Published on May 12th, 2018 | by Bill
Up the Beavers!
For Issue 25, former editor Seb wrote a special editorial to mark our quarter of a century, now as Hampton & Richmond Borough FC gear up for the biggest game in their history – the National League South Play-Off final vs. Braintree Town, we thought we’d republish his piece here.
The summer of 2012 already seems a very long time ago, Micah Richards had just won the Premier League with Manchester City, Scott Parker played for England at a major tournament, and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson signed Robin Van Persie. The London Olympics also happened, and as good at it was to see Danny Boyle and Mo Farah boil right wing piss, my attention was focused largely on my wife and the impending arrival of our baby daughter. I say largely, because somehow, when I asked a heavily pregnant Mrs White “Can I start a football fanzine with some people I’ve met off the internet?” she, and typing this out five and a half years on it still astounds me, said “Okay then, if it makes you happy”. And STAND AGAINST MODERN FOOTBALL was born, followed not so long after by my daughter, Ava.
Issue 1 sold out within a couple of weeks, and the subsequent reprint sold even better – raising over a grand for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in the process. On reflection that’s pretty fucking great isn’t it? We kept making mags, you kept buying them. A year after our debut, we did an event in Liverpool, where over 200 fans of all clubs talked about various issues surrounding the modern game, and Bez even came along. And then in December 2013 we won ‘The Football Supporters Federation Fanzine of the Year’. It was a roller-coaster 18 months or so, both on and off the pitch.
I’d done a fanzine before, setting up and running the Yeovil Town fanzine On To Victory for half a dozen years in the early noughties, but STAND was a completely different beast. There was no let up. Getting the magazine out was one thing, but everything else that came with it, particularly with the constant demands of the social media age, just became too much. Having to spend much more time saying what we weren’t, rather than what we were just got very, very, draining. Fortunately for STAND, there was another daft Yeovil Town fan, much stronger than me, willing to step in. Bill took over as Editor from Issue 6, and to his eternal credit he has steered the good ship STAND to Issue 25 (TWENTY FIVE).
In that time, my daughter has grown up fast, really fast, and a couple of months ago I took her to her very first football match. Now we all know this is a massive deal, an experience you never forget. An experience that shapes your interests, and with that – most of the weekends for the remainder of your life. It’s a huge moment for a father too: passing on that bond and love for a game that can bring unbelievable, indescribable joy and sorrow. Now, if said father is a born and bred Yeovil fan, one who did the club fanzine for years, travelled the length and breadth of the country, and the odd foreign pre-season tour watching the Glovers then the only place it should be is Huish Park. Home of Yeovil Town. But, as Bill has alluded to in his many editorials, all is not well in deepest, darkest Somerset.
To cut a very long and depressing story short, the owners John Fry and Norman Hayward have presided over a dramatic decline of what was once a fantastic and proud football club. Those familiar words that football fans of too many clubs have had to grapple with, like ‘holding companies’,’transfer of ownership’ ’redevelopments’ have become uncomfortably regular phrases to Yeovil fans. With a chronic lack of investment across all aspects of the club, the Glovers are on the verge of returning to the Non-League structure it spent 108 years trying to get out of. The air around the club is toxic. It might not have garnered the national interest in the same way that the Oystons, Venkeys or the Rolands have, but the effect is the same. Thousands of supporters have found something else to do on a Saturday afternoon.
That ‘something else’ for me has been The Beveree, the Home of Hampton and Richmond Borough Football Club. The first time I visited the quintessential non-league ground, was merely to tick it off the list, and a terrible performance by the home side (a 4-0 defeat to Lewes) didn’t exactly demand that I return. But as with everything in football, it’s the stuff off the pitch that truly matters.
Whilst I watched the match I was allowed to drink an alcoholic beverage. Not only was this physically refreshing, but mentally refreshing too – I was considered mature enough to have a pint (or a few) without turning into an extra for Danny Dyer’s Football Factories. The people on the ramshackle terrace and in the cosy club bar seemed like a decent sort too. There was hardly any negativity, despite their team getting an absolute shellacking. Good people, just enjoying watching 22 blokes kicking a ball around. So far, so non-league. You’ve heard all this before in these pages, but the clincher was what happened at the final whistle.
Hampton hadn’t taken getting embarrassed on their own patch very well, and some post-match afters descended into a full-on brawl, as 22 players bounced in and around the battered tunnel. As we walked out of the ground, the shouts continued and the brawl spilled out into the club car park where a Hampton coach and a certain Martyn Tyler were desperately trying to contain emotions, get the players back into the changing rooms and restore some order. “Behave yourselves” I remember them saying. The massed ranks of supporters watched in both amusement and amazement, and my mate Matt (a Chelsea fan disenchanted with the modern game) just said “I could get used to this, shall we come again?” I turned to him and replied “why the hell not?”. And the rest, as they say, is history. Those decent people on the terraces are now mates. I’ve got a season ticket. I sponsor a player’s kit. I go to away games. And, as of very recently, I’m a Director of the Supporters Trust Board, with an active role in the future of the club. You could say that I quite like it down the Beveree.
That’s why on the 23rd September I took Ava to her very first football game. It was Hampton and Richmond Borough v Concord Rangers and it was everything I’d hoped. I was a proud Dad opening his child’s eyes to the Beautiful Game and all that comes with it, not the Rancid Game on display in Somerset. I bought her a shirt at half-time (non-league remember, the club megastore is a portakabin next to the bar!), and although I may have had to give her a shedload of sweets to keep her quiet, on the whole she seemed to enjoy it. And a Beavers last minute equaliser saw us celebrate together. It was everything I had hoped, albeit in a very different place than I’d initially imagined.
She’s not been able to make it along again since. Five year olds have lots of friends who have lots of birthday parties and cinema trips, and it genuinely has been “too cold Daddy”. But there’s no rush, she’s got plenty of years ahead of her and I’m sure she’ll learn to love football in the non-league. As a father I’m pretty pleased about that. Football at all levels, has its problems, and you can all choose what to ignore, but when it’s good, it’s still the best thing in the world. You’ve heard it in these pages numerous times, and I’m sure you will do again in future issues, but that doesn’t stop it being true. Non-league is pretty fucking good you know, give it a try, you just never know where you might end up.