Tuesday, 28 July 2015

#8 King George Recreation Ground, Avonmouth FC

Henbury FC 4 Sea Mills Park 2
Tue 28th July 2015, Evelyn Rowley Cup Semi-Final.

It was a shite, cold, rainy summer's day in Shirehampton. I'd been to two dire Rovers friendlies since my trip to Salisbury, both losses, against Arsenal U-21s and Reading. Something had to be done. The temptation to pop down to The Creek to see Manor Farm take on the hilariously named Undy United was strong, as I knew they had ample covered areas and generous chip portions. I felt however that I ought to preserve my thin veneer of journalistic intrigue and find myself a new ground.

Step forward Avonmouth FC. Avonmouth FC (based in Shirehampton because the chemical fumes have obviously ruined their brains) host their answer to the Emirates cup, the Evelyn Rowley cup, every year to warm up for another hard, thankless year in the Bristol & Suburban League, inviting teams from every obscure suburb and village of Bristol to duke it out at their home ground, the King George Recreation Ground. So yes, I was off to a level 12 ground to see two teams I'd never heard of, neither of which played there, in the rain. Yay groundhopping.

The first notable thing about the King George is how incredibly well hidden it is. You get to where the postcode takes you and find a row of houses opposite a bunch of trade counters. You'll wander about for a bit then spot a dark, overgrown footpath down the side of one of the houses. This is the entrance to a huge field about the size of three football pitches, bordered completely by industry and suburbia on all sides. King George obviously wasn't fond of the idea of the serfdom recreating on his ground.

The second notable thing about the place, one which instantly puts it up there amongst the weirdest football locales I've ever had the pleasure to visit, is that the whole playing space exists in the shadow of a colossal, heaving ruin of an old warehouse*, which audibly creaks with every gust of wind.  

Full of ghosts and a million deflated Mitre balls.
These minor eccentricities aside, Avonmouth seem to be a pillar of amateur football in the area, boasting a first team in the premier division of the B&S league, as well as a reserve and 'A' team that play in lower divisions of the same league. They also house a thriving youth section. A doff of the Partizan Bristle cap to you fine folks. 

Whenever I go to a match at this level I always get a feeling like I'm crashing the gathering of an extremely close-knit group of old friends and sure enough the barbecue is out, the Natch is flowing, the children play kick-about in their Arsenal and Real Madrid kits and the locals chat merrily amongst themselves, not paying me the slightest heed as I slink in. Or in my mind: glaring in bewilderment at me and assuming I'm there to nick anything not bolted down during the match because who in their right minds could possibly pop along to a game like this for fun?   

Fun it most surely was however. A run-down of the Highlights for your consideration: 
  • A Henbury (or 'The Tangys' as they like to be called, no really) striker wandering about smoking a fag minutes before kick-off.
  • Sea Mills going down 2-0 in the space of about 20 minutes. Leading their rotund, shouty, cap wearing keeper to scream "FUCK SAKE" and boot the ball up the field as hard as he possibly could, firmly striking one of his team-mates who had knelt down to tie their boot in the arse before adding: "YOU'VE DONE FUCK ALL LADS. YOU DON'T DESERVE IT." as everyone in the vicinity collectively winced.
  • Avonmouth's amply stocked clubhouse. I wanted to get pictures but it was quite busy and I felt conspicuous enough all evening as it was. Rest assured however that should you choose to visit the club can offer a range of frosty beverages in glass, can or bottle format as well as your standard crisp and nut based fare. I went for a can of Natch (£2) for portability purposes. No non-league clubhouse is complete of course without a myriad of crazy crap adorning it's purple plaster walls. Pictures of handlebar moustached men in striped leotards, a reminder of the Avonmouth squads of old hang opposite the fossilized remains of a pair of old-timey boots worn by some unknown local legend. A shelf full of obscure trophies and a dirty great Bristol City union jack lay between an ageing fruit machine and Top of the Pops jukebox. Truly a Mecca for the wandering non-league lover.  

Sea Mills Park were 3-0 down by half time. Though they were not as hopeless as that scoreline suggests, they did squander an open net between about three players and skied their first decent chance of the second half off the roof of the clubhouse and into the back-gardens of the unsuspecting residents. Eventually their persistence paid off and they were rewarded with a goal with about 15 minutes remaining, unfortunately the comeback was not on and Henbury made it 4 minutes later, which rendered a simple tap-in from Sea Mills' own David Luiz lookalike Frankie a mere consolation.

With that over with I decided I was freezing and toddled off back up the road to my flat, to ready myself for another wacky adventure on Saturday.

Slip Slop Slap, kids!
The Tangy/Milly faithful.
Medical science has yet to explain the mechanism behind
 the mysterious healing powers of the magic orange bucket.
*Correction: ancient creaky ruin of an old sports centre. Thank you Avonmouth FC twitter guy!

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