Opening Day Joy for K's
Report of the day by Taimour Lay
There was a time, around the mid-1990s, when failure to attend a K’s game would (logistically and ethically) rule out writing a match report. You couldn’t, after all, claim to know what had gone on unless you truly clapped your eyes on the live action. The only source of K’s results (and certainly not minute-by-minute updates) on a match-day was BBC Ceefax. Page 302 was the portal to all things football while (readers, please correct me if I’m wrong), page 318 provided the results of the tinpot leagues on multiple pages almost immediately after full-time. Or did it also show a half-time score? Either way, no scorers’ names nor minutes of goals, just the bare facts and, eventually, an updated league table. So iconic and useful was this service that we even had a K's fan whose nickname was "Ceefax", mainly because he used to carry around a portable radio and shout out scores.
If you wanted details, narrative, attendance and gossip, you had to wait for The Surrey Comet (when the Comet sports pages didn’t comprise three Press Association articles about Chelsea) or, from 1999, the incomparable K’s Web. You could even, if you were desperate, call a landline at Kingsmeadow. I’m fairly certain Brendan Frawley, sometime PA announcer, would pick up the phone and say “we lost 2-1, mate” and hang up. (This leaves aside the golden days of Geoff Chapple’s Premium hotline recorded messages, something to which I intend to dedicate a podcast.)
Fast-forward two decades and the stay-at-home K’s fan is now spoiled for multimedia exposure. The blackout may mean you can't watch the whole game live on a Saturday but you can, sort of, just about, in a real sense, experience it.
For the fixture against Haringey, I remained some 7.2 miles away from King George’s Field, trapped with childcare duties at home in Earlsfield, long known as Nappy Valley and also – since last year – a Womble heartland once more, with New Plough Lane’s non-affordable housing development casting a shadow over the serried suburban streets, cemeteries and supermarkets of SW18.
Earlsfield may not be a K’s catchment area but chairman John Fenwick was delighted to inform me, when posting my season-ticket in July, that his wife’s family had been brought up in the very next street and I was thus maintaining a tenuous Kingstonian connection in this otherwise blue and yellow environment.
And so it was, at 2.59pm, I threw a baby into a cot, positioned myself in an adjacent seat, opened up a laptop, charged a mobile telephone, logged onto K’s twitter and … waited for an influx of Kingstonian data. On a hot summer’s day, I then made a fatal error: I opened the window and suddenly, rather than being hit by a welcome cool breeze alongside which to enjoy the just-published K’s line-up (A makeshift defence! But a devastating front-four of Banton, RMW, Nyren Clunis and Dan Ajakaiye!), I instead took a full waft of “AAAAAA FCCCCCCCCCCC WIIIIIIIIIMBLEDOOOON!” right in the face, an extraordinary wave of sound which knocked me back and sent the baby stirring.
Scrabbling with my phone I had an answer: Wombles were at home to Bolton Wanderers! A full house! So many months of Behind Closed Doors had lulled me, a local resident, into a false sense of security. Now the full impact of Plough Lane was dawning.
Just as I was pressing send, a huge roar rattled the window pane. Could this be the sound of jubilant K’s fans travelling 7.2 miles through the south London air? No. It was Wombles’ fans reacting 2 miles away to William Nightingale making it 1-0.
Meanwhile, very few updates were emerging from Tolworth. A brief whatsapp exchange with an attending K’s fan confirmed that there wasn’t much to provide by way of updates aside from us "looking solid" and the impressive display of Royal Enclosure flags.
The 23rd minute – a cheer from outside the window. But this one is different. Raucous, full-throated, a hint of Lancashire. It’s a Bolton equalizer! A penalty! The away contingent temporarily drown out Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory and Orinoco. The baby’s eyes open. She smiles. She knows.
Then, the 26th minute – Twitter lights up. Penalty to K’s! Jason Banton felled. Goal! 30 seconds elapses. Scorer: Gus Sow! Gus! A photo of celebrations.
And a video of the goal too: Sow ever so slightly staggers his run-up and places the ball perfectly into the top corner.
This is better than being at the game.
27th minute: another Bolton roar. It’s 2-1 at New Plough Lane. I open the window to its fullest extent, stick my head out and breathe it in.
45th minute: Starlet Declan Skura replaces an injured Jerry Puemo. Hold on, K’s. Just hold on. A first opening day home win since 2006 is on the cards. Get to half-time, K’s and regroup. Come on Bolton! 3-1!
My head spins. The baby drifts back into sleep.
Twitter falls silent. Wombles get a goal back. I narrow my eyes and close the window.
Then: Twitter: “Not loads of goalmouth action in the second half, but with just over 10 minutes to go, Ks still lead 1-0.”
I lie down for a power nap.
Then: Awoken by a nightmarish vision of an irate Allan Tait challenging me to a game of Footgolf, I reach for the screen: FULL-TIME: Kingstonian 1-0 Haringey Borough #IsthmianLeague
Then: AFC Wimbledon 3-3 Bolton Wanderers.
The baby cries.
Kingstonian: Rob Tolfrey, Juevan Spencer, Bryant Akono Bilongo, Jerry Puemo, Ollie Cook, Kenny Beaney, Nyren Clunis, Gus Sow, Daniel Ajakaiye, Jason Banton, Rhys Murrell-Williamson.
Subs: Elliott Buchanan (for Daniel Ajakaiye, 84m), Declan Skura (for Jerry Puemo, HT), Teo Kurtaran, Aaron Lamont (for Nyren Clunis, 75m), Mason Whitnell.
Haringey Borough: Jonathan Miles, David Olufemi, Michael O'Donoghue, Rakim Richards, Scott Mitchell, Tyrese Owen, Jorge Djassi-Sambu, Georgios Aresti, Chidubem Onokwai, Bobson Bawling, Christos Djamas.
Subs: Sami Bessadi, Anthony McDonald (for Christos Djamas, 61m), Jamie-Lee O'Donoghue (for Scott Mitchell, 61m), Aron Gordon (for Chidubem Onokwai, 70m), Tiernan Parker.
Goal scorer: Gus Sow (26m pen, 1-0)