Adventures in Football #43: Mill Road (Arundel FC)
MARCH 12, 2022
ARUNDEL FC vs. SEAFORD TOWN (Southern Combination Football League Division 1)
This is a bit of an odd one. So, initially I bought tickets to Southampton vs. Watford to take place on this Saturday but the game got moved to the Sunday. I couldn’t get directly to Southampton for the 2pm kick off on Sunday so I needed to get closer on the Saturday. It was time for find a game and after much prognosticating we’ve plumped for Arundel FC. Why Arundel? Mill Road made it into Mike Bayly’s “British Football’s Greatest Grounds”. It happens to sit in the shadow of Arundel Castle. Making it one of the most picturesque settings for the football in the UK.
Arundel were formed in 1949* (not quite old enough for Smiv’s old man voice) and played in the Sussex regional leagues until 2015. They’ve always been a small regional team, they’ve never made it to the first round of the FA Cup. Back in the 1950s they topped the Sussex league system two years running but unfortunately there was no promotion so they just stayed there. They’ve also won the Sussex RUR Cup four times. Most recently in 1980.
*I stand corrected here. Arundel were founded in 1889 according to their badge. They played before that in the West Sussex League.
Since 2015 they’ve competed in an actual league system. They’re in the Southern Combination League. They started in the Premier Division but were relegated just before Covid and now sit second bottom of Division 1.
It looks a bit bleak. They’re in danger of dropping into division two. Home to such luminaries as Ferring, Upper Beeding, Rottingdean Village, Jarvis Brook and Brighton Electricity. I watched highlights of Arundel’s last game, a 3-3 draw with Hailsham Town, and it was a bit of a shambles.
This ended up being a goal. Head over to Mullets TV on YouTube to watch for yourself. I doubt we’ll make tape next week because we’ll be eyeballing the castle and the view is on the hard-cam side. This is tier 10 of the football pyramid. Quite a ground to sandwich in between two Premier League sides.
It’s chilly on the morning and I’ve got hoodie and coat on. I arrive at Bromsgrove station and it’s full of trainspotting nerds. Imagine going to a bunch of random places in the UK just to tick something off a list (ahem). The journey, switching at Worcester, is surprisingly pleasant until the Paddington train gets into Oxford. Oh boy, is it rough from there on out. Train absolutely heaving. I escape the train at Slough (pronounced either “SLAA” or “Sluth” depending on your accent). I was led to believe that Slough was a shithole. So, I took a picture of the train station to prove that a degree of beauty exists everywhere. Mike is right outside strolling over with a coffee as I get out and he’s parked across the road at Tesco’s. It’s bigger than the IKEA in Milton Keynes, which is apparently Mike’s size guide for any building with an underground carpark.
Mike’s ability to go in the wrong direction but somehow make it work anyway is his superpower, I think. We turn the wrong way out of the car park for starters and it’s the first of several driving blunders. We have a good laugh on the way to Arundel though and there’s lots of lovely tree lined roads through the sticks. Mike did manage to leave the road to Arundel at one point causing his decade old TomTom to get very confused.
We park up and oh look, a castle! This is the main drawing point of Arundel FC. It’s how it made it into Mike Bayly’s book and, to be fair, it’s a cracking castle and a nice little town. It’s the kind of town that has a lot of antique shops and places to buy tea and scones.
On the right here is the Norfolk Tap, the pub that sort of lives in the Norfolk Arms. It’s the best place to get beer from Arundel’s local brewery. We considered nipping into the brewery but it’s fucking miles away. It’s not even in Arundel but neighbouring Yapton. Anyway, we had a pint of the local bitter and it was solid. Maybe a bit too much caramel in the palate but still very good. After a few beers it was game time and we headed off towards the ground. We were walking along the road and we can see the ground through trees. Where the hell is the entrance? It turns out it’s through the car park we parked in earlier. I’m sure there’s a way to hurdle a brook and sneak in the back way but we don’t do that.
I like how Arundel’s football team is secondary to advertising a sixteenth century tea room. In danger of being overrun by Bounce fit body dot com too.
This is the entrance. No turnstiles sadly but instead a gate manned by a lady who charges us a fiver each to enter this fine establishment. After nearly strolling into the referee’s changing room to take a piss we seek assistance with locating the bar. The guy I ask happens to be a Seaford fan and we get into why we’re there. “You’re not Arundel are you?” We’ve been rumbled! First time this season. To be fair, this is blatantly a groundhopping job. He’s wearing a bright yellow coat and encourages us to support Seaford this afternoon. I’m not here to take sides mate, just here to catalogue history.
I love the non-league levels where the teams are written on a board. You’ll notice neither team has a substitute keeper. After watching the game I’m not convinced Paali Susso was a goalkeeper either. We get ready for kick off and the DJ has thrown on the Rocky Theme, causing the linesman to shadow box on his way back from checking the net for holes. I congratulate him on his boxing skills and we have a laugh out of a linesman. The official Groundhoppers Guide checklist now includes “pop a lino”. You have to make a linesman laugh or you’re not really a real groundhopper. That might sound hard but I’ve seen linesman laughter from banter in non-league all the time.
This is Mike googling where the pitch is. I’m expecting a wrong turn and him to walk into the brook. The game kicks off and after about two minutes Seaford score. It’s literally a throw in that the centre back misjudges and Callum Connor slots it home. Connor was comfortably the best player on the field. It’s like when, at school, you’d have one lad who was repeating a year because he was shit at maths but he was brilliant at football and had stubble. He bullied the Mullets. After seven minutes Arundel make what appears to be a tactical switch with Theo Likaj making way. Theo actually has the @TheoLikaj Twitter account but he seems to have forgotten about it because he’s not tweeted since 2014.
This is proof Arundel have actual facilities. They’ve got a stand, a bar and a shack that serves food. All set in the shadow of a massive castle and surrounded by open countryside. It’s pleasant surroundings for a game of football. A long free kick heads into the box. Not a single defender attacks it and it drops at the feet of a Seaford player. 0-2. We walk past our friend from Seaford and ask if Arundel are usually this bad. “Yeah, they’re shit int they” he replies before strolling off to the bar.
Just to prove you can see the castle from the ground, here it is in all its glory. Those white walls on the left are the changing rooms. At half time I could hear the Arundel boss sounding somewhat agitated. Arundel were getting a bollocking.
If I had an Instagram, this would definitely be on it. Not terribly impressed with Arundel’s flag girth though.
We had a little stroll around the ground to complete our circuit. The main aim was to try and find the non-league pile of crap. Every non-league ground has a pile of crap.
We didn’t actually find one but we did find this suspicious trail of white paint. I think they re-did the lines after recent heavy rain. On completing the walk we got a bit peckish and went in for a burger from the snack hut. It was £3.50 and was really decent. Seeded bun.
This is Mike contemplating sending his picture of it over to Footy Scran. For the size it was decent. I reckon it’s ***½ on my own personal burger scale.
This is the gantry they film stuff from. It must be really windy up there because that’s all you can hear on Mullets TV. Second half Seaford kill the game off when the keeper doesn’t deal with a long range shot and the rebound is turned in. I was right next to this when it happened, and the keeper made no real attempt to get back up and stop the second shot. He knew it was over. Worse was to come. Arundel lost the ball on the halfway line and a long punt cleared the entire team. One of the defenders was left sticking his arm in the air. You played them all onside you silly bastard.
The striker was left in acres and that’s 4-0. I almost missed it as I was walking down the sideline to the bar. Mike yelled at me to turn around, at which point the striker was clean through. You can watch the whole thing on Mullets TV! With apologies to Ben Taylor for exposing his defending.
One last gander at the castle and we’re away. A slamming at home for Arundel. Solid performance from Seaford who look good for promotion based on this. Arundel run the risk of dropping out of the division with play like this. Had a great time at the game, sank a few beers, had a burger, bit of banter and we were on our way. On the way out of Arundel, Mike got lost and went the entire way around a roundabout. Also, some lads on a motorway bridge spat on the windscreen. An eventful trip. I’ll detail the rest of the trip when I talk about Southampton. That particular Adventure in Football will be along shortly.