Manchopper in….Kingston-upon-Thames

Result: Kingstonian 0-3 Billericay Town (Isthmian League Premier Division)

Venue: Kingsmeadow (Saturday 18th March 2017, 3pm)

Att: 412

Another week, another threatened ground. Now when I say this, I am fully aware that Kingsmeadow will remain for a while as AFC Wimbledon’s home before Chelsea muscle their way in and take over with their youth and women’s set-up’s.

But for me, Kingsmeadow has, and always will be, the true home of one club and one club only. Through playing many management games whilst a kid, the name of Kingstonian was always there within the early draws of the FA Cup and, for some reason, I found myself with something of a soft spot for them since then. As I alluded to earlier, my own hopping rule means that, with the ‘K’s’ having been the original owner/custodian of the ground, it will always be theirs whilst they play there. As such, I needed to visit, and rather swiftly!

Anyway, I don’t want to get too political on here (not knowing the true ins and outs of the reasons behind them leaving and the sale of Kingsmeadow by Wimbledon to Chelsea), so onwards to the day! It began in normal fashion, though the cancellation of my planned train to Manchester put a small spanner in the works as it almost put paid to me being able to buy tickets up to Edinburgh to visit Tynecastle (though this has since been challenged by Edinburgh City’s Meadowbank, which is to close at the end of the season). However, I was soon through Manchester Piccadilly and on the Virgin service to Euston, arriving slightly early too. All going well so far!

Arriving in Kingston

King’s Tun ‘Spoons

After a short hop on the underground, I was soon en-route to Kingston via the South West Train service, around a 25 minute ride past the nearby, disappearing, Battersea Power Station. With extra time on my side, I decided to forego the closest station to the ground, Norbiton, and instead continue to Kingston itself. Once off, I reckoned it would be silly not to pay Kingston’s own Wetherspoon’s a visit, the King’s Tun being a fairly “run-of-the-mill” ‘Spoons, though it does have a dancefloor for the K’s fans to celebrate their wins on, I’d presume. Though, going by the programme’s themes, they will probably be hoping to end up dancing about relegation survival this year!

Following a swift Punk IPA in here, at the now extortionately priced £2.49 (back in my day it was only £2.09!), it was onwards up Old London Road and past its toppling phone-box structure, bypassing a rocker-looking pub by the name of the “Fighting Cock”, whilst heading for my planned stop, the Old Moot House. Which was shut. Ah…, but not to worry, a contingency plan was in place with me instead heading to the Bricklayer’s Arms, a old-style boozer a short walk from the ground.

A hit with the tourists, this!

Old London Road

Nice old church

After heading down “School Passage” and past an old, sad-looking ex-school building, I came upon the Bricklayer’s, where I interrupted the landlady’s ciggy break for a pint of Carlsberg. Watching the final throes of the West Brom-Arsenal game on TV were a couple of Gunners fans, one of whom began talking about the game to me and his hope that Arsène will soon be departing his club. His demeanour wasn’t helped by the defeat, nor the other fellow mocking the Arsenal with sporadic chants of “Yid Army!”, before being told off by the landlady!

Upon the end of the game, I found myself being bid goodbye by a couple of strangers I’d not even spoken to in here and I began to think to myself the Bricklayer’s may possibly be one of the more friendly pubs about. It’s all about giving these places a go, isn’t it? With the clock ticking over towards twenty-to-three, I decided it was about time to head for Kingsmeadow, thanking the landlady for the pint, before heading off down Kingston Lane.

A short time later I arrived at the Kingsmeadow gates which arch over Jack Goodchild Way, which serves as the entrance to the ground. After heading around the predominantly blue “Wimbledon End” as it appeared to be, I eventually found myself dodging an arriving birthday bash before finding the turnstile at the far side of the ground. £10 (plus £2 for the programme) later and I was into Kingsmeadow home, just about, still of Kingstonian FC.

The Bricklayer’s Arms

Arriving at Kingsmeadow

Today’s Game

Kingsmeadow is a smart ground, though was slightly litter-strewn today. The Main Stand run the length of the pitch and houses all the facilities, bar the toilets and food van, though these sit alongside it, sandwiching the turnstile. The Main Stand is all-seater and provides a decent raised view of the action from the rear of it. Opposite is a small strangely shaped covered terrace which straddles the majority of the far touch-line, flanked by small amounts of open terracing. The athletic stadium end plays host to a larger covered terrace, the front of which, interestingly, is well below pitch level. The opposite end houses the “Wimbledon End” all seater stand, though this was off-limits today. As for Kingstonian’s story…

History Lesson:

The current Kingstonian Football Club was formed in 1919, but can trace its roots back 1885 and the formation of the Kingston & Surbiton YMCA AFC. After a few friendlies, the club decided the game was too violent for the young Christian men representing the club and so changed their name to Saxons FC after just one year under their previous name. In 1890, the club’s name was again changed to further represent the town, with the adopted name being Kingston Wanderers FC.

The next big change came in 1893, with all Kingston clubs being amalgamated under one banner as “Kingston-upon-Thames AFC. 1896 saw the club join the Kingston and District League, which was won at the first attempt. 1898 saw the club move into their first enclosed ground at Dinton Road, which aligned with their move up into the East and West Surrey League.

1902 saw Kingston move to Lower Marsh Lane before a further switch to Richmond Road, which became a long-time player in the club’s history. 1903 saw the club compete in both the E&W Surrey League and London League, but this proved a poor decision and only lasted for a season. However, 1906 saw better fortunes with the club lifting the restructured West Surrey League, retaining it the following year. However, following a dispute over ground availability for 1908-’09, the club treasurer formed separate club Old Kingstonians FC who were to play on Norbiton Sports Ground, on the site of the current Kingsmeadow. However, most of the team remained with the original side and they continued to achieve pre-war success with the 1910 Surrey League being joined by two Surrey Senior Cups in 1910 and ’14.

Kingstonian FC

Following the end of hostilities, the two sides settled their differences and merged as Kingstonian FC, taking a place in the Athenian League. After having to apply for re-election to the league in 1922 after finishing bottom, the next period leading to WWII would signal a golden era for the club, winning two Athenian Leagues in 1924 & ’26, prior to a move into the Isthmian League before their crowning achievement was lifted in 1933 with the FA Amateur Cup, England international Frank Macey at the forefront of the success. Two Isthmian League titles were won in 1934 & ’37 before the outbreak of WWII again ended competitive football.

Finding themselves without the vast majority of their pre-war players, the K’s were relegated at the end of the first season post-war. During a period of limited success, the 1952 Surrey Senior Cup win was a major highlight, with the FA Amateur Cup largely providing lowlights – a record defeat (12-3) at home to Bishop Auckland being joined by a fighting loss in the 1960 final.

Despite numerous Surrey and London Senior Cup wins throughout the ’60’s, the ’70’s saw a period of decline and despite turning pro in 1975, were relegated to Division 1 of the Isthmian League in 1979. 1985 saw the K’s bounce back to the Premier Division in controversial circumstances, as Leatherhead were deducted points for an ineligible player after the end of the season, thus robbing them of promotion and instead Kingstonian were the benefactors. 1987 saw the club lift their first silverware for 20 years – the 1987 London Senior Cup – but there was little to shout about as the club moved out of their old Richmond Road ground to little on-field fanfare.

A window to the past!

Now at Kingsmeadow, 1992 saw the K’s reach the FA Cup 1st Round for the first time since 1933 and they went on to repeat the trick in four of the next six seasons and reach Round 2 in ’95, ’96 & ’99. 1997 saw the club lift their third Isthmian League title and their first County Cup in 31 years. Now a Conference club, 1998 saw the FA Trophy arrive at the club after a triumph over Forest Green Rovers at Wembley, retaining their Trophy crown the following year alongside the Conference Charity Shield. Further cup runs followed with 2000 seeing another First Round appearance before 2001 saw the club reach the Fourth Round of the Cup, bowing out to Bristol City after a replay after conceding with the last kick of the game in the original tie, but also saw the K’s relegated back to the Isthmian League Premier.

After financial issues affected the club off-field, the club still almost reached the Conference South in 2003, losing out in the play-off final but things took their toll and 2005 saw relegation to Division 1. 2006 saw a further Surrey Cup win over the club’s now landlords, AFC Wimbledon. After a couple of play-off near misses, the K’s went a couple better to win the Division 1 and with it promotion to the Premier in 2009, losing in the Premier play-offs the next year. 2014 saw the club finish as runners-up, but again suffer play-off heartache. Last season saw a 7th place finish but this season has seen the club slide away from the upper reaches to a relegation battle.

The players entered the field from the tunnel under the Main Stand and we were soon underway. What followed was a pretty watchable contest, but there was very little in the way of true goalmouth action. The most interesting point from the early stages was the fact that ex-England and (sort of ) Premier League winner Paul Konchesky was in the Billericay line up, having signed recently from Gillingham to join the revolution at New Lodge. Not only that, but I also find Billericay interesting as I feel the town sounds like it belongs in Ireland rather than Essex. Anyone else? No? Ah. Ok then….On with the game!

Match Action

Match Action

Match (& pie) Action

With around a half-hour on the clock, the first meaningful action happened as Billericay’s Joseph Ellul was adjudged to have been pulled down in the area and the referee pointed to the spot, much to the chagrin of the ‘K’s’ player stood behind me in the food line. Up stepped Billy Bricknell and his kick was met by a solid hand from home ‘keeper Rob Tolfrey, but the ball still snuck just inside the post. 0-1!

With the home side’s long-ball system not creating too many issues, Billericay began to look ever more comfortable, their long-throw specialist Kresh Krasniqi being utilised on a regular basis on their forays forward. But it was to be through a more standard piece of play that Town would double their advantage when, on the stroke of half-time, the ball was laid off into the path of Bricknell and, from 20 yards, the striker bent a fine effort beyond the despairing dive of Tolfrey. The vocal town fans were obviously loving it as they went in two-up at the break.

After demolishing the remaining “cheesy chips” (£3.50) and being party to one of the strangest choices of half-time music I’ve encountered in “Disturbed”‘s version of ‘Sound of Silence’ (no complaints though), the second half was soon underway with me now choosing to take up a spot in the stand, having completed the obligatory 3/4 lap during the first half. With the home fans now behind the goal after swapping places with their counterparts, they began to get a bit more rowdy and Kingstonian looked to respond, with imposing Town ‘keeper Alan Julian at his best to tip a curling Charles Banya shot over the bar.

With twenty minutes left on the clock, Julian bettered this with a remarkable stop. A corner down the far end was met by the head of someone within the crowded area. The effort looked, for all the world, goal-bound but Julian not only stopped it at point-blank range, but somehow clawed away to safety at the same time. A great stop and, you could argue, one that secured Billericay’s victory as this seemed to knock the wind out of the hosts’ challenge.

Match Action

View from the Main Stand

Match Action

Indeed , the visitors dominated the latter stages, with Julian reduced to exchanging in “banter” with the home support behind the goal, the latter taking much joy when the stopper was booked for his protestations regarding apparent fouling. To be honest, he probably had something of a point, as the ref certainly wasn’t at his best, with both sides feeling aggrieved at points in the game.

After sub Christian Assombalonga -brother of Nottingham Forest’s Britt – was denied adding the third by Tolfrey, it was left to the quicksilver substitute, winger Mekhi McLeod to add the coup-de-grace to proceedings as he sped away down the right-hand flank, cut inside and unleashed a powerful, low effort which flew into the net, the ball pleasingly flying up from the bottom corner to the top and out again. Full-Time, 0-3, though the final score-line did make the game seem more one-sided than it truly was.

After the sparring Julian and ‘K’s’ fans applauded each other for the fun and games, it was back off to Kingston and the beginning of the journey home. The original plan was to have one before the train back, but it quickly became apparent this wasn’t going to be possible, with a miscalculation along the way contributing to me just about getting back to the station in time. Anyway, as I returned, I reckoned that I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the “country’s busiest station” Clapham Junction. After this quick detour, I was soon back at Euston and headed for the Doric Arch to waste away the last hour.

The country’s busiest station!

In the Euston Tap.

Back at Euston to end the day.

Sadly, the Arch was packed out on account of the rugby and the overpowering smell of sweat did nothing to make me want to hang around. Instead, I decided I’d go and sample the nearby Euston Tap, which sits amongst the two former gatehouses just outside the station. Not a bad little place, with tables outside being utilised by many, despite the ever encroaching darkness. I plumped for a known quantity in Veltins (not wanting to waste upwards of a fiver) and this kept me company until it was time for to head back over for the journey back up North.

So, here endeth my tale. Overall, it was a good day out with a ground I wanted to visit now “ticked”, a few decent pubs visited with the game being ok to watch, but nothing too exciting. Anyway, I’d like to wish Kingstonian all the best in their move to Leatherhead (despite one guy saying to a pair of their officials at the game “Are you spying? I don’t know why, none of our players are worth it!”) and, hopefully, their new ground plans all work out well. As for next week’s plans, it’s all looking a bit off…

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 7

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6