Racecourse Ground and Ascot United logo

Racecourse Ground, Ascot

Ascot United FC vs. Knaphill FC
Combined Counties Football League Premier Division

On Tuesday 6th June 1994, the great video game maker Brian Lara recorded the highest score ever in first-class cricket. 25 years later that mark of 501 not out has finally been equalled by me. Of course, I'm not talking about me holding off wave after wave of bowling en route to a world record equalling score, because the last time I so much picked up a cricket bat I dislocated my kneecap.

The clubhouse exterior at Ascot United's Racecourse Ground
Look at how much fun we're having.

In fact, this post is to celebrate the milestone of me attending my 501st game of football. A milestone that would seem paltry if you were to go out there and read the other, more factually suffocating groundhopping blogs out there. But this is my blog so I'm going to celebrate anyway. Even worse, I'm going to write it as though I'm interviewing myself. Be warned.

The new seated stand at Ascot United's Racecourse Ground
The new stand provides a sick downhill plunge for the remaining population of Heelys wearers.

Why celebrate 501? That's a bit weird, isn't it?

Well yes, but then I'd ask if you've read anything on this blog before? A cursory glance at my analytics would suggest no, you haven't read any of the posts yet. So if this is the first time you've landed on a piece of my writing I recommend you go back and read some of my other posts. Maybe not this one, though. I've been told it's a little dull.

Besides, I couldn't exactly do a post celebrating my 500th game, because that was spent paying actual money attending Reading FC U18 v Crystal Palace FC U18 in an FA Youth Cup 3rd Round match. On paper it's the very definition of underwhelming, and anyway, just how many more photos of the Madejski Stadium do you really want to see?

Ascot United's Racecourse Ground
The horses lining up for the start of the 501 at Ascot.

You're right, that does sound underwhelming. What about the 400th?

Back in a simpler time, when I wasn't really paying attention or keeping score (because I couldn't be bothered to write a blog), my 400th game saw me take a trip to Slough Town's Arbour Park (hey, that's where this blog started).

I was treated to a blockbuster match (again, on paper) to commemorate the occasion. Why yes, what better way to celebrate than attending a mouthwatering Berks & Bucks FA Senior Cup Semi Final tie between Slough Town and MK Dons (okay, that sounds interesting? Non league team looking to upset one of the 92 and all that)...under 23s (oh) on a warm Wednesday night in April 2018.

Overlooking the Ascot Racecourse during an Ascot United game
The famous Ascot Racecourse track is right behind one of the goals. So far no horses or jockeys have been known to be struck by wild shots.

Oh my, you sound like a lunatic. How are you even keeping score at this point?

I used to have keep an extensive collection of programmes acquired from every game I'd attended, but I'd reached the point where (coupled with the fact that the average modern football programme is now the size of a Steve Bruce novel) I was running out of space to store them.

Since just throwing them away (because who wants to buy a load of tattered programmes with a child's scribble all over the back? If you know anyone, please let me know. I still have a load left) made it seem like a total waste whereby I would soon forget which games I went to, I decided to go through the painstakingly nerdy task of assembling a spreadsheet (because all the coolest kids at school had spreadsheets). This meant I could finally keep a record of everything I've ever been to, which made it a little easier to keep a track of these arbitrary milestones that literally nobody cares about. So if you want to take a look, you can find said spreadsheet here for your viewing pleasure.

Knaphill's manager way out of his technical area
Stay in your lane, bub.

I think we underestimated just how sad you are. You must be single, right?

Astonishingly, no.

Ball in the mud at Ascot's Racecourse Ground
It doesn't get more non league than this.

I'm not sure anyone is going to believe that. Anyway, what about these other arbitrary "milestones"?

Thanks to a quick browse of the spreadsheet (see how useful it can be?), I've been able to discover that number 300 was a Reading home defeat to a 2016 Hull City side that boasted players like Andrew Robertson and Harry Maguire. Both no name players who have sadly failed to kick on and achieve anything of any significance in their careers since that historic day.

Whilst I don't remember anything about that game, I do remember my 200th. It was back in 2008, in a simpler time where I was crippled by ongoing student loans and I still believed my writing skills might be good enough to allow me to make it as a sports journalist. I covered a 1-0 win for Reading against Blackpool. And by covered I mean I watched the game from the lofty comforts of the Madejski Stadium press box, sat there silently during Simon Grayson's post game press conference and then went home. It's easy to see how I made such a rip-roaring impression on the Reading Chronicle and went on to have a long career in the sports media industry, isn't it (I haven't).

My first century was hit during another Reading home defeat to Bristol City in 2001. Again, a game I have zero recollection of, but that should be understandably excusable since I was almost certainly still on a high having witnessed the momentous Manchester United debut for Paul Rachubka during my first visit to Old Trafford a week earlier. Now there's a player who went on to achieve great things in his career.

Ascot United banners at the Racecourse Ground
You're the what now?

I don't think anyone is still reading at this point, but just in case they are, how did all of this begin? Why are you the way that you are?

My dad. Whilst I didn't inherit quite the same passion for the wild shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner, the bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher, or the competent drumwork of Don Brewer from him (you kids don't know Grand Funk?), I did inherit his passion for football.

He is very much responsible for all of this (after all, he allegedly created me). Ever since he let an impressionable six year old me in on a little secret that my home town of Reading had a football team and we should go watch them sometime, I've been hooked. Thanks, dad. I've now wasted a ton of my money (and yours) on this silly hobby. I hope you're happy!

Video screen at Ascot United's Racecourse Ground
A state of the art whiteboard.

Have you ever thought that all these games have been a giant waste of time and money?

Probably. Isn't everything a waste of time when you come to think of it? It's my hobby. What are you meant to do on a Saturday afternoon otherwise? It's something I and many thousands of people find enjoyable (or should that be endurable?). I've seen some great games, I've seen some downright terrible games, and I've also been to other games where I've been unable to see anything at all because I forgot my glasses.

But most of all, I'm grateful that it's been something I've been able to share with my dad. I grew up going to Elm Park and the Madejski with him, so it was fitting that I could drag him along to my 501st game since nobody else would go along with me. The games may now be forgotten, but the times spent with him forcing me to stop reading the programme and actually watch the action in front of us will never be.

Players preparing for kick off to the second half of Ascot United vs. Knaphill
Hey, this looks like your other photo except from a different side of the ground?

A lovely sentiment, you little suck up. So what about Ascot, the site of this magical 501st game?

As Bono would say, "The Edge is fine. Adam Clayton is fine. The drummer is fine." Ascot is fine*. Game wasn't bad either. A narrow 3-2 defeat to Knaphill makes the Combined Counties Premier promotion race a little more interesting, and certainly more interesting than the Stoke/Reading goalless draw.

An Ascot United corner against Knaphill
A three way hug breaks out on the goal line.

*Actually they've done a great job with the ground at Ascot. It reopened at the start of this season and it's developed into a really nice little non league ground tucked away in the heart of the world famous Ascot Racecourse. Go check it out sometime. Take your dads, if you still can.

Useless information about the Racecourse Ground

Address: Winkfield Road, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7LJ
Capacity: 1,150
Pitch Type: Artificial
Ticket Price: £6
Programme: £1, 28 pages

Ascot United FC 2019/20 season programme