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Tooting – the View of a Newcomer

Tooting – the View of a Newcomer

| by Guest Blogger | Posted in News, Sports
Harry and Adam
Adam (right) and his friend Harry at the KNK Stadium 

Tooting resident Adam Best writes about first coming to Tooting and his love for the local football club, Tooting & Mitcham United FC.

I started coming to TMUFC towards the end of the glorious 16/17 campaign. My first home match. I’m not sure what it was that spurred me onto the 280 bus from Amen Corner that particular day. Maybe it was nothing more than a rare free Saturday afternoon. But I got on the bus and I went. It wouldn’t be the last time.

I’ve lived in and around Tooting for fourteen years. I arrived a slip of a man at 21 years old after three years at university in Cardiff and eighteen years in my native County Down, Northern Ireland. I lived with three mates in the centre of Tooting. Like most of my peers at that time, we moved to Tooting because it was one of the most affordable places to live in London. Zone 3, the Deep South. Beyond the already expensive Clapham and a hair’s breadth beyond the upwardly mobile Balham. Wandsworth council tax. Just over £100 a week in rent. It was a different place in 2004. Amongst people who didn’t know the area, Tooting had a bit of a “reputation”. I remember convincing my girlfriend’s parents (now my in-laws) that Tooting was *nothing like* the reputation it had, as we came up the escalators at Tooting Broadway for their first visit. On exiting the station, I subtly (but firmly) grasped the hand of a young woman being accosted by a drunk lad and walked her down the pavement without my in-laws realising. As we turned into my street yards later, I created a loud diversion to distract them from another lad urinating in a bin. Tooting was lively.

But I loved it. Love it. I have lived within a mile of my first London address for the 14 years I’ve been here. Have strayed into Colliers Wood and the tip of Mitcham, but stayed in the orbit of Tooting. Watched it change. It has changed a great deal. In the last decade I have seen some of the ill-reputed boozers become expensive gastropubs and, in one case, a pound shop. I’ve seen shop fronts and kiosks pop up where I can buy craft beer, organic food and fair trade textiles. This is all completely brilliant. I like these things. The downside of all this, of course, is that as a place becomes more “desirable”, it becomes more expensive. The chains move in. The conglomerate service providers. It’s happening. 

And, you know, this is what it is. I can’t very well enjoy the opportunity to have Lebanese food delivered to my door in 20 minutes and not expect changes to the place that I live in. “Gentrification” is a real thing, and it isn’t confined to SW17. This is an issue in every city in the country, even though no-one seems to have any more money 20 years ago. And this is football too, a bit, innit? We can’t reasonably enjoy the elite standard we have at the top of the professional game without paying £1,000 for a season ticket and £5 for a pie and £90 a month for a Sky Sports subscription, plus another £20 for BT Sport, plus £100 for a return trip to the aways etc etc etc. Watching the football is an expensive hobby. Or so I’m told.

I grew up a Liverpool fan in Northern Ireland, and I remain a distantly passionate Red. A season ticket has never been an option. Games that I’ve seen at Anfield have been expensive excursions. I have nothing but respect for people who commit to season tickets, especially those who do it from a distance. Every other weekend, a stack of money and a stack of time. It’s a hell of a thing to dedicate oneself to, particularly if money is an issue and there’s family to be considered.

Football is expensive. Where I live is expensive. 

I am at the bus stop at Amen Corner. I’ve had a pint at the Ramble Inn. I am going to Tooting and Mitcham United.

I arrive at a ground that exceeds my expectations of a ground at this level. I have a pint that exceeds my expectations for a pint at this level. I pay £3 for it. It came from a brewery 2 miles away. I pay £10 for entry. I pay £1.50 for a jerk lamb pattie which exceeds my expectations for a jerk lamb pattie at this level. I watch the football. And guess what? It exceeds.....

Admittedly, this first game is the Stripes on the crest of a wave in 100 points season. Billy Dunn, who will become my first ever Terror idol, is imperious. But the whole experience is excellent. It’s 20 minutes from my flat and for £15 I’ve watched the game, had a pie and a pint and, crucially, enjoyed a very decent 2 hours at the ground. 

I feel like I shouldn’t be the only one. I feel like in the last number of years many hundreds of people like me have become denizens of Tooting and Mitcham. People who’ve moved to the area and want to experience something of our community beyond the brunches and cocktails. Be part of a thing that existed long before we got here and which will exist after we inevitably are forced to move beyond the M25. Perhaps this is a rallying cry for the recent arrivals to the area. If you’d like to be watching your elite side, but you aren’t going and they aren’t on telly, come to the KNK and watch your local side the odd time. Put a few quid into an historical part of the place where we live. You’ll notice at the ground that the sponsors are all local, independent businesses, the sort of business we pride ourselves on wanting to support in our day to day lives as we shop and eat and drink in our town. Come and be part of that. Bring some pals. Introduce yourself to some of the people in the ground and I guarantee they’ll be pleased to see you. 

My aforementioned girlfriend is now my wife and she, brilliantly, bought me a season ticket for 18/19 as my Christmas present. See you on the Bog End.

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