As I walked into the clubhouse two men were complaining about the Police’s lack of interest in strangers knocking on their doors. This was proper ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge’ stuff and I was all ears. Except it was Seaford fans complaining about cold-calling which went to a vote this week and could mean the end of Christmas Carols, trick-or-treaters, rotary club charity collections – but not Jehovah’s Witnesses! This was proper Victor Meldrew stuff.
The last time I visited Seaford Town was six years ago when they were up against more grumpy neighbours complaining that if the club got permission for floodlights it would bring crowd trouble! Their first application was refused by Lewes Council because the lights would be ‘detrimental to local residential amenities.’ Ignoring the fact that football clubs are invaluable community amenities.
Eventually the moaning gits were ignored and not only floodlights but a new seated stand was built meaning entry to the FA Vase and, hopefully, soon the FA Cup. They only need standing cover for 22 more people and they would be eligible for promotion to the Sussex County League Division One.
Their visitors Tunbridge Wells play a league higher in the Kent Premier League and have a healthy average attendance of 129 something as Seaford’s programme notes pointed out said ‘they can only dream of.’
Seaford is a pleasant little town in between Brighton and Eastbourne, nestling at the foot of the South Downs where they head out to the sea under the English Channel on their way to France. As their website explained “The club is over a hundred years old, and because it never had the benefit of wealthy patrons in the early years, the club remains typical of local football: keen players, enthusiastic supporters, dedicated officials and just as many crises as any Premier League club. Ours don’t make national headlines, we don’t go spectacularly bankrupt or have to call in foreign billionaires to rescue us, and we continue to play on much as earlier generations have done.”
However, the club definitely has the feel of one on the up. OK so crowds might average around 50 but with football clubs for the under nines upwards, over 250 people play under the Seaford Town banner. They have a healthy number of people helping out, and although today’s crowd was given as 98 it seemed a lot more, with no doubt plenty of non paying players, wives, officials and four keen ball-girls. And with a 23,000 residents they surely have a large enough pool to pull in more punters.
As for the match; well for starters it was nice to actually enjoy a game as a neutral rather than one watching with hands through eyes. I was impressed with the quality of football and although Tunbridge seemed more skillful going forward the teams evened each other out even until Tunbridge’s Drew Crush struck in the 35 minutes.
But Seaford’s pressure finally paid off with Tom Morton scoring a wonder goal on the stroke of half time. Picking up the ball 30-yards out, he found the keeper off his line and picked his spot with great accuracy to level up the scores. In the second half Tunbridge started to assert themselves and, on the 78th minute, defender Andy Boyle headed the Wells winner. Seaford had a few more chances but the Tunbridge keeper was commanding his goal and it was not to be as the Kent team celebrated their 125th birthday with a win.
Still, on that performance Seaford Town should be challenging for promotion to the first division this season. I’m sure the ‘disgusted of’ types will be shaking in their Seaford-seaside-bungalow-boots at the very thought.
Words: Warren Carter, from the Slough Town Soapbox, also known as @BrightonRebel.
Photos: The mysteriously titled ‘Andy The Photographer’. See more of Andy’s work at flikr and contact him on Twitter @andythephoto