Acid-house-heroes-turned-kaleidoscopic-pop-adventurers Saint Etienne return on May 21st with brand new studio album Words and Music by Saint Etienne, so Football Burp caught up with Bob Stanley for a natter about his love of Hendon FC and non-league football in general…
Are you pleased with Hendon’s season so far?
Yeah, they’ve been in the play-off positions for most of the season. I think they’re 6th at the moment, which is pretty amazing considering that we have no budget, don’t even have our own ground and are funded by the fans. There are some fairly big clubs there too, like Lewes who were in the Conference last season, and we’re still above them (Football Burp says: actually just below them, it turns out). Lewes are funded by a consortium of actors and comedians headed by Patrick Marber, I think. Hendon have been in the Isthmian Premier for fifty years now without going up or down, which is an achievement of sorts. We’ve flirted with relegation more than going up – three or four years ago we only got a reprieve because another club went out of business.
How’s Isaiah Rankin getting on?
He’s doing alright. There was a point earlier this season where the average playing age was ridiculously high. We’ve got an ex-Watford player called Elliott Godfrey who’s been doing really well, scored a few goals.
Have you been to see the side play much this season?
A couple of times at the beginning of the season, but I haven’t been for ages. Having grown up nowhere near a league club, I’ve always gone to see various non-league teams. Last season I went to see Wingate & Finchley most weeks because that’s the nearest club to me now, and they had a really good season, getting promoted to join Hendon in the Isthmian Premier. They won the play-off final at home to Brentwood, which was really exciting. If I lived closer then I’d go and see Hendon most weeks, but it’s a pain in the arse to get to now. I used to be able to go door-to-door on the 102 bus.
Do you remember the first match you ever went to?
Yes, it was Redhill against Wembley, which is quite weird seeing as how Hendon are now groundsharing at Wembley. It must have been some time around ’73-’75. I don’t remember anything about the match at all as I was 8 or 9 at the time. Most weekends my dad was doing DIY around the house so it was a rarity to get taken to a match, and it was a while before I was trusted to go by myself. I remember saying at school that I was going to see Redhill against Wembley and everyone was really impressed, even after I’d explained that it wasn’t Wembley Stadium but Wembley Football Club! The one game I really wanted to go to, but couldn’t because it was midweek and I had school the next day, was a Redhill v Fulham charity match where George Best and Rodney Marsh were playing for Fulham. I got a programme the following Saturday but I couldn’t actually go to the game! An early football disappointment, that.
What’s your favourite cup upset of all time?
Wrexham beating George Graham’s Arsenal was so unexpected, Mickey Thomas getting the winner of course. There must be some good non-league ones…
Hereford United? Sutton United?
Yeah, Sutton was a good one because I went there when I was a kid as well – very nice ground. Hereford’s an obvious one – amazing footage – but there’s got to be one that’s the one, but I can’t think what it is. It’s funny, I get asked about music so much that it’s easy to talk from memory, but I never get asked about my favourite cup upset (laughs). One that I remember was Leatherhead going 2-0 up against Leicester City at half-time, but they ended up losing 3-2.
It didn’t involve a non-league club, and wasn’t an upset in the end, but the Chesterfield Town v Middlesbrough FA Cup semi-final from 1997 is a memorable one.
We were recording our Good Humor album in Malmo at the time of that. We tried to find a bar showing it but nowhere had it on. It was really annoying – they’re really into sports bars, and they had motor racing on, but none were showing the FA Cup semi. There’s this myth that everyone all over the world watches the FA Cup final, but if you’re ever abroad when it’s on then no-one’s screening it! And why would they? I think that’s just a myth that we grew up with.
Bob Stanley, thank you.
“Tonight” is out now. The band’s new album Words and Music by Saint Etienne will be released on May 21st by Universal. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit www.saintetienne.com