Saturday, 28 July 2007

What a wonderful tour: JK Jalgpallihaigla 10 Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' 6!

Despite the scoreline it was yet another successful tour for ‘The Rabblers’, enjoyed immensely by all who took part. Our Estonian friends were even better hosts than we imagined, and Tallinn itself was an even more beautiful city than we’d been led to believe. The only ‘downer’ was that we didn’t all have enough time there!
The majority of the fifteen strong tour party arrived by Thursday, with the rearguard getting to the hotel on Friday. The early bunch were lucky enough to catch a UEFA Cup match, at the national A Le Coq Arena, on the Thursday evening. Local side FC Flora going down to visiting Norwegians Valerenga IF by the only goal of the game. Our match, at 1 o’clock on Saturday, was somewhat more high scoring! We eventually lost by the amazing scoreline of 10-6, but in truth the four goal margin flattered the hosts somewhat, though it was such dun we weren’t complaining too much. But even before a ball was kicked in anger there was real drama in the Dulwich Hamlet camp as a flurry of phone calls between a stranded Lucas Green & a despairing Andy Tucker made the possibility of one of our touring lynchpins not being with us. Unbeknown to us soaking up the rays in the sunny Baltics, there were near monsoons all over England, & Lucas had his train severely delayed by a landslide on the line as he tried to make his flight at Gatwick. Attempts to namedrop “Don’t you know who my brother is…” were doomed to failure & the plane was airborne without him. A major disaster was looming, but Lucas would not be beaten. All remaining flights to Tallinn were full, and he searched for all possibilities. Going via Helsinki, then boat. Prague. Berlin…train onwards. You name it, he tried it. But then, after more badgering, a seat became available on the morning flight! And with an hour to spare Lucas was on the touchline! A true “Rabblers” hero, who deserves to go down in folklore for his efforts. And although we did not win the game, he put in a sterling performance that, on any other day, would have won him our player of the match award. But not today. As true Hamlet history was made. The all-time known Dulwich Hamlet First Team club record of goals scored in a match by a single player is six, the only one post-War was Matt Fowler in a London Senior Cup tie at Bromley in the late nineties. Prior to that you have to delve all the way into the dim & distant past of the nineteen twenties when both Sid Nichol & the legendary Edgar Kail hit a double hat-trick each in the same match no less! Now the name LAWRENCE MARSH can be added to that list as he scored all six for “The Rabblers” on this tour against JK Jalgpallihaigla! Who would have ever thought it eh? Lawrence Marsh mentioned alongside the great Edgar Kail? How fitting that he achieved this wearing our new “Rabblers” kit of thin Pink & Blue stripes, modelled on the 1919/20 FA Amateur Cup & Isthmian League championship winning double side, that Edgar was part of.
Of the match itself…well we were always the underdogs, & our main hope was to stifle them a little, not let them play & keep in the game for as long as possible. Which was not going to be easy. The temperature was in the mid seventies at least, and we only had two substitutes. A large part of our party were the wrong side of thirty, and two were well into their fifties! But Jalgpallihaigla had wave after wave of youthful substitutes with which to ring in the changes. Their oldest player, & he was their eldest by far, was a ‘young pup’ of 42. We went a goal behind after eleven minutes, but only five minutes later Larry Marsh had evened things up. But any hopes of a lift from this, that ‘we can do this’ self belief factor, was smashed less than sixty seconds later when Paul Griffin put the ball through his own net, under no pressure from the opposition, when all he had to do was knock the ball into touch, either for a corner or a throw. But no, he hit it with hard precision into the bottom corner of the net, leaving a bemused Matt Hammond in goal with no chance. A crestfallen Griff collapsed to the ground, and held his head in his hands. And so he should. This moment was a far cry from his moment of glory when he scored against the Swiss in Prague back in 2003. After the final whistle Griff tried to tell us that he was ‘aiming for the corner flag.!’ Not long after Matt conceded, what he will admit was a ‘soft goal’. But not entirely his fault. Firstly, he was suffering from an attack of ‘Severe Post Traumatic Stress’ as a result of that own goal; & secondly, he was playing the game with a finger strapped up, which he’d injured playing in the Sevens a few days before. Unbeknown to him he had actually broken his finger & was playing through the pain barrier to take part in this tour. But going two goals behind was going to stop our man making history, and by the half hour mark it was even stevens once more, before the Estonians edged in front again. But minutes before the half time whistle Larry had again put the ball in the back of the net to make it four all at the turnaround.
After the break the heat, and advancing years, made it a wearisome task for “The Rabblers”, but despite starting to wilt not one player gave up & battled gamely on, even when the Estonians pulled away with a two goal lead. Larry pulled one back in the 63rd minute, & held on for another seven minutes before Jalgpallihaigla hit two more in a five minute spell, which would have finished off lesser sides. With two minutes to go they hit another, before Larry gleefully scored his record breaking sixth goal of the game, their tenth in the very last minute moments later, almost seeming like a ‘consolation’ as all of us enjoyed a breather as the desperately awaited final whistle blew not long after.
I could go through the whole team and mention them all one by one. But there is no need. I have been watching, and involved in, the Supporters’ Team since it was formed back in May 1989. This was-despite the scoreline-one of our finest moments. Wilting in the heat everyone gave their all & never stopped working. Each and every player who pulled on a Pink ‘n’ Blue shirt last Saturday can be proud of themselves, for if heads had dropped then the scoreline would have been much higher. Never have I got so much ‘pleasure’ from a defeat.
The parting continued all night. We knocked back the beers they had provided on the touchline, then dashed back to our hotel to dump our gear. Some returned to the pitch next to where we had done battle to watch a top flight Estonian League match between JK Tallinna Kalev & Parnu Vaprus, before popping into a local bar. We then saw an international match at the same place between Estonia Under 18’s & Belarus. After the final whistle we headed to a local pool bar that our Estonian friends knew well. We left there just before midnight & headed into the Old Town, one of their number stripping naked and jumping into a fountain for fun! Yes…they really were that crazy! We settled into one of the main tourist pubs, and at about two in the morning we split into two groups, some heading back to the hotel, others going onto a local punky-type nightclub in a shopping centre!
Sunday was spent relaxing, sightseeing, or even watching more football as a few caught a local second division match. In the evening we all had a ‘team meal’ in a medieval style restaurant in town, some of things being sampled were wild boar, rabbit, bear, salmon & plenty more I can’t recall as I type, washed down with lots of wine & jugs of honey beer. A splendid end to a marvellous weekend.
Once again, a BIG THANK YOU to Lawrence Marsh & Andy Tucker for organising & everything, & liasing with Madis & company from Jalgpallihaigla.
The sadness at leaving Tallinn was tempered by the fact there is no doubt we will return to play the boys from Jalgpallihaigla again in the not too distant future. The beauty of travelling to unchartered places with ‘The Rabblers’ is that another small part of Europe becomes embedded in our English hearts. A little part of Tallinn will forever be Pink and Blue.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The invasion has begun!

As a crisis mounts in Whitehall between the James Bond wannabees of the United Kingdom and Russia with mandarins set to be expelled left right and centre, 'The Rabblers' set out on their latest attempt at footballing glasnost with a ground-breaking trip into former Soviet Union territory as we travel to, now independent, Estonia to take on our friends from JK Jalgpallihaigla, in Tallinn.
As is befitting an outfit such as ours we are going over there in dribs and drabs. Advance parties include Mark Hutton & Phil Baker who are in Warsaw, Poland as I type, before making their way down to the Baltic state of Estonia. Paul Griffin arrived in Tallinn this morning, with most of the rest leaving Stansted tomorrow morning. I will be with the rearguard on the Friday morning flight. Though we are all based in the same hotel!
The match itself is at 1 o'clock Saturday afternoon their time. I don't think we are expecting to get any sort of result over there, apart from keeping the score 'respectable', but there's no harm in dreaming....
The important thing is that we enjoy ourselves, make friendships stronger & do Dulwich Hamlet proud!
Estonia is added to our growing list of tours, our first of which was six years ago! Time really does fly.
The full list being:
2002: Amsterdam, Netherlands.
2003: Prague, Czech Republic.
2004: Rimini, Italy.
2005: Paris, France
2005: Liege, Belgium.
2006: Namur, Belgium.
2007: Paris, France.
& now Tallinn, Estonia.

I wonder if there is any supporters' team in the country who can boast a better European touring record than us?

Apparently Tallin is a city full of internet connections, so hopefully I will post a brief score of the match on here Saturday evening, or Sunday morning. If not, then when I am back in London on Monday afternoon.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Girls against boys

The record books will show that on Sunday 7th July Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' Football Team overcame their female counterparts by EIGHT goals to nil, on the all weather pitch at Dulwich College. Emphatic it was, but not quite as easy a rout as the scoreline suggested, in this truncated game of only half an hour each way, at the girls insistence. Which is a bit strange, seeing as they billed this game: 'HISTORY IN THE MAKING' & claimed that WE were more like 'ramblers', rather than 'The Rabblers', given our pace! I think the scoreline tells you how seriously we can take their pre-match hype! ;-)
Despite never looking like losing, as would be expected, due to the natural physical strength of theboys, the Village had a few chances to score, and Matt Hammond had to earn his post match BBQ burgers to keep a clean sheet. It was good to see a number of non-regular "Rabblers" making a re-appearance in the Pink 'n' Blue, namely Tony Mullins, Roger Deason, Paul Griffin & Mishi Morath. Though Danny King has become a bit of an irregular player himself, and could almost be included in that list. Star of the show was Larry Marsh, who hit half of the 'Rabblers' goals, one in particular being a 'blaster' right at the keepr from yards out! The other goals came from Andy Murphy, who in my book was our man of the match, Chris Garrett, Chris Wheeler & Steve Rickerby, who sublime chip from the touchline at least thirty yards out, has been compared to that famous Nayim lob against Arsenal in that European final..or, alternatively, a cross gone wrong!
Peckham Village, I think it would be fair to say, are a development team. They finished last in their third division in the Greater London Womens' League last season. And despite some who thought this may have a been a silly mismatch beforehand, it became a decent game, with some of the skill on dplay and the 'never say die' spirit from the girls earning the full respect of the boys by the time the final whistle was blown. I don't think there is anyone who took part against them who would say they will be rock bottom come May 2008. On this showing they should be comfortably mid table at least. They are a team who the majority had not played any football at all before froming Peckham Village FC. So credit to them all.
If you've nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon next season you could do a lot worse than checking out their site & popping down to the Griffin sportsground in Dulwich Village to cheer them on. Provided it doesn't clash with Dulwich Hamlet Youth Team games of course! ;-)
The new kit, based on the great Dulwich Hamlet 1919/20 Amateur Cup & Isthmian League double winning side, looks splendid. Big thanks to Larry Marsh & Andy Tucker for arranging it.

After the final whistle we had a fun penalty shoot out, I can't remember the exact score, but they won in sudden death. Phil 'Big Nose' Baker contrived to miss his, so we could get onto the important matters in hand, namely the post match BBQ at Dawn Taylors place in East Dulwich. Those of us who went enjoyed immensely, some more than others eh Big Nose, and we let the girls come out tops at the cooking as well, thanks for slaving over the barbie Dawn, and also the silly 'pick up the box' game in the garden after dark! Not half as sordid as it sounds!

Hopefully this match will become an annual event.

Enjoy the photos below, kindly uploaded by Paul Griffin, albeit too big for the page, but if you click on each one you should be able to look at them.

You can also see the snaps Griff took of the match himself by clicking here.

Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' FC, Saturday 7th July 2007: Back row, left to right: Tony Mullins; Chris Wheeler; Mark Hutton; Steve Rickerby; Lawrence Marsh; Phil Baker. Front row, left to right: Chris Garrett; Danny King; Roger Deason; Matt Hammond; Andy Murphy; Phil Doyle; Mishi morath. (Not in photo: Paul Griffin ,arrived a liitle late)

Peckham Village FC: Saturday 7th July 2007, at Dulwich College all-weather pitch.

Boys and girls together!

Didn't want to leave anyone out on the sideline!

Just as well it's only hoops that make you fat! ;-)

Well I never said I was David Bailey! ;-) The ball must be nearby...

Totally out of character: on another planet perhaps? ;-)

That's Paul Griffin in action on the right, making up for missing the team photo!

Not fair! That was the 'infamous' blaster! ;-)

At last the final whistle!

But where's your Dulwich Hamlet tattoo?

I take back that earlier caption: it looks like he's from another planet! ;-)

Enjoying a last gasp cigarette before the pub ban kicks in!

So it's true you only have one eye...

Another half hour anyone? NO THANKS!

And so to the penalties...

And here's the real reason for playing them...

Tuck in chaps!

Oh no, is that a spot? ;-)

At least one of them knows how to smile...

Have you ever seen a more shady character than our Fidel...

So who's nicked the jam jar?

Is this what Cameron meant when he said 'hug a hoodie?'...

The girls gwt in party mood

As the boys drink on outside

Someone get some more beers from the kitchen sink...

The boys line up with our host Dawn

The George Galloway of Champion Hill

The Jonathan King of Champion Hill....

Getting a bitter drunker...

You had to pick up the box without your hands touching the ground. Each round the box got cut down shorter & shorter, until it was no higher off the floor than a box of cigarettes.

It got all too much for some. As 'Big Nose' Baker dozes off on the sofa I'll say good night to you too at the end of this post!