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Tuesday 26th April 2022 ko 18:30

Spartan South Midlands League Division Two

TOTTERNHOE 3 (Tizard 20 Woolaway 45 Perry 89)

RISBOROUGH RANGERS DEVELOPMENT 1 (Pekun 72)

Att 30

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Once upon a time this was my favourite time of the season. Once the clocks go forward in Spring there’s the opportunity to take in a whole slew of midweek games at grounds without floodlights. Groundhoppers tend to refer to this as “Silly Season” which is a little pejorative if you’re involved at a club but is more a comment on what’s available mid week rather than any comment on the quality on offer. My issue with this time of year is more prosaic, however.

My problem is that after 20 odd years I’ve hoovered up much of what’s local to me, and since I finish work at 5:30 my zone of opportunity for a new tick is rather limited. But I’ve owed Totternhoe a visit for a while. 

You’re close to Dunstable here, to the extent that Lancot Park Cricket Club is next door, and that is where a young Monty Panesar learned his trade, although he seemed to have been more of a batsman than a spinner back then! Those with longer memories will remember Old Dunstablians playing there prior to renaming themselves AFC Dunstable and moving into Creasey Park with Dunstable Town. Those with shorter memories will remember the final Bedfordshire Hop finishing with a Lancot Park game in 2019. Back then it seemed a shame that the hop couldn’t have taken in both grounds. That is a thought that is now sadly irrelevant. 

On both occasions I’d spotted Totternhoe’s ground, and marked my card for a future visit. On that first visit I’d also pondered the set of circumstances where two clubs can play at adjacent grounds, yet play in different leagues? There is a good reason for it if you happen to be Totternhoe, and that is far quicker access to Step 6. The issue here is ground grading, there’s no lights and the pitch isn’t fully enclosed so if Step 6 were to be achieved it’s unlikely to be here. 

But to look at a potential move may well be missing the point here. Because this most friendly and outward looking of clubs have spent the last two decades playing in the Spartan South Midlands League’s second division and clearly have made a success of it. There’s been a couple of second place finishes in that time, but here’s a thought. It would have been the obvious move to find a local ground that did have the correct facilities and put a groundshare in place. Yes the club gets promoted, but something intangible gets lost when it happens, and I have endless respect for Totternhoe for deciding it isn’t for them.

The last but one photo in the gallery summed Totternhoe FC up for me. The cover to the front of the stand is named in honour of Jim Basterfield, whose 60 years service to the club only ended 2 years ago. That service included being player, manager, physio, linesman, groundsman, chairman, barman, treasurer and plenty more! So who is that sat underneath the sign? That would be Jim Basterfield watching the club he helped build. That, of course is why I love watching clubs like Totternhoe. 

Those who know me well also know that I do have a soft spot for Risborough Rangers a side well worth visiting. Here though their second-string proved to be second best for a home team who won despite having half an eye on an imminent cup final. But as I watched Jim watch the club he built there was a lovely sense of timelessness about it all. I love this time of year.