The View from the Bar 

Sometimes I opine in this column that there’s not much to talk about. Now that’s definitely not the case this time. In fact, I’m pretty sure that to stop this running to half a dozen pages, I’m going to have to spread it out – as best I can – over the coming weeks. Thankfully, in that regard, we have plenty of home games coming up…

When I walked into the ground on Friday night for the U.S. Portsmouth friendly, Pete Jeffery immediately grabbed me and asked “What do you think happened exactly 100 years ago?” Unusually, for a Cowes F.C.-related question, I had no clue of the answer. As it turns out, it was that the date marked the first ever usage of the ‘new’ main stand (or West Stand, as it was then known) at Westwood, which I believe Pete is covering (almost certainly in some style) elsewhere in this programme. But I couldn’t let it pass without mention. Our main stand (well, the only remaining real stand) really is one of my favourite places in the world: somewhere I really couldn’t feel more at home. Partly familiarity (I must’ve sat in it for well over a thousand matches by now), partly the memory of those encounters, partly the unique bonhomie that I know I’ll find there from all my fellow supporters, but also the rich history deeply infused into it. Supporters have sat there and watched our greatest moments unfold, our greatest players perform in blue and white stripes, and our greatest heartaches manifest. It’s all there, soaked deep into the architecture.

Sitting at the back, I remember one wag musing that, with all its supporting poles, it’s like watching a game from the cockpit of a Sopwith Camel, which may well be true (and it always makes me smile). And for all the renovation that has happened in recent (and not so recent) times, it has without doubt retained its character. This said, I remember once suggesting to out chairman Ian Lee that it was a bit of a ‘Trigger’s broom’, given the work that has been done over the years, but his response was quick and vehement: Although the cladding and whatnot has been redone extensively, the supporting timbers and vast majority of the structure is original, just as it was one hundred years ago.

The myth that it was built in just 24 hours ahead of a local derby with Newport has long since been dis-spelled, but it’s true that it was built by a force of workmen from one of the local boatyards, and it’s hard to imagine that they would have thought we’d be here, a century later, still sitting in it, calling it home, and loving it. So, happy birthday to our Main Stand! Here’s to another hundred.

It’s hard to do justice in just one paragraph to how the world has gone in the six months since our last competitive game here, but something this time has really underlined for me is how much I, and we, value this club. It’s great to see you all here again, it really is. And the warmth and love for the club over recent times has been palpable, even seen only in isolation through the lens of social media. We are so very lucky. So, win, lose or draw tonight, enjoy the game, revel in the experience, and most of all, stay safe.