It was just like old times on Saturday, standing behind the goal at Redhill with FA Competitions Manager Steve Clark. We were doing it 40 years ago.
The Reds won the last Athenian League championship in 1984 – we were both at their title-clinching game at Marlow – but they didn’t go up into the Isthmian because their new ground at Kiln Brow didn’t have the proper facilities.
Cruelly the club I’d first seen play at the age of 10 had been forced to leave the Memorial Sports Ground in the town centre during the 1983-84 season, their home since the end of the 19th century.
But on Saturday, after finishing as runners-up in the Sussex County League Division One, Redhill played their first-ever Isthmian League (Division One South) fixture against Whitstable Town at a Kiln Brow now with all the right components. We had to be there and the crowd was 138, well above last season’s average.
The Reds’ first goal at the new level was a spot-kick rifled home by Richmond Kissi on the half-hour. I got a decent photo of it. It turned out to be an end-to-end classic, the home side leading 2-1 and 3-2 before conceding a heart-breaking equaliser in a frantic last few minutes.
We saw the young lads of the Perrywood Sports Pumas on the pitch at half-time doing their bit for the Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day, helping to celebrate The FA’s 150th anniversary. “Redhill FC is proud to join in with the celebrations”, it said in the programme, “acknowledging this achievement by world football’s oldest association, as well as remembering one of our game’s most loved players and managers”.
When Sir Bobby became England Manager in 1982 and had his own office on the third floor at Lancaster Gate, I used to help him with his correspondence. He would insist that every single letter was answered, even if it was from a six-year-old boy in Poland asking for a pin badge.
Yesterday I attended my 20th FA Community Shield, one of an 80,235 crowd that saw Manchester United win The Shield outright for the 16th time. It’s funny how the fixture always seems to be played in sweltering conditions. I was so glad to be sitting in the shade.
Games this season = 14
Games in total = 6,479