Tuesday, December 11

‘Get to know your fellow fans’

‘Get to know your fellow fans’

By Sean McGlead

This weeks ‘Get to know your fellow fans’ feature involves someone I have known for getting on for 40 years. He is a VERY proud Tottonian. If there was a Totton tourist board they should employ this guy. He loves this town and it’s wonderful football club! If any of you have heard the AFC Totton CD from when we got to Wembley in 2007 This was the guy on the CD who at the beginning shouts ‘Oi you lot do a song for Totton!’.

I still remember clearly back in the 1980’s when he said to me that one day the Stags will be bought by a stinking rich Oil barron and he would turn them into a footballing superpower!…. I am still waiting!

I will introduce you to him………

Tell everyone about yourself mate

My name is Rut Harwood. I used to live in Totton but for the last 10 years I have lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA. I still follow the team from afar.

What are you early memories of AFC Totton?

As a nipper I grew up in Causeway Crescent (AKA ‘The White City’) so the old ground at Testwood Place was nearby. Back then (1970’s) the whole set-up at AFC Totton was a lot more low-key.

On non-match days we used to hop over the fence behind the goal at the east end of the ground that backed down onto the marshes.

We’d use that goal to play football in. Quite luxurious really. It normally had a net in it. Any goals over Testwood or Eling recs were lucky to have a crossbar – let alone a net. The only downside was you always had to be on the look-out for ‘the bloke’ who’d chase us off. Looking back now ‘the bloke’ was probably the groundsman who (now – for obvious reasons) was pretty annoyed at a bunch of kids ruining his pitch.

Bloke! The shout would go up and we’d all grab our stuff and leg-it. I do remember one bloke being quite clued up one day. He’d actually gone round to Compton Road and came round to the ground the same way as we did. This meant we had to leg-it towards the main entrance of the ground and escape down Testwood Lane. One of us got caught and the bloke grabbed him and started marching him towards the nearby police station. Once there he just let him go. More of a ‘scare us’ tactic. It worked for a while but we were soon back playing over there.

The blokes weren’t all bad though. We used to have a rope swing on the big Conker tree in the field there. One day a bloke headed our way. We thought he was going to tell us to ‘get lost’ but nope – he wanted to know if we’d like a new rope. Helped us put it up as well. Top man!.

When did you see your first Totton game Rut?

This is actually pretty hard to say. I don’t honestly know. To be honest it was a bit of a pain when there was a game on as it meant we couldn’t use the goal. We had to play our game down the side of the pitch. Often our ball would end up on the pitch and a player would kindly boot it back to us. Like I said – it was a lot more low-key back then. So my first ever AFC Totton game would have been mid-late 70’s but at the time the game I was playing down the side of the pitch would have been where my interest was. I had no idea what teams were playing the real game.

I remember the games v Sholing in the old Hampshire League in the early 80’s always seemed to have quite a crowd. They were perhaps some of the first times I remember people actually cheering goals. Often you’d have the proverbial ‘2 men and a dog’ (well perhaps 10 men and no dogs) watching a game and goals didn’t register much interest. Especially when they were up the other end from the clubhouse.

My first away game was Windsor & Eton v Totton in the FA Cup in the 82/83 season. This was the 4th qualifying round. The next round was the first round proper. Your name would be read out on Final Score and that was a big deal back then! We drew 0-0 at home. The winner of the replay was drawn away to Brentford ( a league team). The club put a coach on for the game. I booked a seat and went along. It was a poor game that we ended up losing 1-0. From memory it was probably the only shot of the game. Gutted. Must admit to quite enjoying seeing Brentford stuff them 7-0. I’m pretty certain they’d have done the same to Totton as well.

Like most people I rarely carried a camera then. The oldest pic I could find was this one:

Totton v Andover. 16 Feb 2002. From the clubhouse end. A great reminder that you could never really tell what was going on up the other end. The big tree to the right is the previously mentioned Conker tree.

What was your most memorable AFC Totton game?

You might regret asking this one. This without question is:

Billingham Synthonia 1 AFC Totton 2

FA Vase Semi Final – 2nd leg

3-3 on aggregate – Totton won 5-4 on pens

Sat 31 March 2007. Attendance: 2,386 (around 100 Totton fans)

Never mind ‘favourite Totton game’ – this is one of my all time favourite games. Full stop. Just after getting back I did a full report on the day. This is the 2018 abridged version.

I’d already been away to Potton United in the 4th round (won 2-1 in the famous ‘Potton v Totton’ game) and Ipswich Wanderers in the 5th round (won 2-1). We beat Wimborne Town at home in the quarter final (again 2-1) and now it was on the 2 legged semi final. The buzz for this became huge when it was announced that the Vase Final would be held at the brand new Wembley Stadium. The winner would get the chance to play at Wembley before England or any top flight team had a chance to do so.

We lost the home leg 2-1. You always have to have hope though – so the long trip up to Billingham (near Middlesbrough) had to be done. Looked at trains but it wasn’t really feasible without setting off a week before. The club put on a supporters coach. Just the one – and we set off from Testwood Place around 6am.

  • Burt (Craig Burton), Lisa (Rut’s wife) & Rut. Service stop on the way to Billingham.

We got to the ground around 12.30. The turnstile ain’t open yet. Gives us a chance to admire the chimneys and derelict buildings that make up the scenery of this classic clichéd northern outpost.

  • The queue forms. Little did we know how worthwhile this was going to be.
  • 8 quid to get in. Bargain!

We grabbed a table in the bar, guzzled lots of beer & whisky and then out to find somewhere to watch the game. Got lucky here. A couple of mini buses full of Totton youth players had made the trip up. All resplendent in their Totton tracksuits and they’d managed to grab a good spot at the middle of the back of the only stand at the ground. They certainly were letting everyone know where they were from. A right bunch of loud, gobby teenagers. They were great. We budge in with them and didn’t need much encouragement to join in with all the singing.

In hindsight how they/we got out alive is a story in itself. Some local bloke finally cracked at a chorus of ‘you’re s–t and you know you are’ being chanted at some Billingham player. Instead of backing down they bellow out ‘you’re old – you’re boring – you may as well be snoring – old man – old man’ and continued the general abuse of the home team – except even louder. Like I said – lucky to get out alive – but fair play to them. They were a tight nit bunch who stuck up for each other.

  • Some of the Totton youth crew. Not old enough to drink – but old enough to out-sing the locals.

Onto the game. Totton came out in their now pretty infamous pink shirts. You can imagine what the locals thought of this. A ‘bunch of Southern nancy boys’ is probably the most pleasant remark that was shouted out. Unperturbed – some loud choruses of ‘Pink Army’ echoed out of the stand.

Even louder when after 2 minutes Totton score. Our part of the stand went mental. We had the wind behind us and were all over them. Couldn’t score again though. HT 1-0 to Totton. 2-2 on aggregate.

Best chants of the half. Being actual Totton players the ‘youth crew’ knew the players well – some song about a certain player having a ‘donkey d#ck’ drew interest from a female Billingham fan. She regretted this. A chant of ‘you dirty northern B@$+@rds’ when a hefty tackle went in early on a Totton player probably wins it though. Not so original but the locals in the stand were not impressed.

  • Half time. A good old fashioned running/speedway/dog track circled the pitch.

The second half was mostly all Billingham but they didn’t capitalise and on 80 mins – Bang! Lee Stevens scores for Totton. If the first goal was a mental celebration then this was something ‘more mental’. I think this was when the atmosphere against the ‘gobby southerners’ turned for the worse but just as I think the whole stand was ready to come over and ‘have a word’ disaster happened. With one of the last kicks of the game they equalised. Our Wem-ber-ly chants were silenced. All the locals who were leaving the ground came rushing back in.

So near – but so far. That was one of the most gut wrenching goals I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing. We were down and out. Us oldies could barely speak let alone sing along with the defiant chants that the youth were still trying to get going.

On to extra time. Sadly we could only see one winner here. Them. Sure enough they get a penalty. I think it was a penalty as well. Nothing dodgy about it. This is it. Dreams popped. Knew it was too good to be true. The locals are all ready to rub it in but then… Joe McCormack has only gone and saved it. They missed it!

Taking the lead in the game. Great. Taking the lead on 80 mins to go ahead. Double great. This penalty miss (in the whole context of the way the game was going) was triple great. Suddenly our little part of the stand is turned back up to full volume. The glares towards us get fiercer but who cares now – if I die here today, then what a way to go.

By some miracle Totton manage to hang on for the whole 30 mins and we are off to a penalty shoot-out. To see who goes to Wembley. No pressure lads. This was the definition of a teepee and a wigwam. Too tense.

  • The media had to wait a bit longer than usual to hit the bar. Wendy Gee of The Echo (in glasses) and a radio reporter.

Hard to do the shoot-out justice in writing so I’ll keep it simple.

They score. Grrrrh. We have to score. We do. Get in.

They score. Grrrrh. We have to score. We do. Get in.

They score. Grrrrh. We have to score. We do. Get in.

3-3 and up steps some Billingham player who looks a bit crap. It’s saved!

We score. 4-3 to Totton.

If the next Billingham player misses we are there. They score. Grrrrh.

So it’s down to this. Up steps Kevin Reacord. By day he works for Dyno-Rod plumbers and often turns up at the ground in his bright orange Dyno-Rod van. He now has a chance to go down in Totton folklore for something slightly different.

Bang! He scores.

  • The winning penalty from Kev Reacord.

  • Let the party begin.

Pandemonium in our part of the stand and on the pitch with all the Totton players and staff going crazy. There’s no police or stewards to stop us getting on the pitch but one problem – at this moment in time this involves barging past a lot of very angry looking Billingham fans. Sod it – we all felt invincible and piled down onto the pitch.

  • Rut (left) and Rob Callen on the pitch. Wem-ber-ly! Wem-ber-ly

  • Kev Reacord ‘Ah it’s nothing!’

As a sporting fan this is as good as it gets. Strange how ‘some bloke booting a ball into a net’ can give you so much joy but if it’s in your blood then it’s a hard thing to get out of. If you’re reading this you can probably relate.

Most Billingham fans left. Some stayed behind and fair play to them – despite what had gone on that afternoon they shared a few pints with us in the bar. They didn’t want to go down to ‘that London place’ anyway. Our coach left the ground at 6.30 and didn’t stop singing until we got back to sunny Totton long after midnight.

How could this game not be my most memorable game? It had everything.

What did – or do you – love about the club?

I was lucky to have my local non-league team be so close to where I lived. It was always an easy stroll round to the ground.

Some of the things I remember most from my visits to AFC Totton are:

The same ol’ faces would be stood in the same ol’ places. Shouting the same ol’ things to the same ol’ (types of) player who could hear every word. Some players shouting abuse back. The ref telling them to cut it out.

Footballs getting kicked over the fence into back gardens, the marsh or the street. The mad dash by some bloke to go and re-capture these balls as the club could only afford so many and were 2 down this season already.

Wondering who in their right mind gives up a Saturday to go and be a linesman at this level.

I’ve been to games where I’ve not left the bar. We all loved that you could just about watch the game from the windows of the clubhouse. The beer was cheaper here than down the local pubs. If you got through so many pints you basically got into the game for free.

The smell of linament. A smell you never encounter anywhere else apart from a non-league football match. A word you don’t have to spell too often either.

The surprise of the barman when you tell him you want to buy one of those AFC Totton mugs. The ones that have been sat on the shelf there for a couple of years. The price tags are faded. 50p will do.

The drama of trying to order an AFC Totton polo shirt when you are just a fan. Not on the board or a player. You really want to buy one? They’re 15 quid each and it could take a month to arrive.

Buying raffle tickets. Before the game – during the game – at half time – there would always be someone trying to flog you raffle tickets. You dutifully would buy one. No idea when/where the draw was (or even if there was one at all). I probably won 10 bottles of wine and a trip to Disneyland over the years. Luckily for me – Disneyland is not on the top of my list of places I want to go to. Those bottles of wine though?

Dreaming of the day you lived in one of the houses on Testwood Lane or Arundel Road so you could build a viewing platform to see over the fence and watch the game from your back garden. Nobody had ever done that – always mystified me that one.

What are your other thoughts and memories?

Obviously playing at Wembley was Totton’s biggest, most famous game but I didn’t really enjoy it that much. We lost for starters. It was a good day out but the atmosphere was strange and it all seemed a bit flat on the day. The build-up to the game was great though. The town really got behind the team.

  • ‘Not just news’ in the precinct (Where Costa is now) supporting the team. Great Echo board ‘Saints & Totton bid for glory’

  • A crowd gathered at Testwood Place to see the coach off

  • The Tottoners

  • The Tottoners and AFC Totton team recording ‘Go Totton Go’ in honor of the Wembley appearance.

Seeing Totton at Wembley was a bit surreal but on a par with that was getting to see Totton on TV in the USA. Dec 2011. FA Cup. Round 2 at home to Bristol Rovers. Going back to the 70’s where I’m climbing over a dodgy wooden fence to play in Totton’s goal – to sitting at home in America, with a Totton game on TV. All in not much more than 30 years. Sadly we lost 6-1 but as an ex-Totton pat that was cool.

Best goal seen at Testwood Park? There were some crackers over the years but the one I remember the most was by Matt Le Tissier. Yep – him of Saints fame. It was some charity game. He was past his prime and the tackles weren’t exactly flying in – but he made a yard of space and then just – almost casually – pinged the ball into the top corner from 40 odd yards out. A goal most people can only dream of. He just had a quick high-five with his teammates and carried on as if nothing had happened.

I saw an amazing 20 yard overhead kick goal by some away team there once. It was the classic bicycle kick from well outside the box. Smashed into the back of the net. Sadly not on film because it was genuinely pretty spectacular at any level of the game. Away goals don’t count in a ‘best goals’ list though.

I think non-league football will continue to prosper over the coming years. Here’s to AFC Totton being part of that. Out here in the deepest depths of Midwest America the name is proudly displayed. Who knows? Perhaps one day AFC Totton will do a pre-season tour of the USA. Stranger things have definitely happened…

  • Up the Stags!!!

Cheers for talking to us Rut. 

 

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