Saturday 14th July 2012 ko 3.15pm
CROCKENHILL 3 (Golding 9 43 A Triallist 67)
BETHNAL GREEN 0
Att 17 (h/c)
Played at Blackheath RUFC 3G pitch, Well Hall Sports Ground, Kidbrooke Lane, Eltham
From Chislehurst it was only about 3 miles to Eltham, passing the stunning 1930’s built Art Deco Eltham Palace on the way. As the central London skyline came into view the suburban landscape lost some of its foliage but at no time did I feel in an entirely urban environment.
As a drove into Kidbrooke Lane I felt I recognised the place, but couldn’t place why. I went and had a look at the reconditioned stand, that looked familiar, but it was only when I looked at the clock on the outside wall of the clubhouse that the penny dropped. The clock still says Thames Polytechnic, the former owners of the ground, and I played there as a student for the Polytechnic of North London FC! In those days Thames Poly played in the Kent League but my encounter wasn’t at those dizzy heights, it was in a game for PNL’s 6th XI (I was captain though!) in the SEETECH league and we lost 20-0 to Thames Poly’s 3rd XI. I’d like to say that the scoreline flattered our hosts but my abiding memory of the fixture was the kindly referee finding all sorts of spurious reasons to disallow home goals! Thames Poly FC withdrew from the Kent League in 1992, and the institution is now the University of Greenwich. That was in the days before 3G, in fact the only plastic grass around then was part of a meat display at the local butcher! With the pitch beyond the stand, it looks a redundant edifice.
It’s the oval ball that dominates here now. That said Blackheath do have a small but significant role in the formation of the Football Association. In 1863 a series of meetings was convened in an attempt to create a common code of rules for football.
Blackheath were one of eleven clubs invited and Francis Maude Campbell of Blackheath was elected Treasurer. After a series of meetings Campbell refused to eliminate “hacking” or tripping an opponent and kicking his shins, from the rules, and commented that to do so would, “Do away with all the courage and pluck from the game, and I will be bound over to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week’s practice.” A week later Blackheath withdrew from the FA and Campbell’s rules were incorporated into what is now Rugby Union. The club still plays home fixtures at nearby Rectory Field.
That would explain why the 3G pitch was marked only nominally for football, and why there was space to walk behind both goals. 5 or 6 hoppers arrived fully expecting to see Crockenhill take on Bromley Green, it was on the Crocks’ website after all, but instead we got Bethnal Green, a week early! Not an issue, and it proved to be an entertaining afternoon’s entertainment. I will never know though how Bethnal Green failed to score, a 3-3 result would have been more than fair but the visitors were guilty of missing a string of gilt-edged chances, and were made to pay as Ryan Golding hit them twice on the break, and missed an absolute sitter later on. That didn’t matter as a trialist made it safe, and ended the game as a spectacle.
Incidentally Crockenhill’s normal home, Wested Meadow, near Orpington I cannot recommend highly enough. From the scarf collection in the clubhouse, to the stand seemingly built without recourse to a spirit-level, it’s a gem of non-league. Do pay them a visit.