Adventures in Football #52: Champion Hill (Dulwich Hamlet FC)
May 7, 2022
DULWICH HAMLET vs. HEMEL HEMPSTEAD (National League South)
You’ll have to forgive the briefness of this review. I did all the history and whatnot at the start and my computer has lost it. So, I’m not going to re-write it. Basically, all it said was Dulwich Hamlet is currently enjoying the most successful stint in their history. Let’s leave it at that.
I left my house on Saturday morning knowing full well that I probably couldn’t get checked in at the hotel, so I took my bag and all my personal effects to the pub pre-match. We went to the Blackfriar by the river. Here we are enjoying a beer. There’s me, Groundhopper’s Guide co-host Mike Kilby, local resident/Exeter City fan Carsmile Steve and Lewis aka Welshie. We ended up doing a massive pub crawl over two days, eating up the Bermondsey Beer Mile. Because there’s a lot, a LOT, of beer stuff to talk about….I’m debuting a new column called “Crawling”, which will detail the lot.
We finished off the beers and hit the local train station (Blackfriars, obviously) to take a short journey to Dulwich. There was a threat of trains not running (we’d end up on a rail replacement bus after the game) but we got there ok. It’s a short walk from the station (15 minutes, in case you were wondering). We got to the ground around 20 minutes before kick off and I snapped a picture of how clustered the set up is. Dulwich were broke a few years ago and sold the training pitches to Sainsbury’s. So, now you have supermarket deliveries and Pieminister collections in the same road as the club. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
We spent most of the 20 minutes queuing outside. It was fucking packed today. Absolutely rammed. Tobi (who joined us after earlier photo) is from Germany and was expecting there to be about 70 people here as that’s how many you’d get at the German equivalent level. There’s over 3000 people in for today. I’m convinced non-league should run in the summer. They’d make a killing on hot days. Have a barbecue set up. Winner. The inside of the ground had two beer tents and portaloos in the corners. It was like being at a festival. Everyone chilling out and drinking beer.
Look at the queue! I had my bag checked at the front of this and after digging under a couple of shirts the lady just asked if I had any alcohol in there. I didn’t but if I did she wouldn’t have found it with that attitude! Dulwich are very open about inclusivity and honestly, after some of the games I’ve been to this season, it was nice. Everyone is welcome at Champion Hill. A stark contrast to my last game, at Millwall, where they booed the knee.
We walked around the perimeter, discovering we couldn’t stroll into the part of the ground we wanted to stand in because of the players tunnel. So we had to walk around. It was nice to have a look about and we saw so many dogs. I think the most dogs I’ve ever seen at the football is three, maybe four. I counted 14 dogs at Dulwich. FOURTEEN DOGS. There are so many dogs that even this random crowd shot has a dog in it.
This is the main stand. There’s also a stand opposite it. The ends are terraced. Well, just about. Let’s say ‘partially’ terraced. It is a nice ground, and my view was hampered by how goddamn busy it was. End of the season sunshine people. All these fair-weather fans. Where we you in January? Not at Mansfield Town, that’s for bloody certain. As well as beers there was a place selling gyros but if I wanted a chip butty I’d do it myself.
Anyway, this was my view. There are a lot of people to my right so that goal was hard to see. Dulwich scored twice there in the first half and I could see the net ripple. I was bang in line with the first one so I basically saw that goal. Just about. In the second half everyone fucked off down the other end and we stayed and watched Hemel score. Well, I was showing Mike something on my phone and we actually missed it but hey, it’s the end of the season. The bulk of the crowd didn’t seem to give a shit about the actual game. It was just an afternoon in the sun.
I was busy talking to people all match so we didn’t really get into the spirit of the game. It felt more like a pre-season friendly that an end of season match. There was certainly nothing on the line with both teams sat in mid-table. Dulwich won and everyone filed out to get on with something more interesting. Mike Kilby, Hemel Ultra, went over to the Hemel players after the game to tell them “next year mate”.
Final Score: Dulwich Hamlet 2 Hemel Hempstead 1
So, with the final game of my season in the books, it’s time to wrap up the table with the scores on the doors for Dulwich.
I’m sure it would have been better if anyone gave a shit about the game, which they didn’t. Dulwich hardly made a peep all afternoon. The Hemel fans made a bit of noise but not much. Considering there was 3000+, it was quiet. Everyone chatting amongst themselves. *
It was £12, which is fine for the level. For that I got to stand under a tree for two hours and I didn’t even buy the beer I drank. ***
The game was fine. A few of the players looked decent. The Hemel #14 in particular. He was a game changer. **½
EASE OF ACCESS
Apart from the bag checks slowing everything down it was easy in, easy out. There were train issues and we ended up on a rail replacement bus service but it’s very close to a station. Is 15 minutes very close? I feel it’s near enough. ***½
Dulwich is a hipster club. No doubt about it. Craft beer, gyros. All that business. I did enjoy it but I was at the game with some people I’d not seen in two years so the temptation was always to chat to them due to the game being an afterthought. **½
It’s a relatively low overall score for Dulwich. Probably because it was such a nothing game. It was alright though. There’s clearly been a lot of effort put into making the club such a welcome, opening safe space. It’s the kind of game you take your dog to and sometimes that’s not a bad thing.