“The Barber” is David Barber, who attended his 6,468th football match at the weekend. He joined the FA staff in 1970, working as Sir Alf Ramsey’s assistant in the International Department, and has been The FA’s historian for the past 34 years.
I’ve already done well for goals in 2013-14, my 54th season, with 15 in the three pre-season matches seen so far: Faversham Town 2-4 Gillingham, Wembley 2-2 Bedfont & Feltham and Redhill 0-5 South Park.
I was a Crystal Palace fan in the ‘60s, watching my first-ever match as a nine-year-old at Selhurst Park, but I also liked what we called “amateur” football in those days. I particularly followed Redhill, one of the top Athenian League sides who would draw 1,000+ crowds to the Memorial Sports Ground in the centre of town.
I was a pupil at Purley County Grammar School in Old Coulsdon from 1962. The crazy connection now is that “Purley County” has become “Coulsdon Sixth Form College” and Redhill met South Park in a “home” pre-season friendly on my old school playing field on Saturday. This would have been as unimaginable in my schooldays as my Palace heroes training in our little gym.
It’s so different now. Every last brick of the school has gone, including the building where I sat my ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. There is a grassy mound behind one of the goals that covers what used to be the runway to the triple jump sandpit. I did 40 feet as a 15-year-old and got in the top six in the County Championships at Motspur Park.
Redhill, appropriately nicknamed “The Lobsters” in view of Saturday’s sweltering conditions, have been promoted to the Isthmian League’s Division One South.
South Park also had a good season, winning through to the Fourth Round Qualifying of The FA Cup for the first time. A crowd of 26, including one or two sunbathers, saw Redhill put out what looked like the first team in the first half and the second team in the second half.
Unfortunately for them, and their exasperated manager, neither line-up could get to grips with a perky Park side that romped to an unexpected 5-0 victory.
I’ve seen football on Barbados in the Caribbean and at Tampa Bay in humid Florida but the warmest conditions I’ve ever experienced were at a Kent League fixture between Ramsgate and Sevenoaks Town in August 2003.
That weekend the temperature reached 100 degrees in Kent. Other hot ones I can recall are Bergisch Gladbach v FC Cologne, Gosport v Portsmouth, Dulwich v Barnet and Jersey Women v Hitra at the 2011 Island Games on the Isle of Wight. It was around 90 for all of those.
I’m not that keen on other sports, certainly not cricket or tennis, and rarely watch football on TV. I still have a boyish enthusiasm for going through the turnstiles and am quite often the first person in the ground. Working at Wembley Stadium is like going to The Cup Final every day.