By Kevin Anderson
It really is a twelve-month sport, isn’t it! On the night before England’s World Cup exit to Croatia, Eastbourne Borough and Langney Wanderers were kicking off next season – well, the programme of friendlies at any rate – at Priory Lane, where the hosts ran out comfortable 5-2 winners. Football coming home? It never went away....
The Sports are back on the 3G tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, when they welcome a Charlton Athletic Under-23 side with a 3.00pm kick-off. Borough have been developing an ever closer union with Charlton, who are expected to bring a strong squad including players with Football League experience. “It should be a useful next step for us,” commented boss Jamie Howell. “We’ve been putting in some hard miles, and I was pleased with Tuesday’s performance both as a team and as individuals. Wanderers gave us quite a test, and credit to them.”
The phenomenon who are Langney Wanderers have changed our local sporting landscape. Eastbourne’s footballing history was splendidly written at the Oval and the Saffrons, and Borough subsequently added their own chapter, but the Wanderers are almost the stuff of fiction. The Saunders family, with a core of supporters, have defied all odds by creating a club which now competes at Town and United’s level.
This reporter remembers – a bit ruefully – presenting a radio piece for BBC Sussex on a dark pre-dawn November morning, from a desolate and soaking wet Shinewater Rec, which Wanderers were seeking planning permission to develop. It may just have been the most improbable story I’ve ever covered.
But on August 4 Langney Wanderers will proudly take their place in the FA Cup, entertaining Epsom and Ewell at Priory Lane (while United receive Hackney Wick, and Town travel to Cray Wanderers – best of luck to all three!).
On Tuesday night, with Borough legend Matty Crabb in the dug -out (“I’ve brought my boots, but only for the warm-up!”) the tenants looked organised and purposeful, and they made their mark with two absolutely smashing goals in the second half – a net-busting volley from Dave Smart and a lovely control and finish by Wayne Wilkinson.
By then, the game had been emphatically won for Borough with an accomplished first-half performance full of running and creativity. Home supporters were impressed – and maybe pleasantly surprised – to see a strong starting line-up with new signings Mike West and Dave Martin prominent. West, Lloyd Dawes and Sergio Torres were on the scoresheet by the half-hour mark. When a flurry of triallists and youth players came on after half-time, there were further goals for Tyler Pearson and Victor Fundi.
Howell, still keeping cards close to his chest, is understood to be chasing at least two more signings, either or both of whom would significantly strengthen his side in key positions. Meanwhile Sports loyalists were delighted on Tuesday night to welcome back folk hero Marvin Hamilton (left). No deal has yet been struck, but Marvellous Marvin is training with the club on his fourth – or is it fifth – return to the Lane!