the real fa cup

In Wall We Trust

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Dulwich Hamlet 0 Tunbridge Wells 1
Have you ever felt at home in a football ground? Have you ever felt at home in a certain part of a ground? Somewhere it is conducive to watch football or just BE? Maybe it’s your ‘home’ end? Maybe the big, impressive main stand?

Part of the reason for following this FA Cup thing, or general football, was so that I could rid myself of the attachment, rid myself of the subjective pain and disappointment of supporting my team. Obviously, football is subjective, to the ‘n’th degree, but you can remove some of the blind emotion by having no emotional attachment and just enjoying football for what it is. Kind of objectively.

So, having extricated myself from Ipswich Town’s North Stand (now the Sir Bob Stand) why now do I find myself drawn to ‘The Wall’?

While I’ve always liked Dulwich, I’m not really a ‘fan’, I’m a follower. Well, there was a moment away at Ashford (Kent) a couple of years ago, where I found myself rooting for Dulwich, but, largely, I’ve wanted them to win without being put out if they didn’t, especially if it was a good game. But regardless of this, ‘The Wall’ often calls.

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Tonight, it hurt that Dulwich lost. But not much. Not like Ipswich losing to Norwich, but like losing a routine league game against nondescript and average opposition. Like losing to Coventry. Fucking Coventry, tedious, boring, lower mid table Coventry. I hate Coventry.

It’s worming it’s way in though and that is partly thanks to ‘The Wall’. Dulwich were clearly the better side but they had no way through Tunbridge Wells’ very own wall. It was frustrating and there were moments of near fan-dom when I found the gutteral urge to roar them on. There is something beautiful about a defensive display but this was overcome by ‘The Wall’. My presence in front of ‘The Wall’ made me want Dulwich to win, I’ve never had it anywhere else in the ground.

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From minute one my Hamlet buddy for the night, Scott, noticed ‘The Wall’ too. It was only minutes in. “Have you noticed the warmth emanating from this wall?” he asked. “If you get within a few feet you can feel it”, he added. I had noticed it but it was subconciously. It’s evident against your cheek when you turn your head to talk. My many visits to Champion Hill led me to understand the physiognomy of ‘The Wall’, that the sun beat down on it all day, I’d got sunburnt there several times before. But it wasn’t a hot evening and the sun had long since gone behind Sainsburys.

After half an hour of toil Dulwich had much possession but had done not a lot with it. Wells had weathered the storm and had a few minutes of possession then bang, 1-0. The rest of the game passed by.

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Above Hamlet’s tea hatch is a massive sign for an organic butcher. I don’t think it provides the meat for the burgers, unfortunately, as edible as they are at 8:30 on a dinner free evening full of ale. Provide, though they do, the sustenance, many folk leave the area and gravitate towards ‘The Wall’ to consume.

The view from ‘The Wall’ is nice. It’s slightly raised, three steps high. You can see the big main stand and you are very close to the beautifully tended nets, you can see the dugouts, you can see the mass (relatively speaking) of folk in the main stand who don’t know the secrets of ‘The Wall’ and you can hear the big grey-haired bloke who is always near ‘The Wall’ shouting obscenities at the ref.

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And from ‘The Wall’, like Greatstone’s concrete ears, you seem to be able to hear everything everyone in the ground says. Tonight’s gems: cult hero Francis Duku, barking to a comrade at a million decibels “If he’s fucking offside, fucking appeal”; the ref, quietly, to a clearly ‘simulating’ Wells number 6 “Do you want treatment?” The latter was just bollocks, the whole ground, especially grey haired man, could see he was time wasting and the ref pandered to him. He was sprinting back to snuff out danger 30 seconds later, after treatment.

It was 0-1 to Tunbridge Wells and a very good job they did at the back. ‘The Wall’ was still warm at the end, I felt like I needed a cigar and a glass of port. Whether real or otherwise that wall has sucked me in, it’s a nice place to stand. And for that reason, it has become something of an Ipswich Town crutch. And for that reason I cannot return for a while. Goodbye, for now Champion Hill, I will be back.

2 Comments
  1. Sadly the burgers are from the posh organic butchers. It’s the way they are cooked that makes you think they aren’t. And the slice of processed cheese that is dumped on top, that doesn’t sem quite fitting for ‘organic’.

    Unlike you I was gutted to lose to a crap side like Tunbridge Wells..which tells you all you need to know about The Hamlet….

  2. Damon Threadgold

    Really? Blimey, they really do crucify them burgers don’t they? I was disappointed Dulwich lost too, just not gutted. I guess I’m not quite an indoctrinated Hamlet fan just yet. Very nearly though.

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