Sunday, 31 March 2013

Hamlet Re-Visited

I suppose starting this blog at the tail end of last yr is what done it for me.  All those memories about yesteryear, South London, Policing and Dulwich Hamlet.  

I've been thinking about the old club of late and seem to have lost a lot of interest in Non League football here in Norfolk.  My other Club, King's Lynn Town FC was born out of the old King's Lynn FC that went pop a few years ago. They owed big money to the tax man and instead of asking the community for help, they let it fold.  A new club was born.  All big and shiny but it costs more to watch King's Lynn than any other club in our league.  It has done for 3 seasons now which is a shame because the manager has put a great little squad together and they play good football.  But i don't like being made a mug of and refuse to be ripped off.  So i have only attended when i am 'providing a service' by way of doing the online commentary for the Supporters who can't get there.  But now, there is so much social media, I feel my service is no longer required. So I have stopped going all together now.

But through the virtues of Twitter and Facebook, i have found my old club.  Dulwich Hamlet FC are a grand old name in Non League circles, having won the Isthmian league several times, the FA Amateur Cup and providing a solid foundation to scores of players who went on to be successful  professionals. Hull City signed another one last week and their star man had recent trials with Liverpool and featured in an U21 game for them against West Ham 2 weeks ago.

A few months ago, i promised myself i would make the journey at least once this season to go and watch them.  Since then, I have been twice.  Both away games.  The first was a few weeks ago away at Merstham in Surrey.  I had been at a conference at Excel (EcoBuild)  and had an overnight in a hotel.  Well with the work finished by 5pm, all I had to look forward to was a long night with drunk sales reps or a Tuesday night under floodlights to watch the Hamlet for the first time in 10 yrs.

I chose the later.

And pleased that i did.  It was just like old times.  A couple of dozen of us, behind the goal singing and chanting and chatting like I had never been away.  It was heart warming to catch up with old friends and fellow fans.  These were the people that made my time in South East London so much fun many years ago.  These were the people that introduced me to Non league football all those years ago and were also responsible for introducing me to a world away from the Police and into sports promotions 25 yrs ago.  I stood and sang and chatted like it was yesterday.  We were all older, a little rounder and a lot less drunk.  But the passion was still there. Mishi was still there (I picked him up from Kennington Tube on the way down) Shaun was still there. Steve, Paul, Mr Watts, Burty, Jamie, Dave and Paul, John the program Editor, Brian the Vice Chairman, Jack the Chairman, in fact it was like really vivid dream.  they were all still there.  

We lost.  But we sang.  I drove Mishi, Burty and his mate home.  First stop Sydenham, then onto Nunhead and through Peckham, Camberwell, Walworth and over the River and back to the Docks to the hotel.  My re-introduction to Dulwich was the bait and I was hooked again.

Easter Saturday was always going to be the biggest game of the season.  Not because Dulwich are within spitting distance of the Ryman League South Title, in fact they had just had over 1,000 on a tuesday night against the league leaders, Maidstone.  But no other game could act like a magnet for me like this one.  This was Tooting.  Away.

Dulwich and Tooting in South London is like Inter and AC.  It's the Glasgow Old Firm scaled down.  Forget United and City or Liverpool and Everton, this was massive and no matter what happens during the season only one result matters.

The derby.  At the Hamlet it ended 2-2 and this was game that we needed to win for two reasons.  Bragging rights and to keep pace with Maidstone.

No-one could have predicted what was to come.  I set off on the 10:03 my lad (aged 14 and never been to a Dulwich game since he was 3!)  We arrived at Kings Cross wearing our Pink and Blue shirts and made away to The George in Croydon where everyone was meeting.  There was about 30 of us.  Then the Tram to Mitcham.  As soon as the Tram doors closed at 2pm we started singing and we didn't stop till the final whistle at 4:45pm In fact I think we were still singing as the ground emptied and the players were in the changing rooms.

I have been the England matches, many a West Ham home and away.  I have been to Wembley  for Cup finals and with King's Lynn I have been part of great Vase and Trophy runs, home and away.  But NOTHING could ever compare to what i was part of yesterday.

About 150-200 of us. Standing together as one. 

Dulwich has a new, younger fan base.  Teenagers.  Teenagers with a drum, large flags, blue smoke grenades and a repertoire to rival River Plate or Barca.  

Immense  is the word i shall use for these  fans.  They carried us older boys along and when we went silent, they started.  When they went silent, we started and we sang and sang and sang.  We danced on the terraces and we sang some more.  

Then, we all went home.

Dulwich won 0-2 and sit joint top of the league.  They have a game in hand and promotion is in their hands.  They might do it.  They might not.  If they do, it will be great and if they don't, rest assured all the talk over the summer will be of plans to invade Tooting like we did yesterday.

Saturday 30th March 2013 will go down as the greatest football away day ever.  It will never been beaten in terms to passion, friendship and heart warming re-found relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime.

Oh, and King's Lynn won 7-0 so a good day all round. I kept up to date via twitter, which shows that my service is no longer needed...................

Here's a link to a blog from south London.  It has some great pics of yesterday that show the passion we felt.

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