, , , , , , , ,

Saturday 5th October 2019 ko 10.45

Western League Division One

PORTISHEAD TOWN 3 (Osmond 53p 64p Eastwood 72)

LONGWELL GREEN SPORTS 5 (Carter 31p 54 Mafini 60 Crubb 68 Britton 84)

Att 262

Entry £6

Programme £1

Sat at breakfast at the Almondsbury Interchange Hotel it was time for a little reflection. It was lovely to be back in the Western league, and once again try and maintain what the late Mark Edmonds started, and what Jules French has carried on. There’s always been a real sense of responsibility in making this event work. But all good things do have to come to an end, this hop saw us visit all the remaining clubs that hadn’t previously hosted, and that hadn’t featured on another (Dorset, Devon or South West Peninsula) hop. I’ve often said that the first hop of the series is the most difficult to organise, but the last does come with its own challenges.

The risk you run is that you end up with a “Waifs and Strays” hop where the host clubs are those that didn’t quite fit into the schedule in previous years. Here the geography meant that I was relieved we’d sold enough tickets to make hiring a coach the only plausible plan of action, I really didn’t fancy driving a minibus over the kind of miles we clocked up this weekend.

The clubs we ended up with were interesting through. Lebeq United were new to the league, Bradford Town and Wellington had turned us down previously but had changes of heart and/or committee. Warminster, Devizes and Bridport’s geography hadn’t fitted in with previous schedules but we hadn’t visited Portishead because we thought they wouldn’t still be in the league!

We’d pondered putting them on on last year’s Western Hop, but the previous year the struggled on the pitch (finishing second-to-bottom of Division One) to such an extent we couldn’t plan with any confidence that they’d still be in the league so we ended up at Clevedon Town. In the end Portishead were reprieved from relegation which I was pleased about for several reasons.

For one I’d visited them in May 2007, just over a year after they’d won the Somerset County League, and I’d seen how little they’d had in terms of the infrastructure around their ground so getting it up to Western League standards was a real feather in their cap. They’d done plenty before my visit and still more since.

For another I wanted to bring the hop here, it seemed counter-intuitive to keep passing Gordano Services and not head here. But the over-riding reason was that I’ve got (or soon will have!) a relative here.

Robyn’s cousin Claire is married to Eamonn Daly the Portishead Town manager. He’s steeped in local football and was a mighty good bloke to have around on those large family gatherings when I was first seeing Robyn. I think we’ve all been there; you don’t know anyone so the chance to sit and talk local football with Eamonn was very much appreciated, as was him finding a few minutes before the game to come over and say hello.

There was though one small problem, and the hoppers had picked up on it during the Lebeq game, where was Robyn? The answer was that her chief bridesmaid Kelly had organised her hen weekend to clash with this hop, and it had to be the one hop that featured another member of her family!  Now I’ve got used to my name being “Where’s Robyn” when she’s not around but it did seen especially surreal here!

But if you’d have approached Portishead’s staging from the perspective of a struggling club you’d have never guessed it here. The club hosted with both wit and charm and got the community side of things absolutely spot on. The children’s guard of honour will mean little or nothing to the average hopper, but to the club that’s the future being looked after, and to me the organiser that’s a set of parents spending money to boost club coffers.

It was an enjoyable game to watch too and one that showed how far Eamonn has taken the team but also how far they’ve got to go. No manager will be happy at a home defeat and even more so having scored 3 goals, but Portishead are making progress and while they’re unlikely to be promotion contenders this season, they are also unlikely to be worrying about their Western League status.