BOWMAN ON THE ROAD: Follow my journey with Burgess Hill Town, Crawley Town and Brighton and Hove Albion

My name is Colin Bowman from Burgess Hill and I will be bringing you Bowman on the Road here in the Mid Sussex Times as season 2015/16 unfolds.

Barmy Army on the Road. Picture by Colin Bowman
Barmy Army on the Road. Picture by Colin Bowman

Whilst the burning ambition is to complete the 92 club (15 to go) we will be following local clubs Brighton and Hove FC, Crawley Town and of course Burgess Hill Town Fc around the country.

This journey will be from a football fans perspective hopefully bringing you the highs and lows including vagaries of end less hours sitting on the M25 M6 and M4 car parks.

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Having followed Burgess Hill Town Fc for the past few seasons it was fitting that I accompanied their ‘Barmy Army’ to Needham Market (near Ipswich) last Saturday. The Green Elephants Stadium club are on the up and have proudly taken their place in the Ryman Premier League with the likes of Lewes Fc and Bognor Regis FC.

The day started early with a 7.50am meet at BH station. Several of the lads had been to Brighton Races the previous day and were looking a little peaky after an extended day of celebration. It was then a relatively quite trip up to London Bridge but spirits lifted as we emerged to very sunny weather walking across London Bridge to Liverpool Street. The real excitement of opening day was evident as the train going north was packed with Palace fans on route to Norwich. There was a real buzz.

The lads, who enjoy the odd pint of real ale, opted for Stowmarket as their pre match drinking spot. Its a town half the size of Burgess Hill one station on from Needham. Its a shame really as football fans you don’t really get to explore much of the towns that you visit. We walked straight to the Royal William and stayed for the next two hours indulging in some weirdly named local beer including down the hole and hell hole. Friendly banter with the locals ensued and I spoke to a grand old gentleman of 80 who partakes of three pints of IPA and brandy every day saying ‘it hasn’t done me any harm !’

At around two we made the short hop back to Needham Market, about the size of Hassocks and wandered 5 mins to the well appointed Bloomfields stadium. Like us, our hosts had secured promotion the previous season so were probable hoping for a positive start in front of a great crowd of 313.

They enjoy a nice clubhouse and a neat covered stand of about 200 capacity. The lush pitch might have been a tad long to be honest leading to some weary legs by the end.

Colin Bowman

As it turned out the Hillian’s produced a very professional performance. There was pre season talk of perhaps some defensive frailties but these never surfaced at Needham. The ever popular Jo Keehan converted a penalty right in front of me and then Town legend Pat Harding (he scores when he wants) got the 2nd.

The hosts did respond with a deserved consolation but it’s three massive away points on the board.

Ian Chapman would have been very proud of his team and his back room staff but knows there are sterner tests to come. Thanks to Needham Market CC for hosting a great day out and I wish them every success over the next 6 months. As for the Barmy Army we enjoyed a perfect day out arriving back in Mid Sussex around 9pm and then stayed out late doors in the Brewers Arms.

The highlight for me was when Pat H came over to the travelling support at the end for a group photo. Costs £36 rail fair, £10 entrance, £40 beer and food.

Pat Harding celebrates with travelling support. Picture by Colin Bowman

The next piece will come from Huddersfield as my mate Bryan and I take a mid week jaunt north with the Albion.

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Joe Keehan calmly slots home the penalty at Needham Market. Picture by Colin Bowman

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