Art’noon. Or is it morning? All feels a bit early today. Apparently folk want to get home in good time for something or another this evening. I’m guessing it’s the local pantomime…
Always nice to roll into Christmas with an easy run of fixtures, eh? The latest of these, for us, sees the visit of table-topping Portchester, who doubtless in the spirit of goodwill will present very little in the way of a challenge today. Ahem. Here’s a fun fact though – we’re the only side to have restricted Portchester to just a single goal in a league game this season (and it took them 77 minutes to score that one). Some fella called Pitman grabbed it as the game entered it’s closing stages – nice for him to enjoy a moment of glory I suppose, doubt we’ll be hearing that name again…

Regular readers (are there any?) of this column may recall my fondness for When Saturday Comes – the only football magazine worth reading these days, I’d say. This month there’s a lovely article about the giddy return to attending football after the lockdowns, including a couple of pars on the joys of the non-league fixture boards: “Across the entire land, no ground’s board is the same as the next’s. each has its own size and shape, colour scheme, typefaces, varying amounts of information and sponsorship logo. There is no uniform location for one, and they are scattered in car parks, on club shop walls or among overgrown grass in a corner of the ground that time and maintenance men forgot. The very best are visible from an adjacent road so that we might encounter them on some humble Thursday afternoon and feel a frisson of excitement about a matchday yet to happen. We may merely be passing through, and the fixture advertised may be impossible for us to attend, and yet there is still a faint tingle or a pleasant moment of distraction. These are the cinematic neon ‘NOW SHOWING’ displays of football.”

Apart from swelling with pride that we meet the author’s approval in that our own board stands proudly facing the road at the entrance to Reynolds Close, these lines really spoke to me, and recalled the delight at the moment around ten years ago when the Club finally got a fixture board to beam our intentions into the community. Getting that brown ‘Westwood Park’ sign pointing to the ground felt big at the time (never was quite sure how that came about), but the arrival of the fixture board was massive!

I was probably a bit too enthusiastic about it, as it didn’t take long to land the responsibility of making all the signs for it and updating it each week, which can be an adventure in itself: Fighting through spider webs in September, scrabbling up the muddy mound through the winter and usually dropping something important in the undergrowth when trying to navigate to it in the dark after a midweek game. I love it, though, as it’s one of the ways we connect with the town and remind folk we’re here – it makes it all seem a bit more real, somehow. Not everyone glimpses the glow of the floodlights, probably even fewer get to hear the cheer of a home goal (these days), but pound to a penny pretty much everyone in town passes that board every now and again. I love that.

Of course, it’s another job that needs doing, and there’s always plenty of those around up here. Could you lend a hand for half an hour here or there? It would be a massive help to the Club, and you never know, you might find it turns into a labour of love for you too, just like updating the sign is for me. Speak to a committee member if you think you can help out – they’re not hard to spot in those fluorescent tops…

So yes, the festive season is nearly upon us. Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year. No boxing day game for us this year, so I look forward to seeing you all back here in January.

Enjoy the game today (and hopefully enjoy whatever it is going on tonight, too…)

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