Friday 16th October 2015 ko 19.45
Western League Division One
CORSHAM TOWN 1 (Lardner 82)
CALNE TOWN 2 (Windsor 12 Beasley 54)
If you metaphorically scratch the surface of the Western League Hop, you get League General Secretary Mark Edmonds. It was him who put the idea in as part of his successful application to the role, and it was him who first put the idea to his clubs. From GroundhopUK’s perspective we’d had an abortive attempt at the project a decade or so earlier, so we hadn’t even considered the idea. But all kinds of coincidences happened to make this happen.
The first was GroundhopUK being turned down for a hop in the Wessex League, if we’d have got agreement with them, then we’d have looked at this weekend. The Western League’s original idea was a single 4-game day, a Sunday, a week earlier. While that wasn’t exactly a clash with Craig Dabbs’ Bedfordshire Hop I contacted Mark to suggest that he and Craig liase.
And that could have been as far as my involvement ever got but for two sticking points. The first was getting 8 clubs to play on a Sunday; you should be able to get the home teams, the financial incentive gives them reason, but the away clubs are far more difficult to convince. One look at the line-up that actually happened tells its own story, if the hop had been a one-day, Sunday event there’d have been only 2 games.
The second was the gut reaction that this deserved better than a one-day hop. With diary clashes being completely pointless, Mark and I met at a game at Hengrove Athletic. I was relieved at what a gentlemen he is, so at the end of a convivial evening we agreed that GroundhopUK would run the event, and a few weeks later Chris Berezai travelled down for a meeting to work out the details. In fact the only disappointment was that some of the preliminary discussions the league had before we were invited aboard found their way on to a gossip forum. A shame, but it pays never to trust tittle-tattle.
We decided to stick with Mark’s original idea of basing the hop around his league’s clubs based around Bristol, in fact the only real issue was who to leave out, as they are so many in a small footprint. I think we travelled less than 10 miles between our first and last games on the Saturday! On any league’s first hop it pays to keep things as simple as possible.
I was pleased we ended up with Corsham as our first game. I’d paid them a visit 3 years earlier, found them to be a thoroughly charming bunch, but the game I saw was, like this, a local derby and they’d coped well with a bigger than normal crowd. It was a good portent of what was to follow.
My initial thought was that while the scenes may change, the act of putting on a hop game hasn’t. It was simply good fun to set up the programme pack stall next door to Terry’s Badges’ stall, and catch-up and tell our usual bad jokes and drink too much tea.
People came, picked up their packs and had a chat, and I waited for Corsham and their officials to miss something. When cups of tea and copies of the line-ups arrived for us all, I smiled at Mark, and he smiled back. He’d seen us in action on the Rutland Hop, and knew that the club had achieved that state of unconscious competance that makes everyone’s lives easy. Chris and I simply counted the bumper crowd and enjoyed the game.
And a darned fine game it was too, one that made you forget you were watching Step 6. I hope I won’t offend our hosts by commenting that I felt that Calne deserved their win, they were just that little bit sharper where it mattered most. But on a hop game there is always more to it than just the game, so I’d like to think that when the quiet returned, and they counted the pennies, at least they won there.