Tuesday 1st January 2019 ko 15.00
Isthmian League Premier Division
FOLKESTONE INVICTA 1 (ter Horst 9)
Remember my assertion that every hopper has their own point of pain? Or putting it another way the ground that despite their best attempts remains stubbornly unticked? For years mine was the most northerly senior club in the UK, Wick Academy that took 3 cars, 2 hotels and 3 visits to see a game there. But another club, almost as far south as you can get from Wick took nearly as much pain to visit there. Here’s the story of Folkestone Invicta and I.
It doesn’t help that Cheriton Road is close to being achievable mid-week from Oxford, it requires a hour or two off work, and the M25 and M20 to behave. At best, you run the risk of screaming into the car park right on kick off. Three times I tried it, once I sat in an M25 jam and ended up elsewhere, once I arrived just as the game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch and last season I arrived, but their opponents didn’t due to them being caught up in a road closure on the QE2 bridge.
In the end there was little point fuming, these things happen, but what made it all the more frustrating is that Cheriton Road is a ground any self-respecting groundhopper should have on their radar.
The curiosity of the place, is that Invicta are the second club to call the ground home. The original Folkestone FC were formed in 1894 but disappeared in 1936. Folkestone Town were formed in 1945, dropped the suffix in 1968 but were bankrupted in 1990 when playing Southern League football.
Folkestone Invicta date from 1990 playing their first season in Hythe, and worked their way up through the Kent (now Southern Counties East) League reaching the Southern League 8 years’ later. They moved laterally to the Isthmian in 2004.
The other curio is Cheriton Road’s moving stand. On the changing room side is the remains of the Wilf Armory stand, which used seat 900, but was damaged by storms in July 2014 and demolished the following summer. Many of the seats were moved to the Brian Merryman Stand on the opposite side of the ground which was converted to all-seater.
But this is a ground to treasure. You start with the backdrop of the M20 tunnels, the 2003 dating Folkeston White Horse cut into the South Downs chalk to the Eurotunnel terminal beneath it. Then there’s that covered terrace with the office in a corner, and the clubshop that seems to stock just about everything you wouldn’t expect.
It was also a day to people watch and I’ve never met anyone who can capture that quite as well as Robyn so I hope you enjoy her work. The game, a derby of sorts, was the kind of encounter that was gritty, and enthralling but without ever being a classic. Folkestone won it, to continue a good run, but as Robyn and I headed back to the car it was time for conclusions.
Firstly just like Wick Academy it was good to finally get that monkey off of my back. Secondly grounds with this much character aren’t designed, they evolve over time, but are destroyed all too easily. Perhaps the fact that I had to work for this tick means I savored it that little bit more.