OPERATION SOUTHEND

Operation Southend

Operation Southend

Southend FC 1 AFC Wimbledon 3
Three well deserved points for the Dons. The win takes them up to 18th in League 2. The work I helped to do clearing snow from the pitch this morning paid dividends! Flying into Southend airport on Tuesday morning, all I could see from the plane window was a blanket of snow covering streets, gardens and playing pitches. A quick phone call to Southend FC established that they were still hopeful the match against my club AFC Wimbledon would go ahead, but expected there would not be any definite news until lunchtime.

I asked if the pitch was being cleared and the receptionist confirmed that an operation was underway and that volunteers had been called in to help. She confirmed that an AFC Wimbledon helper would be welcome, when I offered my services. I had booked my match ticket in advance via the Dons’ online service, so I was hoping my flight over to England would not be wasted. A three minutes journey on the train from the airport to the next stop along the line brought me to Prittlewell, and I could see the floodlights of the Club in the distance. On arrival at Roots Hall, this was the scene that greeted me in the car park and inside the stadium:-

Roots Hall Stadium

Roots Hall Stadium

Roots Hall Pitch 11am

         Roots Hall Pitch 11am       

One of the first people I met outside the main entrance was the chief executive of the club, Steve Kavanagh, who acknowledged my offer of help. I was the first to add my name to the list of volunteers. On entering the pitch, the first person I spoke to turned out to be a fellow Dub, assistant manager Graham Coughlan from Clondalkin.  He started playing soccer as a youth for Cherry Orchard and his first senior club was Bray Wanderers in the League of Ireland. He also plays in the team as a central defender, but did not line out last night.

Snow clearance

Snow clearance

At this stage (11am), most of the snow had been removed from the covers in the penalty box area at one goalmouth, so over three-quarters of the pitch was still covered with a layer of white. Using snow shovels and wheelbarrows, the snow was removed section by section and more volunteers arrived to help. By noon, almost half the pitch had been cleared and I was able to send a photo to AFC Wimbledon and keep them updated via twitter. The sun was shining and the white of the snow was being gradually replaced by the green of the pitch, which remained soft underneath.

Another two hours’ work ensured that the remaining areas of the pitch were cleared and work began to ensure that the stand on one side of the ground where the snow had drifted in was cleared and made safe for spectators. As a “thank you” for their work, each volunteer was offered a free ticket for the game (although there seemed to be more interest in the tickets for the Johnstones Paint FA Trophy final against Crewe at Wembley next month: Southend have sold their allocation of 20,000 seats). I was given a refund for my ticket and the gesture was appreciated.

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