As the new season approaches, we take a look at reasons to fall for Dulwich Hamlet FC.
1. It’s Like Tuscany
In the ’80s there was a grassroots campaign to have a new Dulwich Hamlet stadium built next to the proposed Sainsbury’s superstore. Not everyone was for the idea and one local opponent wrote a letter that was read out at consultation meetings. It stated, to sniggers from the assembled public, that the proposal should be rejected because, from his window, the area ‘looks like Tuscany’.
The objection was overruled and permission granted for the new Sainsbury’s and stadium at Champion Hill. To this day, Dulwich Hamlet fans confuse the opposition by singing: ‘Tuscany! Tuscany! We’re the famous Dulwich Hamlet and we look like Tuscany!’, now accompanied by the vigorous waving of a Tuscany regional flag.
Attendances climbed 30% last season, with gates regularly exceeding 500 and topping 1000 for bigger games. Whether you’re a Dultra, a Nouveau or singing with The Rabble behind the goal, all are welcome at Champion Hill. The support is passionate, partisan and fucking hilarious, including falsetto chants, doing a G-man conga and accusing the opposition goalkeeper of being in the Lib Dems.
Why spend the whole day and £100+ traipsing up to White Hart Lane or the Emirates and back, or even up to Manchester or Liverpool? You’re here now and football, beer and a sing-song is right on your doorstep. And you can spend the time you save in the pub, right?
Temporarily set aside your other loyalties and for 90 glorious minutes you are all in it together. What’s more, you don’t have to decide until half an hour before kick-off. Just see how the day unfolds and leave at the last minute with a cheery ‘Ta-ta!’ to loved ones and dependants.
Lighten your partner’s load by bringing the kids. It’s an ideal opportunity to trial parenting by benign negligence. Children run free around the ground, seeking you out only to ponce a pound for some crisps, and they enjoy seeing grown-ups being interesting, for once.
Christ, you can even do your shopping afterwards at Sainsbury’s, like Lowestoft FC, who were spotted loading up the team bus with slabs of Fosters for the long trip home. (They won promotion too so it just goes to show something or other.)
4. Away Days
But Saturdays are not just about Champion Hill. Away games offer the chance to see how life is lived in such far-flung climes as Bognor Regis, Lewes and Canvey Island, where the game is played several feet below sea-level.
Last season I took Mrs Raider down to East Mosely where we dined on semi-frozen pie before watching the Hamlet and the Met Police play out a dour 0-0 draw in steady drizzle. Strangely, she hasn’t been on a trip since.
It’s a shame because she has missed out on such delights as a pre-match sesh on the Mayflower Gold at the excellent Billericay Brewery, meeting internet sensation The Wealdstone Raider at Wealdstone FC (from whom I unashamedly nicked my own moniker) and a midwinter trip to Margate that has achieved folklore status.
Best chant: (To Met Police) ‘Repressive state apparatus! You’re just repressive state apparatus!’
5. The Politics
The Hamlet seems to be a magnet for South London’s intellectual left. Bearded anarchos rub shoulders with rabid Guardianistas and dyed hair communists, discussing dialectical materialism, false consciousness and what the fuck do they put in that Dulwich Hamlets lager?
Last season supporters routinely marched over to Brixton post-match to give their vociferous support to the Brixton Ritzy Living Wage protest.
Overheard at the urinals: ‘Are you lot fucking Marxist or something?’ ‘I would say more Stalinist.’
Best chant: ‘The referee’s a lizard! The referee’s a lizard!’
6. The Toilets Opposite Stand
Across the pitch from the main Tommy Jover stand is a smaller stand, just a basic shelter with tiered concrete platforms. This is where the Dultras hang out, turning it on occasion into a mini-real ale festival. It being a small stand, there are no urinary facilities on hand and a helpful sign states ‘Toilets Opposite’.
It is known, of course, as The Toilets Opposite Stand.
7. The Colours
Dulwich Hamlet play in pink and blue. Yes, that’s pink. The blue was borrowed from nearby Dulwich College and the pink from another famous public school, Westminster, that did much to formalise the rules of soccer in the 19th Century.
Great delight is taken by The Rabble in singing about manager Gavin Rose’s pink and blue army. Some even point out that ‘rose’ is in fact French for ‘pink’ and that therefore his appointment as manager was as inevitable as Arsene Wenger joining Arsenal.
If you are uncomfortable about following a team that plays in pink, perhaps concerned that it may alter perceptions of your sexual orientation, you may care to follow someone a bit more up your street, like Chelsea.
8. The Match Posters
Superfan, Robert Molloy-Vaughan, AKA Vornstyle, is known for his leopard-print dressing-gown, pink wig and toting the Dulwich Hamlet voo-doo stick. He also makes legendary match-day posters like this one, above, for the game vs Hendon.
At most football grounds no view of the pitch is available from the club bar as a matter of policy. At Dulwich Hamlet, in a welcome outbreak of civilization, not only can you see the game from the bar, you can pick up your pint and wander around the ground with it, pausing only to throw it in the air in the event of a home goal.
Several casks from local breweries are available on match days and an outside beer bar means you can now buy ale from behind the goal. Tip: Arrive early, buy a beer for each available hand.
10. The Future
The club and ground was bought by Hadley Property Group last year. They paid off debts and ensured the club’s survival in the short term, but now they are gearing up to develop the ground and hoping Southwark will allow them to move the stadium to a spot on Greendale Playing Fields, behind the current ground. Make sure you have your say by attending consultation and joining the excellent Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Trust for updates.
11. The Football
Ah, yes, the football. It’s pretty good. But why not come and see for yourself?