Thursday 24th June ko 19:30
Thames Valley Premier League- Division 4
HARCHESTER HAWKS 1 (Rowing 77)
BRAYBROOKE FC 6 (Pearson 10 15 60 Gregory 25 65 Clough 40 )
at Arborfield Green Leisure Centre
I’m not sure what drew me towards this one, perhaps it was no more than the proverbial groundhopper moth to the flame of a game. I don’t think I’d ever seen a game in the Thames Valley/ Reading League’s bottom division but there were a couple of questions I needed to ask.
The first was where the game was going to be played? FullTime had the game as being at the Ryeish Green Sports Hub, just south of Reading but Robyn and I arrived and it became quickly obvious that if the game was on, it wasn’t at where we were. A quick check of Twitter, ever a godsend for quick information, saw confirmation that the game had been switched. On one hand, the Arborfield Leisure Centre was only 6 miles away, and we had time to get there but that assumed a 7:30 kick-off, unusual in this league. It was entirely possible we’d arrive near to the finish of a 6:00 kick-off!
Still, in for a quid should always be the attitude, and 20 minutes later we found ourselves in the middle of a half-built housing development on the site of the former Arborfield Garrison with the road we should have been on blocked by a gate- I seem to have been blighted by gates over the last few weeks! It was Robyn who dug me out of the geographical hole, we diverted via streets Google Maps hadn’t heard of and we found a parking space at the facility at the back of the Bohunt School. We arrived 5 minutes before kick-off which fortunately had remained at 7:30. Incidentally the leisure centre is more or less adjacent to the back of Reading FC’s training ground Hogwood Park. You wouldn’t know from where we were, and you’d have quite a drive to get from one to the other!
There remained of course the obvious question and that is why is a football club playing south of Reading called Harchester Hawks? The answer is perhaps obvious but only if you are an aficionado of the Sky TV series “Dream Team.” For those not in the know the series was based around a fictitious Premier League club called Harchester United, and the club borrowed the name with the aim of trying to replicate the success of clubs like Hashtag United. So why the “Hawks” suffix? Well that’s there in case Rupert Murdoch sued…..
The sadness was that this was to be Braybrooke’s last game, they announced that they are to fold that morning. The reason was clear, lack of player availability a problem encountered by so many grass-roots clubs. Both of these clubs had been forced to forfeit games over the last few weeks, and I’m sure the reason why this game took place was because it was both clubs’ last game of the season, and for Ascot-based Braybrooke a last hurrah too.
I did smile at Braybrooke’s shirt sponsor “The Admiral Cunningham” in Bracknell. Back around 15 years ago we booked there as a hotel for the final leg of a Hellenic Hop. It wasn’t clear that its bottom storey was a nightclub, which wasn’t exactly right for our clientele, but as I returned to the hotel after a trip to a more suitable pub (ie real ale) there were 3 groundhoppers, some of our more enthusiastic drinkers, nevertheless still sat at the bar surrounded by the younger types dancing away!
So there we were, with a gaggle of other social media-savvy hoppers, in the corner of a fairly faceless caged 3G facility at the back of a school watching two teams 11 promotions from the Football League at a venue I didn’t know existed 30 minutes earlier. Yes, it was every inch as surreal as you think!
If this is to be the end for Braybrooke, at least they went out with a bang and I’m sure Ben Pearson will have no trouble getting a club higher up the footballing pecking order- his hat trick was superb to watch. As for Harchester I’m sure they’ll approach another season right at grass roots with the belief that next season at least things will be back to normal, and we won’t be playing league games at the end of June- we hope!