Where's The Tea Hut reflects upon local football South West style with a few trips further afield. Keep the faith & stay safe.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Keep the faith... don't let it ruin your football

 Saturday 29th August 2020

Pre Season Friendly


Attendance: 30 (head count)

Admission: Free

Weather: Long sunny spells, cloud built up second half

Parking: Adjacent school car park

Callington is a quiet little town in Cornwall not far from the Devon border. Apart from a Tesco, Spar shop, B&M and a Chippy its main focal point is the big Ginsters Pasty Factory. Depending which way the breeze is blowing you can often smell the Ginsters delicacies drifting over the town. No wonder the football club are nicknamed The Pasty Men, saying that I didn't notice any bloaters in the Callington team for this fixture.

The football ground, Marshfield Parc is located at the back of the local community school just north of the tiny town centre on the A388. Look out for the roadside sign near the entrance. Follow the entrance road through the school until you reach the car park, from here follow the path through the green metal fence until you see the club entrance.

Last week I went to a match in Cornwall and was put off by the lack of Covid 19 precautions, after a few days wondering if I should carry on going along to games during these stressful, anxious times I decided to not let this horrible virus rob me of what I've enjoyed doing for the best part of my life, so sod it, Corona disease can bugger off, I'll do my own Risk Assessment and keep myself safe at the grounds I visit irrespective of whether they provide a full range of protective measures or otherwise. We need to keep the faith and support grass roots non league football. Rant over.

I'd initially seen Callington promote this attractive looking fixture with Newton Abbot Spurs on Twitter, it came with the strap line of "better get here early" on the basis of only 150 spectators would be allowed in. I rolled up ten minutes before kick off and was the 7th person in the ground. The groundsman had just started marking out the pitch. On the plus side it was a lovely day so I wasn't too miffed at the game kicking off a little later than it should have done.

On the subject of the ground staff I must mention that the playing surface looked an absolute treat.

The ground itself is one of those mixed bag locations. Parts of it are stunningly attractive (especially in the sunshine) like the large clubhouse with its patio overlooking the pitch at the top of the grass banking, then we have the rather more ordinary looking vista of the changing room buildings behind the goals at the School End, functional yes and perfectly acceptable but that clubhouse spoils you with it's glorious profile. 

Seating is available in one of the small standard flat pack stands you witness at so many places these days. I counted only around 30 people watching today so there was plenty of room to safely watch the game from various pitchside locations around all sides of the ground.

Callington Town play in the South West Peninsula League West, their visitors are members of the East section of the same League.

I had gathered that both sides were involved in squad rebuilding programmes for the upcoming season so it was a good opportunity to gauge the standard and judge how things were progressing.

What I witnessed was a decent quality friendly, which is a bit of a rarity these days. Newton Abbot Spurs in particular looked very impressive indeed. They appeared strong all over the pitch and obviously believed in knocking the ball about. They were soon creating a significant amount of chances and had romped into a 3-0 lead by half time, with no disrespect to a gallant Callington outfit it could have been a much bigger margin.

Callington applied more composure in the second half but the visitors still retained the upper hand. Plentiful substitutions obviously affected the flow of football but the game still kept the small crowd interested, we even got the bonus of a pre season friendly punch up which emphasised just how committed both sides were. The referee had a good game keeping a lid on the proceedings and establishing down to earth communication with both sets of players. 

Newton Abbot eventually ran out worthy 5-0 winners and will surely take confidence from the outing. For Callington I feel it is more of a work in progress but there definitely is a foundation to build upon, they have some talented individual players, especially the keeper, he had a very impressive performance, that 5-0 scoreline would be far greater without some top class keeping on show.

All in all a good little friendly which importantly made me feel much more confident about going along to football again.

Visit Rating 7/10

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Spectators return to South West Non League

Following agreement that Step 6 and above non league clubs would partake in Risk Assessment disciplines and apply appropriate precautions to protect spectators from Covid 19 threats the Government agreed to let controlled levels of people watch grass roots football again.

There has been lots of publicity on Social Media about the positive steps non league clubs are taking to keep spectators safe with the intention of allowing people to feel comfortable in attending grounds.

I put this to the test in Cornwall last Saturday. I went along to a keenly advertised pre season friendly featuring a well known prominent Step 6 South West Peninsula League side. As expected, a good number of their supporters attended the game.

Upon arrival I was shocked and surprised the host club hadn't applied any Covid precautions for the game whatsoever. The type of measures being expected by the authorities are well known and extensive, I shall not bore you with the lengthy list only to state not a single discipline was in place, nothing. It was like the pandemic had never happened.

There wasn't a large crowd at the game but the bulk of those in attendance grouped together directly behind the dug outs in quite sizable numbers. On the opposite side of the pitch another few groups of people could be seen, not ones or two's but groups of 8 to 10 who all seemed to know each other. There was also a bar serving ale pitchside where another large group of people gathered. The concern with all the aforementioned groups is that none of them were socially distancing. People from the bar were even bringing their pints down to the touchline. I decided to keep apart from what was going on which resulted in me constantly having to move into open space. When those passing me from the dug out area or public bar came past they failed to consider keeping even a metre separate from me despite 10 yards of open space behind me.

The whole event was a complete farce as regards even the faintest degree of compliance with Covid safety precautions.

I can sadly understand some people won't have a problem with breaking the rules and ignoring safety considerations, personally I found the experience uncomfortable and concerning, certainly something which doesn't inspire me with confidence for watching football in Cornwall.

Like many situations relevant to Covid 19 precautions in Cornwall, especially during the holiday season, it appears a sizeable proportion of the population seem to think Corona Virus controls do not apply to them. 

I sincerely hope what I witnessed was an isolated incident and the rest of non league clubs down here don't fall into the same mess I endured at this particular club. 

Cornwall has unfortunately become an environment more akin to Tombstone in the Wild West than part of the United Kingdom, especially in the seaside resorts and beauty spots. Lets just remember nearly 50,000 people have died in the UK from Covid so far!

I shall not be naming the clubs who were involved in this fixture but on the off chance they read this article I would welcome them starting to take notice of what is happening in this country at the moment.

There weren't that many Cornwall friendlies on Saturday 22nd August so it shouldn't be too hard to identify who made a mockery of things.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

It's Off!

Seems we won't be getting in to watch a football match for the foreseeable future.

A sizeable number of Non league clubs jumped the gun on advice that caution should be exercised in welcoming back supporters until they had received a green light on suitable and sufficient risk assessment controls.

The clubs in question heavily promoted their local friendlies on social media which in turn resulted in those attending boasting about how they broke current football ground lockdown criteria and attended the match.

Some clubs had around 200 people in their grounds. A number, South West included, used the excuse of being able to enter the clubhouse for a pint of ale as an excuse for entering the ground. Tales abounded of clubhouse exit doors being left open for people to wander pitch side for a bit of fresh air or a cigarette (you couldn't make this rubbish up).

It was obvious to everyone but the clubs in question that the Government and the FA would set an example in re-establishing their authority and control over the situation. If nothing else transpires they have to be seen to be in charge.

What we have now is a blanket ban on spectators attending any football match friendly or otherwise down to the very lowest level, basically leagues below Step 7 in the football pyramid. Check beforehand if you're contemplating that pub league encounter down the local park.

The doubts that clubs could sensibly compile appropriate Risk Assessments have been realised. A local friendly between two well known Devon and Cornwall clubs last night had a warning from the respective hosts on Twitter that no spectators were allowed. After the game various posts could be seen on the Twitter platform that a sizeable crowd was in attendance. That's what you call a Risk Assessment failure and exactly the reason the authorities have come down hard.

Many people are now fed up with the situation and there is little hope that I or anyone else will be going along to a football match anytime soon.

No wonder there is a rising lack of interest.