Slumming It In Deepest Footballers Wife Land, Mole Valley SCR 2 v 3 Windsor

07/01/12. Combined Counties Premier, “Anvil Lane”.

Life is full of contrasts. Take footballing facilities, in the Surrey town of Cobham you can find at one extreme the grandiose training facilities of Chelsea FC (Cobham Training Centre). In the same town exists Anvil Lane, the ground of an 120 year old football club, Cobham. Also using that facility is Mole Valley SCR (Sutton Common Road to you which reflects the part of the world the club originated from). A more extreme contrast in facilities you could not imagine but more on the Anvil Lane (or Leg O’ Mutton field depending on who you talk to) later.

Of all the glamorous games I could pick on FA Cup third round Saturday you might think Mole Valley v Windsor a bit of a strange choice and to be honest if I wasn’t off to the Emirates on Monday I probably wouldn’t have chosen it. But with Cobham being on a bus route from where I live (even if that route does include all the side and back streets of Thames Ditton and Esher) it seemed reasonable to tick off the place.

Arriving close to kick-off I approached Anvil lane from through a park. A well-known large countryside park (Painshill) can be seen in the distance. The outside of the ground is very step 5 and 6, rutted track (with a railed off path area), thin green netting on the outside of a long row of conifers. Eventually you spot a gap in the side which is the entrance, no turnstile as such. £6 including a programme gets you in.

The first thing you notice about the place is how little there is. The bar/tea-bar/changing rooms/bogs are in the same building, a kind of dilapidated wooden building behind one of those compulsory short metal stands I have grown to both love and detest this season. Across the other side was nothing except two brick dug-outs. Behind one goal was a short lean-too which seemed to be acting as a storage unit for some planks and behind the other was the aforementioned conifers with a small flat standing area, a small scaffold bit and some netting which slighty obscured the view from there (although to be fair only Windsor fans went into that section second half). It all looks a bit shabby, a cross between the cobbled together look of Raynes Park Vale with the facilities free greenery of Colliers Wood United! None of this is of course a reflection on Mole Valley SCR, they are just tenants in someone else’s neglected home.

As the teams lined up I scanned the crowd, about 65 I thought with over 50% being away fans and once you took out the kids and the home teams coaching staff (more of in a minute) there wasn’t 10 home fans in attendance! Given that Windsor are challenging for the title and Mole Valley are bottom I expected a mismatch, a possibility that looked a certainty when you compared the respective physical sizes of the two teams, Windsor (W) were clearly larger and older than Mole Valley (MV). It is also at this point I will reference the referee (more on him as a sideshow later); normally I wouldn’t comment on appearance or speculate on background but when someone looks like a cross between Terrance Trent Darby and Dwight Yorke (or for the benefit of our Reading friends Joe Strummer and Jody Morris…) I think you can assume they are from South London!

The first half was a shocker, a real shocker. Even in terms of how poor both sides were but with Windsor creating the better chances, to the extent that the stand-out player on the pitch was MV’s large porky goalie. Some W fans were speculating that the sun was affecting their teams play, from where I was it more looked like they couldn’t get motivated for it. The highlight of the first 40 minutes was the sheer amount of shouting and advice giving from the sidelines, in W’s case from groaning never stop talking supporters and in MV’s case a series of blokes bellowing all kinds of tactical advice (I was to learn second half that the main culprits were the manager and other club official who were in constant phone contact with those in the dug-outs). The last 5 minutes banged into life, the MV goalie pulled off a couple of miracle (well for this level) saves and then just before HT (seemed about 50 minutes to me) a goal from nowhere to W.

Headed into the bar/tea-bar and the sight of no proper beer, not even bottles added to a feeling of irritation. The bogs looking like the roof was about to fall in (and with me still wary after the Tilbury experience) didn’t help either but to be fair I suddenly started to see what the MV club was all about. Take the people away from the Cobham facilities and what you have is a bunch of working class southern’s doing their best. Ok so the food wasn’t much cop but it was cheap and plentiful and the multi-tasking volunteers were friendly.

Went out for the second half expecting the worst, found myself by accident between the MV manager and his “team” of tactical advisors and the referee’s assessor. The MV manager had a lot to say, to his mates, on the phone to the dug-out, to the linesman and referee, to his players. He was on the go the whole 45 (or more like 52) minutes. The game itself was the classic game of two half, the quality didn’t markedly improve but a combination of endeavour and a growing competitive edge made it more and more interesting. MV got back into the game with a decent finish and they started to play more football. W suddenly started to look like Stoke City, all long throws and dead-balls. To be fair they did think they had got a second before the equalizer but it wasn’t given and let’s be clear no amount of technology will ever be used at Anvil Lane! The referee’s cameo comedy decision-making, nothing game changing but nevertheless memorable (my favourite was when the MV right-bank did an airshot and fell over, with the W player about 3 feet away and the ref gave a foul, even the MV manager was rolling around in laughter).

With 10 minutes to go W got a second, with a curler, which they celebrated wildly and you wondered if that was the winner, but wait, within a minute 2-2 with another good finish and another wild celebration, this time the whole team headed for the manager and his bunch, I though I was going to get pulled into the melee! You couldn’t help but get dragged into the emotion MV generated as the self-belief grew. the game became end to end, the MV manager could sense someone was going to win this, alas with the 90th minute well gone it was W who got a MV heart-breaking winner. As the final whistle blew I just turned to him and said “unlucky” and he gave me back one of those polite smiles that say “thanks but I’d rather have taken the point”.

Sometimes when I travel to these relatively local to me grounds I wonder why some clubs keep on going and it would be easy to point at the likes of Mole Valley and say “what is the point” (especially given the relocation). However maybe on this occasion I can let that thought pass, they are clearly going down (have played over 50 players in the first-team already), Anvil Lane is clearly only going to get worse (apparently there are plans to move to Weston Green which is interesting, maybe they can merge with the Sports and become Thames Ditton United) but so long as the committment and drive shown by their players/coaching staff/volunteers and few supporters continues then they are a welcome presence. As for Windsor, if somehow they beat Guildford City to that one promotion place then they need a new squad!

And so to Arsenal and the mighty Leeds United next. From Anvil Lane to Ashburton Grove in 2 days, now that is extremes.