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Friday 7th October 2022 ko 19:45

Southern Counties East League- Premier Division

PUNJAB UNITED 1 (Vines 70)

STANSFELD 1 (Friend 68)

Att 347

Entry £8

Programme £2

If you drill down to the roots of every hop GroundhopUK organises they all have a conversation with a league official with either Chris Berezai or I at their genesis. Scotland is one of mine, as was the Western Hop while Chris’ include Wales, and the Northern Counties East. But the SCEFL is different, because the conversation wasn’t Chris’ or mine, it was between league chairman Andy Short and my wife Robyn!You may remember Robyn and I visiting Hythe Town, and yes the Romney, Hythe, & Dymchurch Railway is very much in our thoughts, and seeing Andy who is Media Officer there too. He mentioned his involvement in the SCEFL and Robyn beat me to the verbal draw! 

Now that’s not to say that Robyn’s conversation made it happen, it took a lot of Zoom meetings to get this off the ground, and as with most leagues just because there’s been no end of other hops in other leagues of similar status it doesn’t mean that the knowledge has permeated geographical boundaries. I’ve long since realised that osmosis doesn’t exist in non-league football. With the SCEFL one massive issue was the number of clubs in groundshares, particularly in Division One. Since groundhoppers by and large want to tick grounds for the primary tenant only it will limit the length this hop will run. I’d be interested in people’s thoughts on the Welling/ Erith & Belvedere conundrum!

The issue I had though was tiredness. This was GroundhopUK’s  fourth hop this season, and there could have easily been two more. I was grateful that Craig was able to be in Kent early to do the programme packs, but it felt that the car was driving me round the M25 rather than the other way round. Still, I knew the opening host club would be great, but I couldn’t guess just how good.

You may remember Robyn and I’s visit to Gravesend-based Punjab United 3 years ago. We were struck at how hospitable a club they were, so as we parked up my only question was how they could translate that into something both profitable and memorable? I found myself harking back to Queens Park Crescents on the Bedfordshire Hop where another club with Indian subcontinent roots channel that background beautifully and wondered if that could be used as a blueprint? The answer was yes, and some!

Put simply, it was an amazing evening hosted by an amazing club. I managed to complete the set of curry for breakfastlunch and evening meal all this season, and there was a lot more to eat than just curry. Suddenly the tiredness dissipated, and once again it was good to catch up with people. I loved the players drummed on to the pitch; it reminded me of the band at DA Shrivenham and the Pipers at East Kilbride, come to think of it, the latter was the first game in a new league too. 

The game couldn’t have been as good as the staging, if it had I’m not sure how we could have move the hop further forward in the future! It was a tough, sometimes feisty battle and in the end I was just pleased that Punjab managed to get something out of it. 

In the end we made for our overnight accommodation certain in the knowledge that if any club on any hop in the future wants to know how to be exceptional hosts all they have to do is contact Punjab United.