Grier's Guide to Margate
The match: Margate v Kingstonian, Isthmian Premier. Saturday 13 August, 15:00.
The club: Founded in 1896 as Margate Town, The Gate have become Isthmian stalwarts in recent years. In the 1980s they were called Thanet United, in an attempt to win support from the wider borough. They've won both the Isthmian and Southern leagues, and they've twice been to the FA Cup third round.
The town: Seaside town immortalised by Chas 'n' Dave and the Jolly Boys' outing in Only Fools and Horses. In the last decade the town has become a prime example of gentrification on the south coast with the Turner Gallery, a renovated Dreamland and new micropubs drawing hundreds of people from London and beyond both to visit and to live - a process that covid and hybrid working has further accelerated.
The ground: Hartsdown Park, Hartsdown Road, Margate, Kent, CT9 5QZ. It has a decent terrace behind one of the goals but little on two sides of the ground after problems with planning permission curtailed a redevelopment in the mid-2000s.
Directions: The excitement of opening the season with a trip to the seaside was quickly curtailed by news of rail strikes - unless it's called off, there will be no trains at all to Margate. For those who don't drive, the Supporters' Club is running a coach. By car it takes about two hours from Kingston, with parking usually available on the street outside.
Tickets: £12 adults; £9 concessions/students; £5 11-17; U11s free. You can buy them online at https://margatefc.ktckts.com/event/mar2223h01/margate-v-kingstonian
Our record there: Our most memorable visit was in 2011 and not for good reasons, as we flushed a playoff berth away on the last day of the season by losing a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3. Of all our near-misses for a chance at promotion into Conference South it was definitely the most avoidable.
Recent form: They beat us to eight place last season by winning on the last day of the season. Pre-season has seen them win four and lose four so far.
Players to watch: Last season's top scorer Ben Greenhalgh won the reality TV show Football's Next Star in 2012, bagging a contract with Inter Milan. He never appeared for the Nerazzurri but he did bag eight goals on loan at Como before returning to England to forge a career in non-league.
Crowd: Like many clubs outside of London they've achieved a boom in crowds and are attracting new fans along. They've achieved 500+ crowds at two of their friendlies, against local rivals Ramsgate and a Fulham XI.
Drinking: If you have a chance to get a drink despite the transport problems, the best pubs are in the area just south of the Turner. The Harbour Arms has lovely views back across the beach; Fez, is a super-quirky micropub where seating includes a barber's chair and a waltzer carriage; plus there's Xylo, The Lifeboat and The Two Halves. Nearer the ground, Ales of the Unexpected is another micropub, on the walk between the station and the ground.
Food: Firmly fish and chips by the beach territory, our long standing favourite being Peter's near the Turner Gallery. Get there early as it's popular and the queues can be big.