Review: “A Season Of Sussex Soccer”, by David Bauckham & Terry Buckman
In the review of this book, I made a comment regarding the change kit used by Rustington FC for last season which was less than complimentary. This were written without the knowledge that it was part of a breast cancer awareness campaign. I have received complaints regarding this, and wish to apologise unreservedly for any offence caused. It was not my intention to cause any offence by this comment, and have removed it at the earliest available opportunity. Long time readers of this site may be aware that my own sister suffers from breast cancer – I was mortified to learn of my oversight. I have requested details for the charity from one of the complainants, and will be making a donation as soon as I receive it. I will also be posting a link to it on here.
Sussex is a strange county, in football terms. The combined counties of East & West Sussex have a population of just over a million and a half, but there is only one Football League club – Brighton & Hove Albion. The Seagulls completely dominate the counties’ football headlines, but non-league football in the county is vibrant, with several senior clubs and a county league that runs to three divisions. This may seem like an unlikely subject for a coffee table book, but “A Seson Of Sussex Soccer” is exactly that – a book to keep close at hand, to pick up and leaf through, whilst smiling at the broad church that is football in the south of England.
This is, essentially, a book of photographs, with short round-ups punctuating them with the story of the 2007/08 football in the county. Arguably surprisingly, Brighton only make passing appearances, at the start of the season for a pre-season friendly at Worthing, and towards the end of the season, for a League One match against Doncaster Rovers (although their dominance over the region is hinted at by the fact that their reserve team wins the SCFA Sussex County Cup at the end of the season). The regions other bigger clubs, Crawley Town, Lewes and Eastbourne Borough also make appearances, but the majority of the photos are concerned with the Sussex County League.
The Sussex County League is the bottom level of senior football in the area. Crowds may occasionally stretch to a couple of hundred people for the bigger matches but more frequently the crowds are in two figures. A hardy thirty-two people are at the Division Three match between Saltdean United and Forest on what looks like a freezing cold November afternoon, but they must be looked upon with envy by Hurstpierpoint, who only manage to persuade thirty people for their match against Bosham. The SCL is a colourful place. Burgess Hill Town wear yellow and black quarters, Lingfield wear yellow and red stripes with black shorts and Dorking Wanderers wear purple and black striped shirts.
The quality of the photography is outstanding, capturing the sights, sounds and humour of football at the lowest level, whether its a goalmouth covered in leaves at Loxwood, the imposing hospital that acts as a backdrop to matches at St Francis Rangers or a Mile Oak player being offered a cigarette by a supporter, apparently as a reward for having scored. Moreover, none of these photos are staged in any way. They are literally snapshots of the game as it is played up and down the country every Saturday afternoon. At the other end of the spectrum, the atmosphere of a big match at a small stadium is equally well conveyed with a terrific picture of the crowd straining as one to keep an eye on proceedings on the pitch at the FA Cup match between Horsham and Swansea City.
Non-league football, to the casual observer, often looks like an impenetrable mess to the outside observer. “A Season Of Sussex Soccer” cuts through the misconceptions to get to the heart of what the appeal of matches at grounds that are often little more than roped off park pitches actually is. This book, just as is the football that it covers, is a million miles removed from the Premier League and is all the better for it.
“A Season Of Sussex Soccer” is available from Centre Circle Publishing