Insulting our intelligence

English football supporters are famously anarcho-communist.

And where would we be without progressive terrace manifestos?

It’s all about the politics, see. The Observer told you that weeks ago.

And that’s why you have to applaud the Southwark Lib Dems, for latching onto the Hamlet’s popularity, and trying to commandeer some of the club’s appeal for their own political purposes. It’s what any proper Hamlet fan would do.

Alright, retracting the claws, there is some merit to what Ben Maitland and the Liberal Democrats in the local area are saying. It would be churlish to dismiss their arguments blithely. Anybody arguing against property developers building expensive luxury flats, and building on green space, is worth listening to.

The Lib Dem’s website has this to say, beneath this in no way opportunistic snap of Ben and Simon Hughes, watching Dulwich:


Local Liberal Democrats are proud to support Dulwich Hamlet, and will fight alongside fans and residents to ensure that Dulwich Hamlet has a ground and facilities that guarantees its future and reflects the club’s ambitions, growing fan base and importance to the local community.

In the rest of the article it is obvious that their primary concern is campaigning to prevent Green Dale being built on. That in itself will be lauded as a worthy campaign by many (presumably the Lib Dems believe so, at least), and the party should be honest about its genuine concerns, rather than indulging in transparent bandwagoning.

Anyway, back to the above quote. What is meant by “Local Liberal Democrats are proud to support Dulwich Hamlet”? What precisely does that support consist of, I wonder, beyond turning up for a photo opportunity at a well publicised game, where a large crowd was likely?

It would be interesting to know how regularly Ben attends games. If he does often show up to support the club, that’s great. I hope he does, because all this talk about supporting the club and fighting on behalf of the fan base appears disingenuous otherwise.

Moving on, the quote says the Lib Dems want to ensure that Dulwich has a ground that “guarantees its future and reflects the club’s ambitions”. There is no clarification on why they feel the current Champion Hill facilities are best suited to protecting the future of the club, and accommodating its ambitions of growth.

Is this because the Lib Dems haven’t actually given that much thought to whether the current ground really is the best thing for the club?

The article goes on to state that the planned new stadium “risks attendances plummeting” because it “lacks the appropriate access and sufficient space for fans”.

When you have a moment, take a look at Champion Hill on Google Maps. Turn the aerial view on. Have a look at the old sports surface that takes up a section of Green Dale already, and sits directly behind the current stadium. That’s where the new ground would be.

On what planet is it sensible to claim that the “access” to the area directly next to the current pitch will be so poor, that attendances will plummet?

As for not having sufficient space, will the fans of the club not be able to console themselves, by enjoying the fact that they nevertheless have more space than they used to, since the capacity will be larger than at the present ground?

Crowds are increasing, but I don’t think a 30,00 seater is required.

In any case, it would be interesting to hear the Lib Dems explain how the current stadium offers sufficient space, while the proposed larger capacity ground would not.

As we all know, football fans are not the real target, here.

Out of 1000 Hamlet fans, how many live in south Camberwell? The answer is, well who cares what the answer is. The Lib Dems think campaigning for “green space,” no matter how disingenuously, will appeal to a far greater number of people living in the local area.

I wouldn’t mind if they’d drop the pretense about being the real supporters of the club, fighting for its future. It wouldn’t take a campaign planning expert to realise that the actual real supporters of the club would find that insulting.

But then, as I said, I think we are rather inconsequential. Saturday’s game provided a good opportunity for a photo to stick on promotional material, talking about how the Lib Dems really care about local institutions like football clubs while, oh yeah, campaigning against a loss of Green Space™ while they’re at it.

Dulwich 2 – 1 Staines

It was an interesting game last night, as the Dulwich team contained a few youngsters I’d not seen much, or any, of previously.

Oshane Brown, Jordan Brown, Saido Khan, Diallang Jaiyesimi, and Jamie Mascoll were all brought into the first XI alongside more established players.

Of those, I knew I’d seen Mascoll make a couple of late sub appearances, and Diallang Jaiyesimi started the game against Thamesmead Town, back in August. Oshane Brown hadn’t played any minutes until last night. I’m not sure whether Saido Khan had played at all, before last night’s game. Jordan Brown started against VCD at the weekend, although I’d not seen him play before then.

It was great to see Josh Fernandes starting the game also. He continued to impress.

Staines apparently played a youthful team as well. The quality of the game wasn’t impaired by alterations to either team; it was an enjoyable match played out in front of a crowd of 224.

Watching the first half, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Staines would catch us on the break with what might prove to be the crucial goal. It was competitive, characterised by some promising build up play from the Hamlet, and quick, incisive forays into the final third by Staines.

They had players with some pace behind them, who knew how to turn their man. The wet conditions played a part in that regard, and there were a couple of occasions where we let them snip through our midfield too easily. Danny Waldren saw a notable example, where the oily surface underfoot contributed to his letting a Staines man waltz past him to put pressure on the defence.

On that note, however, it’s only fair to say Waldren had a good game last night. He put some quality tackles in, and looked like a captain. There have been some questions over him thus far, but not so last night, in my opinion. Once or twice, watching him defend doggedly reminded me of watching Michael Dawson. He has a similar heart.

Staines’ goal in the 22nd minute happened in slow motion. You could see it all unraveling, seconds before it actually did. A searching pass found the Staines number 9, Prince M’bengui, and he took the ball past Matt Drage before, as memory serves, poking it towards goal as he began to fall to the ground. Oshane Brown should have done better, the ball rolling teasingly past him like a one night stand who laughs as she leaves your flat in the morning, nicking your last bagel on her way out, depriving you of any breakfast.

Sitting in the Tommy Jover, avoiding the drizzle, we were well placed to observe the exploits of Khan and Jaiyesimi on the right wing. They were a lively pair who looked promising. It looked like they could produce a bit of magic, and we were 1-0 down. So I went off to the gents, and Dulwich duly responded, Jaiyesimi finding Mascoll with a neat pass, who then carved his way through the Staines defence and produced a fine goal. Or so I heard, as I settled back into my seat.

I thought we were by far the better team in the second half. Not to subtract too heavily from Staines’ efforts, as I thought they were a decent team, but our play seemed to go up a notch after the interval.

Josh Fernandes stood out for me again, with his composed ball handling and tricky little turns. I shouldn’t get carried away with the comparisons to ex-Spurs players but dammit, he’s clearly the second coming of Luka Modric.

Matt Drage continued demonstrating his attacking instincts, even back playing centre half, alongside Mitchell Nelson. At one point he made a run all the way through midfield and only desisted when he was cruelly robbed by a Staines defender.

Ash Carew and Callum Willock came on later in the half, replacing Khan and Erskine. Among the several youthful imps on the pitch, they looked like giants. We were chasing the winner we deserved, hoping to avoid penalties, which would have happened immediately in the event of a draw at 90 minutes.

The introduction of Carew and Willock proved vital, as with stoppage time running out, Willock received the ball in front of goal and was brought crashing to earth by a Staines defender. The ref pointed to the spot, and up stepped Carew.

“To the left, to the right”, came the chants from behind Harry Churchill (or something like that anyway), and sure enough, he launched himself to the right as Carew coolly slotted the ball past him in the other direction.

Dulwich 5 – 2 VCD Athletic

1,961 people were in attendance today, to see almost as many goals scored, in our ‘pay what you want’ game vs VCD Athletic.

The ground feels a bit cramped with that many people, and getting a decent view of the pitch can be difficult. There’s also an inverse correlation between crowd size and atmosphere, when the vocal supporters can’t all group together.

Oh yeah, and the gold laces on my diamond shoes are too tight. Despite these moans, it was great seeing so many there supporting the club.

Such vast legions may have unsettled our guests from the outback (or “the green team,” as someone near me kept calling them). They must have felt like Judean Christians, brought to the Colosseum for sacrifice. Vickers played like a team of vicars, and the Hamlet were in no mood for namby-pamby notions of mercy and goodwill.

No team can expect to walk into the National League, and we’ve had some difficulties in recent weeks, losing at Burgess Hill, and twice scraping our way back to earn that strange 3-3 draw against Hampton & Richmond. The game at Whitehawk also demonstrated what lies in wait for promoted clubs. Even our win at Met Police was seen as more reflective of the home side’s turgidity, than our own efforts.

But today was a day to cast off any doubts, and bask in the glory of a good old transpontine bear baiting.

Jacob Erskine’s 3rd minute goal set the tone, and after that, we were quite simply mauling VCD at times. Erskine’s second, and Mitchell Nelson’s goal were just rewards for the convincing domination of the first half, which was nevertheless perhaps best encapsulated by Jordan Hibbert’s impromptu keepy-uppy practice on the right wing.

Getting some beers from the bar at half time was an arduous task. My wife handled it with aplomb, while I relaxed outside, reading the programme.

My official job was to find us a spot with a good view of proceedings for the second half. It has to be said, there were a few people who seemed uninterested in the game itself. I’ve no problem with them being there personally, but just wish they’d move away from the railings, so others could see the match more clearly.

We continued to dominate in the second half, and one player who embodied that was Rhys Murrell-Williamson. He tore into VCD’s defence repeatedly. It’s great watching his tenacious but silky football. Sure enough, in the 74th minute, he found a sweet spot in front of goal, and teed up an absolute piledriver. Callum Thomas, if he’d had time to register what was coming, would have thought “No, ta,” and fled the ball’s flight path without apology.

Josh Fernandes has looked a good player each time I’ve seen him. He replaced Danny Waldren, and his neat ball control certainly added to our attacking play. Watching him is a bit like watching Land of the Giants, too. Added value. It will be a shame when we lose him later in the season, while he takes time out to study for his Eleven Plus.

Damian Scannell did well to set up the fifth goal, and it was nice to see Josh get his first for the club.

It capped an imperious display, one that was then unceremoniously blemished by VCD upstart, Aaron Wickham, forgetting his place, and scoring at the other end. It was a goal of mighty implications, which shook Champion Hill, although to be honest, we didn’t realise it had gone in. We thought Nathan Koranteng’s 90th minute goal was VCD’s only consolation, until the final score was announced.

It mattered not, as we’d smashed ’em, as they say.

Dulwich 3 – 3 Hampton & Richmond

Yesterday morning, on the way to work, I got caught in a torrential downpour. You know when you’re wearing drenched jeans and your feet are swimming in your socks, with a long day ahead, it’s one of those moments when all you can do is think, Bollocks, and wish you could go back to bed. A bad start to the day.
Later on, we made our way to the game via Denmark Hill. Having never enjoyed the delights of The Phoenix before, an immediate pint after exiting the station sounded like a good idea. If we’d known what a charmless bastion of ponce the place is, a quick snifter of Pritt Stick would have seemed preferable.
If you licked the barmaid, your tongue would have stuck to her.
My bank manager called me up after I bought two pints.
And various other failed witticisms.
Anyway, the theme of disappointment had been cast from the start, and the Hamlet didn’t disappoint by failing to disappoint.
See, I’m just trying to confuse you now, to give you a sense of how I felt, a few minutes before the final whistle – when I realised we weren’t winning 3-2.
We’d missed the start of the second half, and Hampton’s third goal.
I didn’t hear any mention of us being behind again, and thought Callum Willock’s goal was the winner. The realisation we were losing 3-3 dawned on me like Piers Morgan must have dawned on his parents, when he learned to speak.
For much of the first half, Hampton were the better side. They were breezing through our midfield at times, which isn’t the first time a team has enjoyed that liberty this season. They seemed to put some quality passes through for the forwards, and it was obvious they’d test Phil Wilson.
Before long they were ahead, and while we huffed and puffed, we didn’t ever get in our stride. It was like watching Frank Bruno trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
I kept looking out for Rhys Murrell-Williamson, thinking he might produce some magic. I had to squint though because he was over on the left wing, and we were standing near the managers’ dugouts. As a weird, flashing drone hovered eerily over the pitch, I watched the Hayes man wander the barren plains of the left wing, forlorn.
“He should be on the right wing,” I moaned, sagely. When he started playing on the right, however, he still looked frustrated, searching for opportunities. Was it him that put in the cross for Damian Scannell’s goal? Possibly. Whoever it was, the goal was unexpected to say the least.
A sudden injection of vigour saw us pouring forward, and Scannell was instrumental again, passing to Kevin James who made it 2-1. Excitement grew as it seemed we were about to release the swagger.
Shortly before half time, Hampton put a stop to all that, when they forced a save, and ended up winning a penalty. For handball, I believe.
Their man slotted it home and the teams went in level at 2-2. A disappointing end to the half, which had nevertheless provided plenty of action, and left me musing on Callum Willock’s ability to win every header going in a five mile radius, and Osei Sankofa’s captain-like qualities, as he never stops shouting instructions, telling players to regain focus instead of moaning at the ref, etc.
Hey, we were pony for most of the half – I had to take some positives.
As I said, we missed the early stages of the second half, and Hampton’s goal. So we were feeling cheerier than others might have been, watching the rest of the match. The game continued to be difficult although we were a better match for Hampton in the second period. They did have a goal ruled out, mind, so we were riding our luck given the real score.
Ashley Carew provided for Willock’s equaliser and I was pleased for the number 9, as I’d been impressed with him throughout much of the game. And there weren’t many other players I could have said that for.
Conceding three goals in each of the last two games is harsh. Wilson has looked a quality stopper most times I’ve seen him play, and the Drage/Pinnock partnership has been impressive also.
When it rains, it pours, I guess.

Hardcore Ultras

I’ve missed the last two games, the last ditch win at Hampton & Richmond, and Saturday’s defeat at Burgess Hill. The win over Leatherhead feels like ages ago, and I’ve been eagerly looking forward to attending a Hamlet match. It’s funny how quickly you can get into following a club.

I’ve tried to arouse interest in a couple of friends, people who like going to football matches, but the response has mainly been that they think the standard will be too low. People imagine it will be like watching some pub blokes have a kickabout on Clapham Common.

It’s a misconception I’ve tried to debunk (with very limited success), because I myself was pleasantly surprised by what I found at this level.

Far from cloggers hoofing aimlessly, Gavin Rose’s men play an attractive style, combining some decent distribution, ambitious forward runs, and occasionally some incisive passing in attacking midfield.

There are still one or two people I might convince, and fortunately I’ve had company for the games I’ve attended thus far. I can attest to their having enjoyed the experience more than they expected.

I wonder what the consensus among the more established Dulwich fanbase is, regarding new supporters. After the Leatherhead game, several commented on the much improved atmosphere, compared to that produced by the bumper 1500+ crowd at the Billericay game three days prior.

I suppose the majority will sit somewhere between wanting to retain a concentrated bloc of vocal fans, and wanting more fans putting money into the club. I expect there is room to cater for both concerns, as long as the more vocal supporters get to stand together and, hopefully, attract new like-minded fans also.

I didn’t arrive at Dulwich for the atmosphere or the politics, personally. It was mainly about enjoying football without all of the commercialism and hyperbole.

Still, the nature of the fanbase is a big bonus factor for me. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting into non-league football is the self-awareness and grounded sensibility at the heart of the fan culture.

Unlike what can often be found in the higher echelons of football fandom, and contrary to the militantly politicised image that journalists want to portray of Hamlet fans, you always understand that people are having a laugh with it.

Hamlet fans are passionate alright, in supporting the team and, as we’ve seen recently, in promoting progressive attitudes and pitching in to help those in need.

But while they tell you of the inevitability of luxury automated communism, they’ll be dancing around having a party, half taking the piss out of themselves. Not wearing black hooded jackets and making throat slitting gestures.

Unless we’re playing Tooting and Mitcham, obviously.

Dulwich 1 – 0 Leatherhead

I love a midweek game, under the lights.

Which is handy, since they’re the only games I can make at the moment.

Ah, Leatherhead! How long we’ve waited to exact our revenge, for that ignominious defeat you tricked us into, two weeks ago at Fetcham Grove.

Our mercurial brilliance was blunted that night by your secret weapon: the town of Leatherhead itself, which bores teams into submission. But last night, on the hallowed Champion Hill turf, and in the eyes of the transpontine republic, dandies swaggered, wingers ran rampant, Ronnie O’Sullivan slayed Stephen O’Hendry.

The universe demanded that balance be restored, and the Hamlet answered its call.

Well, alright, we won 1-0.

But it should have been more. The match took a little bit of warming up, with both teams struggling to carve out any clear-cut chances. I thought we were putting more pressure on them overall, but a number of times we needed someone to take command in the attacking midfield area, so that our wingers’ efforts wouldn’t come to nought. It was width, however, that was to prove crucial in changing the nature of the game.

The right wing in particular was soon to open up. Matty D. Rage kept bombing up there, and gave us a lot of drive down that side. Being a newb, I’d only really taken note of Drage’s defensive game so far, and I was quite impressed by his willingness to keep running deep into the attacking half with the ball at his feet.

Drage’s efforts were matched by another player, whose sheer brilliance was about to be revealed.

Rhys Murrell-Williamson is a Hayes and Yeading United player. Without knowing the circumstances under which he was allowed by that club to go out on loan, I’ll assume they are either mad, or they have just signed Gareth Bale.

RMW was a joy to watch, constantly running at the opposition, putting in crosses that deserved to be converted into goals, and, most significantly of all, dancing through defenders with ease and scoring his second goal in his second game. He was a constant threat, and Leatherhead’s manager, Richard Brady, made changes at half time to nullify his pace. There didn’t seem to be much difference to his game in the second half, though. If anything, things got worse for Leatherhead, as Nyren Clunis grew into the game and made more of an impact after the interval.

Clunis has been my favourite player so far watching Dulwich, burning down the wing and putting crosses in for fun. Last night, in the first half, he seemed to spend more time running ahead of the game, anticipating the pass, rather than pulling the game forward with the ball at his feet. A couple of times it nearly came off, although he perhaps needs to watch his positioning a bit more, when looking to receive the ball, and make sure he doesn’t get caught offside. You can’t have too much of a moan about that, as it’s often the hallmark of a player with the hunger that bags goals. He’s obviously a different kind of player entirely, but watching him last night reminded me a bit of Jermaine Defoe. Well, not quite. Defoe gets tent pegs and a cold can of baked beans out whenever he’s offside.

In the second half Clunis was all over them, and he was really unlucky to hit the crossbar. He’s been the creative force behind a number of Hamlet goals already this season, and he’s clearly eager to start getting his own name on the scoresheet. He deserved that one to go in last night. We seemed to be edging closer and closer in the second half to another goal, but it never came.

Leatherhead were awful. I mean, truly shit.

Nah, not really, they were alright. They’ve looked a utilitarian side both times I’ve watched them play, and last night they didn’t force enough out of Phil Wilson. They were a tough team to play still, and I’d expect them to come out of the little rut they’re in soon and start picking up results. They were quite good at obstinately ploughing their way through our midfield at times, which arguably could be read as “our midfield was pushed around a bit too easily”, I’m not sure. But once they’d got to that point, they didn’t do enough to deserve a point from the game.

In my burgeoning familiarity with the Hamlet team, I thought Charlie Penny again really put himself about a lot. He’s a lively player who seems to leap his own body height for the ball, and run with boundless energy. He’s obviously at a disadvantage in aerial duels though, and he couldn’t get on the end of any crosses to ping it into the net. It looked to my layman’s eye like he was sufficiently irritating for Leatherhead’s defence, without ever really making the kind of impact he’d be looking for.

There were other half-baked observations, forming in my Dissident-soaked brain, but who knows whether they were legitimate conclusions? Probably not.

Probably none of the above was, either. I do know that it was handy having the Cherry Tree open again, for a quick pint after getting the train down from London Bridge, and that the bloke who recently renamed his chippie “Dulwich Hamlet Fish Bar” is a bit of a laugh. Also, when the Rabble sang “We hate Tooting and Mitcham, we hate Leatherhead too. LEICESTER!” a bunch of chaps were quite confused, thinking that Hamlet fans consider Leicester a hated rival.

Well, I do. Walkers crisp knobs.

Dulwich 1 – 0 Billericay Town

I once met a group of rappers from Billericay. They lovingly referred to the place as “da Billtown”, exhibiting a regional pride you might not expect from the average Billericite. I’m sure they wisely chose to take the mugshots for their album sleeve in front of a Basildon tower block instead of a Billtown bungalow, though.

There’s a video on Youtube of Hamlet fans away at the Blues, singing Gavin Rose’s Pink and Blue Army for 720 minutes non-stop, staging a post-match pitch invasion, and having a right tear up with the stewards.

What else about Billericay?
Oh yeah, it’s where Gavin and Stacey live as well.
So there we have it, Billericay: a name synonymous with hip-hop culture, nawty antics, and Matthew Horne looking despondently resigned while James Corden squeels PAMLAA incessantly in the background.
Billericay resident, looking forward to the game earlier
Anyway, before this game, Billericay had lost three, drawn three, and won one. That kind of scintillating form had seen them climb to eighteenth in the league table. They’d conceded six goals in their previous two matches.
So you knew we’d struggle to score against them.
Many people watching the game felt we were dominant throughout much of the 90 minutes, but we perhaps rode our luck towards the end of the match, with Phil Wilson showing his class yet again. In truth you’d have expected Billericay to have had a better start to the season than they have, and it was always likely to be a hard-fought game.
Now, the 12th Man scheme is downright amazing, and one of the many examples of why supporting Hamlet is the most sensible thing you can do on a Saturday afternoon.
Having funded Rhys Murrell-Williamson’s arrival at the club, he only went and put the ball in the net, on his debut, in the 90th minute!
The Billericay fans were shocked
Cor Blimey!

The 12th Man blog states that fans who contribute to the scheme “see the very real difference their contributions [are] making.” Well that was certainly true today.

Sadly, diminutive Dean Lodge has left the club due to work commitments, and through 12th Man funds, Murrell-Williamson was brought in on loan from Hayes and Yeading United. I saw their fans talking about how good he is on Twitter earlier today, and then he made a dream start. Hopefully I’ll get to see him in action on Tuesday night against Leatherhead.

The crowd was a very healthy 1547 today, and you have to wonder whether the recent article in the Observer had an impact. They say no publicity is bad publicity, after all. It would have been a great day for anyone visiting Champion Hill for the first time, seeing a win in front of a large crowd, and with the excellent Calais collection, organised by fans of the club, producing a huge number of donations at the turnstile.

It’s so refreshing to see such positivity from football crowds. It looks like absolutely loads of donations were made today, and Hamlet fans also displayed a large “Refugees Welcome” banner.

A moral victory, indeed.