Tuesday 13th March 2018 ko 19.45
Southern Counties East League Premier Division
CORINTHIAN FC 3 (Jones 25 31 Hurcomb 65)
SHEPPEY UNITED 0
One look at the name “Corinthian” will have the reasonably well-informed football watcher evoking the famous amateur club, now one half of the Corinthian-Casuals club in Tolworth. And while the amateur, football for football’s sake is similar the story of the Kentish Corinthian is rather different. You could say the whole story evokes “Field of Dreams.”
Scratch the surface of Corinthian and you find founder Ron Billings. Ever though he died in 1991 a brief flick through the programme shows a number of his family still in involved with the club he founded in 1972. You could say he built the club in his own back garden, Gay Dawn Farm in Longfield was his own property, he’d made his fortune from the building trade and the farm to this day is still a working entity.
These days there’s a full sports facility including tennis courts and a foot-golf course to go with football ground, byres and tractors. But Corinthian FC’s is as remarkable as its surroundings. For the first 13 years of its existence the club played only friendlies, including the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, in a fashion I’m sure the Corinthian, Casuals and Queens Park would no doubt recognise.
Eventually they joined, or more accurately were co-opted into the Southern League in 1985, those were the days of league vacancies and flexible ground gradings. Tony Sitford was installed as Director of Football, a position he still holds today over 30 years later.
Corinthian lasted until 1991 in the Southern League, perhaps being completely amateur at that level was just too difficult, but found their level in the Kent League (now Southern Counties East Premier) but at the end of the 1997/8 opted to withdraw from senior football feeling that they’d lost their connection with youth football- the whole point of Billings starting the club.The exile lasted until 2009 when the club, now run by Ron Billings’s son also named Ron “Bonze” Billings decided to re-enter the Kent League, a position they retain today.
But take the time to walk around the ground when you visit, actually don’t try that, it’s three-sided after all. But do explore, please and look out for the building that manages to house both cover, seats, the tea bar, changing rooms, and a flat with tenants on the top floor! I hope the residents like football!
Then there’s the road that has been diverted to form the stand side of the ground. It’s tucked away but the “No Entry” sign is still in situ! Then there’s the glorious wooden lean-to stand, and the 4 bus shelters, but pride of place must go to the stand. There are a few converted lorry stands around, I remember them at Goodrich, Andover New Street and Airbus but fittingly Corinthian’s version was created from a hay wagon!
Today’s game saw a vibrant set of supporters from visitors Sheppey including one who uttered that most British of daft comments at the pay gate to his friend, “Oh so you got here okay then?”… But as colourful as Sheppey were, Corinthian were far too strong for them, with 3-0 an entirely realistic final score.
You wonder where a club like Corinthian can go. Still noone gets paid and probably never will. But in the money-obsessed game of football surely there has to be a corner for clubs like Corinthian? Is it a case of “Build it and they’ll come?” Or has the game lost it’s soul completely?