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Sunday 29th July 2018 ko 17.00

Peterborough & District League Division Two

STILTON FC 4 (West 38 49 80 McManus 74)

CARDEA 2 (Dandrilli 55 Yeoman 60)

Att 304

Entry £4

Programme £1

You mention Stilton and you can’t help think of cheese can you? In that sense it’s just like Cheddar, and I’m bound to comment that they attracted a lower attendance for their hop game, despite being 3 divisions higher in the footballing pyramid. Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison, as just about the only thing the two clubs have in common is the cheese. There was so much more going on at Stilton too…

For a start the famous cheese has never actually been made in Stilton. The village grew as a staging post on the Great North Road, now the A1, and so the horses and carriages stopped overnight here, and the passengers rested overnight, and sought sustainance. The taverns started buying cheese from producers in and around Melton Mowbray, but since people bought the cheese from Stilton, they associated it with here rather than Melton.

The sad footnote in the story is that today if cheese were made locally, it wouldn’t be able to call itself Stilton! Since 1996 EU “Protected Geographical Status” has meant the cheese much be made in one of the 3 counties of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire- Stilton is in Cambridgeshire!

But there’s a part of me that wonders whether Stilton isn’t heartily bored of all the cheese references. We nearest we saw to the famous food was the cheese on the burgers, and that owed more to Dairylea than any specific county’s dairy!

GroundhopUK’s visit was timed to take in the culmination of celebrations for the football club’s return to playing in the village. We’d planned on visiting them in exile on the second pitch during the first UCL/PDFL hop on the second pitch at Leading Drove just after the Yaxley game but they turned us down so we ended up watching Riverside at Daimler Avenue nearby. Ironically that was another ground Stilton had used after losing the use of their pitch 15 years earlier. Eventually I ended up deciding to tick off Stilton on that unique pitch on Leading Drove and found a club that didn’t know who had turned down the hop game, but were looking forward to returning home, and significantly for us were keen as mustard to host!

What Stilton have returned home to is a community centre, styled the Stilton Pavilion. Whilst there’s little or nothing in terms of footballing furniture, the facility is excellent as what it’s designed to be- a community hub, and there’s plenty of scope to add stands, a rail and so on as the club progresses.

In one corner of the clubhouse there’s a rather incongruous Stars & Stripes flying. It’s a memorial to 3 members of the crew of a USAF B-17 Bomber “10 Horsepower” who on the 20th February 1944 died in a crash on Denton Hill behind where  the new ground now lies.

Lt. Walter E. Truemper and S/Sgt. Archibald Mathies were trying to land at RAF  Polebrook and save the life of their injured pilot  Lt. Clarence Nelson. The other crew members successfully bailed out, but Truemper and Matthies crashed the plane on their third attempt to land. All 3 servicemen died, with  Truemper and Matthies winning the Medal of Honor posthumously.

With the grand ground opening being a massive community event, the idea was to recreate the frankly amazing events that was the hop game at Sawtry two years ago, and one that Stilton had a ringside seat at. There, the attendance was 534, which took just about everyone aback and with retrospect I doubt will ever be beaten at a similar level of the game.

I do think if the weather had have been better in the morning we’d have come close. There’s no doubt the inclement weather put plenty off, including the caterer who was going to provide the Thai curry for the masses. That was poor on his part and I hope he sees the attendance and massively regrets his actions. I’d like to think his loss helped more funds towards Stilton’s own barbecue- that seemed to be doing a roaring trade.

It was lovely to see John Weeks and the entire UCL commitee at the game too. It’s easy to forget these PDFL clubs aren’t John’s so he and his cohorts being there shows a commendable level of support.

The final game of the hop saw what I suspect every single neutral wanted, and entertaining game and a Stilton win on their day. West notched a hat trick which surely will go down in the annals of Stilton as the man who signposted the return of the football club from exile.

Overall it was a hop I’ll remember with a lot of fondness. It was gratifying that even at the last game John still wasn’t happy over Raunds’ hosting but that was a case of a missed opportunity more than anything else. Its worth commenting that since I published the Raunds article, a now former official has apologised for the club secretary’s comments at the bottom of the article. It points to a club that remains in turmoil and still rock bottom of the UCL. I hope they sort themselves out, but I’d remark that biting the hand that attempts to feed is unlikely to help.

The rest of the clubs were a credit to themselves, their towns and their leagues. The split-personality of this hop is what makes it what it is and I do wish more hoppers would give the side of things they’re not used to a go. I watched several attend friendlies instead of giving the PDFL a try. I know that these words will be lost on some, but when there’s so little competitive football on elsewhere, surely this is the perfect time to try something new!