Sunday 29th July 2018 ko 11.00
United Counties League Premier Division
WELLINGBOROUGH TOWN 3 (Freitas 48 Speight 55 59)
PETERBOROUGH NORTHERN STAR 0
When the rains came we were glad of a little cover. Having a large stand at the Dog & Duck Ground was a godsend, it meant that everyone who wanted to be undercover could be. Someone came up to me and laughed, “You planned it this way didn’t you?” If only life were that easy….
If the roots of the UCL/PDFL hop were at Peterborough Sports then a lot of the hard work was done here at the Dog & Duck. Before the hop got the go-ahead Chris Berezai and I attended a series of meetings here where we presented the whole concept to the clubs’ officials and answered some fairly searching questions! I remember joking to one Town official that he’d seen our presentation so often his club ought to be the best hosts we’d ever seen!
What neither Chris or I didn’t foresee was the ramifications that having Wellingborough Town and Wellingborough Whitworths adjacent to each other would have on our planning. So put yourself in the organiser’s position; you want to maximise attendances for both leagues, and you’ve got the two Wellingborough’s and Stilton FC to visit. Normally you’d sandwich the Stilton game between the two UCL games, as you’d expect the higher status games to attract bigger crowds, so with luck you’ll coax a few to try the middle game.
That would have been plain daft in this instance, and with Stilton playing the first ever game at their new ground we knew the hop game would be the culmination of a whole day of activities so they would have to be the day’s finale. Remember the whinger from Tydd? He predicted that everyone (ie himself) would go home after the Whitworths game and that someone ought to tell Stilton as they’d be certain to miss out. Stilton got the largest crowd of the day……..
Town coped easily in every way you can think of. Whether it was the excellent chilli, or the fact that I had to to precisely no chasing around or even the result of the game they just made it happen in that easy-going way that you know means they’ve really thought about what is going to happen. Having the infrastructure from the old club’s past in the Southern League helps; and despite the run-in with the landlord that saw fellow tenants AFC Rushden & Diamonds depart for Rushden & Higham United that allowed the club to cope with a crowd that perhaps they’ll hope to get as and when they regain past glories.
What Town’s competence allowed me to do was take the time to reflect on what was happening. This is such an unusual hop in that you see such a wide variety of football staged on a wide selection of grounds. For me variety is the spice of life, but when having a chat with a hopper about the games we’d seen the previous day in Peterborough & District League, I watched his eyes glaze over- the lower level was a closed book to him. It was a reminder to me of what we’re dealing with here, two sides of a hopping divide, with only a limited number of people prepared to watch both sides. This hop has become as good a reason as any to bridge that divide, but still there are some who won’t cross it. I may regret their decision, but all I can do is influence.
Still it was the kind of fixture that GroundhopUK has learned is hugely important. The fact is that for new hoppers, Step 5 is their sweet spot, and this was a good advert for the sport at this level. As far as I’m concerned Peterborough Northern Star set the gold standard for hosting a UCL hop game back on the first event back in 2014. Then following my habit of jinxing excellent host clubs they lost. Here too they were well beaten by a Doughboys side that was better everywhere it mattered.
It was case of the right club at the right time for us. But behind that stand I could see a large gazebo at Whitworths FC. It was time to do something new for me on a hop, and that was to travel between games entirely under my own steam. It all looked rather intriguing.