For those unfamiliar with Walton and Hersham football club they are a Ryman South club needing only four promotions to achieve football league status. A simply astounding but mathematically correct statement. For many years they were my “non league” club and in fact I have been watching them for around 50 years.
Most people are unfamiliar with their claims to fame of having won the FA Amateur Cup at Wembley in 1973, and perhaps their greatest “achievement ” was getting Wimbledon into the football league many years ago. The Walton manager and most of the decent players simply moved to Wimbledon and it was that team that got promotion to Division 4. The manager was Allen Batsford and the players included Dave Bassett. Since then things have changed substantially for the worse. In fact their last meaningful club honour stated in the programme is Ishmian League Premier Division Runners Up from that same season they won the FA Amateur cup. The last meaningful thing I recall was a 0-0 result against Brian Clough Brighton at their ground Stompond Lane in front of 4000 spectators and a 4-0 victory in the replay at the Goldstone Ground.
I cannot summarise their subsequent history in a simple article but the club has been in almost constant decline in the 40 years since then to the extent that they need a new ground and there is a debate going on as to whether that should be a rebuilt Stompond Lane or a groundshare with the other Walton club Walton Casuals.
On weekends when I am not watching Brentford I will visit and often photograph at non league matches and I took the opportunity to see Walton and Hersham v Hythe Town on 27th February and came away maybe more demoralised and sad than from a game for many years. The simple facts are that Walton lost the game 1-3 and the reality was it that should have been more like 1-10, that the ground was in a dreadful state of disrepair, that there were no smiling faces and if I was looking for a welcome, then I had come to the wrong ground. The standard of football was frankly of a park standard and a glance at the league table suggests that relegation is a real probability this year . There must also have been a changing of faces at the club with new players coming in ( and in my opinion soon going out) as the tannoy announcer could not pronounce many of the Walton players names. A few players stood out as being less dreadful than others. Alfie May for Hythe looked like he could play football and could play certainly one division higher. Richard Parquette for Walton is still a box finisher and looked in fact the only player capable of scoring for Walton.
Admission costs £9 which is a reasonable price for Ryman South football, combined with free parking, £2 programme and £3 Burger , gives a total cost of around £15. The lady at the turnstile entrance was friendly enough but there it stopped, there were a small group of maybe 3-4 men giving an impression of guarding the “free” gate nearby glaring at anyone daring to enter. I counted a crowd size during the dismal game of 67 spectators and the stated crowd was just under 100.
The ground potentially is a decent ground, with terracing behind one goal and in the past covered terracing alongside the whole of one side of the pitch. The stand is also of reasonable size but has been allowed to decline to a sad state. A few new red seats have been installed but the majority of seats were covered in bird mess, mud and unspecified debris, and no one in their right mind would have chosen to sit on them. The old terracing stand has been covered up and closed down due to danger with the roof structure, and fences had blown down behind the goal making passage around the ground troublesome.
The clubhouse was boarded up and inside was more like a damp cupboard than a clubhouse with maybe 3-4 souls drinking beer before the game. In short the ground was unfriendly, as were most souls I came across, even the nice ladies in the burger bar were wishing the end of half time when they could close their van ( nice burger in a toasted bun was the highlight of my afternoon), and the general state of all the standing areas was poor.
This is a club and a ground in total demise. Would I return here? Not in the distant future to be sure. The football and welcome at other local clubs, who also have problems, like Molesey FC is far superior.
I don’t know what the future holds for Walton and Hersham but decisions need to be made. Frankly 2 separate grounds for 2 separate teams in one town in Walton does not seem a viable option, when the total of both clubs home support combined is less than 200. But things need to improve or this club will die. The worst memory was of the astonishingly poor standard of football played by Walton and of a comment, serious I think, from a Hythe town player during the warm up ” only 90 minutes to the bar lads….”. Maybe he had not been inside the bar there?