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Tuesday 19th February 2019 ko 19.30

Argonaut Trophy

ARTHURIAN LEAGUE 3 (Hiscox 74 Beddows 79p Hornby 80)


Att 12 at Club des Sports, East Acton Lane, London

Entry & Programme FREE

Parking £4.50

WhatsApp can be a wonderful thing, I’d drawn something of a blank as to where to head. On one hand Wick in Sussex were at home but the holdups on the M25 were beyond even the normal delays you’d expect. But then “The Itinerant Football Watcher” Peter Miles made a discovery….

Rep games normally pass me by, but Pete’s discovery was an intriguing one. Let’s start with the location, the rather pretentiously named Club des Sports in London’s East Acton Lane. It’s on land owned by the Park Club, and seems to have been built at least in part due to David Lloyd Leisure taking on the main Park Club buildings a couple of years ago.

You take a ticket from the car park barrier armed with a QR code that doesn’t scan when you leave, and the believe me the card machine doesn’t half take some working out in the dark when you leave! I suppose it was the first and only time I’ll pay to leave a football ground!

But the venue is well worth the effort in working out that barrier. It still looks new – the car park near the gym and balcony area isn’t yet finished, and but that gym, which also includes the changing rooms is of the highest specifications, and that spec is continued when you stroll round to the cafe behind the far goal. I don’t expect to see a pizza oven in a football cafe, or for that matter a wine list, or barista coffee machine. Robyn and I greatly enjoyed our cheese toasties, made to order, and from scratch!

That quality and attention to detail hints at what we were there to see. The Argonaut Trophy (named oh-so appropriately after Jason’s roaming heroes of Greek mythology) is a round-robin tournament between representative teams from the Herts Senior County, the Southern Amateur League, the Amateur Football Combination and the Arthurian Leagues. The stated idea is for the competition, only started in 2016 is to provide a “League representative team competition in the Home Counties, providing a platform for the best amateur players to compete against one another.”

Each game must be settled on the night, so drawn games go straight to penalties. A 90 minute win earns 3 points, a penalties win 2, a penalties loss 1, and none for a defeat. But for me the interesting bit is the fact that all but the Herts League are Amateur Football Association affiliates.

The Amateur Football Defence Council was formed in 1907 after a schism, splitting from the Football Association to become eventually the Amateur Football Association, over what they described as the “Fungus growth which had become attached to the machinery of football management” or put more succinctly professionalism.

The FA took the view that the AFA, after 1931 known as the Amateur Football Alliance would make little or no impact, and to this day the AFA exists only in a meaningful sense in its heartland of London and the South East. Nevertheless back then it placed some clubs in a dilemma. Both Oxford and Cambridge universities backed the AFA but the Army and Navy clubs backed the FA. To this day 4 former FA Cup winners play in AFA competitions, Old Carthusians, Old Etonians, Clapham Rovers, and The Wanderers. Past members of the AFA include Ipswich Town, Barnet, Cambridge City and the Corinthian Casuals (as their pre-merged Corinthians and the Casuals.)

Clearly that schism wasn’t as deep and bitter as the 1892 one in rugby, after all this game and today all AFA affiliated league games are carried on the FA’s “Full-Time” system and competitions like this can take place happily.

The Arthurian League was formed in 1961 for teams consisting of Public Schools’ “Old Boys.” The league is reckoned to have been named after Arthur Dunn, a noted Old Etonian, Cambridge University and perhaps inevitably, Corinthian player. He played 4 times for England and won the FA Cup with Old Etonians in 1883. The Arthur Dunn Cup, for Old Boys clubs of Public Schools was instituted in his honour in 1903 a year after his untimely death aged 41. Old Vaughanians of the Amateur Football Combination use this ground too.

I suspect my readership is a little more aware of the Step 7 Hertfordshire County League, a feeder to mainly the Spartan South Midlands League, there have been two or three ground visits documented on this blog.

With Loftus Road’s floodlights clearly visible beyond the cafe and QPR destined to lose in the last-minute to WBA we were faced with a delay. The problem seemed to be getting the Hertfordshire team to the venue, hardly surprising with the QPR traffic slowing everything down outside and it being the visitors’ first visit to the ground. It was to quote rock band XTC, “Making plans for Nigel” as the Club des Sports rep Nigel needed to know exactly how long the floodlights needed to be on for? Judging by how quickly they were switched off after the final whistle, I wonder whether there’s a curfew?

Half the fun of an inter-FA game was to compare the standard of the two sets of players. Would an Old Etonian be a better player than a Bovingdon one? The evidence of this game would suggest that they are. The Arthurian League were worthy winners even if it did take until Old Alleynians’ Jamie Hiscox to break the deadlock. The big forward made all the difference to the Arthurian attack. In the end 3-0 was probably a fair reflection on play.

The crying shame was the poor publicity the game, and the competition has received. I ended up either being or knowing half the attendance! A competitive game at an unusual venue is usually enough to attract the groundhoppers in their hordes. Would you have gone if you’d have known it was on?