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Monday 13th September 2021 ko 19:30

Spartan South Midlands League Division Two

MILTON KEYNES FOOTBALL ACADEMY 3 (Harvey 19 secs Aluko 35 Boyce 60)


Att 128 at Sport Central MK, Elder Gate, Milton Keynes

Free Entry

Programme £2

I’m not sure whether TalkSport’s Tony Incenzo meant it, but organising one of his “Groundhopper” games was a classic case of the law of unintended consequences. On one level it was game featuring a new club, in a new ground in a new league with a programme on a night with nothing much else on, but in the end I found a little bit more in it.

It was obvious this would attract the groundhoppers. Sport Central MK has only been open just under 4 years and no end of matches get played on its 3G pitch but what Tony did was publicise a game that would appeal to the broadest range of groundhoppers, namely, adult, male and with a programme. Even the league, a Step 5 and 6 League with an unusual  Step 7 division in its remit would appeal to some even though something in a parallel but stand-alone Step 7 may not have done. Not everyone is logical, and not everyone takes my view that if its a football match then I’m likely to be interested!

Sport Central MK was built on reclaimed land following the redevelopment of the former National Hockey Stadium although for new stadium pedants I should point out that there’s no overlap from the site of MK Dons former home. That incidentally is now occupied by Quadrant:MK- Network Rail’s national operations centre and is visible in any of these photos taken from the grass bank. In essence the old ground was the other side of Elder Gate.

The centre is a superb place to play football, tennis or netball; there’s even a well-appointed café here, but as 100-plus other people were to discover, it is an awful place to watch a football match. There is absolutely no provision here for spectators- everyone must stand outside of the cage, and even the two teams’ benches sat on chairs placed in the two pitchside entrances. It does while MK College are in this division but I sense a groundshare in the offering should the club progress. 

So there we were, a hundred or so groundhoppers on a shallow grass bank and footpath separating the railway from the fenced off cage. It felt awkward, and without question that was a feeling common to the visitors too. They’re now playing out of King’s Langley after their controversial spell at Berkhamsted FC’s Broadwater ground. That saw some believe they were trying to take over the tenancy from their higher status hosts, then to shift everything over to an out-of-town development. Judging by the reaction of one of their bench team to the hoppers, communication skills aren’t their strong point and these days they did get part of their wish- they are out of town! 

Or it could have all been because their bench were dealing with a fair old shlepping! Because the hosts were always in control of the game, and with a little more ruthlessness could have dished out a real hiding. 

I retreated back to the grass bank and considered the evening. Thanks to Tony for organising this game for two reasons. Firstly it was wonderful to see people I’d hadn’t seen for 18 months; it was lovely to catch up. And secondly I had more than an eye on the Witney Hop the next weekend; I walked away knowing that there was an appetite out there for watching grassroots football. That was reassuring.