No.21 - Sat 6th December 2014; Cambridgeshire County League Division 1A;                         2pm at Histon & Impington Recreation Ground; New Road; Histon; Cambridge; Cambs; CB24 9LU 


Matchday images (65)

Fulbourn Sports & Social Club (0) 5  Bottisham & Lode (0) 0

'Things can only get better?'

'Much has been written recently in the hopping press about the demise of clubs playing in local pyramid leagues. There is some supporting evidence to suggest that teams are increasingly finding it difficult not only to attract young players but to find enough personnel able and willing to run the teams. It seems from some quarters that life outside of the Premier League and European competitions - the non league game (97% of football), is finding it hard to sustain itself. 

I read with interest an article written by Kerry Miller, the highly regarded author of The History of Non League Football Grounds (a superbly researched and written reference book), himself a seasoned hopper having watched some 6000 games who posted on the addictive Non League Matters message forum a piece about the state of football. Kerry (aka Jaundiced Hack) felt so strongly about this subject his post began with the statement: ‘Decline in Football From the Top Down’. He argues that factors such as advances in technology, impacting on work and leisure time, has led to a more sedentary lifestyle; the demise of press and publicity covering the local game and changes in working patterns particularly amongst younger male age groups have all contributed to the decline in the way 'real football' is now being played and indeed administered.   


On a personal level I have noticed in my local area which mainly covers the Eastern Counties feeder leagues that many clubs particularly reserve sides have been struggling to fulfil fixtures. Some reasons relate to a lack of available players; the inability of personnel to raise a side; increases in expenses involved in travelling and even on a couple of occasions difficulty in appointing a referee. Adding all this up indeed reflects a worrying situation and it could be argued that should these trends continue indefinitely then our beloved game might come under even greater threat.


Today I’m making the relatively short trip along the A14 towards Histon for a Cambridgeshire County League match (my second consecutive game in this league in two weeks) where Fulbourn Sports and Social Club FC is entertaining Bottisham & Lode in a Division 1A fixture. It's a bit of a basement battle as Sports are only two places higher than their opponents who currently find themselves rock bottom of the league having failed to earn a point all season.


As I arrive I can see some of the players already warming up ahead of the scheduled 2pm kick-off. I also notice a couple of track-suited guys busy in conversation outside the changing rooms. They are frantically making calls from their mobiles. It transpires they are still trying to track down some players who have so far failed to turn up. I am spontaneously called upon to take a haphazardly arranged photo of both teams as part of the FA's initiative to commemorate the World War I truce when a football match between the English and Germans took place on Christmas Day.


As the game starts I note that both sides have managed to raise ten players. By a quarter past two, the home team add another late-comer to their ranks finally providing them with a full complement of players. Their manager Dave Holt breathes a sigh of relief and explains to me that it is becoming increasingly harder for him to raise a side each week. In fact he told me that it got so bad that at the end of October he felt like packing it in altogether and pulling his side out of the league – considering Fulbourn Sports reached the semi-final stage in both the Cambs Junior and League cup competitions at the end of last season, this comes as a bit of a shock, don't you think?!


It’s now half-time and both sides retire to opposite sides of the pitch for their respective team talks (and a bit of a breather) after a goalless opening forty-five minutes. Hosts Fulbourn have had the lion's of possession as the ten men from Bottisham have looked increasingly more fatigued as the half has passed by. As expected it's not long before the homesters capitalise on their greater numerical advantage by taking the lead (the first coming within five minutes of the re-start). It's soon one way traffic and a 'backs to the wall' job for the Bottisham rear-guard who are breached a further four times during the half to give Fulbourn three much needed points. Their keeper Damien Davis makes some fantastic saves but is left prostrate during an awkward fall in the dying seconds. Sadly as darkness falls he is still laid out cold (with a suspected fractured neck) and covered with a blanket whilst an ambulance is called for. For the record it turns out he is ok. The game played on a decent surface (after thawing out following a hash overnight frost) in cold but sunny conditions attracts only three spectators. There are no programmes or refreshments.


Many hoppers may have already passed the Histon & Impington Recreation ground without actually knowing it. The site lies within the shadow of Histon Football Club members of the Southern League Premier Division. On my visit ground-sharers Cambridge City were playing Chippenham Town in (the same league) and ended 0-1 at Bridge Road. This venue also doubles as the HQ for the Cambridgeshire County FA.


The Histon and Impington recreation ground is found by coming off the A14 (at the Histon exit) and turning down New Road (one junction further along Bridge Road next to the traffic lights). A narrow entrance (with a sharp bend) takes you into a spacious car park and adjacent modern-looking pavilion which incorporates the parish council offices. Complete with murals the well appointed barrel-roofed pavilion (opened by Pat Jennings OBE in 2006) plays hosts to many other sports (including Histon bowls, cricket, netball and tennis clubs) all of which use the expansive playing fields. In fact a map of the site (designed by artist Debbie Roe) provides the visitor with much valuable information about the sports and their locations in the area. The main pitch roped along the nearside is some fifty metres from the changing rooms. There's no cover or dug outs.


A trip to the recreation ground comes highly recommended. I really do hope that clubs such as Fulbourn Sports & Social Club (and also Bottisham & Lode) can resolve their obvious problems both on and off the field. In doing so they can maintain their proud traditions and history founded during a time when the style of life was very different to what it is today. Have fun wherever you go...          

FGIF Match Stats

Scorers: (H) Savidge (50); Lofty (52); Cocksedge (73); Callaghan (75); Barker (83) and (A) N/A 

Attendance: 3; Admission: Free; Programme: None; Match rating: 3/5; Ground rating: 3/5.



edited on 07/12/14