The View from the Bar 

 I’m not quite so crash hot at keeping tabs on Wessex League programmes these days, but I’m pretty confident that this must be one of the longest running columns in Wessex issues. Thinking about it, actually, there was probably a break of a couple of seasons in the early-noughties (when I was living on the other side of the world, to be fair), but anyway, its’ roots can be traced back all the way to c. 1992 when Justin took over the editing of the programme and started offering up his beer-soaked musings. Frequently controversial (got a feeling we got kicked out of the Gold Cup one year after a particularly acerbic observation), more often than not much funnier than I can manage, but always worth reading. Well, with any luck Justin and his family will be here tonight on one of their all-too-infrequent sojourns down from the chilly north, so it’ll be a pleasure to welcome him back to Westwood. I might even try and talk him into penning a guest column for the game on Saturday.

  The eight or so years from 1987 were a golden age for Cowes supporters (stick with me on this). At the start we were lurking in the lower reaches of the Hampshire League Division 2, but regardless of this a gaggle of around six of us would regularly roll up at a roped off field in a Hampshire backwater in Justin’s Morris Marina, asking directions to the nearest pub for a pint or two before kick-off. On one memorable trip, having realised we were headed the wrong way, Justin performed a near-flawless eleven-point turn in a tight country backroad, and with typical elan (and traffic building up around us), he paused to find and insert a new tape in the stereo, much to the amusement of his passengers (and no doubt frustration of the waiting drivers). It may even have been during the same riotous the trip to Awbridge in 1989 when we stopped to ask directions, only to be corrected by a bemused local that “It’s not AWbridge, it’s A’bridge. The W is silent, as in fox…”

  By the end of that period we had been promoted to Division 1, won that in 1994, and been elevated to the Wessex League, picking up a couple of cups along the way, and Justin was there for all of it. But the early years, trawling around such venerable spots as Winchester Castle, Netley Athletic, Malshanger and Liss probably remain my favourites. Such good fun, win, draw or (more often than not) lose.

  Anyway, these are fond reminiscences, not a eulogy, so welcome back Justin – it’s always a pleasure to see you. Now, about that column…

  I have to confess to missing the first half on Saturday. Always a bit weird and disorientating, knowing there’s football on at Westwood and I’m not there. Driving back from the campsite there weren’t any updates on our progress on 5 Live (inexplicably), so I had to wait until I walked in just after the half-time whistle blew to get the score. Meeting a grizzled old Westwood regular, he informed me the score was 3-0, and looking at his face I assumed we were behind. “No, to us…” he thoughtfully added as I walked away scowling. Oh! That’s alright then! There followed musing on how many points we’d managed to accumulate over the last couple of truncated seasons. My guess at 20-ish points last year was a mile off – in eleven league games we managed just eight points, and 30 games the previous year only yielded 14 points, so ten points from six outings so far in this campaign is looking pretty good. Long may it continue…

  Which brings us to Saturday coming, and our first return fixture of the season when Amesbury come to Westwood. We won at Bonnymead Park on the opening day of the campaign so hopes must be high of another victory – make sure you’re here to see if we can continue our winning ways…

  But first the no small matter of the Wessex League Cup, a trophy we won back in 1999 with a memorable penalty victory over Lymington & New Milton (a side who previously had seemed about as beatable as the Death Star). I’m sure Andover New Street, currently in fine form in Division 1 – will be keen to end our hopes of a repeat performance this season, so we should be in for an exciting evening.

  Enjoy the game.

           Toby

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