Tuesday 9th April 2019 ko 18.30
Hellenic League Division 2 East
TAPLOW UNITED 2 (Hill 23 Murtagh 27)
STOKENCHURCH 3 (Holgate 22 Blesson 69 C Baumohl 70)
When I first started groundhopping 15-odd years ago the Step 6 Hellenic Division ONE east looked a lot like this. I remember visiting the likes of Englefield Green Rovers and Eton Wick and seeing grounds with little more than a pitchside rail. You can imagine my surprise when the Central Midlands League Hops started. That league was at Step 7 yet the grounds all seemed to have stands….
In the end ground grading rules either pulled up ground standards or pushed clubs down who couldn’t attain them. Taplow United are a case in point, as they were part of the Chiltonian League that had them, Englefield and Eton Wick as members in the late 1990’s. The Chiltonian was swallowed up by the Hellenic in 2000 to form their new Division One East but oddly Taplow didn’t make the move, disappeared from adult football and only reappeared in the Reading League 3 years later. They made the move “back” to the Hellenic for this season. Sadly Englefield have been defunct for a few years now and Eton Wick plough their furrow in the East Berkshire League.
Taplow used known as Old Paludians FC, the team of the Upton Court Grammar School in Slough and its predecessors, and the link to the school is still there. Former pupils include Matthew Benham the currrent owner of Brentford FC and synth-pop legend Gary Numan.
In case you were wondering, “Paludian” is derived from the Latin palus, or paludis – a slough or swamp, so the name is something of a linguistic play on words. The club changed name in 1998, two years before the Hellenic’s “acquisition” of their former league.
If the old-school tie references give the impression that Taplow is well-to-do you’d be correct, the town is close to the Thames, near to Maidenhead and the riverside properties are generous, both in size and price. You’re only a mile-or-so from Cliveden with all the history of the Profumo Affair still hanging over the place. It’s the same old story for the local football club; even though the Stanley Jones Field is set away from all that wealth its obvious that improving the ground is going to be difficult if not impossible. I found myself drawing parallels with Virginia Water FC who moved into a groundshare in order to progress.
With the Hellenic Hop looming, I wanted see what one of our host clubs, Stokenchurch were about. I was in the process of jotting down the team line-ups when one of their officials enquired as to why I was interested in the information? I responded as I normally do that I’m a sad groundhopper with a dose of O.C.D. His response was to ask whether I was coming to their groundhop game in a couple of weeks. I said I thought I might….
The sadness of this game was that I knew the entirety of the attendance, yes I know it was an end-of-season early-evening game with nothing much riding on it, but when all the attendees are groundhoppers you get a clear view of the difficulties grassroots football has.
It was an entertaining encounter too, with the added bonus of trying to make sure that I didn’t get a train in the background of every single photo! Taplow’s Hill managed his party piece of scoring direct from a kick-off but on the balance of play Stokenchurch just about deserved their win, as we were treated to the most beautiful sunset.
But as the goals were taken down, and I headed for home, I reflected that even with the area’s past- playing away and scoring was no scandal was it?