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Ground into Submission


Be honest – when Sam Hammam said at the Fans Day that we were “aggressively” looking to buy up SP, didn’t you feel just a tinsy winsy bit sick to your stomach? And didn’t you feel rather glad deep down inside when Ron Noades told him to piss off? Well, last week SH was again linked with buying up SP, alledgely saying that “we” liked it there (I say alledgedly because it turned out he didn’t actually say it). Of course, he and Uncle Ron deny it, but even if they are telling the truth, it still raises many questions about our future.

As you are undoubtedly aware, we haven’t played a home game since at least 1991. Now, to put it in perspective, in 1991 Neil Kinnock was the Opposition leader, Metallica had just released the Black Album, the charts had people like Bizzare Inc, Color Me Badd and the rereleased Bohemian Rhapsody in it, we hadn’t endured Peter Withe yet, the highest spec computer was veering between an 8086 and 286 and things like CD-ROMs, modems above 2400bps (2.4k) and 15″ monitors were still extremely expensive and actually quite hard to get. In other words, it has been a fucking long time since we had a home game. And to be honest, I’m not sure if we’re ever going to get one as it stands.

Firstly, let’s concentrate on where we SHOULD be playing, namely that piece of land inbetween Sutton and Wandsworth, called Merton I think. We should really know by now that red tape has made our return there nigh on impossible. However, there is still a rather large site at Prince George Playing Fields in Raynes Park, which although currently a playing field is due to be sold off to the highest bidder because the current owners can’t afford to run it.

SH has said of the site – “it’s just off the A3, it’s right next door to Raynes Park BR and it’s the ideal location for a stadium”. The problem? “All the councillors live there”. Now, there is hope here believe it or not. See, WFC and some housing developer want to buy this particular site, and it’s thought we are the clear favourites for it. However, as everyone locally states, it’s not for a stadium – it’s for our new training ground and academy. At least that’s what we’re letting on. There is a rather cynical (and probably totally wrong) theory inside my head that we will buy the site and then make a “last ditch” attempt to get a stadium on it. Of course, it will be turned down flat, but then SH will make himself look like the innocent party in all of this, which will work in his favour no doubt.

There is no doubt that WFC fans want the team in Merton, but deep down we probably aren’t going to be paying stadium tax to Crown House. However, when the council alledgedly gives out sites then turns them down it proves they don’t want us. Ah well, they obviously prefer tennis then.

Secondly, let us move onto probably the most contentious point of all, namely Selhurst Park. If you don’t know why we shouldn’t stay at SP then you frankly haven’t got a clue about WFC one bit. If you really need a good reason or two why we cannot stay there, here’s two sentences.

Selhurst Park is Crystal Palace’s Ground. It’s not our area.

Got that? Do I really have to expand on this? Sigh, very well. The very name SP relates to an area of Croydon, inbetween Thornton Heath and Crystal Palace itself, which is called Selhurst. Now, in the dim and distant past, there was only one team in that area, called Crystal Palace, and naturally they’ve established themselves firmly within that area, not to mention Croydon itself, Bromley, Reigate, Redhill etc etc. So, if WFC were to play there permanently, we will have to fight to overturn about 100 odd years of social and demographical strongholds, and let’s face it we’ll never do it. Hell, we get enough trouble in Wimbledon with Celsi and Fulham as it is without straying into somebody else’s territory.

Of course, there will be some people who will claim that SP is our future for one reason or another, and they will use some really dodgy theological basis to justify the unjustifiable. Firstly, one reason is that as Palace are doing so badly the floating fans in Croydon will readily embrace us. OK, let’s reverse the roles. Imagine that WFC were playing in Merton, yes I know that’s impossible, and were doing rather badly. Sharing with us were CPFC, who were doing rather OKish in the Premiership. They decide that they’re going to buy our ground up, paint it in their colours and try and nick our fans.

Now, would you be happy with that? And would you readily drop supporting WFC to start supporting CPFC? Of course you wouldn’t, so why are the SP backers so arrogant to think that CP fans would readily support us. Face it, we won’t be as popular if we moved there, not that they like us anyway (tip for SH: Palace fans hate us being there. And I mean, HATE us). This would also raise the old chestnut of a merger with CPFC to form a South London “superpower”, meaning that both sets of fans will be alienated, WFC will have to take on Palace’s debts and we’ll have to play in the first anyway.

The other problem with this lie is that it totally ignores the most important bit of WFC – the fans. Yes, we may only have 7,000 ST holders, and it’s true that if more of us existed we would probably be in Merton in a new 30,000 stadium, but then if you really bother to research why, you shouldn’t be surprised that we have the smallest fan base in the Premiership. But even SH has been impressed (if that’s the right word) with the protests, the campaigns etc. We know, and most importantly SH knows that we won’t accept SP, but of course SH would rather go into a business deal with Uncle Ron. Be honest, when SH talks lovingly of Hellhurst, we know deep down that he wants to buy it up. For him, it’s the easy way out, a cop-out.

However, SP will cause the same result as Dublin – a split club, fans don’t want to be associated with us anymore, and whilst Dublin would have killed WFC stone dead, SP will murder us slowly yet very very surely. Can you really believe that we haven’t been damaged – perhaps permanently – by being at SP for so long? What would a permanent move do then? I genuinely predict that crowds will slump, because most people are “accepting” SP as temporary as best, leaving SP with very few WFC fans and loads of away fans. Hold on, isn’t that what SH wants?

“Oh come on” you may say “SP isn’t that bad?”. Well, as a stadium, it’s all right I suppose, but the whole move there in the first place made it a dead duck before we began. Nobody in the club – let alone SH – will publically admit that SP has been a disaster, but in many ways it has (alienation from the community seems the most poignant reason). Yes, SP may well have saved us from bankrupcy (not too sure about this), but the way it was done makes a permanent move impossible to accept. I still firmly believe that we could have spent at least one, maybe even two more years at Plough Lane.

The fact that had we waited a year we probably could have got the far better Millwall’s New Den or even Fulham makes the whole SP move suspicious. Was a merger on the cards? Seems like we bolted waaay too quick, an opinion further boosted by the fact that for 5 straight years SH’s stock answer to any stadium question was “negotiations are at a critical stage”. Nobody believed him then, and with SP on the agenda again very few people will believe him now.

The other major lie touted by SP-apologists is that we will never have a site, and therefore we must go to SP “because it’s there”. Worse, this lie is further punctuated by the ill-judged use of “logic” (come on, you must have heard the quote “WFC moving to SP would be the most logical thing to do”), culminating by me recently being called naive by my muppet brother for saying otherwise (don’t worry, I’m going to burn his WFC ST), and this is I think is THE major bone of contention.

Let’s take the thought that we mustn’t expect to have a site. This is as far as I’m concerned is a load of bullshit, there are at least 3 sites mentioned, one being the acceptable Gatwick site (which has died the death, although from what I hear is still lurking about….), granted none are in Merton but near enough not to worry. Most people will travel to it if it’s ours and it will make Merton look extremely small which is always a good thing.

[SW19 NOTE : I cannot find the map in question. If anyone has got it, please email me]

Think I’m talking out of my arse? Well, take a look at the map to your left, where I’ve highlighted it is the sort of area that we should be looking at. As you can see, the black line goes around SW London, over West London a little, down through the whole of Surrey and stopping short of Reigate. Now, that’s a fair old bit of land there, there is no league team to speak of, and most of the people who live there are wavering, non-commital Celsi fans anyway, so the potential support is there.

Plus, we’re seen as a bit of a “Surrey” type club anyway (don’t believe me? Well, can you really say that our support is of the flat cap and council house variety? No, me neither), so that suburban image wouldn’t harm us either. Plus it’s pretty easy to get from where most of us live into good old Surrey either. So why do certain people only accept SP as our “only” hope? This is, I’m afraid, rather muppet-like in outlook, and as we’ve said before, the muppets have a rather unhealthy stronghold on WFC as a whole

There is one situation we could well find ourselves in, if you read in between the lines, and it comes back to SH and Uncle Ron meeting at the training ground. It is no secret that SH is rather keen on the principle of groundsharing. Ron Noades is looking for a site for Brentford around the M25/Heathrow area. See where I’m heading? What gives a 25,000 stadium with “DONS” (or “C***Y G**G, spew) one end and “BEES” the other? Yeah, too simple……
Most of this in this article is nothing new, but it’s certainly not trivial. One day we may even be allowed to have our own ground in a non-alien area, though as it stands I’m not hopeful. I think too little desire has been shown by the club, and even the chest-beating now seems a little bit like lip-service to me. Take us home SH, the whole future of the club depends on it….