It may have been FA Cup final day, but for me and a few others at least the place to be was Fordingbridge for the Bailey Cup between Fordingbridge Turks and Vimoutiers FC, a side hailing from Normandy.
The game itself is an attempt at re-igniting the football relationship between the respective clubs in the two towns – twinned, thanks in part to the work of Dennis Bailey who, the programme informs, first proposed the idea of twinning to the Chamber of Trade back in 1977.
Presumably it was an early flourish of twinning enthusiasm which saw the two sides play each other in October 1980 when the Turks, visiting Normandy, lost 4-2 and a return fixture in May 1981 which resulted in a 7-0 for the Turks on home soil.
A pennant from this time still hangs in the Fordingbridge clubhouse however, the intervening years have seen both clubs experience difficult times and it seems the relationship between the two was allowed to slide.
According to the programme Vimoutiers have, in the past 10 years, experienced something of a turn-around in fortunes. Rebuilt and restructured the club has achieved the label of quality from the French Football Federation for its football school whilst the main side has reached the Normandy Football League.
In this there are parallels with the Turks. When I last came to town a few years back in 2013 the Turks were languishing toward the bottom of the Bournemouth Hayward Saturday League Division 3. In 2014 the Turks merged with a local junior club Fordingbridge Town FC. This has brought a new vitality into the club which can now boast a range of sides from mini-turks and U8’s right up to u18’s as well as a ladies team and U15 and U13 girls sides whilst the men’s first team are now in Division 1 of the Hayward Saturday League.
Off the field it is clear that the club are a better organised outfit and this is apparent in the Turks planning and hosting of the day. The social media was well done (it was why I was here and it also caught the attention of broadcaster Tony Incenzo), 100 good quality programmes had been printed specially for the occasion and arrangements had even been made for the game to be filmed.
It’s also worth pointing out that the club were also particularly welcoming to all visitors and Chris Garvey, the first team manager, ensured that everyone who wanted to see them got to take a look at both sides team sheets. Chris even went so far as to disappear up to the loft of the changing room block to retrieve the visitors team-sheet from the film crew so I could see it.
As his French counterpart initially handed over the team sheet Chris had quipped “no Zidanes I hope”, though looking at the visitors who emerged in their kit for the warm up Fordingbridge would have little to fear; The Vimoutiers touring side had a little of a make-shift appearance, with its numbers complimented by a number of very young looking players and a couple of more senior members – including their club president Sergio Reis de Pinho.
This didn’t though stop Vimoutiers from giving their all and they had in their number some reasonably good players like team captain and number 9 Jaouaol Mehdaoui who earned the visitors a free kick in a prime position early on when he got the better of his marker, drawing the foul.
Vimoutiers downfall though was always likely to be at the back where they looked distinctly shaky. Their number 3 at left back was a willowy young lad who looked vulnerable to the Turks forwards well versed in the rough and tumble of the Bournemouth Saturday league and their number 4 was off the pace, whilst their goalkeeper – possibly the shortest player on the pitch – looked more than a little out of place.
Surviving a couple of early scares, including one involving a delightfully sliced attempted clearance Vimoutiers bowed to the inevitable when the Turks number 14 Lascelles Richardson powered through a largely ineffective bundle of yellow shirts to slot past the ‘keeper who appeared reluctant to leave his line.
By this point it was clearly apparent that the Turks were outclassing their visitors. The home players were also demonstrating particular patience with the tackles which flew in from a result of frustration, incompetence, or in some cases possibly a little more. The Vimoutiers number 5 Illias Boublay certainly seemed to have some intent with some of the hard tackles he delivered and when beaten would sometimes appear to leave a trailing leg to catch his opponent. Had the refereeing not been of a generous nature his afternoon may well have been a little shorter, but on the other side of the coin Boublay was one of Vimounters better players, opening space up well with some driving forward runs on the ball.
If Fordingbridge’s second was a rather impressive effort, from Charlie Prince who spun and slotted the ball into the top right hand corner, then their third had a touch of comedy about it when a shot from distance went under the Vimoutiers ‘keeper. A fourth and a fifth in quick succession, effectively ending the game as a contest the final death knell of which came when just before the whistle the Vimoutiers number 9 was carried off with what seemed to be an injured ankle.
The second half saw Fordingbridge take their foot off the gas considerably and the hosts also charitably loaned the injury depleted Vimoutiers some players. This re-jigged side almost get one back early on as the Fordingbridge ‘keeper attempts to play with the ball at his feet only to lose it, but the goal-bound effort was blocked. At the other end the Vimoutiers goalkeeper managed to come out well and clear a dangerous ball, as well as making a save when Laschelles Richardson, scorer of the opening goal, is through once again.
Still Fordingbridge added to their tally by grabbing a sixth, and finally a seventh when a cross was headed in. Between these points Vimoutiers did manage to find the net, but it was one of the Fordingbridge loanees, Ben Moseley who got it. Moseley later credited the goal to his new ‘wheels’ saying that he’d scored in every game since getting a new pair of boots.
The plan is for Fordingbridge to travel to Vimoutiers in 2018 with both adult and youth teams. The first-team fixture is particularly likely to prove a tougher test and will make for quite an interesting spectacle. The bigger picture though is the building of a relationship which can benefit both clubs – the true spirit of twinning.