A day that was of interest today saw me returning to Enfield to attempt to watch a football match for the first time in nearly 24 years.
Back in the distant past, well actually Sunday 11th December 1988 I was living in East London only a couple f miles from where I live now. I received a phone call from a friend asking me if I fancied going to watch Enfield FC v Cardiff City in the FA Cup 2nd Round. Said friend was meeting another mutual friend and going with friends from Cardiff to the game. I made a decision to go to the game and met friends and some of the then Cardiff City Soul Crew at Paddington Station before we headed over to Enfield.
As befits football fans we had managed to get split up and only around 15 of us arrived at Enfield Town Railway Station to be met by at least 30 police officers – yes 2 officers per fan! Totally over the top policing. When I made a sarcastic remark about this I found myself being arrested – allegedly for threatening behaviour and taken to Enfield Police Station. Whilst in the van to the station, the police were trying to find my picture n the dossier they had of known Cardiff hooligans.Given I had never been to a Cardiff game before, this was a futile search. I don’t think I helped myself by offering to confess to any crime the officers wanted if they could find my photo in their dossier!
By the time I had been processed, locked in a cell whilst they verified my address and then charged me, the game was nearly over. I got down to the ground just as the full time whistle was blown, so never got in the ground. Hence today was my first time of actually seeing a game in Enfield.
A lot has happened in my life since that Sunday morning. A lot has happened at Enfield in footballing terms since then as well.
Firstly, when I went to court and learned the evidence against me, I was now apparently the leader of the Cardiff Soul Crew and was leading them on a rampage down the street when I was arrested. Sadly for PC Liar and his mate PC Couldn’t Lie Straight in Bed, one of the Cardiff lads had taken footage of the incident and when this was shown to the CPS, they rapidly dropped the charges before the officers could perjure themselves. For a start, the photos show I hadn’t got more than 5 yards from the station when arrested. Hardly leading a rampage down the street. Also the photos show mothers & young children walking through the group without a care in the world.
Can you believe it, police officers not telling the truth? I mean its unheard of isn’t it?
Anyway, lets talk about football in Enfield. Back in 1988 they were Enfield FC and played at Southbury Road, but in 1999 the club moved out of this venue and in 2001, the supporters trust voted to set up a breakaway club – Enfield Town FC. I’m not going to recite the history of the split as its set out here by Ian King on the excellent 200per Cent Website. It is well worth reading that article and the comments thereon.
The original Enfield FC went out of business in 1987, but the fans of that club decided to form a new club rather than merge with Enfield Town. Thus football loyalties in Enfield are split between Enfield Town FC in the Rymans’ Premier League Premier League (Step 3) and Enfield (1893) FC in the Essex Senior League (Step 5)
Today’s trip to Enfield Town’s game came about after reading about the game on The Cold End Blog. So after checking the game was still on, it was a short drive round the North Circular and the A10 to Enfield. The ground is signposted and is just off the A10. The ground is in an athletics Stadium. The Queen Elizabeth Stadium.My initial thoughts as I drove to the ground were that watching football in an athletics ground is not an enjoyable experience.
Arriving at the ground, the first thing to note was that there was lots of parking either at the stadium or across the lane in the car park for the rest of the sporting complex. The parking was also free, and at that price even I won’t complain too much.
I parked the car near the turnstiles and headed for the entrance.
The first thing you notice about the ground is the Cafe in the pavilion building. This houses the bar and gives a great view of the ground. Indeed some people never left the bar throughout the game.
Admission is £9 and this allows you into the ground and if you so choose the seats. Programmes are £2, but it is a quality product. The standard is every bit as good as some Football League clubs. The programme sellers inside the ground greet people coming in to the ground and instantly make you feel welcome.
My first view of the inside of the ground reminds me a little of Chelmsford City’s ground as they have raised seating on one side of the ground in the main stand. Seating at pitch level behind the running track on the other side and stands inside the running track behind each goal. This gives fans the chance to stand close to the pitch, unlike at Ilford who also host Waltham Forest.
Its clear to most football fans that an athletics stadium is not the ideal venue to watch football, but like at Chelmsford, Enfield Town have worked hard to make the ground as good as possible.
The covered stands immediately behind the goal are a good idea and allow the fans to create a bit of atmosphere during the game. Even the small number of Thurrock fans at the other end of the ground could make themselves heard.
An interesting idea for raising money was to have each seat in the far stand sponsored. I’ve not seen this before.
Talking of atmosphere, it was interesting to hear the tannoy announcer asking the crowd to greet the teams as they came out. There was no response at all, not even a polite round of applause. It seems most people were in the bar and not yet out at the pitch.
The teams lined up for the usual pre match handshakes etc. t was then I noticed that most of the crowd were wearing blue & white scarves, so it was fair to assume Enfield Town FC were playing in Blue & White. However, one team were in blue & white & the other was in white & blue. Hmmm……… who was who?– the programme did not list either teams colours, but from pictures in the programme of the last Enfield game I deduced that they were in the White Shirts with blue trim.
The pitch looked in excellent condition, and unlike many in the Northern League was flat. The football was of a decent standard, and a class above that seen at the 2 games I saw in the Rymans’ League Division 1 in October on Non League Day.
Thurrock took the lead, rather against the run of play much to the delight of the small band of travelling fans behind the goal.
The observant amongst you will note the “WE ARE THE FLEET” banner displayed by the fans of Thurrock. The reason for this is that Thurrock Football Club was founded in April 1985 but until the start of season 2003-04 had played under the name of Purfleet Football Club. Hence the nickname “FLEET”.
Enfield managed to get back on level terms before half time. The goal came from a header and can be seen in this burst of pictures
Apart from the 2 goals, there were remarkably few clear chances in the first half. This should not be taken to mean the game was boring. It was a very competitive game played by 2 sides who were committed to their cause.
Half time came and a welcome cup of tea from the food van. Two of the three members of staff serving their were friendly and efficient, the other had the unfortunate trait of seeming to bark at people when asking what they wanted from the van. It wasn’t done with malice, but the young lady seemed to forget she was providing services to paying customers rather.
The second half was more competitive than the first and the referee did well to keep a lid on the potential for trouble. There is little to say about the second half other than Enfield had the most of the game and were a little unlucky not to have won.
The Crowd at the game was 327, but the noise they made after coming out of the bar was impressive. It gave the impression of being more. I think that is down to the fact that most people were behind the goals together in the 2 covered stands rather than spread all along the pitch as at other games.
I was impressed with the Main Stand, the pavilion for the sports centre
Enfield Town have done well to counter some of the problems in playing football in an athletics ground. The club was the first fans owned club in professional English football. Supporters Direct, who have an advertising banner at the ground assisted the supporters when they set up the club in 2001. The club have advised other sets of fans to set up their own supporters owned clubs since then.
What else is there to say about today’s game/ trip? Well, it seems that Enfield is on the flight path for I presume Heathrow airport as there seemed to be lots of planes flying over head
The sunset behind the mains and was also quite impressive, as actually was the setting of the ground itself
One unusual thing about the ground was that there are 2 sets of floodlights. The football pitch floodlights are situated in each corner of the ground, but outside the running track there are another series of floodlights. These are used to light up the running track for athletics events.
I’ve not seen a ground with 2 separate sets of floodlights before, but then again,I don’t get out much.
I managed to end my trip to Enfield Town by getting back to the car in time for the Sports Report jingle on Radio 5 Live. You know its a good Saturday when you get to hear that jingle, although today it was tinged with sadness. This was because Stuart Hall and his off the wall match reports were missing following his arrest this week.
The game at Enfield has gone some way to restoring my faith in non league football in the South East below the Conference level. Watching Waltham Forest last season and Aveley and Romford this season had me thinking there was no atmosphere at non league games here, a lack of spectators and a poor quality of football compared to the Northern League. It seems that in terms of Crowd size and level of football, the Northern League (Step 5) is similar to the Rymans’ League Premier Division (Step 3) which is kind of ironic as the two league were always regarded as being of a similar standard before the Pyramid was formed.