The village of Hamble has had a long association with the aviation industry. Among the first arrivals were the aviation firm Avro who built a new factory in the area just over 100 years ago in 1916. With a boat building heritage stretching back even further Hamble was particularly noted for sea-planes and it was to build such aircraft that British Marine Aircraft arrived in 1936. Not long after however, the firm however found itself in difficulty and in 1937 were renamed Folland Aircraft after new owner and managing director Henry Folland.
It was in 1938 that Folland Aircraft FC were founded, one of many ‘works teams’ across the area. Remarkably within just a few years Folland’s were one of the top teams in Hampshire; With the factory involved in a production of a wide range of military aircraft the coming of the second world war saw the factory employ a number of Southampton and Portsmouth football players, engaged in war-work, who strengthened the side greatly and in 1941 Folland’s won the prestigious treble of the Hampshire Senior Cup, Hampshire League and Russell Cotes Cup.
As with many clubs Follands have had both their ups and downs over the years and though they may never have realistically hoped to quite recapture the heights of their glory days recent years have also seen the club enjoy success under the management of Danny Bowers who led the club to its highest ever league position, a Wessex Premier League 3rd place in 2013/14.
There was though always a sense that the club was punching above its weight as Folland’s crowds were among the lowest in the Wessex Premier (not unusual for works teams) and when Bowers, experiencing ill health, offered his resignation in early 2015 the clubs fortunes changed dramatically with the team relegated from the Wessex Premier at the end of the 2015/16 season.
A quick return was effectively ruled out as Follands won only one of their first 15 games this season. This poor run included a 7-0 defeat in the league to neighbouring side Hamble Club – this would have particularly stung as Follands could no longer claim to be the biggest club in Hamble. To add an additional layer of complications Folland’s are also engaged in negotiations over their ground – which they have been advised may be made available for development some time after the 2017/18 season – the outcome of which will have vital implications for the future existence of the club.
Folland Park itself is a compact ground which owes its appearance to the art of the bricoleur; None of the elements quite match up, but it is this which makes it endearing and homely as does the way tea is served in a china mug as opposed to a throw-away polystyrene cup (Incidentally the tea hut is called ‘Mug’s Corner’.) Just outside the ground a banner advertises upcoming children’s football coaching sessions set to take place on Saturday mornings, showing that the club is attempting to reach the wider community. Few are in evidence at the ground today though with the sparse crowd seeming to consist of a handful of club stalwarts complimented by a smattering of player’s friends and family.
One thing which could count in 17th placed Folland’s favour is that their opponents Andover New Street are having an even worse season and sit one off the bottom in 20th place, winning just four games out of 31. Sure enough for a team with the second worse goals scored column in the league Andover looked distinctly unthreatening up front. Their stocky number 9 was never in the game whilst their number 10, a short player who possessed good close control and was at the centre of many of their best moves, appeared to have an aversion to shooting – As one of the Andover entourage told me “he likes to walk it into the goal.” Neither posed any sort of aerial threat. Defensively the Andover goalkeeper looked less than solid and, for me, was at fault for the opening goal when coming out he found himself marooned in no-man’s land, presenting the Folland’s number 11, James Franklin, with the simple option to slide the ball past him into an unguarded net. Later coming under pressure when attempting to play the ball out of defence Andover conceded a corner, which led to Folland’s second goal and gave the home side a 2-0 lead going in at half time.
In the second half, shortly after forcing the Follands goalkeeper to make his first serious save of the game, Andover did find the back of the net, but saw it ruled out for a foul on the ‘keeper and any thoughts Andover may have had of getting at least something out of the game were soon dispelled as a defensive lapse allows the Follands number 10 through on goal, his cool finish, low in the right hand corner, making it 3-0 to Follands.
Follands were denied a fourth by a good save from the andover ‘keeper before the game descended into controversy. Finding himself in a defensive position the Andover number 10, Jazz Beavis – who I had down in the first half as a niggly sort of player involved in plenty of shoving, tussling and shirt tugging- launched into an airborne two footed lunge on the Follands number 9.
The Andover player was incredibly lucky to remain on the field as the referee awarded only a yellow card, much to the displeasure of the few Folland supporters who quite rightly demanded a red. The players on the field though exercised remarkable restraint in the face of such a horrific challenge.
Follands fourth did eventually come late on as the number 7 scored with a fantastic shot from outside the area. The Andover ‘keeper gets a good hand to it, but it’s a good enough shot to creep into the top corner.
Final score 4-0 to Follands.
Having lost their previous two games 4-0 a win by the same scoreline is surely welcome for Follands and helps distance them from the bottom relegation slot, but the simple truth is that at this juncture in the clubs history what happens off the field is far more important than what happens on it. Let’s hope that Follands, a club with an illustrious history, can survive and thrive.