Alfred Palmer Memorial Recreation Ground and Mortimer FC logo

Alfred Palmer Memorial Recreation Ground, Mortimer Common

Mortimer FC vs. Cookham Dean FC
Thames Valley Premier League Premier Division

A friend of mine once told me: "If I've refereed there, then it ain't a ground." But I'm of the mindset that if it's on Football Ground Map (and I've submitted places to them to ensure that everywhere I've been is on there), then it totally counts.

The Mortimer FC dressing rooms
The ground boasts the top facilities that you'd expect in the Thames Valley Premier League. There's a bar in here, apparently.

So even if it's just a field, it's still a ground to hop. And if I was unsure about the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Mortimer is definitely just a field with a couple of goalposts thrown in for good measure.

So here I found myself at the Alfred Palmer Memorial Recreation Ground in Mortimer Common, just outside of Reading. This is the home of Mortimer Football Club, a club who could quite possibly hold the proud distinction of being the only sports team in the entire world who use an actual photograph in their logo. This is no place for your vector graphics in this world.

The corner flag and pitch at the Alfred Palmer Memorial Recreation Ground
A bit of tape to ward off unruly pitch invaders.

This was my first adventure into the murky world of Step 7, or the 11th building block of the English football pyramid, and quite possibly where I start to jump the shark and wonder just what it is I'm doing with my life.

A Mortimer FC player retrieves the ball from the hedge
An unknown creature, native only to park football, emerges from the rough with its prey.

This is where football is definitely park football. This is the unnecessarily named Thames Valley Premier League Premier Division. Quite why any league that has multiple divisions within its makeup insists on calling themselves the Premier League I don't know. I'm looking at you Northern Premier League.

Mortimer FC and Cookham Dean FC players square up
Players clash over what I assume was a rather agricultural challenge.

What is beautiful about football at this level is:

1. It's free

Who doesn't love free entertainment? Personally, there's nothing better than live sport. Whatever level it's at, I'll go if somebody offers me a ticket. And if I don't have to spend money? Perfect. I'm a sucker for Reading under-23 matches since you're (usually) let in for free, and you can just sit around the Madejski Stadium taking in semi-passable football.

Here you can just rock up, park your car right by the pitch and enjoy a couple of hours evening entertainment with a couple of cans (although if you're driving, maybe just limit it to one).

Cookham Dean take a corner kick
A large gaggle of men love a bit of ball watching.

2. The players clearly love the sport

This is a world away from your Romelu Lukakus and your Paul Pogbas. Supremely talented players, but players you often question whether they actually like the sport, since they appear to play with all the enthusiasm of somebody who has just worked a night shift at an Amazon warehouse. Is it just a job for them? See BenoƮt Assou-Ekotto.

Every game is almost a battle of life and death, played at a high intensity even when they've just arrived straight from a full day's work. These guys love what they're doing.

A dog watching the game between Mortimer FC and Cookham Dean FC
If you'd just pay attention to the game, you'd know the score is currently 2-4.

3. There's always at least one dog in attendance

With large open spaces, you can take the chance to take in some live sport and give your pet exercise. It's one of the great sights at many grounds, so much so that there's an Instagram account dedicated purely to dogs at non league football matches. So if the game is crap, at least you can distract yourself with a cute little creature that is definitely having more fun than you are.

Cookham Dean FC take a free kick against Mortimer FC
Preparing to whip a free kick into the neighbouring gardens.

4. Goals

The single reason why the sport hasn't taken off in America. Top flight matches can easily become brutal tactical battles of one team trying to stack all its squad in the goal frame, not attempting to have a shot of their own and thwarting better sides from scoring.

Sure it can be exciting in it's own ways, but the object of the game is to score. And down at this level you just know that it's just a matter of when, not if there's going to be a goal. There's always a goalkeeping howler lurking round the corner. Jack Butland will be welcome here.

Geese flying over the Alfred Palmer Memorial Recreation Ground in Mortimer
Some of the crowd make an early getaway.

5. If you turn up late and miss the kick off you have literally no idea what the score is

Having arrived a few minutes late, I spent the whole evening amazed and convinced that the Thames Valley Premier League Twitter account writer was some kind of soothsayer in correctly managing to predict a 3-2 away win.

A sunset at the Alfred Palmer Memorial Recreation Ground
The sun sets behind Mortimer's hospitality boxes.

In a world where Mark Lawrenson never gets a single score right in the Premier League (I mean, it'd help if he thought Manchester City were capable of scoring more than two in a game. Has he ever seen them play? Predict a 7-0 win once in a while you wimp), that someone could know enough about either team to correctly forecast a five goal thriller seemed to be the most impressive skill of all.

But alas, it was not to be the case as it turned out arriving a few minutes after 6pm meant missing a goal, so their reputation has been dashed.

Useless information about Alfred Palmer Memorial Recreation Ground

Address: West End Road, Mortimer Common, Berkshire, RG7 3TW
Capacity: It's a park...
Pitch Type: Grass
Ticket Price: Free
Programme: None