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A different angle


“Sausage on French, you don’t get that at Arsenal”. “Well, not unless it’s some bizarre sex game involving Arsene Wenger”. It’s half-time in Fisher FC’s Kent Hurlimann Football League clash with Corinthian and two blokes nearby are admiring a rather tasty looking sausage sandwich that one of them has purchased from the snack bar.

It’s Non-League Day and unable to make the journey north to watch FC United at Fylde, I’ve made the slightly shorter trip to Dulwich in south east London to get my Saturday afternoon football fix. Non-League Day has been an annual event for a few years and aims to encourage fans of Premiership and Championship teams to go and watch a local non-league team on a weekend of international fixtures (usually in October) when they would otherwise not have a game to go to. A few dozen extra people through the turnstiles and a few extra sausage sandwiches can make a big difference at this level of football.

Four years ago, Fisher Athletic were playing in the Conference South against the likes of AFC Wimbledon. However, the club was wound up in the high court over unpaid debts at the end of the 2008-09 season. Fisher FC was formed as a new football club wholly owned by its supporters with a democratic, one member one vote, structure similar to that of FC United with a commitment to being “run for the good of the community”. They draw considerable inspiration from the likes of AFC Wimbledon and FC United.

Earlier in the week Fisher had contacted the FC United London & Southern supporters’ branch to invite us to the game if we weren’t heading north to watch our team play. As part of the Non-League Day festivities they offered half price admission (usual price £7) to fans of other supporter owned clubs, Millwall supporters and volunteers from the Olympic and Paralympic games. The bloke on the turnstile, spotting that my accent wasn’t local, asked me who I supported and thanked me for coming to watch Fisher.

The club is from Bermondsey (hence the Millwall connection), and have plans to move back there in the future, but they’ve been playing home games at Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill ground since 2004. They play in the Kent Football League Premier Division at step five of the non-league pyramid with the likes of Canterbury City, Beckenham Town and the mysteriously named VCD Athletic. An average of just over 100 spectators have watched each of their games so far this season making them the second best supported club in the division behind Tunbridge Wells.

It was an entertaining first half between two sides struggling for form and lying in the bottom half of the table. Corinthian, in their green and white hoops, took an early lead but Fisher fought hard to get back on terms. Their build up play was neat and tidy with no little skill but all too often they struggled for a decent final ball (sounds familiar).

Most supporters sit in the main stand with a beer or tea. In the bus shelter style stand opposite a group of half a dozen supporters work their way through the Fisher songbook and sing throughout the match. It’s not quite the Manchester Road End but it’s impressive nonetheless.”When the Fish go swimming in…” is a particular favourite.

On reading that Fisher were at home to Corinthian, I’d mistakenly assumed that the opposition must be the same club who famously refused to join the Football League or play in the FA Cup in the late nineteenth century due to a club rule forbidding them from competing for prizes. But, no, this is an entirely different club. Corinthian Casuals, who play in the Isthmian League, are the successors to the original Corinthian FC. This Corinthian, from near Sevenoaks in Kent, were formed relatively recently, in 1972, by millionaire builder Ron Billings to give his sons a football club to play for.

The second half follows a similar pattern and Corinthian add a second. Fisher keep plugging away without really threatening to get a goal back and concede another late on with a second for Corinthian’s lively centre forward Alfie May to give the scoreline a slightly misleading appearance. Nevertheless the two teams are still applauded off the field by an appreciative crowd of 137, including, according to the tannoy announcer, supporters from Huddersfield, Leeds, Cambridge, Millwall and “one from FC United”. They thank us for our support as we make our way to the exit.

If you’re in London on a Saturday during the football season and at a loose end you could do far worse than hop on a train at London Bridge station and go and watch Fisher. They’re a wonderful advert for supporter owned football clubs and you’ll be made very welcome. Come on the Fish.


From → London, Sport

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