Dripping Yarns with David Arnold

MUCH as I would like to see the Rooks return to the Blue Square South at the first opportunity, I am inwardly prepared to settle for another season in the Ryman Premier should we not successfully negotiate the play-offs.

As it happens, the Ryman League has a much more illustrious and much longer history than the Blue Square.

It has also been very innovative since it first began life in 1905 as the Isthmian Football League with just six clubs all from the London area.

The League took its name from the venue of the original Olympic Games, the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece. The avowed intent of the new football entity was to maintain and encourage the principles of fair play, sportsmanship and supreme performance on which those ancient Games were founded.

By 1972 the League had grown to 22 clubs, all playing in a single division. The following season saw the formation of a second division and the advent of promotion and relegation.

A year later the FA abolished the distinction between amateur and professional status whereupon the Isthmian League, the epitome of the amateur sportsman, entered the professional world as the first commercially-sponsored league in this country when Berger Paints pledged £25,000 per annum – at the time the highest sum ever received by any football league in this country.

It also surprised me to learn that the Isthmian League were the first to introduce the system of three points for a win instead of the traditional two and was also the first English league to adopt the “goal difference” rule in place of goal average.

BALANCE OF POWER

At the time the Isthmian League said that the changes were meant “…to reverse the undesirable trends that had crept into football at every level – defensive, negative and unattractive play, coupled with an increasing undiscipline among players.”

A laudable aim. Half a decade later the League felt the changes had had the desired effect when they confidently announced how “the balance of power had swung from defence to attack; from the physical destroyer to the gifted creator.

“The League now provides an arena for disciplined players; the sight of petulant players arguing with referees, of deliberate time wasting, so-called ‘professional’ fouls and crude physical play is now a rarity.”

Wow! Stirring stuff and a footballing creed that every manager should emphasise to his players. Trouble is that it might have been a “rarity” back then in what seems to have been an Isthmian golden age, but such goings-on are all too common these days when not a few non-league players take their cue from the antics of too many full-time professionals.

It would be disingenuous of me to claim that Lewes players have never been guilty of on-field misdemeanours. But I do believe that the current Lewes FC Manager Simon Wormull will be doing his utmost to instill that Isthmian League spirit as expressed over three decades ago into the team he commands today.

Playing the game the way it should be played may not set us on the fast track to win promotion. But it will win us a lot of respect.

PLAYING DOWN UNDER

The current cold snap has put paid to plenty of football games, not least in Lewes where the Dripping Pan surface has been frozen for many days now. Not that this is worrying our youngest son, Joe, and his friend, Haig Kingston. The pair jetted off to sunny Perth in Western Australia last Monday evening for a nine-month sabbatical in which their principal pursuit will be playing football.

The story began with a message on the Nomad Sussex football forum.

It was posted by a one-time Brightonian called Nik Silsby who now lives in Perth and is very much involved in the amateur football scene there.

Nik’s club is Hamersley Rovers (www.hamersleyrovers.com.au) and they are one of the largest senior soccer clubs in the state, fielding 10 teams. I was interested to see they even have a ladies side. On their website the club states that they have, and always will, welcome people of any age to its ground in Carine and ensure they feel a part of the club.

Nik Silsby has taken this welcome a step further. Each season he invites reasonably skilled footballers in Sussex who are interested in playing football in Australia to come out to Perth and play for one of the Hamersley teams.

Joe and Haig played as youngsters for Ivan Peck’s Bridgeview side, Haig developing into an excellent goalkeeper while Joe is a good defender and is nippy on the wing. They duly contacted Nik and were delighted to be asked out to Australia.

In addition, through the Hamersley FC local network of contacts, the pair would be found accommodation and, hopefully, temporary employment.

A GREAT OZ ADVENTURE

It’s a great adventure for the 21-year-old lads, giving them the chance to explore the rest of Australia into the bargain. The football season in Perth starts in April so they have time to get acclimatised in training.

Plus, by the Aussie autumn it will be cooler; on their first day in Perth the temperature was 36C – that’s over 90F degrees!

They are actually in a suburb of the city not far from a surfing hotspot called, aptly, Brighton Beach.

I like the way Hamersley Rovers Soccer Club presents itself: “We are a multi-cultural club.

“We encourage respect and equal opportunity for all our members.

“We value the excellent reputation our club has, both through successes on the field; governance, and in the way we conduct ourselves when dealing with our stakeholders.

“We recognise that our club plays an important part in the community.”

The above could equally apply to Lewes FC. Talking of which, it has to be said that our son Joe has been an infrequent visitor to the Dripping Pan, despite the encouragement of his mum and dad.

But we have struck a deal.

In return for bankrolling his flights Down Under, plus putting the necessary funds into his bank account as required under the Australian Working Holiday rules, he has promised he will follow the Rooks much more often upon his return.

It’s an expensive way of recruiting a new fan but hopefully first he’ll have enjoyed the trip of a lifetime.