Saturday 1st August 2020 ko 12.00
PITSEA TOWN 11 (Goggin 45 47 62 85 Gentry 67 M Lewis 68 Richardson 74 Lunn 80 82 L Pellin 83 R Phillips 86)
SOUTHMINSTER UNITED 0
Att c20 at Post Office Sports & Social Club, Gardiners Lane South, Basildon
The Covid 19 pandemic had given me and many others a 140 day opportunity. Yes, there was no live football to watch, but there was time in abundance. Time to work on the house, time to develop other interests, time to spend on loved ones, and also time to reflect.
I kept my hand in football-wise with North Berkshire League work, and even keeping this blog going by dipping into my photo archive. But not trying to clock up 2 new grounds a week was cathartic, and I did allow myself to consider what I was doing and why.
I see groundhoppers and our antics week after week and the chance to stand back was appreciated. Far too much experience and far too little reflection isn’t healthy- virus or no virus. Frankly when your father contracts Covid-19, is put on an isolation ward and your only contact with him is via a video call once a week you cease worrying about whether programmes are being produced at football matches. Dad beat the disease, thankfully, but will probably spend the rest of his life in a care home. Please don’t tell me the virus is a hoax.
But as restrictions slowly were lifted I surprised myself, and not in a good way. I’d allowed myself to become accustomed to the new normal, and it was only when it became possible to visit some of my old haunts, and to travel meaningfully again that it began to dawn on my what Robyn and I had missed out on or had delayed. That included our honeymoon. That, I suspect will end up being delayed by a year, and I’m still feeling that sense of loss.
Nevertheless, when restrictions were relaxed enough to allow games in grounds where the parent club is below the sixth level of non-league, and Covid-19 avoidance plans were in force I still approached the whole idea with some trepidation. On one hand I was concerned for Robyn and I’s safety but also the thought that I could potentially be part of the cause of a second spike in cases was not one I was prepared to countenance. In the end a dinner invite to friends in Suffolk helped, and a chance of a straightforward double in Basildon sealed the deal.
If you’ve ever watched a game at Basildon United chances are you’ve seen the two grounds we visited. United’s ground is at one end of Gardiners Close, then there’s the rugby club, then the SELEX ground, and then the Post Office Sports and Social Club. Over the entire length of the close the “Onion” water cooler tower casts an eye over proceedings from what was the Ford Tractor Plant, but is now owned by New Holland. We actually followed a consignment of cabs along the Southend Arterial Road. The ground is much as you’d expect- a typical works ground, with a social club whose veranda opens out to the sports ground.
The reality of the pandemic is that I used to find the restrictions intrusive, but now to some extent I appreciate the fact that someone is taking my and their safety seriously. Accordingly putting my name on a track and trace sheet at the bar I found a comfort as did the fact that both spectators and players between playing stints maintained social distancing. Of course there was a risk of infection by being there, there is a varied risk from whatever activity you choose but I felt that risk was being minimised, and was acceptable. That went for the other game too.
The days when Post Office Basildon played Essex Olympian League games are long gone, Basildon Sporting Village play Mid-Essex League games here, but it’s a case of rent a pitch rather than any great sense of ownership. Here the game pitted two Mid-Essex League teams against each other but the catch was that this was newly formed Southminster United’s first ever game- but restrictions being what they’ve been maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise!!
Now you and others will no doubt look at the 10 second-half goals they conceded, but they showed spirit, and those 45 minutes were time to experiment, and you’d rather see a team go down fighting than just grimly defend. But this wasn’t a time to worry too much about the tactics, rather to enjoy being in the open, and being able to watch a game.