Printed in the re-arranged Southern League Central Division
One games v North Greenford United Tuesday 19th February 2013. We won
3-0 in front of 192 people.
What’s not to like about Dulwich Hamlet. Their fantastic name
for starters. Is there any other senior football team called Hamlet? And what
about the kit. Does anyone else dare to play in pink and blue?
As a Slough Town
youngster I remember going to their
massive crumbling old ground where crowds of 200 rattled round in a stadium
built for thousands.
Their new place certainly lacks the charm of the old one but
it’s smack bang where football clubs should be, in the middle of a
And so it came to pass that on New Years Day after a quick
trip to the Sea Life Centre it was all aboard the London Bridge Express to
Champion Hill. My mate had just moved to the parish of Southwark and what better
way to whet their local non league whistle than Dulwich v arch rivals Tooting
and Mitcham United on New Years Day.
On the train a dad asked his son if he was excited about
today’s game. His black and white scarf wasn’t Fulhams – no it was Tooting’s. As
I looked for the nearest boozer, people were wearing Dulwich scarfs. There was a
queue to get in. This was like a proper football match! Except there was no
police and few stewards, you didn’t need to buy a ticket in advance, rival fans
mingled in the bar and more importantly you could take beer onto the terraces.
The fingers of gentrification have reached the nearest pub succumbing to that
cold and uncomfortable look, all rocket leaf and focassia bread, but the old
Dulwich rabble are mixing well with their newer richer supporters and being top
of the league crowds are on the up.
In the packed stand Dulwich’s outstanding Erhun Oztumer is
cheered by friends and families waving Turkish flags. The crowd is so
multicultural I’m half-expecting the English Defence League to be outside
complaining about all those bloody foreigners watching our football teams. As
for the football – what a cracker of a first half. The game ends two apiece when
seems about right.
In the bar afterwards we reckon my mates boy Leo should mark
his first ever game with a signed programme. I spot legendary Dulwich fan Mishi
who points out their manager who happily signs the programme. Mishi is one of
the old school Dulwich Rabble
whose on the management committee now. One of
those supporters which every club needs to function; whose made the tea,
collected the balls, flogged the raffle tickets, been the secretary. He also
produced the fanzine ‘Champion Hill Street Blues’ and was also was behind the
publication ‘Tooting and Mitcham’s greatest moments in 100 years’ which was full
of blank pages! He’s part of the crew behind the 12th
man a fan-led
scheme to raise money for the playing budget. But today is a greater way to
raise money for the club. By getting punters through the gates and in the bar.
On the way out I chat to some Arsenal fans who are first time visitors and
mightly impressed. While Manchester City
hand Arsenal back a third of their
outrageously priced 62 tickets, a crowd of 642 get to see a game for a tenner,
free if your under 12.
Last word has to go to my old mate ‘Mad Pride
’ Pete Shaugnhessy
who died 10 years ago. Mishi persuaded Pete to follow the Hamlet
when he bumped into him at a local library. After one game he was hooked “Non-league football is ethical: you’re supporting a local
community and you can have fun while you’re at it. When I’d just started going
out with my present partner, I talked her into going to a totally, meaningless
friendly, Moseley versus Dulwich. After a night with the “Rabble”, we ended up
stranded in Hampton
, no train or night bus. After a bit of
bartering, I managed to get us the honeymoon suite at Hampton Court Palace
. She was totally in awe. “This is
what you get when you follow Dulwich Hamlet.”