happy. In fact it tends to be the club itself that misses out, on those extra income streams that turn a good crowd into a real moneyspinner. Here was a classic case of that.

It is therefore to the great credit of the United Counties League that they felt discomfiture at what they saw as Raunds’ failure. I wasn’t massively happy at what happened, but in end if a club chooses to make its offering “Game, programme and badge” then no red lines have been crossed.

The rather thin programme gave the club’s position rather well. They are a club in turmoil, with a new committee, manager and team, and that showed on the pitch where they were taken apart by an Irchester team that featured ex Rushden & Diamonds midfielder David Bell in their ranks.

My view of it all was rather summed up by the fact that my boss Karl came along to see exactly what I routinely take half a day off to help organise. He knows his football despite being a Manchester United fan, but regained his credibility by having a recent playing stint for Cambridge City in his CV (Yes, he is younger than me!) He and his son enjoyed himself, even though he wondered whether he could do a job up front for Raunds?

If Karl and everyone else enjoyed themselves why was everyone involved at the league and GroundhopUK worrying? The truth is we all hate a missed opportunity, and Raunds certainly missed out here. But unlike some folks I meet I have to see the even bigger picture here.

Raunds Town are in trouble, for now just on the field, and it was off the field too when this hop was put together. My hope is that he club has turned the corner, and that the club will make better progress. For my part I’ll always wonder whether we’ve have been better holding back their participation until they’d sorted themselves out. The fact that I pondered that at a chip shop in Raunds after the game was a fair analogy of our evening.