ABOUT an hour after the end of Saturday’s game against Carshalton, we had some unexpected visitors descend on the Rook Inn.
They were a band of Portsmouth supporters who had been making their way back to their transport parked in the vicinity.
With the Dripping Pan gates open they had ventured in and discovered our bar was fairly full of happy Lewes fans celebrating their first Ryman Premier League victory since Boxing Day – and marveling at the fact that, despite such a long winless run, the Rooks were still in a top eight position and just a couple of wins off a place in the play-offs.
The Pompey fans in contrast were downcast, having just seen their financially beleaguered team beaten 2-0 by Brighton. But they were nevertheless happy to chat with us about the relative joys of non-league football – and were full of admiration at the size and quality of the Dripping Pan stands and the ambience of our ground.
Now, it is by no means certain that Portsmouth will retain their Fratton Park ground. The debt-laden club is in administration and it’s only thanks to the Football League agreeing to release around £800,000 that Pompey can keep going until the end of the season. The cash might just give the administrator time to find a new owner but also crucially saves the Football League having to expunge Pompey’s results and upsetting other clubs in the process.
However, Portsmouth’s best players have already departed on loan in order to reduce the club’s huge wage bill. Stranded at the bottom of the Championship, they seem doomed to relegation. Well, we were able to give our newly-acquired Pompey friends some hope. We told them just how bleak it looked for Lewes FC just three seasons ago when our club faced High Court winding-up orders over an unpaid £150,000 HMRC tax bill.
In our case, a posse of enlightened local businessmen and showbiz luminaries came riding to the rescue in the nick of time. The result today is Lewes FC Community Club into which nearly 800 fans and well-wishers have purchased shares and have a vote. Money remains very tight but at least our club has an assured future.
Plus no one can purloin the Pan and change it from being anything but a sports ground (they can’t anyway, can they? The ground belongs to the district council? But anyway, I get your point – Sports Ed).
The Dripping Pan model might not be the whole answer to Pompey’s problems. But I think the Portsmouth fans that enjoyed a Harvey’s in the Rook Inn last Saturday went away with plenty of food for thought. Lewes CFC is showing that when it comes to delivering a fulfilling football experience, size isn’t really doesn’t matter.
The subject of size comes up again this Saturday when a green-clad representative of the “Little People” will once again go in goal at half time for the annual “Beat the Leprechaun” Penalty Shoot-Out.
I love it! Only in Lewes in the heart of Toad in the Hole country could you find anything quite so zany happening on a football field. And just look what else is happening hard on the heels of our game against Lowestoft Town tomorrow: England take on Ireland in the Six Nations at 5pm. And it’s live on TV in the Rook Inn. Begorrah! Is there anywhere else you’d rather be?
It was timely that last week’s Lewes win over Carshalton Athletic was in a match sponsored by that popular real ale emporium, the Gardener’s Arms. I say timely because that pub’s owner, Johnny Marshall, is a key organiser behind this evening’s Lewes FC Beer Festival being held at the Rook Inn from 5pm.
Advance tickets at £5 are available until late this afternoon from the Lewes Tourist Information Centre. Admission on the door is £6.