The green, green grass of home
Lewes 0-0 Basingstoke Town (22:08:10)
The joy of non-league football is proximity, authenticity, an absence of graft and greed, and, in Lewes's case, a chance to gather behind the goal with a pint of Harvey's, the local nectar, and talk to old friends whilst the South Downs frame the efforts of a mostly homegrown side.
I wish I'd written that paragraph (see above) but I didn't. It was a snippet taken from today's Observer, and penned by the fair hand of Paul Hayward. I loved it for two reasons. Firstly, it sums up the joy of an afternoon spent watching football at the Dripping Pan, and, secondly, tremendous use of commas don't you think?
Articles about The Rooks have surfaced in the Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Observer this week - everybody is talking about them. They're newsworthy because they're now owned by a not-for-profit community benefit society. Six blokes basically, who've picked up the mess of last season, seen the light, and plan to allow the club to become fully owned by the fans within two years.
I met the aforementioned six blokes yesterday morning on Lewes High Street. My normal pre-match routine of a few pints was put on hold while we, and a number of other volunteers, stuck posters up around the town and placed leaflets into the palms of the locals. The plan was, and is, to raise the profile of the club and moreover, get people through the turnstiles at the club. We need more supporters.
Talking to old friends while the South Downs frame the efforts a mostly homegrown side - tick.
Gates from the opening two home games of the season have been hugely encouraging. On Wednesday night, over 600 fans, including 13 from Thurrock, turned up to see Lewes turn on the style and stick three points on the mantle piece in the process. That crowd was almost exactly double of the corresponding fixture last season which took place almost exactly one year ago.
The events of Wednesday night were summed up HERE by the ever brilliant Ian from the Two Hundred Percent Blog. Bobble hats off to him for that.
The clubhouse inside the Dripping Pan is affectionately referred to as The Rook Inn. Over the Summer volunteers (of course volunteers) took it upon themselves to rid the place of its stale look, and brown paint. Readers of European Football Weekends helped. Scarves and pennants from all over Europe have been sent in and now adorn the walls. It's work in progress obviously but the aim is to have the place covered. A football fan-house to be proud of.
Football, football memorabilia, beer, and beer festivals. What's not to like?
One naughty scarf escaped to watch the action unfold.
It was great to see the Rook Inn packed yesterday. As I wandered around the place, I can't tell you how rewarding it was to overhear conversations from the travelling Basingstoke fans complementing the look of the place, and nodding in like at the memorabilia. I even caught European Cup winner Eddie, sorry Frank Gray taking time out from his gaffer duties to have a nose around.
It was edge of the terrace stuff to begin with as The Rooks breathed fire onto the Dragons goal. After just two minutes, Simon Wormull aka Worms (of course Worms) produced a Johan Cruyff turn which - I'll be honest with you - made me miss a heartbeat. Silly old me. The game eventually petered out into a goalless draw, oh.
Four points from the opening three games then for Lewes and I think everybody would have signed up for that before the season.
I think I may have unmasked the chap behind the fabulous Zonal Marking website. There is a site that, unlike this one, knows what it's talking about. If it's not Lewes manager Steve Ibbitson then I'll be damned. I'll be the first to admit that - even though I've seen, and played in a thousand games of football - I still haven't got a clue about tactics and formations. Ibbo though took time out, as he always does, to explain everything afterwards. He is after-all - the nicest man in football.
Oh when the stripes, and plain bits of red, go marching in, go marching in...
In conclusion, we would have got away with all three points if it hadn't of been for their meddling kids.
A quick word of praise for Basingstoke's keeper as well if I may (go on then - Ed.) His name is Chris Tardif, he's rejoined the club from Maidenhead United over the Summer, and we always give a bit of stick - which he takes in good spirit. He's a bloody brilliant keeper and we always shake hands at the end of the game.
So what next? I know how about a trip to Woking on Tuesday night (phwoar, Where do we sign? - Ed.). I'm told a member of the Rooks Finnish Supporters Club is coming as well. The Rooks have gone all global, the Rooks have gone all global (Repeat to fade).
New for this season: Patrick Marber interviews Lewes gaffer Ibbo after the game. Pretty standard stuff until just past the three minutes mark, when Marber ups the anti and gags start flying around. Brilliant.
For more photos from the day CLICK ME
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