Fish Out Dolan Out

Watching Non-League Football – Dulwich Hamlet

Before last 2019, I’d never been to a non-league football game. I’d been to plenty of Division 3 games when City were attempting to become a non-league club, but that was the closest.

I was invited to go watch Dulwich Hamlet with some new hipster friends – for those that don’t know, Dulwich is an area in south London, near the coolest/twattiest (delete as per your preference) part of London – Peckham, just a little more middle-class. And Dulwich Hamlet is the local football club, who’s existence was threatened fairly recently.

I had nothing else to do that afternoon (except, erm, Hull City were playing at Craven Cottage that afternoon) so I accepted the invite with intrigue.

Dulwich Hamlet used to be a small club with a very small attendance, say around 150 from what I understand. Then came a battle with property developers and the council, and Dulwich Hamlet were forced out of their ground for a while – whilst City were locked out of Boothferry Park for just days, I could empathise. There is an excellent Guardian article if you are interested, though it is rather a long read.

Anyway, they basically got adopted by hipsters and going to watch non-league football became cool – I guess almost a way to fight back against property developers, a cause celebre of young lefties down here. I understand that now there is a deal where the stadium is going to be revamped, and housing also gets built on the land.

The game

The football wasn’t amazing, but Dulwich Hamlet did try to play on the ground – there were many through balls that were just hit too long or mis-controlled, but the thought was there to try to play attractive football. And occasionally it worked – like when scoring the equaliser early in the second half.

Alas, defensively they had large deficiencies – central defenders going totally missing at times and being cut open easily. The goalkeeper wasn’t convincing either – Bath City scored 3 goals in total against them but it could have been more quite easily, were the standard of opposition higher.

The ground

The ground was gorgeous. A proper old school ground, I think it was £12 to get in – not too bad a price for London.

And the best part? You can drink beer in the stand at non-league football! What a revelation, and I didn’t feel any urge to throw my empty cans at the opposition fans.

Of course, being a hipster club, the beer was from local breweries such as Peckham Pale Ale – none of this Carlsberg shite though I think there was some trash lager if you wanted it.

Pieminister pies too – I’d eaten before expecting shit food, but it was anything but – my accomplices enjoying meaty burgers and chunky chips.

Thankfully we were sat under cover as it hammered down for a portion of the game – we did have to get there well over an hour before kick-off, as nearly 3,000 people attended – pretty much up to capacity. Alas, that many people did mean that getting served at the bar was a bit like a night at a student union – queuing ages and everyone in front buying 10 different beers. And the rain meant that people were sat on the steps so navigating back from the bar was a nightmare – imagine the stewards at Hull City coping with that?

There were still a few wrong-uns who were hammered at the bar (some southern rugby crap in the morning), and a collection of older supporters who were supporting Dulwich Hamlet long before the hipsters arrived. Yes there were cute dogs aplenty, and cute women in attendance too. And I did see someone in a black and amber hat with the word “Tigers” on the back. Surely I was the only Hull City fan there?

And that it wasn’t my team, meant Dulwich Hamlet losing 3-1 didn’t really matter.

I’ll be going again. I don’t know when – perhaps not until next season. Whilst the football isn’t a patch on what we get at Hull City (well…most games), it was a cracking afternoon. With beer. Hmmm legally drinking beer whilst at a football game. The glory.

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