Friday, 19 September 2008

Jack and Jill

'Hassocks' is such a fantastic name. For me it has almost a Scottish feel to it and the word alone conjures up images of rolling hills, lochs, kilts, cabers, eagles and salmon fishing. I'm no doubt confusing the name with some famous town from Scotland, and I really should look up which. But it is a great name, nonetheless. For the trip tomorrow, I have a car load - five of us will be travelling down to the South Downs - and I think partly the description of the ground and partly the name of the club (and village) has enticed some of my football friends into paying a visit.

I have it on good authority that 'The Beacon', home of Hassocks FC, occupies a picturesque spot in Sussex. It is overlooked up on the Downs by two famous landmarks, the 'Jack and Jill' windmills. Hassocks FC have played here since 1992 and the ground is close to the small village of Clayton. Nicknamed 'The Robins' they are another Sussex County League Division One team; they joined the County League in 1981 and since have won the Division Three (1991-92) and were runners-up in Division Two (1994-95). Hassocks have reached the 2nd Round Proper of the FA Vase on two occasions and in 2005-06 they had their best ever FA Cup campaign, eventually losing in the 2nd Qualifying Round to Dulwich Hamlet.

This season, they have played six League games, winning only once. In this season's FA Cup they lost at the first time of asking, going down 1-0 to Shoreham. Whilst Chertsey Town were seeing off Oakwood in the First Round Qualifying of the FA Vase, Hassocks overcame fellow Sussex County side Three Bridges, winning 4-3 after extra-time.

Hassocks FC remain a totally amateur club; I am told that none of the players are paid for their services. I am intrigued about my visit tomorrow and I am very keen to meet some of the club committee and understand a little about how the club has steadily progressed through the non League ranks whilst maintaining their amateur status. I have already had a friendly response from the secretary at the club (David Knight) and the programme editor (Paul Elphick) and the club has a strong reputation of being one of the friendliest in the county.

As for the game tomorrow? Too close to call I think. Chertsey Town came very close to going out to Oakwood, just up the road from Hassocks, and their two encounters in the last round ought to have demonstrated (to Chertsey) the strength of football in Sussex. If I were a betting man I would go for the draw. If any of you fancy a flutter, avoid the draw.

In the process of writing this piece, I have learnt that a hassock is actually a floor cushion but the village name Hassocks is believed to have been taken from tufts of 'hassocky' grass in the surrounding fields. Now, what other football blog could give you such quality trivia? It's just a good job that the village didn't develop over the years surrounded by fields of bullrushes.

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