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Tuesday 7th July 2019 ko 19.30

Pre-Season Friendly


SHREWTON UNITED 4 (Johnson 17 Utterson 21 Watson 44 Himsworth 65)

Att 6  @ MOD Lyneham

Free Entry

After the Swedish Hop I surprised myself by enjoying some time off from football. I needed the rest and contrary to the beliefs of some I do enjoy plenty of other things other than just football! Gone are the days when my close season was short, and on one occasion less than 24 hours! (Final game of Swedish Hop then Derby Summer League the next day!) In the end I found myself looking for a fixture rather half-heartedly, it would have to be something interesting to make me end my  summer break. Then a game behind the fence at MOD Lyneham popped up!

I’m no beginner when it comes to games beyond security on military bases. There was a Carterton FC friendly at RAF Brize Norton, and the two groundhop games I’d organised involving Benson Lions, one at RAF Benson in 2013 then the next year at DA Shrivenham. The procedure always involves bringing photo ID, and often requires getting yourself on to a guest list in advance so that security checks can be made before you arrive at the base.

It’s a simple enough method, and normally it works efficiently. The trouble is organising hoppers can be like herding cats! There was the bloke who decided to put a photo of his ID pass at Benson on his blog. That meant I got a call from the police at the base asking did I know at Mr… and could they have his address please?  Thankfully I had his phone number and the offending photo had been taken down an hour later!

Then there was the horrible moment at DA Shrivenham when two military policemen tapped me on the shoulder to inform me that a hopper had jumped in the boot of someone’s car to gain access to the game. He’d failed to get through security as he hadn’t bothered to buy an advanced ticket and so wasn’t on the guest list. I was given 5 minutes to identify the intruder or they’d stop the game to ID everyone there. We managed it.. just!

Here the contact at the base, Keehlan Panayiotou had made the process as easy as possible- I’d passed on my name and address well in advance, but as I pulled up to the guardroom I made the mental decision to not tell him the story of that last hop game. Why make life difficult for myself, I thought.  I strolled over for my ID check, and there was Talksport’s Tony Incenzo telling Keehlan exactly that story! Thankfully the base didn’t seem to worry about it!

Security as perhaps you’d expect was tight, in fact tighter than I’d experienced elsewhere, to the point we were escorted for the entire time we were on the base. It was completely understandable but since the meeting time was 6.30 and the game didn’t kick off until 7.30 it did give us a little time to consider where we were.

I think most people will remember the base as RAF Lyneham, the gateway base to Afghanistan where repatriation flights of British personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan took place. The bodies were transported through the nearby town of Wootton Bassett, with crowds spontaneously lining the streets to pay tribute to the fallen. The town was granted the right to call itself Royal Wootton Bassett in recognition of the those tributes.

The base shut at the end of 2012 with the Hercules aircraft and repatriation flights moving to RAF Brize Norton. The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, or REME for short moved here from their previous sites at Arborfield near Reading, and Bordon Garrison in Hampshire. The REME are responsible for the maintenance, servicing and inspection of the army’s electrical and mechanical equipment.The base was restyled MOD Lyneham to reflect the change of use.

So there we were with just under an hour to kill with two pitches in front of us. One was a fairly standard floodlit 3G cage, and to it’s right a railed grass pitch with the “Daly Ground” gateway having made it’s way to Lyneham from REME’s old base at Arborfield. Somehow I think you know which pitch we’d have liked to have seen his game played on. Sadly it was the cage, but I am told inter-regimental cup games are played on the Daly pitch.

Now any inter-league game is interesting but that must go double for for an inter-league, military versus civilian game! Wiltshire Leaguers Shrewton United provided the opposition and I suspect the connection was that Keehlan Panayiotou also coaches at league rivals Marlborough Town. It proved to be good match-up as the visitors, with a number of new signings in place were made to work extremely hard for their win. And after all, for both clubs that was the point of the exercise.

At the end, we didn’t linger, mainly as our escort was ready to take us back to the guardhouse. There was no possibility of any of our passes finding their way online, we surrendered them as we signed a declaration that we’d not consumed alcohol on the base in exchange for a pass out. Apparently the base has had an issue with contractors taking advantage of cheap booze available in the on-base bars, and I certainly know of a few hoppers who would definitely taken advantage, not that we’d had much opportunity on this occasion!

But as the Gurkha waved at the barrier raised to set me back into the civilian world, it did seem as if I was leaving another world. Thanks to Kheelan and all at REME for allowing me in for an evening.