My Bethlehem

Jesus was a big Beitar Jerusalem fan supporting the club from a young age when he moved to complete his Religious Studies course at Jerusalem Polytechnic. We all know this.  But what people don’t know is that Jesus always retained a soft spot for Bethlehem United FC, the club of his birth place.  Interestingly, the away end is called the Manger and that place is always heaving.  Try taking a crib in that place…

 

EvoStik is Bedfordshireish for Heaven?

What Bethlehem United FC is to Jesus, Leighton Town FC is to me. Leighton Town are the pride of Leighton Buzzard, which in turn is the pride of Befordshire, which in turn is the pride of counties that can be used as a synonym for sleep.  (I only learnt that people said ‘Go upstairs to Bedfordshire’ meaning ‘Go upstairs to sleep’ at the age of about 21.  In Bedfordshire, it does not make a huge amount of sense.  ‘Tim, go upstairs to Bedfordshire.’ ‘Mum, we already in Bedfordshire unless you are unilaterally declaring independence from our local authority.’)  Leighton Town play at Bell Close, a small ground just outside the town centre.  We used to come and watch games on an irregular basis and I even had the privilege of playing on this hallowed turf.

More grass in Chennai on Day 5.

I was lucky enough to be joined by some familiar faces for this day out with Prague based Martin making the trip (I assume specially for this occasion) and Leighton Buzzard based Dad. Leighton Town suffered the ignimony of relegation last season and will play out 2016/17 in Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier Division which is the ninth tier of the English football pyramid.   But they have the immediate chance to bring glory back to Leightonians with a tie against Northampton Sileby Rangers in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round.  Northampton Sileby Rangers play in the United Counties League, which also sits on the ninth tier of the English pyramid system.  Both teams will be acutely aware that they are only fourteen games away from winning England’s premier cup competition. More importantly, the winner of this tie will take home GBP 1,500 in prize money and a place in the Preliminary Round proper.

My Dad’s dado rail and a carpet.

We took the opportunity to sample some of Leighton Buzzard’s worldly delights pre-game. For those of you that don’t know, Leighton Buzzard is located about 60km North East of London in prime commuter belt territory.  A population of some 50,000 has nearly doubled in the last generation.  Fun facts are that the town’s high street has some 500 yards of secret tunnels running under it, the main church has often been referred to as the Catherdral of South Bedfordshire and the town has a sizeable sand quarrying industry. Famous Leightonians include me, Kelvin Davies (Southampton goalkeeper), always shy Kajagoogoo, Bob Monkhouse and Mary Norton author of a book about small people, The Borrowers.

Bell Close is cosy. About 1km to the South-West of the town centre, the ground is surrounded on three sides by Clipstone Brook (which is just a tiny river although I suspect that most of you know the meaning of brook).  There is small terracing at either end of the pitch and a small stand perched precariously on the halfway line.  GBP 6 entry is money well spent in my book (I do not actually have a book for those of you eagerly searching for it on Amazon.)  Welcome to my Bethlehem!

Number 6 is off.

With thanks to my neighbor and my Dad’s workmanship, we (being me and Martin from my Prague escapades) wangled ourselves free entry into the home of football in Leighton Buzzard. The cozy bar was a nice introduction into the world of the Extra Preliminary Round until we found out that FA rules prohibited glass from being taken pitchside.  Nice one FA.  I am not sure that words can describe the  stupidity of such rules.  Why

Anyway we snuggled ourselves into the home terrace within stepping distance of the bar and our pre bought pints. Unsurprisingly, the game was not a classic not helped by a frankly abysmal pitch.  Any chance of hitting the ball on the roll was ruined by a bobble left, right and centre.  Northampton scored midway through the first half and LTFC struggled to get a foothold into the game and went in at half time a goal down (which gave us a chance to sneak back to the bar to a sip of our Guinness).

IMG_3443

Home fans.  Some aggresive leaning.

A second half chip from Leighton brought the 80 or so home crowd back into the game. But that first bit of vague of quality was followed up about five minutes by another vaguely competent finish by some Northampton player to make it 2-1.  A vague scramble at the end brought nothing and Leighton crash out of the world’s oldest cup competition at the first opportunity.  Great afternoon.  Go and see your local club.  We all have our own Bethlehem.

Northampton Silesby Rangers favourite for the Cup?

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