In the never ending debate of attendance v tv watching I would like to add my ha’porth by saying that, aged 66, I still enjoy the feeling of visiting new stadium. Alan Tanner and I intend to visit the Allianz Arena and Bernabeu next year. Yesterday I went to the other extreme of the polarity by going to watch Lewes FC of the Ryman League at their delightfully named Dripping Pan stadium. This was my first visit and I was the guest of manager Darren Freeman, who played in Micky Adams’s promotion sides of Fulham and Brighton, and scored the first goal of the twentieth century playing for The Seagulls.
Darren was managing Peacehaven when he moved to Lewes who sadly are at the bottom of the league. So far – and not for lack of effort – he has not turned things around. He has not had much luck: at Thurrock last week the ambulance was called thee times for his injured players. He has to manage on a weekly budget of 1% of Wayne Rooney’s earnings.
The Dripping Pan is just behind the Lewes station. There is one covered seated stand, behind one goal the clubhouse and bar and next to that a covered standing end with a curved roof that resembles a large bus shelter. The rest of the ground in grass banking. I took up a seat in the centre of the stand which may have been the directors area as 4 Leiston directors nearby were noisily supporting their team and soon the subject of banter from surrounding Lewes fans. Leiston took the lead when a cross eluded the Rooks (nickname for Lewes) defence and the Leiston forward placed the ball between Lewes keeper (Chris Winterton)’s legs. In the second half Lewes played with heart and were rewarded with an equaliser in injury time.
I declined a half time invitation to the porta-cabin in which is the director’s guest room as I wanted to explore. The was a bar in the club house which was cheery and full. Bar takings are integral to a club’s revenue stream.
I guess the crowd was 350. I wondered who preferred local league football when up the A27 10 miles away was Brighton. The answer might be you are a supporter, not a fan to be milked. Both teams tried to play football, keep the ball on the deck, were reasonably fit and the game was relatively clean but the technique in trapping was poor and passes were misdirected. Rooks’ winger Henry Muggeridge was good on the ball. I noticed the ref got dog’s abuse and again I wondered who would subject himself to this.
I wondered why the substitute boards were handwritten cards. The answer came from director Stuart Collins’ programme notes. They have been issued with electronic boards and will be fined for not using them but they all have foreign plugs. The system for checking a player’s eligibility is incomprehensible but you could forfeit 12 points for playing one. What do you expect of the Ryman League, whose secretary is called Kellie Discipline?