I worked out at the weekend that my first experience of a Worthing versus Bognor encounter was on March 14, 1981, the same day Liverpool and West Ham played out a 1-1 draw at Wembley in the League Cup final in front of 100,000.
There was considerably less at Old Barn Way, Southwick, as Worthing, then managed by Dave Cooke, and the Rocks locked horns in the semi-finals of the Sussex Senior Cup, but it was still an electric atmosphere for a fresh faced 16-year-old.
Back then, both clubs played in different leagues, Isthmian and Southern League respectively, so cup competitions were the only chance of competitive football, as at Wembley it finished 1-1, with Bognor running out victors in the replay.
But a healthy rivalry going back decades continues to this day, and 35-and-a-half years later I woke up with the same excitement and anticipation on Monday from 1981.
So much so that I persuaded the commander-in-chief to attend her first Worthing game in 26 years of marriage.
In isolation, the result was, given both sides’ respective starts to the season, unexpected and disappointing.
Having said that, if you’d asked me back in December, 2014, I wasn’t sure the club would survive until the end of January, let alone complete the league programme. So to get to August bank holiday Monday playing in the Ryman Premier in front of a thousand spectators indicates how far the club has come.
What I am sure of is that the Worthing management team will lift the squad to bounce back, with a perfect opportunity this Saturday, with the visit of Carshalton Athletic in the FA Cup.
With no Albion game due to the international break, Woodside Road should see a decent crowd as the club look to embark on a potentially exciting and ultimately financially lucrative cup run.
Back to Monday, the only real negatives were incidents in either half involving sectors of the Worthing travelling support.
There is a very fine line between passionate support and unacceptable behaviour and unfortunately that line was crossed at Bognor.
It won’t be tolerated at either Woodside Road or any other ground Worthing are playing at. As a club, we’ve already contacted Bognor to apologise, as investigations into what happened on Monday continue.
But returning to a positive, joint manager Jon Meeney likened Worthing FC to that of a family, with everyone playing their part both on and off the field.
So it’s nice on Saturday night to receive a text from Steve Skinner, the Grays Athletic chairman, themselves going through transitional times. He said: “Thank-you so much for your hospitality today, we can only learn from the way that you guys run your club and hope that we can be as big a part of our own community going forward”
Nice words, and a timely reminder that Worthing FC is clearly continuing to move in the right direction.
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