Friday 4th May 2018 ko 19.00
Central Midlands League -South Division
SWANWICK PENTRICH ROAD 3 (G Wilding 52 Brooks 77 83)
ASLOCKTON & ORSTON 0
If there was ever a league with a history with the organised groundhop it was the Central Midlands League. It reached the national consciousness in 2004 when the league hosted the first and so far only 5-in-a-day hop with the Times in tow to cover it! The hop also managed to be the first to feature 8 games in 48 hours in a freezing March in 2008. Who could forget the snow in Calverton? Of course at the centre of the hops were Chris Berezai at GroundhopUK and the league’s Rob Hornby.
The hops lasted until 2012, Chris and I bowed out in 2010 when we were disappointed when only one league official, Rob, turned out to support the event. Rob organised another 2 events before bowing out in 2012 at the now-defunct Glapwell. Rob switched his allegiance the rival Notts Senior League, organising a series of hops for that league before retiring from groundhop game in 2016; he remains the Notts Senior League’s registrar. It was a source of sadness that despite being one of the architects of the original Central Midlands Hops Rob was unable to attend any of these games.
What changed everything in terms of reviving this hop was Chris becoming the CMFL’s fixture secretary. You’d have thought that would have made things straightforward, but then it was decided that there would be a maximum of 3 games on the Saturday, and none on the Sunday. The latter was so as not to clash with the CMFL cup finals and all advance ticket holders were given free entry to the event, but those record-breaking hops seemed in the distant past.
What we did have was an incredibly compelling Friday night fixture, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Swanwick had had a difficult season, with a blocked drainage pipe causing multiple postponements due to waterlogging. Then when the majority of the club’s committee resigned the club submitted their resignation from the league- effective at the end of the season. What was meant to be a chance to visit one of Derbyshire’s quirkiest grounds suddenly became a “Last chance to see”
Thankfully it never came to that. Such was the outpouring of sympathy for the club that a new committee was soon formed and the club did a fine job of hosting the throng. I found myself ticking the boxes of good hospitality- good food, real ales, programme, badge and so on. But there was good old fashioned charm too, the club official there at the gate to shake the hand of every single patron.
Of course these events are more than just football matches. Even though the hop diary has become still more congested in 2018, it was still a pleasure to catch up with everyone, and finally we had warm sunny weather to do it in!
The game took a little time to get going, perhaps tired limbs playing multiple catch up games at the end of a long season had something to do with it, but in the end Swanwick won and won well. On a human level it was good to see a friendly club I’d visited six years ago (I do still have the mug, by the way) once again thriving. With my groundhopper’s hat on it was good to back on familiar ground.