Since reading Hopping Around Hampshire’s description of their Privett Park ground Gosport Borough have been at the top of my to-visit list and I finally made it along on to see them entertain Bideford at the beginning of January. I’ve been a bit delayed in writing up my trip as I’ve also had the excitement of writing an article about my favourite subject – football attendances – for the the football magazine When Saturday Comes which can be seen here, but anyway back to Gosport….
Even though It was my first visit to Privett Park I had a slight sense of deja-vu as Gosport captain Brett Poate, midfielder Jamie Brown, and substitute Danny Smith formed the core of the Eastleigh side I watched regularly a couple of seasons ago, whilst Gosport’s star-striker Justin Bennett – a true Gosport legend – also had a short spell in the very same Eastleigh side. Another ex-Eastleigh face, defender Chris Holland, had also been at Gosport this season, but by the time of my arrival he had, according to the programme, left the club after four appearances and one goal. The ex-Eastleigh contingent was however topped up by young forward Sam Wilson wearing the number 9 shirt, a reportedly promising young player who I’d not seen myself, but had heard about through the Eastleigh forum. All-in-all it just goes to show what a merry-go round football at this level can be, with many players regularly swapping clubs and often returning more than once; teams are built only to disintegrate and re-form slightly differently elsewhere like some kind of perpetual kaleidoscope.
My first priority on entering the ground is to visit the club shop where I’ve heard there are old programmes a-plenty. I rifle through a selection of old Gosport and Pompey programmes and buy a Gosport programme from the 2007/08 season for 20p. I then get myself my usual non-league cup of tea and venture into the glorious old stand which I’d come all this way to see. I won’t be able to top the description given in Hopping Around Hampshire, so these pictures will be all that I offer myself, but it is a brilliant stand full of character. It also feels like a bit of a novelty watching Southern League football at this height and it will be a sad day indeed when someone decides it’s finally had it’s day – which hopefully won’t be anytime soon.
Privett Park was built in 1937 and originally was home to plain old Gosport F.C, who began life in the 1928-29 season following a merger of two local sides Gosport Athletic and Gosport Albion. Gosport F.C. The first game at Privett was a 4-2 defeat against Ryde, and though losing the game the people of Gosport must’ve been happy with their new ground, As Ron Brown says in his history of sport in Gosport:
The ground really was unique for that period, and for many visiting teams it was akin to coming to Wembley.
Gosport F.C played in a strip consisting of white shorts and blue and yellow shirts – not too dissimilar from the Gosport Borough colours of yellow shirts and blue socks, though the present incumbents of Privett date themselves from 1945 forming just after D-day.
Returning to the present, whether Bideford, and their small contingent of travelling fans, feel like they’re visiting Wembley is perhaps open to debate. During the second half it seems more like they’re visiting a town centre at 11 pm on a Saturday night with various acts of unpleasantness going on all over the field. I’m told that there is some history between the sides with a previous meeting leaving a Gosport player with a serious facial injury which has meant he hasn’t played since. It really is the kind of thing that has no place in football.
Sadly the referee seems never to get a firm grip of the game, but Gosport do running out 2-0 winners. The Gosport 11 Adam Wilde scores both goals. The first; a lob – Following a headed attempt on goal from Brown which is only half-cleared by Bideford the ball falls to Wilde who, unlike the crowd, doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to see the ball dispatched – in fact whilst along with the rest of the stand I’m rising out of my seat imploring him to ‘Shoooot’ he seems to be patiently taking notes on the velocity and trajectory of the spinning ball before, in his own time, delicately placing it beyond the flailing ‘keepers reach into the top right corner. Had he hit it early, as we’d all clamoured for, it would no doubt have been sliced all the way out of Privett Park. A lesson in life maybe.
His second goal is another lesson in patience and precision over power and brute-force. Awarded a free kick after a Bideford player unceremoniously brings down the impressively troublesome Justin Bennett. Wilde sends a curler in off the post.
2-0 to Gosport. It’s just like watching Brazil, or maybe Eastleigh circa 2010.