League Secretaries Trip to Jersey

JTC, JERSEY AND ME

For the second time this season a break from the rigours of the Wessex League and a look at football elsewhere, this time on the Island of Jersey

A forty minute flight from Southampton and a bus into St Helier for a wander round and lunch, then a bus back to the vicinity of the Rugby Ground – in itself not far from the Airport – following instructions that my destination, Jersey JTC Wanderers (hence to be referred to as JTC) was adjacent to the afore mentioned Rugby Ground. JTC are the Club Sponsors hence the addition to the name. Alighting from the bus a couple gave me directions and I seemingly walked completely round the ground on the outside – it was tree lined preventing any sight of the interior– before finding the entrance. There was also slight concern whilst circling the ground at hearing sounds of a game being played conjuring up thoughts of a late change of kick off and a perhaps wasted, or at the best, semi-wasted journey. When the entrance was finally reached, it led to a very neat ground, Clubhouse, dugouts and a lovely playing surface but it was the home ground of St Peters FC – which was not the one I was seeking!  A helpful Official told me I needed to go back to the other side of the Rugby Ground and even more helpfully showed me a gap in the trees that saved me circling the ground again in the reverse direction.

So back past the Rugby Ground and an area that held around two and a half football pitches. One by the entrance, used by the Club Juniors, a training area in the middle, and a roped off pitch at the far end adjacent to a building that was the Clubhouse and dressing rooms. The roped off pitch was open at one end, tree lined down the far side and backed on to the Rugby Ground but with no dugouts or cover. However, it did have the most immaculate playing surface, neatly mown in “lines” which is an immense credit to all concerned.

A look in the Clubhouse around 45 minutes before the start found a very warm welcome – obviously recognised as a stranger (if that is not a contradiction in terms) – and nice to learn that the same problems and delights exist at all levels. JTC is the oldest Club in Jersey being founded in 1985 – wonder how many teams there were on the Island then? – and they run sides for all ages, including girls and ladies, and it was proudly pointed out that some of the players in the current League side had been with the Club since childhood.

The opponents on the day were Jersey Portuguese – there is a large Portuguese population on the Island – and it probably was not the best game to choose as the hosts are third in the table and the visitors bottom by a distance and already relegated. Add to that the suggestion that the Portuguese had an important Reserve fixture on the same day and had strengthened that side accordingly and a one sided contest looked on the cards. And so it proved.

Kick off – 2.32 somewhere between Wessex time and punctuality –and the first goal within seven minutes. JTC were awarded what looked a rather soft free kick on the edge of the “D”, the ball was chipped over an eight man wall and fumbled inside the post by a none too agile keeper. Within two minutes the score was doubled as a cross from the right was turned in at the far post without a defender, other than the hapless keeper in sight. Another free kick on the edge of the “D”, awarded for the most blatant of handballs which received no further punishment from the referee, was wasted but it was fast becoming apparent that the visitors had no defensive ability or shape whatsoever. The third goal came from a short corner that the defence watched from the safety of the six yard box – though numbers did not prevent the ball finding the net – before the home defence was troubled for the first time. The ball was given away rather casually in midfield and the visiting number ten – one Clife Silva – broke clear only for Hernani Pestana to put the ball over the bar from the edge of the six yard box. Silva was a one man strike force all afternoon. He had considerable pace that always took him clear of his teammates, though they at times showed little inclination towards supporting him, but invariably ran out of room or shot high and wide. A number twelve appeared in the white shirts of the visitors but whether as a substitute or he had been on since the start is unknown – a microlight aircraft buzzing around may have been a distraction unlike a tall young lady in short shorts wandering by – before goal number four. Ball played down the middle, held up by the striker and then rolled into the path of the player who had made the original pass and a cool finish. The scorer’s run to collect the pass took him through a number of inactive defenders before goal number five in which this time the defence were involved – one of the central defenders acrobatically heading the ball into his own net. Still time for JTC to hit the post before the halftime break.

Three changes at halftime that impacted on the afternoon. The home side replaced their captain, JW Kamen Nafcha (with a haircut to match his name) who had looked a class act throughout the opening half, whilst the visitors bought on a younger and slimmer goalkeeper and changed their assistant. Only a referee appointed for the game. The flag was taken over by a youngish Club Official sporting a shirt with “Alvins Pizzas” on the back. The visiting keeper was quickly in action and showed himself to be a marked improvement on the previous incumbent but it was only twelve minutes before the sixth goal, the JTC number three raced down the left, somehow avoided a kamikaze challenge that would have deposited him in the trees, and crossed for JW H Moon (honestly) to prod home. “Alvin” gave a goal kick that was an obvious corner but in his defence was on the phone at the time – probably taking orders for the evening deliveries – but there was more effort from the visitors second time around and Silva’s pace produced an effort that was saved by the keepers legs. Another cool finish by the aforementioned Mr Moon made it seven before Silva got his reward for his efforts as a one man attack – though it is unlikely he would have passed the ball had he received any support – this time slotting the ball past the advancing keeper rather than blasting it into oblivion. A superb finish by the home number eleven, who boasted the good old Yorkshire name of Arthur Illingworth, made it eight before “Alvin” prevented another goal with an absurd offside decision after the offending player had run half the length of the field with the ball. The Moon completed his hat trick with goal number nine before a mini –melee saw the only caution of the afternoon. As usual in such cases it went to the player who re-acted, not to the player at fault. That, and no doubt the score and the heat, was enough for the referee with the game finishing two minutes early. Melee apart there was no abuse or harassment of the Official either by players or from the dugouts all afternoon.

In summary the home side looked rather useful and tried to play football at all times but the opposition were poor on the day. At times they resembled an under eight side with everybody, apart from the goalkeeper, chasing the ball round the pitch (One suspects that the keeper in the first half was not exactly built for chasing the ball) which tended not to leave gaps at the back but to leave wide open spaces. It is unlikely that even Christian Ronaldo would have made any difference on the day, so out played were his countrymen.

Football in Jersey at this level, as with our Leagues, is dominated largely by finance. The Rugby Club, who play high up the Rugby Pyramid on the mainland – scoop up the majority of sponsorship (the Stadium is superb) and with no admission charges at the football Clubs income is small – though at least travel costs are not a worry. But there will always be volunteers and football on the Island is largely thriving.

A most enjoyable day with the friendliest of people.

Jersey is lovely at the best of times – in the weather of Saturday it was virtually idyllic.