Eastborugh Borough v Torquay United on Non-League Day at Priory Lane

Jamie Howell
Jamie Howell

By Kevin Anderson

IT’S Torquay, madam “What did you expect? The sweeping sands of Camber perhaps?” “I asked for a sea view.” “It’s over there, madam, between Fort Fun and the Martello Tower. Climb up on the roof of the Mick Green Stand...” On safety grounds, please ignore the last advice! But finally, the Sports have a home fixture on a Non-League Day. And what a fixture! No excuses – Town, United and Wanderers are all away, and Albion have no game. A Premiership or EFL season ticket gets you in for a fiver. There is only one place to be on Saturday afternoon. Non-League: breathe it in!

Welcome home: After some long Saturdays on the road recently, the Sports began a string of October home fixtures with last week’s madcap FA Cup tie against Dulwich. They are at Priory Lane on every Saturday this month, in fact. “It’s a welcome boost to the finances,” admits Chairman John Bonar. “Like any small business, we need to balance the books and manage the cash-flow.” Of course, that cash-flow was eased with a £15,000 bonus from the dramatic Cup win – and there might be more to come. The Fourth Qualifying Round sees Slough Town fetching up at the Lane in eight days’ time (October 20th) after their emphatic 4-0 replay victory at Bristol Manor Farm.

Every day is non-league day, I smugly thought I was an early bird last Saturday morning, when I turned up around 9am at Priory Lane for a couple of odd jobs on the press bench. Far from it: the car park was already heaving, three separate age-group coaching sessions were in full action on the front field, plus another in The Cage with head youth coach Tim Brown and an enthusiastic munchkin-sized band of five-year-olds. Mums and Dads were enjoying the action and the bright sunshine, and it really did feel like the community club which Borough claim to be. But it was inside the ground that the Non-League ethic was most evident. Big John Smith and several others were clearing the terraces. Kitman Damian was sorting his laundry. Oh, and I thought club chairmen were supposed to roll up in a very large motor at 1.30pm, shepherded into their reserved parking space, and escorted to their pre-match alcohol and prawn sandwiches. Chairman Bonar was already three hours ahead of me. “I’ve been at the ground since 6am,” admitted John with a weary grin. “We have a string of tasks including some essential pitch maintenance.” He nodded towards the main pitch, where four of five others were at work – including CIC chairman Lee Peskett sweeping the 3G astride the tractor. But yes – as with many other local clubs – it’s all in a day’s work, and they will all be back at breakfast time on Saturday. Every day is Non-League Day!

Terrific Terry: Love him or hate him, John Terry has been a giant of the game, and he is hanging up the boots this week. The then England captain was present at the Lane on one of Borough’s other iconic days, the 1-1 draw against Darlington when Matt Smart – now there’s a true legend! - and his eight colleagues pulled off one of the great results. But JT – that’s Terry not Taylor – also graced the Pilot Field in 1996, captaining London Schools, with Bobby Zamora up front, in an Under-16 final against Sussex. And the London lads were beaten. Mind you, Sussex did have Gareth Barry at centre-half!