The original, full version of this blog appears on the Bostik League website
‘Oh South London. Is wonderful…’ A phrase I heard frequently over the weekend. It’s a sentiment I can agree with. I lived in SW2 for five years before returning to the Eastern side of the capital. South West London played host to two of the three finals, coincidentally the two I was able to attend. My first trip across the river was for the battle of the Casuals. Corinthian and Walton. Corinthian-Casuals lost out in the play-off final last year to Dorking Wanderers. They hoped home advantage would see them through this year against Walton Casuals, who finished a point below them in the League. There was a slightly bigger gap in the Premier Division final. Dulwich, who also lost in the playoffs last season, hosted a South v North London battle against Hendon, who finished one place but 10 points behind them.
Saturday: Corinthian-Casuals 0-0 Waltham Casuals (Walton Casuals win on penalties)
This sunny Saturday began in frustrating fashion as my Victoria Line train was delayed meaning I missed my intended connection at Vauxhall. Fortunately, I caught the last available train to Tolworth that would get me to the Casuals ground in time for kick-off. It was just in time. I handed over my £10 and bought a drink just as the referee blew his whistle to get the game started. In truth, I could have arrived at any point over the next two hours and not really missed anything on the pitch. The real story of this game was the occasion.
As the hyphen suggests Corinthian-Casuals are the product of the merger of two clubs. One of these clubs, Corinthian FC are often credited with helping spread the game of football outside of Europe. They were the first European club to visit Brazil. A group of railway workers then founded their own Sport Club Corinthians Paulista in the image of the English amateurs. SC Corinthians are now, of course, one of the biggest names in South American club football and two times World Club Champions.
Back in South West London, Corinthian-Casuals were looking for a return to the top tier of Isthmian Football, the highest level they’ve played at in their history. Their opponents and local rivals were seeking their first ever visit to Step three. The clubs hadn’t listed each other as rivals in the Bostik website’s fans season preview, but I’d wager this might be a bigger rivalry going forward. A crowd of 930 packed into King George’s Field to see the players on both sides battle the heat for two hours. Chances were limited and two polished goalkeeping performances kept the scores at 0-0 at the end of extra time.
My first visit to Corinthian-Casuals home painted the ground in great light. There was a thriving ‘street’ of pop-up food and drink stalls behind the main stand and plenty of noisy and exuberant fans wedged into the shady terraces at either end. The Corinthian-Casuals fans sang long and hard throughout the elongated game, never failing to salute a passing train or the ‘Tolworth Tower’.
Unfortunately, as the shoot-out arrived, the crowds headed for one end of the ground and after several hours of tense football, drinking and soaring temperatures tempers flared. A brawl erupted behind the goal. At first, it was a welcome sight for many in the crowd to see something that resembled action, but as it continued it became clear that stupidity had got the better of too many drunk minds. The shoot-out was halted, and I was forced to return to Tolworth station. I listened to the final reckoning courtesy of the excellent Back of the Net commentary. Walton Casuals won the shoot-out and made club history.
My frustration at missing the end of the game was lifted the following day as I heard while enjoying a stroll by the Thames with a soundly sleeping baby, that Haringey had won their Bostik North playoff final. A great achievement for one of my local clubs. A shame for Canvey Island, but I look forward to further visits there with the dog, to see them push for promotion again next season. The Canvey, Heybridge, Bowers battles will be matches not to miss next season.