Dripping Yarns with David Arnold – Geordies love our county toon!

THIS Saturday the Rooks meet with Essex side Canvey Island and all supporters should note the early kick-off time of 2pm.

Bringing the match forward an hour has given Lewes FC the opportunity to invite fans from both Brighton and Newcastle United to sample the delights of a non-league football game before they move on to Falmer, where the two teams meet in FA Cup action in a 5.15pm kick-off.

We did something similar at the beginning of the month and successfully attracted scores of supporters of the Seagulls and their Southampton opponents to the Dripping Pan. The atmosphere was entirely good-natured and the experiment was declared a great success.

So it wasn’t surprising to see someone using the simple monicker Lewes FC Fan putting a post on the Newcastle United fans forum extolling the attractions of a diversion to Lewes.

It read: “Calling all Geordies going to the Cup game at Brighton! Why not also come along to Lewes FC’s game against Canvey Island, which kicks off at 2pm?

“We play in the Ryman Premier League, and pride ourselves on the warm welcome we extend to all football fans.

“Our ground is one of the most picturesque in the country. Enjoy glorious views of the South Downs, whilst supping a pint of our delicious local brew, Harvey’s, on the terraces. Just a tenner for adults – kids go free to all of our games – so please come along, if only for the sheer novelty of two games in one afternoon!

“The station is close by and Brighton’s stadium is five minutes away via the frequent trains.”

Lewes FC Fan added: “Oh, and please give my regards to the Toon! I lived in your magnificent city for four years in the Eighties, which were some of the best years of my life!”

A pretty straightforward message put forward in a warm, friendly fashion. Not much more to add to it really.

I was therefore astonished to watch the thread go on to attract a massive 154 replies and no fewer than 2,470 hits – and this was only up to lunchtime on Wednesday! One of the first responses came from Bobby Shinton’s Tash: “As a regular visitor to Lewes I can happily endorse it as a good ‘stop over’ if you can get accommodation – it’s a small town and there are loads of interesting pubs.

“I can also vouch for the quality of Harvey’s – a ‘top notch’ real ale.”

Odog joined in: “Was planning on coming down there but running low on funds so will probably miss it. Got a mate that used to live down Brighton way and he mentioned Lewes was canny.”

Odog helpfully added, “Anyway I’ll let the lads going to the game know about this.”

Next was the turn of Sonna, a Lewes fan living in Newcastle no less: “I can confirm that Falmer is one stop away from Lewes and it takes less than 10 minutes to travel there (think St James’ to Wallsend).

“Worth popping to Lewes before the FA Cup tie. Have a few bevvies on the terraces and a good bit of banter.

“The Amex is closer to Lewes than Brighton.”

He closed with a friendly word of warning: “Just be careful parking in Lewes. Traffic wardens are merciless.”

Sonna is well known to many people in our town and he loves the Mighty Rooks to the extent that from far away in the North East he serves as a moderator on our own Lewes FC Fans Forum just so he can stay in touch and feel he is still part of the club.

Mind you, he’s been in exile quite a while now and I’m sure I can detect an embryonic Geordie accent permeating his posting.

At one point a misunderstanding arose when a Newcastle fan said he felt sorry that our supporters couldn’t possibly yell out “Go on Lewes” or even “Come on Lewes”.

Incredibly patiently, Lewes FC Fan then explained that the town name was pronounced “Lewis” and not “Loos”.

I noticed that quotes from Toon hero Sir Bobby Robson adorned many of the postings. I loved the pathos in this one: “What is a club?...It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”

I laughed out loud at these two: “We didn’t underestimate them. They were just a lot better than we thought.”

Followed by: “Alan Shearer has done very well for us, considering his age. We have introduced some movement into his game because he has got two good legs now. Last season he played with one leg.”

Then, suddenly the forum thread descended into chaos as a series of online rows broke out. It was like a virtual bare-knuckle fist fight. Yet none of the antipathy was directed at Lewes or even Brighton people. No, this virtual Toon Army had started scrapping amongst themselves.

Eventually it all died down. But even as the dust settled, Hippocritical piped up to point an accusing cyber finger at hapless Lewes FC Fan: “Personally, I blame you for this.

“If you hadn’t made such a polite and friendly proposal to the members of this board, none of this would have happened. If you had come on and been an unmitigated clown then it would have served to unite us as a forum. As it is your pleasantness has caused infighting, excessive geekiness and death threats – hang your head in shame.”

DAVID ARNOLD

PS. The activities of the Supporters Club are vital in raising funds from raffles, the sale of golden goal tickets and various other initiatives such as the very successful Xmas Draw.

Fortunately, membership of the Supporters Club Committee has been boosted in recent months with the recruitment of two new members: Norman Duncan and Barry Haffenden.

We have also welcomed former Lewes director Ben Ward onto the Committee while newly-elected director Terry Parris attends meetings in a Board-liaison capacity.

From such a thriving and enthusiastic Committee we can expect a string of new ideas and projects. But interestingly, the latest Supporters Club venture is not a new idea at all. The Pan for Gold lottery has been around for some seven years and has been a consistent fundraiser for the club.

However, in recent times this monthly lottery has occupied a low profile. That’s about to change. Pan for Gold is being given a makeover with an attractive new leaflet and evocative logo. It gives all supporters the chance to financially benefit their club but also everyone involved has the chance to win one of three cash prizes through a monthly draw.

The more people that join the bigger the cash prizes and the more the football club benefits. It’s as simple as that.

Full details are contained in the new leaflets that have neen made available in the Club Shop and in the Rook Inn from this week’s Sussex Senior Cup game onwards. Good luck!