Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Free Football

Haringey Borough  1  AFC Hornchurch  2

Isthmian League – Division One North

“White Hart Lane – on a Monday night?” cried Mrs Hatt.

This needed qualifying, and to be fair I thought I’d already had the conversation previously about my movements over the current month, but maybe I was mistaken.

It was over Sunday tea where I dropped what was seemingly the bombshell about my ‘little’ trip to Haringey Borough. You see, from home, Haringey is around 120 miles, so by my standards it is one of the longer trips, certainly for midweek, but not as far as say, South Shields?

I think it was more the fact I was going to be heading into London, which always sounds a lot further away than it actually is that took Mrs H by surprise. Then throw into the mix that I was going to be a mere stones throw from the past and future homes of Tottenham Hotspur, our boys beloved club, that came as the shock. I’m sure I’d told her before now, but of course I could be wrong……..

White Hart Lane
I’ve had my eye on Haringey for some time, they are one of my ‘Big Ten’ Step 1-4 clubs this season, they play on a artificial pitch, and they also play on a Monday night, what, dear reader, is not to like?

The journey is obviously not on the list of positives, the M1 was fine despite its unpredictable nature, but then I was left with a dilemma, do I follow the Sat Nav round the M25 and down the A10, or do I go the slightly shorter route via the North Circular. Of course, I picked wrong, the North Circular at rush hour is not pretty, but, eventually I was pulling into the car park at Coles Park, which sits around a mile to the West of what was and will become the home of Spurs.

I made the call to Mrs H to advise of my safe arrival (she called earlier while I was having an argument with a number 42 bus to Walthamstow), and took a seat in the tidy clubhouse which sits to the rear of the large and familiar main stand.

People watching became my chosen pastime. You see, Haringey Borough have come up with an idea which I find really quite interesting. You pay £7 to watch a game, but then you have the option to fill in a form and claim a free season ticket.

Think about this concept for a second. You like your football, be it Spurs, Arsenal, Leyton Orient, Barnet, anyone for that matter. Haringey play on Monday night, so other than the Sky Sports game, it doesn’t clash with anything, but not only that, barring an avalanche of snow, the game is going to be on.

You would be mad not to get a season ticket, and with a home game on every Monday night throughout the month of January, it’s fill your boots time for the discerning neutral. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the bar started to fill up with a large number of people who I gathered were not connected to the club in any way.

On top of that you’ve got the hard core Haringey support, who have got a really good deal out of this, but not only that, they tell their mates about it, so they come along as well. The Borough of Haringey, by the admission of Chairman Aki Achillea, is an area that suffers from deprivation, so the club is offering a fantastic outlet for the community to use and enjoy, with no cost to them, so that really has to be applauded.

So how does the club win, other than significantly in the community PR stakes?

The Shelf
Clearly gate receipts are going to be adversely affected, barely anyone other than visiting supporters will actually be paying for admission. So you are reliant on two things happening, the fans who would come anyway will need to be spending some money on food and drink, whereas the newbies will need to do exactly the same to cover the shortfall of the regular fans who don’t buy a thing once in the ground.

It’s a gamble, but Haringey look to be making it work, over 200 turned up tonight, and plenty of them were making the most of the watering and catering facilities. Will it continue though? Mr Achillea says himself that as the club climbs the leagues and the cost base increases, then it’s unlikely, so grab the chance while you can!

It does help as well if the ground is easy to access and once inside the stadium it’s a pleasant and welcoming place. It has plenty of car parking at the ground, whereas a bus stop sits right outside the main entrance. White Hart Lane rail station and Wood Green tube are both walkable, whereas a W3 bus will take you to Finsbury Park Station.

I liked the whole vibe around Haringey Borough. The club officials were a friendly and helpful bunch, the ground was very tidy and clean, whereas the view from the top of the stand over the pitch and on towards The City in the distance was excellent.

Following promotion to the Isthmian League a couple of years ago, last season they narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier Division in the Play-Off’s, whereas this season they sit on the edge of the race for the coveted places. But on the pitch tonight it was to be a tough test against the leaders from Essex, AFC Hornchurch, who themselves are a side well versed in Play Off fixtures over recent seasons.

The visitors took the lead through Theo Fairweather-Johnson who scored with a glancing header from a cross delivered from the left, and  then for the remainder of the first half the league leaders went into a game management mode and seemed content to stifle everything Haringey could throw at them.   

Haringey attacked with a bit more creativity and purpose in the second period, with the very impressive Michael Ademiluyi causing problems.  But they continued to remain resolute at the back, and it came as no great surprise that in a rare foray forward, Hornchurch scored a second goal when Leon McKenzie directed home another cross from the left.

We had late drama when Lawrence Yiga scored in injury time, but an equaliser could not be forced.
Not the end of the World for Haringey, they will go again, but Hornchurch’s march to the league title is seemingly relentless.

The journey back along the A10 was a much easier one, and despite being mentally prepared for the worst, I didn’t have single motorway closure to content with, and as a result it was just gone midnight when the key went in the front door.

Now then, when do I tell Mrs H about next Tuesday’s planned trip to Ware, you know, the one just south of Leicester……….

The Bright Lights Of The City

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