About the War Memorial Sports Ground
One of the best grounds in the Rymans League at the moment, the War Memorial Sports Ground started life as plain old Shorts Farm back in the 1920’s. The first part to be developed was the grandstand, originally bought and transported piece by piece from Epsom Racecourse down the road. In 1968 galeforce winds battered this stand so much that it had to be demolished. Today the main feature is the huge covere terrace that runs down the side of the pitch, allowing ample room and some excellent views for thousands of fans.
Today the ground boasts a good sized if small in length grandstand and plenty of standing room down the side of the pitch. Behind the north end is a small cover whilst at the south end the cover extends across the full length of the terrace. The club claim to serve the “Best Burger in English Football” from the new eatery in the corner of the pitch, next door to the club shop, both allowing you to watch the action whilst waiting to be served.
The club have unsuccessfully tried to continue with the redevelopment of the ground, including a planned £12m facelift which was rejected by the local residents association. However, today the ground is certainly fit for purpose with the new club house providing a valuable 7 day a week income stream for the club.
How to get to the War Memorial Sports Ground
Carshalton is not the easiest place to get to from anywhere else apart from South London by car especially if you have to travel through Croydon which can be blocked by shoppers on a Saturday, and commuters in midweek. However, if you do want to drive then you need to head for the A23 Purley Way. If you are coming from the north then follow this past Ikea (on your rght) from Purley Cross and then take a right onto the A232 after a mile or so. If you are coming from the south via the M25 then take exit 7 signposted Croydon and follow the A23 past the old Croydon airport before taking a left after a few miles onto the A232.
Follow this road for a couple of miles, passing Beddington Park on your right before you enter Carshalton. Pass through the High Street, passing the two large ponds on your right and take the next right into West Street. Pass the Racecourse and Hope pubs on this road and then immediately after you pass under the railway bridge take a left into Colston Avenue. The entrance to the ground is down a small alley about 150 yards on your right. This is a busy and narrow road so I would avoid parking down here – there is a car park at the ground (£2) or park on West Street.
If you are coming by train, Carshalton is served by Southern Railways from London Victoria, Dorking or Sutton and First Capital Connect from London Blackfriars and Wimbledon. Journey time from Victoria is just under half an hour and costs £4.40. Carshalton is in transport zone 5. The ground is only a few minutes walk from the station – take a right out of the exit and walk down the hill. Turn right, walk under railway bridge and then left into Colston Avenue – ground is 150 yards on your right. Last train back on a midweek night to London is 23:26 – plenty of time for a beer or two in the clubhouse. Bus S3 also runs down Colston Avenue.
Admission into the War Memorial Sports Ground
It is £9 for Adults and £6 for senior citizens to enter the ground, and amazingly FREE for under 16’s as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Programmes are on sale at the turnstiles and cost £2.
Our last visit – December 2010 – Mr Jolly moved next door
I am not shy to admit that this game was not on my “games to do” over Christmas. Why, you might ask when I have waxed lyrical in the past about Carshalton Athletic and that “proper” non league ground AND it being a fiercely contested local derby? Well the simple reason is that this was a “free pass day”, a day where I could go to any game I wanted and as a seasoned non league (and European I hasten to add) traveller, I had planned to try something new – the first ever Canvey Island derby. But of course the f*cking tw@ting weather put pay to that game, as with our option B (Billericay Town), C (Folkstone Invicta, D (Horsham) and E (Tooting & Mitcham United). In fact after decimating the whole of the non league calendar on Boxing Day, it pretty much took out the whole of the Step 3 and 4 Non League games on the 27th as well with only a small handful surviving.
Random Carshalton Athletic fact #1 – Between 1974 and 1976 current Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson played for the club, and then went on to manage the club for one season. After leaving them he joined Halmstad in Sweden and took them to the Swedish Championship in his first season.
One such ground where the supporters had worked tirelessly to get a game on was at Carshalton’s War Memorial Ground. After all they had everything to lose if they couldn’t get the pitch playable. This is the biggest date in their diary. Just over 200 had been at their previous home gate, against Concord Rangers, but for this Bank Holiday fixture the crowd would be almost five times that. Add the presence of a few Bare Naked Ladies in the bar (according to the website), the darts back on the big screen TV’s and their nearest and bitterest local rivals from just 2 miles down the A232 and you can see the need for preparation.
Random Carshalton Athletic fact #2 – Their game earlier this season against Tonbridge Angels was voted one of our top three in the annual 12 Days of Christmas awards.
This wasn’t just any old bitter local derby either. Sutton United were having a marvellous campaign, living up to their pre-season billing as favourites in the Ryman Premier and coming into the game top of the league. Last season they had finished runners up to Dartford in the league but then surprisingly lost at home to Kingstonian in the play offs. And they also had three ex-Carshalton Athletic players in their squad, one of whom was bound to cause some acrimony when he crossed the white line.
Random Sutton United fact #1 – In 1979 The club won the Anglo-Italian Cup by beating Chieti, in the Abruzzo region of Italy in the final. They went on to two more finals in the next few seasons losing them both to Triestina and Modena respectively.
Richard Jolly is a very well known name in the non leagues. He was at AFC Wimbledon for a while before moving to Colston Avenue. In 2008/09 he scored 31 goals for the Robins as they reached the play offs at the end of the season. Last year, in a disappointing campaign on and off the pitch he still managed to score 19 goals. However, in the Summer he decided to take the bus along the A232 to Sutton.
“Realistically, joining Sutton was a no-brainer. By just moving across the borough I knew a few people wouldn’t be happy but I wanted to join a team that’s going to win the league.”
In his Twitter updates Jolly said “I’m expecting some good old stick & banter from the Robins fans today. Good bunch. Too much tho & I’ll start throwing snow balls!! Haha!!”
He was also going to be joined by ex-Robins Craig Dundas and Karl Murray to add some more spice to the occasion as if it needed to.
Random Sutton United fact #2 – Their mascot Jenny The Giraffe is apparently the only football mascot with her own Twitter account (We know this is untrue as we are aware of at least three others, but Wikipedia says its true so we must be lying).
With Northern Steve down for his annual search of southern chips with gravy we headed off from TBIR towers, taking a route that did not involve going anywhere near any shoppers who seemed to have descended on every shopping centre in England on the same day. At 2.30pm, with some constant checking just to make sure the game was on we parked up and was in the very pleasant Robins bar enjoying a pint of Bare Naked Lady (anyone expecting any porn can navigate away now) and watching the darts on TV.
Random Sutton United fact #3 – Since the club beat Coventry City in the FA Cup 3rd round in 1989 no other Non League team has beaten a top flight side in the competition.
There was hardly a trace of snow on the ground, testament to the fantastic job the groundstaff had done. The bars and food queues were packed, the terraces behind each goal were rammed full of fans – all we now needed was some football.
Carshalton Athletic 0 Sutton United 2 – War Memorial Ground – Monday 27th December 2010
This wasn’t the prettiest of games, nor was it one that was settled by great goals but at this time of the year we would take a Blackburn Rovers v Stoke City nil nil just to see a game! Whilst Sutton United came into the game on top of the league it was the home side who made all of the early running, playing the ball to feet and quickly moving off the ball whilst Sutton seemed content to play the ball long to Jolly as and when they could.
Unfortunately, the two Carshalton centre backs had this plan easily covered, and a few little digs here and there just to remind the striker what he had been missing saw him dropping deeper to get the ball. The home side had the best of the opening exchanges and should have been ahead when Paul Johnson found himself one on one with Sutton keeper Kevin Scriven but could not finish.
The Richard Jolly chants went up before we had even had a chance to tuck into our second Naked Lady. “You only went for the money” was the chant from one end, retorted by “You only came to see the Jolly” from the other.
Sutton’s first chance came in the 18th minute when a free kick from 25 yards caused the snood wearing Ross to spill the ball in the Carshalton area but no one was on hand to capitalise. We had to wait until the 37th minute for the first corner, an effort that was eventually volleyed over the bar from Gary Noel.
Northern Steve went off to do his pie research and as he was queuing up inevitably he missed the opening goal. Carshalton’s Michael Boetang had seen yellow for one too many challenges on Jolly, and whilst the first cross into the area was cleared, the subsequent ball in found the unmarked head of Andy Forbes and he made no mistake.
Not only did he come back disappointed about missing the goal, he was also mardy (a northern word borrowed for the occasion) that they “‘ad no fookin’ gravy”…and instead had a sweet chilli jam. What a continental treat for him. He loved it and immediately awarded the Carshalton Athletic effort FIFA 5 stars!
The first three minutes of the second half were a carbon copy of the last three in the first. Robins defender was yellow carded for flattering Jolly, earning himself a yellow card. The ball came in, was headed back across by Dundas and there was Bradley Woods-Garness to head home.
That was essentially game over. Sutton took off a battered Jolly on the seventy minutes mark and effectively killed the game off. There was the odd Carshalton foray into the Sutton area in the last ten minutes, and you got the sense that a goal would have made the last few minutes interesting. But with the temperature falling, and the bar looking more welcoming, we headed inside to see if anymore Naked Ladies wanted to join us and watch the darts.
“Mr Jolly moved next door
But he came back to say hello.
When he left he took three points
Wearing a shirt of not red, but yellow”
I thank you. Goodnight.
More pictures from the game can be found at our Flickr stream here.
September 2010 – Basel forty
“Jealousy is nothing more than a fear of abandonment”
For a number of reasons I found myself standing in the bar at the War Memorial Sports Ground in SM5 at 7.35pm instead of in row 3 behind the goal at the St Jakobs Park in Basel last night. It is a long story that involved very early flights, lots of work and the fear of rain. But that is all for another day. Dagenham Dan had taken up the baton, and his story can be heard later this week, but having finished my reports, collected the kids from school and basically topped up on the chores account, been allowed to choose a game for the evening.
There was no real choice to be truthful. I needed something within an hour of home (as it was 6.30pm when the necessary CMF paperwork had been completed) that I had not visited before, thus ruling out everyone in the Rymans Premier bar one (There would have been two but Tooting & Mitcham’s game versus Croydon Athletic had been postponed as the latter dealt with the fall out from the Pakistan match fixing allegations)..and that was Carshalton Athletic.
For those unfamiliar with the geography of South London then Carshalton sort of blurs into Sutton and Croydon on the map. North of the former and west of the latter it looks like any other suburban part of the Metropolis. And that is what I thought as I headed across the A23 Purley Way, having never ventured into this part of the world before. At some point along the A232 you must go through a looking glass into wonderland. All of a sudden you reach a stretch of road with inviting pubs, and a very village feel complete with a couple of large duck ponds. And pubs – did I mention those? The Hope, The Racehorse, The Greyhound…if only I had more time.
I pulled up outside the ground and paid my £9 to experience something quite unique in non-league football. A club that is wearing its heart on its sleeve.
Pick up a programme in the ground and the first thing you will read is this:-
“The club’s mission is to exceed the expectations of its shareholders, players, fans and customers. We aim to be an all-inclusive community football club which serves the people of Carshalton, the London Borough of Sutton and the surround area.
On the pitch we aim to develop excellent junior, youth, academy and adult football teams who set the standard for others to strive to achieve”
This is a mission statement that many corporates would be proud of. They go on to set five specific goals as well, to be achieved within 3 years :-
- Achieve promotion to the Blue Square Bet South
- Develop one of the youngest first team squads in English football
- Develop and maintain a junior and youth set up of over 30 teams
- Achieve over 3,000 club members
- Be THE centre of community activity in the London Borough of Sutton
Ambitious stuff and you have to applaud a club who aims are so bold AND public. The club also make a few bold statements on their website including the claim the serve “the best burgers in English football” and the fact they have one of the best clubhouses in the Non-leagues.
The club has gone through some ups and downs just like most in the non-leagues, with threats of homelessness, balanced with some good times in the last couple of decades. They played in the Conference South in 2004/05 and 2005/06 before they were relegated back to the Isthmian Premier League where they have been ever since, although in May 2009 they came close to promotion when thanks to the ridiculous 39 league goals by Richard Jolly they reached the play offs, beating Tonbridge Angels 3-2 setting up a final with Staines Town. However, it was the club from Middlesex that won 1-0 in extra time.
Last season was a struggle against relegation for too long after the departure of prolific scorer Jolly. However, the new season has brought new optimism for the club and its fans with manager Mark Butler assembling a squad to challenge for promotion.
After a handful of games those hopes weren’t yet evident as the Robins had only four points, the same as visitors Tonbridge Angels. To make matters worse, local rivals Sutton United sat top of the league with 13 points from 5 games.
So was the club as good as its word? Would they excite my football taste buds as well?
Carshalton Athletic 3 Tonbridge Angels 2 – The War Memorial Sports Ground – Tuesday 7th September 2010
When was the last time you saw a really really good game of football? Well if you were one of the 227 fans in the ground with me you would be raising your hand quicker than a child needing a pee in infants class. This was a cracker – It had five goals, including a last minute winner; it had a controversial sending off; it had a great penalty save; it had referee baiting from the managers; it had a dog…..Yep for the first time EVER I saw someone with a dog in the ground who bounded up and down the touchline whenever the ball came that way. And yes, the club house, with its pool table, three (THREE) dart boards and big screen TV’s was certainly up there with the best. And the burger – well that will have to be for you to find out….
The ground is a real mixture of styles. Enter the ground and look to your right and you will see a huge (for non-league standards) covered terrace that runs the length of the pitch which looks like it was transported from Leeds Road in Huddersfield, or the old North Bank at Upton Park. Opposite this is a newish main stand that covers about a third of the pitch. Next to it is the club house, and its picnic area – tables with umbrellas sat out so you can snack in comfort while you watch. Behind each goal is a covered terrace, simple but effective.
So beer in hand I sat back and watched both teams try and play football even with some questionable refereeing from Mr O’Brien who managed to upset both benches. Tonbridge boss Tommy Worrilow was incandescent with rage in the 20th minute when a blatant push off the ball on Liam Harwood resulted in the Tonbridge player exacting revenge with a tackle that he was lucky only to see yellow for.
First blood was drawn by Tonbridge when skipper Scott Kinch slammed the ball home from a well worked free kick in the 30th minute. Carshalton responded quickly coming close to an equaliser when their centre forward dragged the ball wide when clean through. It was a bad miss, and the friendly labrador howled in disbelief.
I headed into the bar to catch the half time highlights from Basel where the rain didn’t make me jealous at all of Dagenham Dan five hundred miles from home. As luck would have it just as I stepped over the threshold at the bar Carshalton equalised. I could lie and say it was a great team goal but I haven’t the foggiest. Sorry.
The second half started with Tonbridge on the front foot. Decent passing, getting the ball wide and trying to play the ball in between the Carshalton centre backs eventually paid off as Sherwin Stanley slotted the ball home in the 56th minute. The Tonbridge fans around me purred with excitement, comparing the new striker to “A Rooney without the prostitutes” which was a bit far fetched I thought.
The game turned on one incident with twenty minutes to go. Tonbridge’s Sonny Miles allowed Byron Harrison past him and bearing down on goal, and he took the only option in hauling him down on the edge of the penalty box. Referee O’Brien had no option but to brandish a red, leaving Miles to try and work out how to get into the cage like tunnel on the edge of the box, much to the home fans amusement. Up stepped Harrison but Lee Worgan made a great save.
Tonbridge put their backs to the wall and tried to hang onto their lead but it was not to be. Seven minutes to go and Paul Johnson took the ball towards the Tonbridge goal and unleashed a shot and a half that flew into the net to level the scores. Four minutes later and it was 3-2 to the home team as Harrison made up for his earlier penalty miss with a perfect header to give them the three points.
This was one of those games where the 90 minutes just flew past. I worked out I had saved £250 by not going to Basel, spending instead less than £15 on admission and a couple of beers here. Sure I didn’t get to sing “Engerland, Engerland, Engerland” or “No Surrender” but I was a darn site dryer than those fans in Switzerland, and I was home in less than 30 minutes.
My advice – Monday 27th December….Carshalton Athletic v Sutton United. We will be the ones in the Greyhound from 11am!
More photos from the game can be found in our Flickr feed here.