Saturday 12th October 2019 ko 10.30
Bedfordshire County League Division 3
REAL HAYNES 7 (Bucknall 17 Lumsden 28 32 62 Ahmed 53 Sheath 73og Pearson 78)
Lumsden penalty saved 60
Like Phil Hiscox and the South West Peninsula League Hop I regard Craig Dabbs and the Bedfordshire Hop as being indivisible. I understand the stresses and strains of organising a hop below Step 6, for Bedfordshire you can read North Berkshire and Witney for me. People tend to be surprised when I tell them that Bedford is Robyn’s favourite hop, she knows its the only event when I genuinely relax.
There was a bonus for me wrapped up in this year’s event and that was Swedish Hop organiser Kim Hedwall being over for the weekend. He was once a regular fixture on the organised hops but family and work commitments have meant his visits to the UK have been few and far between in recent years.
It was lovely to see him, even if it was his way of saying that he’ll be unable to make Robyn and I’s wedding in January. That sadness tinged our time together but it was just lovely to see hoppers who hadn’t seen him in years taking the time to come over and have a chat. I hope one day his life back home will allow him more regular visits here. Certainly the British hopping scene misses the Swede with the impish sense of humour.
We had an interesting start to our day. Real Haynes are a recent revival of football in Haynes and are very much the baby of chairman Gary Sales. He sees the creation of the club as being part of his recovery from bladder cancer, and it was good to see plenty of information on the disease as part of Haynes’ hosting.
Haynes had real ambition too. They decided to try to beat the Groundhop attendance record, but hit on a stumbling block, as to what the record was? On one hand some fixtures on the Northern Hops saw four-figure attendances and GroundhopUK saw 1,600 at Bridlington on the Northern Counties East Hop.
But I’d argue those figures weren’t relevant to Haynes, as they all involved attendances with massive local followings, for example the Bridlington game was against a former EFL club- Scarborough. If you took that a stage further the Swedish Hop took in a game at Hammarby, and there were 7,000 there! In the end I suggested that the relevant figure ought to be the 534 attendance on the Peterborough Hop game at Sawtry in 2016. That was a similar sort of game to this, a below Step 6 game between two village sides.
Whilst sat in Oxford divorced from it all I may have felt getting 534 was unlikely, Sawtry was, in my opinion a glorious one-off, it gave the club something to aim for. And they went for it with gusto, if you are using social media you couldn’t help but notice Haynes’ efforts. The result was 194 there, a figure I’m sure reduced by a poor weather forecast and rain on the day.
What it was though was a Beds Hop record, and once people got there, that campaign was matched by the type of imaginative food, drink, and beer offering that must have turned a profitable attendance into a profitable one. Did anyone fail to buy a slice of cake?
With Blunham struggling, just about everyone expected a comprehensive home win, but credit to the visitors for never giving up and to goalkeeper Dom Higgins for keeping the score in single figures.
The game slowly petered out in the drizzle as the band soundchecked ready for the next part of Haynes’ big day. I must admit I did feel that we might be missing something even if it were to to be Haynes Reserves, but that was how infectious they’d been. I did move on, there was Stopsley to be visited, but it was obvious how Haynes had taken on Craig Dabbs’ ideas and run with them. I just wish the weather had been kinder to them.