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Blue tales in the sunset

Isn’t it great to run into an old timer at a football club? Especially when, like me, you are a newcomer to that club. My mere 6 years of involvement at Hamilton Wanderers means I have pretty scant knowledge of our background. Always good to hear a bit of history. Alan Strangwick, nearly 85, was propping up a leaner at the club this last weekend and gave me some fascinating insights as to how the current club was formed.

Strangwick, who played from 1953-68 told how the original Wanderers club combined with Technical Old Boys to form Hamilton FC. He was a key person in creating a breakaway to reform Wanderers in the early 60’s. “Where did you play home games”, I asked him, knowing that Porrittt Stadium didn’t exist in those days. “Galloway Park” he replied. How many of the current -Galloway-based- Claudelands Rovers guys know that? I mused

Alan was the treasurer. Lacking numbers, most of the players had a function helping to run the fledgling club. The new Wanderers was formed with capital of 15 pounds and 2 footballs. And little else. “Our first Wanderers game was at Weka Street against the Railways club”, Strangwick told me. Ernie Morris at Railways had kindly donated a kit to Wanderers to give a helping hand. “Green and red quarters, it was.” But he added that soon after, not wishing to play in red, the lads commissioned Les Farrow’s wife into sewing the first ‘proper’ Wanderers kit. “In blue and white quarters with red numbers.”

Sewing your own kit! In these days of Nike and Adidas gear, replica shirts and fancy boots, what modern kid would comprehend the necessity of stitching your own shirts together?

Strangwick was at Porrit to watch the relegation dogfight. Nine losses in a row was a sorry record for the club and he, like the rest of us, was keen to see fortunes reverse.

This game could be a turning point with the home team as they were facing off against the cellar dwellers, Manurewa, who were already seemingly doomed. As one wag put it “They are as likely to survive as the video shop in my local mall”

It wasn’t looking overly hopeful for Wanderers either. Especially if this game didn’t yield 3 points. It’s been a hard month or so with those losses after winning four on the trot at the start of the season. The team lacks experience this year. Many of the hitherto successful Wanderers team have departed to places overseas, or other cities and a couple of fringe players to old rivals Melville. Player stocks are a little thin but there is some good young talent coming through. After a home loss last week player/coach Michael Built cleverly shuffled the pack, bringing in a couple of players and dropping a couple of the youngsters down to the reserves to help improve their confidence.

Liam Fellowes came into the defence. He has strong Wanderers DNA, via his club legend Dad, Darren (Dash) Fellowes. This could be a good omen for us I thought. The skilful Raheem Hunter was given the right back spot and wily old head David Sampson was injected into the midfield with Xavier Pratt.

Phil Rice, erstwhile statistician of all things obscure, had mentioned that home games involving Manurewa were always high scoring affairs. He recalled the game in 2013 when Wanderers lost 3-6 after being 5-0 down at half time. Then we got our revenge the following year, winning 6-0. I replied if the ‘high scoring’ was on our side of the ledger we’d all be happy.

What better way for a player-coach to gee up his troops than to than open the scoring? Which Built obligingly did, with a clinical finish early in the game. This was the fillip the team and the home crowd needed. The intensity was clearly up a level but Manurewa were also striving hard in their cunning Glenfield disguise of brown kit with yellow trim. In fact they came very close to scoring when a fairly tame shot dribbled onto the post and back into the grateful hands of keeper Matt Oliver. Oliver had to be at his imperious best to repell other attacks as well

Despite this we all sensed things were going our way and after a second goal from Hamish Smylie ten minutes later I tweeted. “Smylie puts smiles on the Wanderers faces” and it did. The half time beer tasted a bit better too

Early in the second half Jamie Woodlock popped up with a tap-in, following good work on the left by David Smith, then Built chimed in with his second in short time. 4-0. The Porritt faithful were enjoying this game.

Now one may have thought Manurewa were lying down at this stage, but in truth they kept battling away. But with no success because at the bottom of the table a team NEVER gets a break, it’s like a cosmic football rule. Epitomising this, was a rocket shot from one of their players (I didn’t catch who it was). It whistled through the air and crashed against our crossbar with such force that seismic monitors may have recorded a brief earth movement of some magnitude. Luckily it bounced away, to the relief of home supporters.

Manurewa must have been cursing their luck and just to rub it in, near the end, substitute Paul Clout, was neatly set up by another substitute, Henry Stephen, with a nice through ball and converted for the final score line of 5-0.

A welcome return to goals and points but after the game Built was realistic. He knows now that more hard work beckons, with some in-form teams to face over the next few weeks.

As the sun set and chill night air set in, we meandered back to the warm clubhouse. Old Alan Strangwick was chipper after this good Wanderers win. Nursing a pint, he told me of a game he played for the club down in the King Country village of Pio Pio back in the sixties. Leading by 8-0 (or a similar high score) the game was virtually over when Wanderers centre back, Les Farrow, lazily waved a hand at an opposition shot, but several inches away from the ball.

“Peep!” whistled the ref. “Penalty!” “I never touched it”, protested Farrow. “But you meant to”, retorted the ref. The penalty was duly taken by the Pio Pio centre forward who blasted it over the bar. He wheeled away in triumph crying “Goal!” The referee interjected. “Sorry sunshine you didn’t score.” The PioPio striker replied, “But I meant to!”

Remember these days, Michael Built and team. And likewise all you other current players. If life treats you kindly, as it has Strangwick, you could well be enjoying a pint at a club bar in 50 years time recounting stories such as these. I for one, certainly hope you are!

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier

Rod de Lisle

Waikato based Kiwi living the good life that this wonderful country affords. I like to paint, travel, follow sport and do stuff with our large family. Writing song lyrics is a creative release that came about after (somehow) dreaming a complete song. Not being a muso has lead me to seek out creative musicians who might enjoy linking music to my words. Is that you?

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