The View from the Bar 

The Portchester match seems a long time ago, somehow (although it was only ten days ago) but wasn’t it something? It genuinely was one of the best, most exhilarating, and most complete performances I’ve seen from Cowes for a good few years. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of a team proving that they can be so much more than the sum of their parts (or perhaps more to the point, that a team – in this case Portchester – cannot be rated solely on their constituent members, the names on the team-sheet). Never has the phrase ‘a well-earned three points’ been more appropriate, or applicable.

It was also a special night for me because it was nipper’s first ever game under floodlights (he got to stay up late as a half-term treat). And he loved it. The quality of the performance may have passed him by, but the occasion will always stay with him, and he won’t forget the result, either. There’s something about a game under lights: You’d be hard-pressed to find a supporter of any team who doesn’t claim their ground has a different, and special, atmosphere under lights, and I’m no different. Yes, we can all remember some thoroughly depressing events under the 400 lux (or whatever they are), but you can’t fault the sense of occasion. And when we win in that kind of style, under the lights, well…

Given the previous two results it was a massive shame that the match at Shaftesbury was called off, but hopefully we can keep the momentum going today as we welcome Christchurch to Westwood. With any luck our visitors will still be exhausted from their F.A. Cup exploits, where they came within a whisker of the Fourth Qualifying Round before bowing out to Dulwich Hamlet – a side no less than three levels above the Wessex Prem. It was heartening to see how, despite our rivalries, all the Wessex League sides (and others in the area) were behind Christchurch as they progressed through the rounds. They created memories that I’m sure will live long around Hurn Bridge, and reminded us all that the opportunities for glory really are there. With the greatest of sincerity, well done to everyone involved (but I hope you’re rubbish today…)

Speaking of the F.A. Cup, our alternate universe road to Wembley took another turn last week, when Cowes’ conquerors Weston Super Mare were beaten 3-1 by our old Wessex League foes Eastleigh, who now carry our hopes into the First Round Proper with a home tie against MK Dons on Sunday 8th November. This is another game that’ll be watchable on either the BBC or BT digital platforms, so I might just tune in for that and a peek at our old stomping ground. Quite a lot has changed at Ten Acres since our last visit, including the name (it’s now the far more corporate and much less lovable Silverlake Arena). Grumble grumble modern rubbish grumble grumble. Perish the day we ever accept a sponsorship deal for naming Westwood – The Corries Cabin Arena anyone? Maybe the Try Hurst’s First Stadium? Nah, thought not…

As I write, the internet is awash with rumours that we’re heading into another national lockdown next week. So, with a distinctly blinkered view, that’ll be football done for a month or more, and if it comes to it, maybe it’ll be season over. But if that’s what comes to pass, it hasn’t for a moment been a wasted effort, these past few weeks. It’s kind of been a season in microcosm: there’s been lows and highs, excitement, elation, frustration and disappointment. But the best thing about it, by a mile, has been how we – and by ‘we’ I mean all of us – have responded, and how it has reminded us of how important the club is – and how important we all are – to each other. The effort to get things going, and keep things going, from everyone involved with the club has been exceptional, and the support this year (this year so far, hopefully), has been phenomenal. We’re going through tough times, but we will get through them, and when we do, I look forward to seeing you all up here again.

This is our club, all of ours, remember that. There are more important things in life, of course – times like this can remind us of that so starkly – but it’s also important to know you belong. Look around you today, we all belong.

So, win, lose or draw, enjoy the game, stay safe, take care, and see you soon, I hope.

       Toby.

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