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Tuesday 28th January 2020 ko 19.45

Wessex League Premier Division



Att 102

Entry & Programme £6

My regular reader might recall my visit to AFC Stoneham back in 2015 when they were in the final season in the Hampshire League prior to promotion to the Wessex League. Back then they were playing at the old Pirelli works ground, Pirelli General folded in 2003. But despite the “Purps” improvements to the ground, the facility was always destined to be demolished, but even back then the club had a plan…

The Hampshire FA wanted to, and did build a facility funded by the FA’s “Parklife” programme,  at the other end of Stoneham Lane. Its purpose is clear, to develop football and education in the county and as such there are a multiplicity of pitches and education areas with a clear focus on youth. AFC Stoneham have become anchor tenants on the stadium pitch. That is separated from the rest of the facility by a fence and the turnstiles but the main entrance, bar and toilets are shared with the rest of the centre.

With the onus of the Stoneham Lane Football Complex being on youth, child protection is clearly a major priority. That means that to enter the premises every single entrant needs to register with the Hampshire FA beforehand and print out a QR code for each person that will be attending the game. It’s a very short form, and the QR code once obtained will work for subsequent visits, but did throw quite a few hoppers- me included- I didn’t realise I needed a separate code for Robyn!

Other than that most obvious of requirements it’s a straightforward enough place to visit, easy to find and with ample parking. You are almost adjacent to Eastleigh FC here, you can see their floodlights beyond the northern end. But what is the ground like from an AFC Stoneham perspective?

On one hand they’ve lost the quirkiness of the old ground, this place is corporate down to the plastic pitch and twin “Arena” stands. Original thinking this is not, although at least the seats and turnstiles are coloured Stoneham purple. But I suspect that’s a hopper’s view of the world.

If you’re AFC Stoneham you’ve got use of a £9million ground with top-notch facilities and I sure the stadium pitch could be adapted for Southern League use if needed. You wonder about the economics, do the club get any of the bar takings for example but the big picture is that this is a place that will allow the club to take root.

Of course new builds and groundhoppers sometimes don’t mix. There was the hopper who (deliberately?) misunderstood that since entry included a free programme and since the programmes had run out that somehow that meant he was somehow due a discount. Suffice it to say I know him and he has history…

But then there was Tram. Again I’m sure my regular reader knows all about him not counting nil nil draws and having to return at the earliest opportunity. The full story of Tram and is footballing yips can be found here, on an infamous visit to Llanelli. He was unlucky again here in a game that tried to spark into life, but spluttered and fizzled out well before full-time. It was a poor game in truth, to the extent that we were spared much of Tram’s usual histrionics; he’d given the game up as a bad job. And looking for silver linings, at least he’ll be able to re-use his QR code….