TT No.165: Paul Roth -  Saturday 7th March 2009; Surrey Intermediate Elite League; Reigate Priory vs. Evrersley FC; Res: 0-3; Att: 20 (?); Entry: N/A; Programme: Free, 4 pages; Weather: Sunny intervals; French Onion Soup: None


Matchday images (7) >view>

For whatever reason my beloved entered our Persian pooch into the 'Wansum Pedigree Cat Show' last night, only she knows. Myself, I wanted no part of it, but ultimately, I suppose I'm glad she did. This charitable event is only open to pedigree felines, whose lineage can be proven with accompanying documentation.
It's been a costly exercise for yours truly, with a new outfit having had to be purchased, for the wife that is, courtesy of Fenwick's personal shopper. Just exactly how costly do you think that might've been? Well, if I say that the pair of Wolford tights that enhanced B's outfit last night cost 22.50p, perhaps you have some inkling! For my part, I had to don a smoking jacket, one of my beloved cravats and on her command, take a long shower to rid myself of "that awful football smell" (What!) upon my return from Surrey, before setting off for Douglas and Anita Etherington's humble mansion (!), just outside the village of Minster, where this gathering of the cat glitterati was held. Our own beautification, mind you, pales into insignificance compared to what the 'Arch Duke' himself has been subjected to this past week. Four groomings per day, in contrast of his usual two, tail shampooing, ear wax removal, claw clipping, teeth cleaning, whisker straightening and waxing and to make his eyes  sparkle, eye drops administration that made his eyes.....well, sparkle! 
"Paw-Off" was at 7.30 pm sharp, so I had to travel somewhere for my "Awful Smelly Football" not too far distant, arriving back home in ample time to convey the 'family' westward. By 19.35, I was supping something acrid and fizzy; and I'm not talking about Carlsberg Special Brew here, either. Oh no, something expensive but still, nonetheless, acrid!
A trip to historic Reigate Priory FC was just the appropriate distance.
If you'd told me five years ago I would be visiting Reigate Priory for a sporting fixture, then I'd have assumed it was for a cricket match. Their existence and eminence has been known to your correspondent for many years. But as for the football club...............?
En-route to Surrey I met up with my great pal Steve Hurley, at the Crown public house in Otford; I'd had some fun regarding his state of health at his expense earlier in the season, on this site, but Steve actually was more unwell, as it turned out, than I had at first realised. He has been suffering from arrhythmia, an irregular heart beat, for the past few years and has just undergone an 'Electrical Cardioversion', to re-establish a correct cardiac rhythm.
I'm sure all of you will be delighted to hear that this procedure has been totally successful and my Blackpool-based oppo is now able to raise himself from his chair, walk over to the bar, click his heels and order pints of Britain's finest from the landlord without ever once becoming breathless. Great to see again you mate! Incidentally, he's doing a 'double' today:- Westcombe Park RUFC at 2 O'clock in the afternoon, followed by Lea Valley Ice Hockey at 5.30 pm!
I first heard about the club in Steve King's NLD magazine and latterly in 'TFT', both writers extolling it's virtues and graces in their respective articles. Founded in 1870, Reigate Priory FC have played continuously at their Park Lane HQ for all of their 139 year history. A real achievement in this day and age. Set a hundred yards or so back from the High street, the venue is just a lovely setting for the myriad of sports that take place here.
The football pitch itself is modest, being set right alongside the tight cricket club (worth a gander in it's own right) car park; it is roped off on this side only. New dugouts are situated opposite, which lie next to the tennis courts and bowls club. There is an acute slope to the pitch, which slants east to west, depending form where you look of course. In the corner of the site is the old clubhouse, that abuts the croquet lawn, resplendent with the club's name emblazoned upon it. In here I was proffered a very warm welcome along with the free 4-page colour programme; this contains everything you need to know to make your visit complete. Surrounded by the North Downs, the old brickwork of the High Street shops and woodland, this is an idyllic spot to watch or play any sport.
Chatting to Simon Avery, director of football and the person responsible for the club's incredibly informative website, (if you only look at one football website in the next week, make it this one), he then gave me a brief tour of the Pavilion. The first thing that struck me was the blue colour scheme upon entry; this matches one of the club's unique playing colours, which are chocolate and blue halves and blue shorts (they actually played in black today so as not clash with the visitors' blue ones). On the website there is even a link a link to the history of football kits!
Next to overwhelm me was the real and undoubted sense of history and nostalgia once inside the building proper; the walls are adorned with old club photographs, dating as far back as the late nineteenth century.Tea was available before kick off and hot food is served at matches' conclusion.
The club famously entered the inaugural FA Cup, won by the Wanderers, in 1871 and were drawn to play the Royal Engineers at home in the 1st round but for some unknown reason the tie never took place. It finally, however, was staged in the guise of a charity match last Easter Sunday, when the Royal Engineers finally did come town, albeit 137 years late! Reigate Priory competed in the FA Cup for the next preceding five seasons, gleaning only one solitary win in the competition, that being a 1-0 home victory over Barnes 'A' in the 1875/6 season.
Today, as one of the founder members of the new SIEL, the club are struggling somewhat on the pitch, finding life tough going at this higher level: Simon told me that the club would benefit greatly from the addition of a few players with perhaps Combined Counties League experience, to add a bit of stability, but with so many clubs hereabouts, all paying a modicum of cash for players' services, that task isn't going to be easy.
Eversley, from the south of Reading, today were far the better team, attaining their comfortable win with relative ease. In fact, if had not been for some superb last ditch tackling by the defence, heroics from 'keeper Michael O'Donnell and great saves from Messrs. Post and Crossbar, then a larger margin of defeat would have been inflicted on their hosts.
For many reasons this was a memorable day, not least in seeing an old pal fit and well once more; I would like to take this opportunity to thank Simon and his committee members for welcoming me with such open arms; naturally I wish them all well in the future and pray that Reigate Priory FC are still plying their trade at Park Lane in another 138 years time.
Fond memories indeed, but I expect what you all want to know is how the 'Arch Duke' faired at the show. Well, he didn't! Not a sniff of a rosette in sight. Now I'm left contemplating a large clothing and hosiery bill, and what to do with a three quarters full bottle of cat whisker lacquer!
FGIF Star Rating 5*

contributed on 08/03/09