The draw for the next round of the FA Trophy takes place tomorrow. We’re down to just 16 clubs, and at this stage there are no easy ties. A majority of the clubs we will have already faced in league competition, and the adventurer in me doesn’t just want to turn up at a familiar ground. I don’t even want a so-called easy tie against lower opposition in the next round, although my preferred opponents are from a lower league. I want to visit the Tuscany of London, Dulwich Hamlet.
They are no ordinary club and I would love our special season to incorporate a visit to a special football club nestled in the gentrified East Dulwich area of London. Back in the late 1980’s the club were trying to build a new ground and a local resident complained on the basis that the area resembled Tuscany and didn’t need a football stadium and supermarket on the land. The complaint was overruled, but even today the Hamlet fans sign ‘Tuscany, Tuscany, We’re the famous Dulwich hamlet and we look like Tuscany’. East Dulwich was not like Tuscany in the late 1980’s, in case you were wondering. It was more like East Beirut.
Our own 617 squadron could arrange a meet up with the ultra group from Dulwich, namely the Rabble. The Rabble are not your normal set of fans though, in fact Dulwich Hamlet fans in the main are not your normal set of fans. The club seems to be a magnet for South London’s intellectual left wing hipsters, and they mix football culture with a curious blend of politics and anarchy. They’re well known for abusing the opposition keeper, but not by questioning his parentage or sinking to any form of personal insult. They’ve accused one recently of being a Liberal Democrat. Imagine that!
Their stickers are not simple ‘you’ve been visited by the Dulwich Hamlet intellectuals’ either. Inspired by their sister club, Altona 93 from Germany, they’ve had anti-UKIP stickers made up in the clubs colours of pink and blue. They were the first team to play a ground breaking friendly with Stonewall FC, a team from an LGBT rights charity, and their politics echo that of the famous St Pauli from Hamburg. Where they find barriers and stereotypes, they break them down with their pink and blue scarves and Marxist leanings.
This isn’t a fad either, for a game against Maidstone at the end of the 2014/15 season they attracted over 3,000 fans. Last season they averaged 1,300 for home matches, which was more than double any other team in their league, and significantly more than five or six clubs in our league. Those bearded hipsters and their flip flop wearing hippy girlfriends turn up in their droves to drink craft beers and eat fashionable bratwurst sausages whilst watching the pink army set about their free flowing ‘just score more than the opposition’ football. There also the match day posters, a cross between a poster advertising a match and abstract modern art with social messages to deliver. In fact it is easy to forget that somewhere under all of this is a football club.
They play one league below the Conference South, in the Ryman Premier League. They’re poised to mount a play-off challenge this season, sat in fifth position but having played a few more games than everyone else. They thrashed Whitehawk at the weekend by four goals to one in a match watched by almost as many fans as ours. Their goals came from former Barnet striker Ashley Carew, and former Dagenham man Gavin Tomlin. They would offer us a decent game of football, but also a good chance to progress to the quarter finals.
I know how cup draws usually work for us now. We pick who we want, and we don’t get them. We’ve had two stabs at Premiership opposition in the FA Cup this season and missed out. Now we have a chance to face somebody a little bit different, and I doubt the balls will be kind to us. However, if they are I will look forward to travelling down to Champion Hill, East Dulwich for a football match that might just provide us with a slightly different experience, albeit the result would be one we’re used to: a Lincoln City win.