Most people spend their Valentine’s weekend in fancy restaurants, I am not most people so as the Swans were out of the FA Cup I went to Guernsey in the Channel Islands for a very random trip – with football included of course. There is a back story to why I chose Guernsey, during my trip to the World Cup in Brazil last year (Have I not mentioned it before?) I met a guy called Phill in the hostel in Brasilia. He is a Southampton fan who lives in Guernsey and it was a perfect opportunity to meet up, as I said I would visit one day – and I am a Man of my word.
These days I like to combine my travelling with a football game if I can. Guernsey FC have a team who play in the Ryman South, despite not actually being located in England. I’m sure you can think of a few other teams who are similar……
St Peter Port, Guernsey
I caught a flight from Birmingham Airport on the Thursday after being in the city for the West Brom away game the day previous (I have told you before that my middle name is ‘organised’). After a short delay and a very bumpy landing on one of those propeller planes I had arrived. Phill was there to pick me up and I stayed with him and his parents in their lovely house right on the coast.
Friday was my day to explore the wonders of Guernsey, Guernsey is located inbetween France and the U.K. along with some other Islands in the Channel – Jersey, Alderney and Sark to name a few. They are a British Crown Dependency with their own Government, currency etc. A long history and wars with France and Spain in the past and they are the only British Territory to be occupied by Germany during the War. Many people think Guernsey part of Britian, but it isn’t. They are their own seperate Nation with a population of around 65,000 but part of the British Commonwealth.
I caught a bus into the town centre, the journey only cost £1 – take note First Cymru! After the rain had subsided slightly I just went for a wander around the marina, took some photos and just went for a long walk for some more photos of breathtaking views as well as almost being blown over several times.
Guernsey on the whole I thought was an interesting place, I did notice some subtle differences to back home though. Most of the street signs are in French, but everyone speaks English. The pavements are almost non-existent and the roads are narrow, the Post Office boxes are blue and they have £1 notes instead of £1 coins. Which you are unable to spend over in the U.K. but it is possible to spend our money over in Guernsey.
A blue Post Office Box
So Saturday approached and I thankfully noticed that the kick off time for the Guernsey game was 1pm (I’m sure I checked this before I left). Before the game Phill drove me to this very nice and Chapel, which is said to be the smallest functioning chapel in the World (according to Wikipedia) and is called ‘The Little Chapel’. Just 16 foot by 9 foot (but has two floors). It is decorated by seashells, pebbles and broken China.
The Little Chapel
Guernsey FC and football in the Channel Islands
Guernsey FC were only formed back in 2011 and became the first team from the Channel Islands to play Mainland Britain. (Jersey and Guernsey Rugby teams play in Britain too). They have won 2 promotions since starting out in the Combined Counties League Division One. They currently play in the Isthmian League Division One and to get there they had to play 16 games in 30 days (someone tell Sam Allardyce!). Last season they reached the Play Offs but lost to Leatherhead.
The Guernsey FA was established way back in 1893 and a few players from Guernsey have played in the top flight in England. Obviously Matt Le Tissier being the most famous (who is Guernsey’s club President). Guernsey do play football at the Island games every other year and have won it twice – beating Isle of Man and Ynys Môn (also known as Anglesey).
More Guernsey coastline
Regarding Channel Island footballers, my favourite and maybe unknown fact is that any person born in the Channel Islands is eligible to play for any of the Home Nations that they choose (this is true, unlike when people say Januzaj could play for England when he couldn’t). The only two that have played Internationally are Graeme le Saux (from Jersey) and Matt Le Tissier. There are three footballers born in the Channel Islands who play in the Football League at present (that I know of). Brett Pitman (AFC Bournemouth), Peter Vincenti (Rochdale) and James Hamon (Exeter). Whether they want to play for Wales is another matter though!
Guernsey play at Footes Lane, capacity of 5000, which they rent off the local Government. (The Guernsey Rugby team also play here) It has an Athletics track around the pitch and the ground has just one stand, they average crowds of around 800. Another reason why I wanted to watch Guernsey FC play, apart from trying to get up the ‘Football Hipster’ ladder is that Guernsey FC pay for all the opposition players and directors to travel over, as well as putting them up in a hotel. I am not sure how long they will be able to sustain that for. Not forgetting that they have to pay for their own players to go to the away games in England.
Another ground to tick off (my 160th)
Guernsey don’t pay their players and are one of only two amateur teams in the Ryman South. Burgess Hill Town are currently top of the league, also in the league are South Park, Corinthian Casuals and my favourite named team – Three Bridges. Before the game I met up with Nick Legg, Guernsey FC’s Communication Manager, who wanted to take Phill and I’s photo. Apparently it will be in the next programme (fame at last!).
Guernsey’s opponents were Horsham FC, which ironically I had seen play twice before. In the 2007/08 season Swansea were drawn away to them in the FA Cup 2nd round. We drew 1-1 away on a wet and muddy Friday night and then beat them 6-2 in the replay. (Horsham have the accolade of being our first ever FA Cup opponents at the Liberty Stadium). I spoke to one Horsham fan in the club house before the game who had been to both of those games, he only had nice things to say about the Liberty. I ‘Havant’ got a clue who knocked us out of the next round that season though (sorry!).
Phill (@Phill_Loveridge) and I
Horsham brought around 50 away fans to Guernsey, including one from Malaga. (I was disappointed I hadn’t travelled the furthest). Personally if Guernsey were in our league, I would think it would be the most appealing to travelling fans. And from what I was told, Horsham brought the biggest following of away fans to Footes Lane so far this season.
The matchday programme
Horsham were bottom of the league, but after appointing two people to become a joint management team (yes that’s right TWO people!). They have been on a recent resurgence.
I’m not very good at writing match reports and I find it even more difficult when I don’t really know who is who. Guernsey did score through Mark McGrath- after just 15 seconds – his 20th goal of the season with a shot from outside the area. Roary the Lion was entertaining the crowd and did accidentally slipped whilst jumping the hoardings – much to the amusement of the Green Lions faithful. There weren’t that many chances in the first half and Guernsey were 1-0 up at half time and looked comfortable.
McGrath scores for Guernsey
The 2nd half started in almost the same fashion as the first, with Guernsey going 2-0 up through Dave Rihoy on the 50 minute mark. I was getting more amused with the home fans getting annoyed with the officials. No matter what level you are at, it’s always the same. Though ‘You must’ve come on the same plane’ rarely gets said at Non League matches I would guess.
Horsham’s away following
Personally I didn’t think the officials did much wrong, sad as I am in this regard I did notice that the assistants switched sides in the 2nd half. But I don’t think any others noticed as the 2nd half assistant on the stand side was getting grief for things his colleague had done in the 1st!
Roary the Lion
A few half chances for both teams before Horsham had a glimmer of hope when they were awarded a penalty a few minutes from the end. A silly challenge from the keeper (Chris Tardif, ex Portsmouth) as the player was going away from goal, they duly scored. About 2 minutes after this though, Horsham were denied what looked like a clear penalty. Everyone around me were saying they were lucky to get away with that one.
Tony Nwachukwu scores for Horsham from the penalty spot
The final score was 2-1 to Guernsey and that win moved them up to 10th in the table, 10 points off the Play Offs positions with 11 games to go, so a tough ask but I hope they can do it. Guernsey FC are now my adopted non league club and I do like the colour green!
Channeling my thoughts
I’d like to thank Phill and his parents for putting me up, I do really appreciate the hospitality. I would urge any groundhoppers to go and watch Guernsey if they can, the boat takes 7 hours from Portsmouth if that’s your kind of thing! Everyone was really friendly and it’s a little bit different in the sense that it is not in the U.K. I’d love to see them get as high as they can, but it will be very difficult. Seeing them in the Conference one day would be a great achievement.
Visting Guernsey has made me want to visit the other islands in the Channel, so hopefully one day I will be able to go back. Now anyone want some £1 notes……?