We have no words…
We have no words…
Hello everyone. It’s time for another update in support of our Campaign for Really Awful Graphics. This week we stay fairly local.
Hot on the heels of last week’s horror from Bexley United’s programme comes an example from an away game the club played. On 8th April 1967 they made the relatively short journey to the coast to take on Ramsgate Athletic in a Southern League First Division game. Although the game ended 2-2, the main talking point for supporters surely was this image on the front cover of the programme. It’s a more in keeping with actual match action when compared to Bexley’s effort from last week, but only just. Was it a glaring miss or a decent save? We’ll go for the former.
Next we venture through the pipe into Essex for the image taken from the cover of Billericay Town’s programme in the 1985/86. So we’ve gone forward nearly two decades on from Ramsgate’s effort. And have the graphics taken leaps forward in quality that are in line with the burgeoning technological advancements of the time? Clearly not. But this is a typical example of the time in English non-league football, with the quick sketch style reasonably prevalent. This example shows a particularly agricultural studs-up challenge aimed at the opposition player’s achilles. Roll-on to the next frame and the player in the foreground will be crumpled in a heap waiting for the stretcher bearers. That said, the assailant probably mistimed the challenge, got his studs stuck in the turf on impact and knackered his knee ligaments in the over extension caused by his momentum. Or something.
Happy Sunday, people. We hope you’re having a good weekend. One of the better things to come out of the TV coverage of football in its present state is that it has at least woken up some of the players, pundits, journos, etc. to the importance of the contribution that us, the fans, make to the beautiful game. Another is that we have turned off the TV to go in search of further examples to bolster our rejuvenated Campaign for Really Awful Graphics. And we’ve found a couple more for you.
First up, on the left, is a graphic from the cover of Parliament Street Methodist’s FC’s undated programme. Nope, we’re none the wiser either. But there’s something gloriously non-league about depicting a centre back seemingly getting an aerial challenge all wrong. The second graphic (right) comes from a bit closer to home as it originates from the cover of Bexley United’s programme in the 1968/69 season. Bexley United were, of course, our predecessors at PVR and we can only speculate that if the quality of football they offered up was depicted accurately by this image then it is little wonder that dwindling crowds led to their ultimate demise. Just what are the two players in the background doing?!
Our Campaign for Really Awful Graphics continues unabated. This time we bring you three more examples, which were found recently while trawling through the depths of eBay (don’t ask). The first, on the left, featured on the cover of Ardley United’s programme in 1998/99. So it could be considered as fairly modern and rather disturbing. We *think* it depicts a player attempting a back flick that would only end in tears at the level Ardley were playing, especially trying it with that odd shaped ball. Unfortunately we don’t have a date for the middle image, which comes from a Wotton Rovers programme. It’s a bit of an odd pose for the competing players and reminds us a little of Torvill and Dean’s Boléro. Or something. And finally, on the right, we have the graphic from Telford United’s programme in 1973/74. Good catch, massive right hand, great moustache. What more could you want? CAMRAG, it just keeps on giving.
Well, we’ve made it. Here’s Part 7 to complete the Wingsaurus, which covers the entries for V to Z that were originally published in WIE 40 and WIE 41 back in 2013. The whole thing was put together by Russ, White Socks, Tim and Terry. You’ll see that we’ve made a couple of amendments to update them. And now it’s over to you. We intend to include a significant update in our first issue back as and when the football resumes and we’re able to attend games again at PVR. So, please send your contributions to us at email@example.com (or via the Contact page on our website).
FA Vase – Hmm. This wasn’t a great competition for the Wings. In the early 1980s when Tony Sitford was manager we were the highest ranking team in the Vase. A shoo-in for a decent run and Wembley glory. Until we drew the might of Three Bridges away and duly lost 1-0. The kick off was delayed because of the late arrival of the Wings supporters’ coach. In the end we wished that we had failed to find the ground.
Terry Warren – Former Wings striker who appeared on Blind Date in 1988. And maintained his abysmal scoring record. Absolute top bloke who sadly passed away in 2019. RIP Wizzer.
Mark Watson – Striker signed by Kevin Hales from Bournemouth in the summer of 1997, he looked a decent prospect in pre-season but was utterly shit once the real stuff started. Took three months to open his account, a tap-in he celebrated with a cupping-of-the-ear to the PVR faithful.
Lew Watts – Signed from Gravesend and Northfleet as a midfielder but converted to right (wing) back and then centre half by a succession of managers. Earned his ‘Bud Boy’ moniker through his extra-curricular activities that generally involved being spotted by fans downing several bottles of Bud in various local establishments. Was sponsored by WIE during our less than spectacular webzine period with the promise of a Bud for every goal he scored.
Paul Websdale – Former chairman by virtue of his family ties. That being he is Pam’s brother-in-law. So he was the perfect choice for chairman given that he’s got a different surname to Hobbins. With Mark Goldberg’s arrival he moved on to an honorary position within the club that secured him access to free cups of tea and cake.
Welling Building Services – Announced the biggest sponsorship in non-league in the 1990s only to be trumped a few days later. Built the Exec Lounge as part of the deal.
WIE – Us, the fanzine. Over 50 issues published and still limping along. Thank you to all our contributors and those of you who have bought copies over the years.
Wings – The team’s nickname. See here for the full story of how it was fallen upon.
Stuart White – Right winger in the late 80s and early 90s, Whitey is third in the club’s appearance chart. Sadly perished in a car crash in South Africa in 2010, aged 47. RIP.
Woking – Their fans, known as the Tarquin Army to us, are narrow-minded and hugely deluded about the size of their club and the sumptuousness of their Kingfield home. To hear them talk about themselves you would think they were some sort of sleeping giant. As we know, Kingfield is a soulless collection of corrugated iron with one ridiculous stand dominating. Have become real rivals over the years.
Worcester City – Did the double over us in Southern League winning season. Their chairman Dave Boddy kicked up a fuss about playing on a Sunday in the Trophy in 2007. Turned up with more hangers-on than combined previous turnouts at PVR but were sent home with their tails between their legs when goals from Martin Carthy and Des Boateng overturned their early lead. The game ended on a sour note when Boddy threatened to report the Wings for failing to prevent his manager, Andy Preece, from storming the stand to confront the referees’ assessor, despite them dealing with the fatal stroke suffered by Graham Hobbins during the game.
X-rated challenges – Now we have had some for and some against in this category. My favourite being Duncan Horton and, in particular, the look of absolute fear on the face of ex Woking and Chelsea favourite Clive Walker anytime our Duncan got within ten yards of him!
Youth – The bedrock of Welling United FC over the years. Clubs our size are by their very nature selling ones and what better way to survive than by spotting, nurturing and developing your own talent. Many of those players listed in this Wingsaurus came through this very route. The YTS scheme that produced both Steve Finnan and Steve Barnes – and Dean Frost, less we forget – were probably the highlight.
Zeke Rowe – Or Ezekiel Bartholomew Rowe to give him his full name. Another in the long line of loanees from Uncle Barry Fry, he was brought in late in the 1998-99 season as the club attempted another Houdini act. Joined permanently in the summer, was on fire pre-season and then… he was shit. Had an impressive tattoo, erm, apparently.
Chris Zorivich – Kiwi who pitched up at PVR during Kevin Hales’ tenure. Played a mid-season friendly and one league game at home to Slough before buggering off. Went on to skipper the All Whites.
As promised, we bring you the following article from WIE 32, which was originally published in August 2000…
After selecting my all-time favourite Wings XI in the last issue, I set my mind to thinking about an all-time worst XI. I am sure that most of you will agree that this was a much harder selection, but I’ve finally come up with a team having whittled them down from a preliminary squad of 87!!
I should stress that this is a purely personal selection and consists of players who have appeared in the last ten years or so. My sincere apologies to anyone who is upset at being selected or not selected as the case may be. There are undoubtedly worse players than some of those listed below, but my team is based on performances in a Welling shirt and the amount of effort and commitment shown whilst playing for the Wings.
This team would adopt a very trendy 3-4-3 system and, in my opinion, would certainly be good fun to watch!!
This was probably the toughest selection of the lot with so many outstanding candidates to choose from. I was very tempted to pick the fans favourite Maurice Munden who, much to my horror, has actually played one game for the Wings. However the vote went to Jeremy or “Gluegloves” as he was affectionately christened by some fans. If you can’t recall him, think back to an FA Cup visit to Swansea where he almost single handedly turned a 2-1 halftime lead into a 2-5 defeat.
I have a theory that any ex-d*rtford players who turn out for the Wings deliberately set out to sabotage our club. This theory will be borne out by one of my later selections. Steve is obviously an automatic choice after his full Conference debut against Scouseport where he found the net twice before halftime (unfortunately the net that we were defending in the first half!). Sadly Super Kev denied him the chance of a hat-trick by substituting him although we did manage to score another og in the same game.
Quite possibly another unfamiliar name to some of you. A player who graduated through the Kent League, and in true Welling tradition, was chucked in at the deep end with very little experience. We had been promised great things by the Welling hierarchy but, alas, Christian disappeared after about 15 first team appearances. I do recall that he had a little party trick where he took throw-ins which never actually made it on to the field!!
Playing in the middle of the centre backs would be Mr Crowe. My fondest memory of him was during a home thrashing many years ago by a Stan Collymore inspired Stafford Rangers. Poor Micky was having a terrible time and actually proceeded to help the opposition by putting one in his own net. At this point, my dad exclaimed “Crowe, you’re the worst centre half I’ve ever seen”. Bearing in mind that he has seen a lot of football including a great deal of Sunday morning football, this was indeed quite a compliment!
It has not been my policy to select current players, but now that he has been released and as Phil Neville has never played for the Wings, then Michael can claim his place in the team. Although I only really attend home matches, I can’t recall him having a good game and I’ve certainly heard some horror stories about his performances away from PVR. Another master stroke to have a younger, skilful and more committed player for the same position but rely on the ex-pro instead. At the end of the season Harle released and Harney retained. Nuff said.
Or to give him his full title Steve (you should see what he does in training) Finnan. This may be a shock to most fans but, when you think about it, he achieved very little playing for the first team. Admittedly he was hampered by a virus for a long spell but was a very frustrating performer. I suppose in the long term the club has benefited financially and certainly Steve is carving out a very promising league career so good luck to him. But purely on his displays for the Wings, no one could have suspected that a league career beckoned (Ah, but you should see what he…..zzzzz).
Another one in a long line of stereotype Welling midfielders. Probably owes his selection to the lengths super Kev went to sign him, only to bomb him out after a few games! From the programme notes you would have thought we were signing Roy Keane, but, as usual, he was just another very ordinary player. Perhaps he was played out of position – as Ruthers was the first choice – but he failed to make an impression and I believe is now plying his trade with Gravesend??
John Still, the current Barnet manager, once famously remarked when in charge at d*rtford that Steve Robinson is “twice the player that Andy Townsend will ever be”. So, by my reckoning, Robbo should have over 100 international caps and have commanded transfer fees in the region of £10 million during his career. He was definitely past his sell by date when gracing the field at PVR and developed ‘Paul Ince’ syndrome of shouting at others all the time while ignoring his own deficiencies.
Again the striking positions were amongst the hardest to decide upon. Whilst we have had to endure countless lazy bastards filling the forward roles at PVR, I have picked my three on a similar basis – players who somewhere deep down have definitely got ability but were just unwilling to share it with us supporters. No doubt you will have your own personal preferences, but I think my three would give defenders countless hours of… SLEEP!!
His Welling career started in that world famous match with CAFC for the prestigious Crown Paints Trophy! At the time “Watto” was trying to secure a contract and spent the entire 90 minutes harrying the life out of the Charlton defence. He was big, strong and powerful and I for one was delighted when he signed. From that point on he did absolutely nothing for the cause. He appeared disinterested and, despite pleas from his teammates, appeared unwilling to contribute anything. He went to Sutton where, last season, he fared no better and has this season signed for our old friends from Woking (Jae Martin has my sympathy).
There was no way that I could leave my old favourite “Dazzlin” out of this line-up. Perhaps I was against him from the start after the great swap deal we engineered by sending Mark Hynes to Dover – another great move from super Kev. Again there was obviously some talent lurking there somewhere but, at our level, people want to see effort and commitment as well. Darren occasionally produced a touch of class but antagonised the fans with his lack of passion.
Another one who was described as a wonder boy and a definite star of the future. There was undoubtedly potential there but, like his fellow two strikers in this team, his end of year report would say “very lazy and could do better”. Now plying his trade at Margitt although I believe he has suffered a long term injury. I know that the few hardy souls who travelled to Halifax some years back would be keen to see Paul again after his David Coulthard style salute to the travelling fans!!
Almost claimed the number one shirt in his own right, but I feared reprisals if he was selected!! It is quite possible that our paths might cross again in the future so at least we may have the chance to marvel at his escapades and not be on the receiving end ourselves. The back pass rule change has not really helped Les as he tries to dribble around opposition forwards with very little success.
In keeping with a balanced team selection, here is another goalkeeper. Perhaps not a familiar name to some but a legend in his own household. I will always remember Gary for making ordinary saves look so spectacular and for one famous incident in particular. Long suffering Wings fans may remember a match at PVR in our Southern League days against Bedworth. Gary, upon “hearing” a phantom whistle put the ball down for a free kick only for the opposition striker to gleefully slam it into an empty net!! The goal stood and Gary’s cult status at PVR was assured.
A disappointment no doubt to only make the bench, but after only one appearance it would be harsh to include him (wouldn’t it??). Maurice’s banter with the crowd was legendary and such gems as “I know where you lot drink” often caused great amusement with Wings fans. If it is any consolation at not making the starting line-up for this particular team then I’m sure that, at most other clubs, Maurice would undoubtedly have been first choice in their worst ever line-ups!
This was clearly the easiest selection of the lot as he ‘inflicted’ a number of these players upon us. It also explains why we only need three subs as we never had five towards the end of last season as “INQ” picks his best XI and sticks with them through thin and, erm, thinner. At least I’ve selected three goalkeepers on the bench as with this team he would probably need them!
I was intending to have a right good rant about “INQ” but, on reflection, I’m just bloody glad that he has gone although we will obviously miss his “extensive list of contacts” (what a pisser that was!). I just pray that we draw Stevenage in a competition next season and, regardless of the result, the whole Welling support can show him just what they really think of him.
This week we look back at WIE 32 from August 2000; the final issue of the fanzine. Erm, well, that is until 2010 and the small matter of the club having a large, unpaid HMRC bill forced our return again with WIE 33.
This was a 32-page issue that “celebrated” the club’s relegation to the Southern League from the Conference after a 15-year stay, by hook or by crook, at the top of the non-league pyramid. But the real celebration for us, as reflected by the front cover, was Kevin “I’m no quitter” Hales’ decision to, erm, quit as manager. Mind you, he shouldn’t have had the option as he should have been sacked the moment our fate was decided at Hednesford. But, heh. All of which was covered in my editorial along with a plea to join the newly formed Independent Supporters Association.
A Wycombe supporting old work colleague of mine provided the next article titled ‘Fantasy Island’ in which he commented on the impact football clubs have on their supporters. This was based on his observations of me following Hales’ departure and the speculation on who might be his replacement. Apparently, I wasn’t in a good place! The fantasy was the names being handed about in hope rather than expectation.
Next, ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ by an unidentified author, which focused on three home games they thought had a significant contribution towards our relegation; the 2-2 draw with Altrincham in October, the 3-2 defeat to Sutton United in November, and the 1-1 draw with Dover Athletic in January. Next was an article by “Darren – behind the goal” who gave us the lowdown on football in Essex following his move through the pipe a couple of years beforehand. He concentrated on his visits to Canvey Island and, the sadly now defunct, Purfleet. Darren’s piece was followed by our review of the 1999/2000 season, which given that we were relegated, was a tough read.
We then challenged the Kentish Times – blimey, remember when local papers were a thing? – and their coverage of Hales’ departure. He was basically given carte blanche to give his side of the story and wasn’t challenged on his appalling record in the dugout. No, the KT certainly wasn’t the home of hard-hitting journalism.
White Socks then provided that true staple of the fanzine, his all-time worst Wings XI. And, so glorious was it, that we will bring you this article in full tomorrow. His choices brought a surprise or two but were based on their performances in a Wings shirt and nothing else. Anyway, pour yourself a stiff drink before reading it is our advice!
The centre spread was given over to a comparison between the teams in the Southern League that we were joining to our last time there in the 1985/86 season. We’d only be saying hello again to Fisher, Folkestone, and King’s Lynn. Trips to the likes of Bedworth and Gosport had been replaced by clubs such as Burton and Ilkeston. Deep joy.
An article titled “The British Disease” wasn’t about hooliganism, but about the perceived mental fragility of top British sportsmen and their inability to deliver when required. White Socks then provided another thought-provoking piece which analysed the timing of our goals for and against the previous season. It turned out that we’d thrown away a minimum of ten points in the final 15 minutes of games, which would have kept us up comfortably. Oh well.
Another unnamed correspondent reviewed Kevin Hales’ tenure and was positively upbeat about his departure. So much so that he or she had bought a season ticket for the first time in 16 years. Now that was a statement! Martin Kay then reminisced about his one season (1990/91) watching the Wings before he moved to Scotland and his visits to PVR then being few and far between. Get in touch Martin if you still follow the club’s fortunes.
In what was the issue of the unnamed correspondent, another one speculated on where the club went from there following the relegation with the hope that it would be the catalyst for better times. Hmm. This was followed by a space filling graphic welcoming Rambo back to the club following his appointment as manager shortly before WIE went to print.
The issue meandered towards its conclusion with our Euro 2000 diary, another short piece celebrating Hales’ departure (talk about a dominant theme!) and, finally, the fanzine’s own obituary. After eight years it was 32 issues and out…
Here we go with Part 6 and penultimate portion of the Wingsaurus, which covers the entries for S to U that were originally published in WIE 40 and WIE 41 back in 2013. You’ll see that we’ve made a couple of amendments to update them. We intend to include a significant update in our first issue back as and when the football resumes and we’re able to attend games again at PVR. So, please send your contributions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org(or via the Contact page on our website).
Engin Salih – Back in the days when Fisher were throwing their money around, he was their keeper for a while and took some merciless stick from the terraces at PVR. At the end of one game he snapped and climbed on to the terrace at the Park End to remonstrate with the fans. After the initial shock (and much laughter) he was dragged off by teammates. We retired to the bar for a shandy and then I drove a couple of mates home. Imagine my surprise when, waiting at Welling corner to turn right, who should pull up alongside but Mr Salih. My mate wound down the window and tapped on his window – the look on his face was priceless as he revved up and shot off straight through a red light!
Charlie Sheringham – Son of Teddy ‘enjoyed’ one season at PVR before buggering off for the riches on offer at Bishop’s Stortford. ‘Guess the age of Teddy’s latest girlfriend’ and ‘Is she older than Charlie?’ were popular games on the PVR terraces whenever Teddy put in an appearance. Probably.
David Smith – Left winger, part of the deadly attack during the Southern League winning season. Another to join the club from Maidstone, he went on to enjoy a career in the Football League with Gillingham, Bristol City, and Notts County.
Neil Smith – The first managerial appointment following Graham’s passing saw Barrie and Barry attempt to emulate the successful Adie Pennock gamble in giving Smith his first managerial role. That was where the similarities ended though, his reign a disaster from day one as the team struggled in the league, edged past the might of East Barkingside in the FA Cup and were dumped out of the Trophy by Wealdstone. A 4-0 hammering at Hampton finally put him – and us – out of misery. Currently using his extensive list of contacts as assistant manager at Bromley. Captain of the Reading side that knocked us out of the FA Cup in 2001 and, alongside Tim O’Shea, was part of the Gillingham team that became our only Football League victims in 1989. We should have known!
Southern League – 1985-86 title win by then record 23 points, sealed with a 3-3 draw at Crawley Town. Believe I took a cold drink or two that particular evening.
Southport – Not our favourite opponents – we failed to pick up a point at Haig Avenue – though it is one particular contest at PVR that sticks in the memory: 1-0 down when John Farley’s attempted clearance cannoned off Glen Knight’s back we swiftly equalised through Tony Dolby. Steve Perkins notched two own goals and was hauled off before half-time to save the Hobbins the cost of a match ball. A valiant comeback down the slope reduced the half-time deficit from 4-1 to 4-3 before a breakaway goal sealed defeat.
Malcolm Spratt – A blast from the past who many of you possibly won’t remember. Malcolm Spratt was the foil up front for Mr Bartley. Now when Sky commentators tell you how the foreigners have brought diving into our game you can now tell them that is rubbish as Malcolm Spratt introduced the concept of diving over 30 years ago! John Bartley always used to loiter around the penalty spot like a true predator – not because that was where his teammate would always put the ball but because he knew there was a fair chance of a penalty being awarded when Spratty got anywhere near the area!
Squiffy’s – Offie next to the ground, below the knocking shop. Was a bathroom shop before becoming the club shop when the club had half a clue commercially. It didn’t last…
Supporters’ groups – There has been a few down the years. Currently we have WUSA and beforehand there has been (in no particular order) the Supporters’ Association, WUISA, Wings Supporters United. If you’re not a member of WUSA please consider joining and getting involved.
Swansea – Another glorious FA Cup failure. City centre traffic congestion afforded the travelling army a police escort to make the delayed kick-off. Paul Barron was cup tied because of his Cheltenham dalliance so it was Jeremy ‘glue gloves’ Parsons between the sticks. Nonetheless Joe Francis scored a belter to put us ahead, Duncan Horton gave away a penalty before Terry Robbins restored our advantage for a 2-1 interval lead. Then it all unravelled, and we suffered the long journey back on the end of a 5-2 beating.
Syd – Barrie and Graham’s father Syd was known for being Sam Bartram’s understudy for many a year at The Valley. He was with Charlton from 1937/38 and then again after the war in 1946/47. He also played for Charlton during the war too when he played against Arsenal in the League South Cup Final but was on the end of a 7-1 defeat. He had previously played for Bexley Heath and Welling on the 6th April 1935 away to Canterbury Waverley in a 1-1 draw.
Steve ‘Teddy’ Payne – Allegedly walked into PVR one day to offer financial support: “what can I do to help?” and received the reply “we need someone to help out behind the burger bar.” Backed the club for several years as well as helping Pam serve the much-vaunted hot dogs in French sticks that were popular with both home and visiting supporters. Sadly no longer with us.
Teletext – ITV’s version of Ceefax and a godsend in the days before the internet and mobile phones for following matches that you couldn’t attend. One up away, goal scorer Robbins. A glorious long-range strike or scuffed in from close range? Who knew until the local newspaper came out the following Thursday? Then many minutes of nervous pacing around the living room, refreshing the page every few minutes. Cue premature celebrations when the clock hit 9.45pm; we must have held on. But then, sadly and inevitably, a 1-0 win turned in to a 2-1 defeat; a penalty in the 89th minute before the injury time winner.
Andy Townsend – Probably the club’s most famous product, Townsend spent five years at PVR, not that anyone would pick that up from the passing mention in his autobiography and his desperation to get off the subject whenever ITV were showing Steve Finnan playing for the Republic of Ireland. Was sold to Weymouth where he only had enough time to have a quick look round the place before he was sold to Southampton. No doubt we had a sell-on clause in place. You what??!!
Trees – Or more specifically one tree in the middle of the terrace at St Albans City football ground which was the reason for our prolonged spell in the Conference. It was a protected species and the ground committee for the Conference had to visit the ground to ratify their application for promotion. Welling had finished third bottom in the final relegation place and survived thanks to the committee’s ruling. Meanwhile, the tree in the corner of PVR vanished overnight and our Conference place was assured. Anybody would think that a Hobbins was on the ground committee. Erm, hang on a minute…
Typewriter – The technology of choice at PVR for decades. Years after the rest of the world switched to word processors and then computers season ticket holders continued to receive their renewal and fixture list bashed out on the faithful Olivetti.
“United!” – The oft heard chant of the PVR faithful. That is all.
This week’s rummage through the WIE archive stumbled across issue 45 from March 2015. It was a 32-page issue that came in the aftermath of Jody Brown’s (thankfully) short tenure as manager. Hence the (some say) hysterical front cover, which was our repost to his remarks towards the Wings’ support following comments in response to his excuses following the away defeat at Nuneaton. And what an absolute shitshow our performance was that day; I still get shivers thinking about it. At least it was Brown’s last.
Highlights from this issue included Tim’s friend Phil regaling us with the tale about when he was a steward at Millwall v West Ham. Phil properly lucked out there. Phil’s friend Tim took a moment to take a look at the club’s presence on Facebook, which included our own page and the numbers behind it. Tim also provided an article on pointless games, which we bring to you below.
White Socks critiqued the club’s somewhat appalling disciplinary record with his “Red Card Handicap” parody. Runners included Jake Gallagher, Chis Bush, Darren Purse, Joe Healy and Anthony Jeffrey amongst others. In an article titled “Fixture Farce” GaryH provided comment on our fixtures between 7th February and 21st March. In that period we had seven matches scheduled, of which all bar one were away. Yup, the fixture “computer” regularly did for us in the Conference. Those six away games included a little trundle to Gateshead on a Tuesday night and then Lincoln the following Saturday. Oh how we love a level playing field…
The interview with Barry Hobbins was the focal point of this issue in which he was incredibly open and candid in talking about all aspects of the club. It was a piece that got an amazing amount of positive feedback, which was certainly unusual and bucked the trend of the usual feedback we received!
It’s sometimes best to avoid late night conversations. Late night conversations about the most pointless of football fixtures are particularly dangerous. They can lead to challenges such as, “Go and find the most pointless game you can, watch it, and write about it – we’ve got a fanzine to fill”.
In all challenges it is necessary to define terms. So what exactly is a pointless fixture? Now certain sections of the media would probably say that anything below the Premier League is pointless. Others might say that is being generous – if it isn’t Champions League, it isn’t worth it. But you, the reader, are clutching a copy of WIE. You most probably obtained it at PVR before enduring a wet and miserable afternoon of Conference football. You might possibly disagree.
Friendlies are pretty pointless, agreed, but are not really competitive, so they will be discounted. League games can’t really be described as pointless given that someone always gets points at the end of them. Not necessarily us, but someone. So that just leaves a couple of options.
First – the county cups.
I appreciate that clubs tend to regard these games as an irritation, having more important matters on their minds, but personally I am all in favour of them. Yes, they are an excellent opportunity for our players to get injured; and with the cost of using the floodlights most clubs probably make a loss from every county cup game they play (and that is without factoring in whatever payments go to the players, if any). But on the other hand they represent our only realistic chance of winning anything, and of having that fun day out in Gillingham or wherever in May. In one cup we get to play a few random, rarely seen Kent teams and a few hated Kent teams; and journey to mysterious unknown suburbs in the other. Admittedly, watching our group of youth team players lose to dartford’s group of youth team players can be quite annoying, but annoyance shows concern, and concern indicates pointfulness. Which is not a word, but it should be.
So rejecting county cups as being worthwhile, if minimally, that leaves only league cups for the ultimate in pointless fixtures. But even here, in my early days I didn’t really appreciate how pointless league cups were. A couple of reasons: the first being a certain bicycle kick by Dennis Tueart in the 1976 final which won the League Cup for Man City. Clearly if players could be bothered to do that, and 100,000 people could be bothered to head to Wembley to watch it, and Brian Moore could get so very excited about it, league cups must be important. The only pointless aspect was the hours that everyone spent trying to replicate it in local parks.
And the second reason was my first experience of a live league cup game. That was the first round of the London Spartan League Cup in 1977/78, the Wings first year at PVR. In a decade where about the only way to get sent off was to have a massive and very noticeable scrap with someone (Norman Hunter v Francis Lee, anyone?), visitors East Ham United managed to get two players sent off – the second one for chasing the referee around a bit after his team-mate had been sent off. Excellent entertainment. We won 4-2 and went on to reach the final and win it – a triumph that has never been acknowledged in the honours section in the programme or the Welling website, for some unknown reason. So I left Banstead, scene of our glorious cup victory, with a very positively skewed opinion of league cups.
Three years in the Athenian League soon put paid to that. Whereas the Spartan League Cup included teams from two divisions, meaning there was the possibility of cup upsets – would the mighty Wings have an off day against plucky Thames Poly? Would lowly Beckenham Town cause a 1973 Sunderland v Leeds style shock in the final? – the Athenian League had just the one division. There was not a lot of excitement when the draw was made. An away trip to Edgware? Great. Given that in Big Football Liverpool had at last noticed the League Cup and duly won it for four years in a row, to add to their almost constant winning of the League, my interest in league cups pretty much died. They were dull. There was a fairly unpleasant defeat over two legs in the semi-final of the Southern League cup to dartford, with both games being spectacularly bad tempered, but thankfully other than that the Wings seemed to avoid any serious attempts at progressing in the things.
A one division league with a league cup competition? I must inevitably turn to the Bob Lord Trophy, the Alliance/Conference’s greatest idea. I can only imagine the excitement up in Barrow each year when the draw was made. Which far off point would they be travelling to on a Tuesday night? Of course, if you are going to have a national league cup competition, to be played midweek by part-time players, why not make it a two-legged affair? So they did. How the crowds must have flocked to whatever Trowbridge’s ground was called to see their second leg against Barnet, having already lost the away tie 10-1.
Still, it was not all bad. The result of a 1986 Quarter-final tie caught my eye: Weymouth 8 dartford 1.
By the time the Wings arrived in the Conference for the 1986/87 season the Bob Lord Trophy had mutated. Instead of a one-division cup it had been decided that the cream of teams from the three feeder leagues below should be added to it. Of course, with an expanded entry it needed an expanded name. So, goodbye Bob Lord Trophy, hello (deep breath) the “General Motors Acceptance Corporation Premier Inter-League Cup for the Bob Lord Trophy”. Snappy.
Happily we immediately got knocked out in our very first game, at Bishop’s Stortford (why, oh why didn’t they introduce group games, for added tedium?), but the following season was a different story. And it has a couple of strands. At that time I was sharing a house in Manchester with a bunch of scrotes, one of whom came from scenic Knott End (near Fleetwood) and was becoming increasingly annoyed by the careless memory lapses that made us think that the final sound in the first word of his town was a “B” rather than a “T”. Finally he announced that he didn’t really care as he wasn’t actually from Knob End at all but was born in Horwich, near Bolton. A quick bit of research and we discovered that Horwich had a team, called Horwich RMI, and so excited were we by the prospect of seeing an actual Railway Mechanics Institute that we piled into what I fear may have been a purple Allegro and headed North for a game.
Horwich played at the superbly named Grundy Hill, on the kind of non-league slope made famous by Wycombe and Yeovil, the sight of which would have left John Motson reaching for his senior nappies. And they sold mushy peas. Well, not to us, but they were available. We rather enjoyed our afternoon – Horwich had a player called Faz, and that was rather good. And after initially being rather hopeless they came back and won, and that was rather good, too, so we decided to keep watching them.
And just as we started watching Horwich, so they started on a little run in the General Motors Acceptance Corporation Premier Inter-League Cup for the Bob Lord Trophy. Meanwhile, Welling had also started in the, oh, let’s call it the GMAC Cup. We had been lucky with the draws – a short trip to Croydon, a short trip to Bromley, and a replay. Beats training, I suppose. And then a home game v Yeovil. And then suddenly there were Horwich and Welling, both in the quarterfinals of a national competition. With mounting horror I realised that there might be a nightmare final, and all those Knob End jibes might come flying back in my direction, but fortunately the Wings did the decent thing and lost their quarter-final 0-2 at home to Weymouth.
Horwich were having a whale of a time though, and duly reached the final. There they were to play Weymouth, so a very narrow escape indeed for me, and the venue chosen was Horwich, on a Sunday afternoon. Weymouth arrived as the big Conference team, but didn’t much fancy the slope, the pitch, or indeed, Horwich. But they started suitably physically and flattened the goalkeeper in the very first minute, resulting in a long stoppage and the arrival in goal for the rest of the game of Horwich’s right back. Who then played heroically as Horwich went on to win the final.
So massively entertaining, but pointless? Probably not. Ludicrous would be a better word, perhaps. A sort of semi FA Trophy. But there was already an FA Trophy, so why play it?
The long-named cup eventually jettisoned its feeder leaguers, and disappeared in 2001, making a couple of zombie-like resurrections before finally fading out altogether in 2009 (I hope), saving everyone a lot of unnecessary bother. Which brings me back to finding the most pointless game I could. Welling no longer play in a league cup, so what could I watch?
One of the unfortunate side-effects of writing the fanzine is that we have to keep a more than cursory watch on certain other local teams, in order to take the mick as and when required. That means spending more time on their websites than is strictly desirable, to catch a glimpse of, for example, the 6000 cartoon supporters that will suddenly be occupying Ebbswait’s new mega-stadium. Mostly it is a complete pain – do I want to read Jamie’s programme notes? Not really, no – but occasionally dartford lose 6-1 to Dover, and visiting the website for a reaction is actually a delight.
It was on one of these visits that I noticed the “next at Princes Park” section. Next up: Celtic U-21 v Villarreal U-21 in the Premier League International Cup. The Premier League International Cup, for those who have better things to do with their lives and don’t know about such things, is “a four-group tournament involving some of the top Premier League Under-21 and elite development teams from England and other European leagues”. And Fulham.
Now this seemed excitingly pointless! There are eight European teams (including Celtic, but let’s not go there) but all games are to be held in England. There are group games! How very exciting! Particularly for those no doubt highly talented Spanish players of Villarreal, allowed to have a run around on a mud heap in dartford. Deliciously pointless.
But then my eyes strayed further down the page. The Premier League International Cup group game was the second game of the day at Princes Park. The first was in in something called the “Football Conference Youth Alliance League Cup”. Ah, a league cup! Promising!
I’d never heard of the Football Conference Youth Alliance. I was fairly certain that the Wings weren’t involved in it, as I had heard rumours that we had a team of 16-17 year olds somewhere in the Suburban League, although getting concrete information about that is extremely difficult, as the Suburban League seems to be deeply secretive. Perhaps they are worried about being discovered by the Gestapo, or something. There are occasional reports of a game taking place – a hint of activity on the Welling Forum, perhaps, but never an actual fixture list. All is hidden in mists. I will say this only once. And certainly no information on the Wings website (for which I actually have some sympathy, as maintaining websites is an utter pain in the backside).
Anyway, after a little research I discovered that the Football Conference Youth Alliance has 99 teams divided into 9 divisions from “Gateshead to Dover”, as the website proudly states. It is a league for those at academies who are combining education with football. I saw from the Wings website that we had an academy team, which I had assumed was the one in the in the Suburban League but thought I’d better check through the divisions anyway to see if we were represented. We weren’t in “London South East”. Nor in “Kent South London”. Nor “Kent East Sussex”. But there we were, much to my surprise, in “Beds, Essex and Herts” With Aldershot. Of course.
Now, I have no idea whether this team is different to the Suburban League team, or indeed different to the U18 team in the Kent Youth League, which we never hear about. But they appear to play on Wednesday afternoons. Somewhere. But no matter.
In their wisdom, the Conference Youth Alliance decided that there could be nothing more exciting than a league cup, and one of the ties was due to be played prior to the Celtic U-21 game. Looking at the draw, it was all rather sensible – Maidstone v Bromley, Hornchurch v Sudbury, Southampton v Basingstoke – nice and local, so dartford (reds) v FC United of Manchester rather stood out. To be played at 5pm on a Thursday night. What’s not to like?
Well, dartford’s not to like, for a start. And I have a particular dislike of FC Replica Shirt of Manchester, too.
It’s not for me to tell people what to do with their Saturday afternoons. People can support FC Replica Shirt if they like. But I do wish they wouldn’t be so holy about it. And so bloody pleased with themselves. Wikipedia talks of the supporters feeling “disenfranchised” – I wasn’t aware we actually had a vote in the first place. Then the FCUM website talks about how they were genuinely sick of the whole Premier League circus and so went off to form their own club so that they could “stick together and sing Manchester United songs”. That, rather than just watching their local non-league team, of course.
I’ve read how they started “at the bottom of the pyramid”. Hmmm. From personal experience if a bunch of people get together and decide to start a football club, with no ground, and no previous history, they tend to get fast-tracked into the lowest division of the nearest Sunday league. But apparently you can play the “But we are Manchester United supporters” card, and that gets you into Step 6, and the North West Counties League. Then you can spend some time being the best supported and richest team in the league (just like the real thing, eh?), parading around in your replica shirts which are, of course, too sacred to bear the name of a sponsor, while professing a huge understanding of non-league football. Righty-o. While describing yourself as the newest “punk football” team. Of course.
Just a footnote – This “bottom of the pyramid” stuff. There WAS a team that started as a boys team in a park, and 23 years later found themselves playing in the Conference. Can’t quite remember who, though.
So, to the match. It was interesting to me to see which team I hated most, dartford (reds) or FCUM. As the game progressed, I realised that I actually favoured dartford (reds) (who were, true to their name, playing in blue). Maybe it was those Man Utd shirts. Maybe it was because teenage Manc haircuts had got stuck somewhere between an early Mark Robins and Kajagoogoo. Or maybe it was because the Mancs just whinged all the time, as Mancs do. Truly, a Whinge-a-thon between Mancs and Scousers would be a hard one to call – the Mancs just might shade it. Or maybe it was because one of the FCUM supporters had brought a big flag. To a youth team game. In dartford. On a Thursday night.
dartford (reds) won it (there’s a dartford (blues) in another division, in case you were wondering), so I think that was the first time I’ve ever been pleased that a dartford team won. And the Mancs got back on their bus to Mancland, still whingeing, after what was possibly the most pointless fixture I have ever seen.
But wait. What’s this? The cup continues. And it is Bromley (blues) away at…. Gateshead.
Hopefully you’ve had a chance to have a look at our new page dedicated to CAMRAG – The Campaign for Really Awful Graphics that was a feature of WIE during the 1990s. At the weekend, through the wonders of Twitter, we were alerted to these two wonderful examples. In the one on the left – which featured on the front cover of Lowestoft Town’s programme in the 1979/80 season – we see the player on the left (with a rather large head) seemingly distracted by the wonderfully coiffured hair and moustache of his opponent. And in the graphic on the right – from the front cover of Loughborough J.O.L.’s programme in 1987/88 – shows a player with interesting hands and, erm, over-developed shoulder muscles managing to keep the ball under close control. Magnificent.