Past Player Memories Part 6 – Simon Hithersay.

Nickname – Gappy 

Ruts Appearances – Until the 5/10/96 – 156…records then lost by Mark Barber.

Ruts Goals – Until the 5/10/96 – 35…records then lost by Mark Barber, which is a shame cos a hell of a lot more hit the back of the net in the matches after.

Question 1 – When did you join the Old Ruts and why?

I joined in 1991/92, the second season after the football section had reformed. I had been playing my Saturday football in the Southern Amateur League for Carshalton, who had their clubhouse and two lovely pitches at the back of Beddington Park. It was a fantastic league with each club putting out 8 teams plus a Vets team every Saturday. There were a few fixtures over in North London which could be a drag but also in the league were all the major bank sports clubs, (including the Bank of England), insurance Companies, the Civil Service and my favourite Lensbury, which was Shell Oils Sports Club. The facilities, pitches, food and bars at these places were exceptional and the hospitality often meant a late return back to the Carshalton clubhouse, which was always buzzing. So it needed something big to get me away from there, and for me you can’t get bigger than the Old Ruts. I had been playing cricket down the club since I was 13, nearly all my mates were egg chasers down there, it was local and I loved the place, so when Gavin asked me to join the football section it was a no-brainer. 

Question 2 – What was your most memorable match and why?

Without doubt the 1996 Teck Cup Final vs Kingston Albion. They had smashed us at their place in our first league meeting earlier in season. We were the new boys in the division and they taught us a lesson, but by the time of the home fixture at Poplar Road, (the week before the Cup Final), it was clear we were the best two teams in the league. The game ended 0-0, but Albion’s linesman raised his flag to deny Capper a perfectly good goal with a great diving header. So on to the final. Albion were the favourites, they were confident and a number of players wore those nasal breathing plasters across their noses….(t…..!). Gary Newcome, our player/manager, had prepared us well and from the first whistle to the last it was our turn to teach a lesson……a 3-0 lesson. 

Question 3 – Who was the best Manager/Captain you played under?

Gary Newcome. His experience at playing at a higher level was evident in his team talks and training sessions. Not only did he bring that to the club, he was one of the best players to grace Poplar Road, what a left back.

Question 4 – Your funniest Ruts Football Memory.

You can’t get any funnier than a woman marching on to the pitch screaming that she doesn’t know the password ……..the only person who didn’t find it amusing was H.

Question 5 – What is your least favourite Ruts Football memory?

Finding out that the ‘Dalek-style’ coat-stand, that entered the UK illegally after the ‘Grim Reaper Tour’ to Belgium in 1995, had been thrown out during renovations to the OR Clubhouse. 

Question 6 – Best Player you ever played with for the Ruts?

That’s a difficult one. As previously mentioned Gary Newcome was a great player who had played at a higher level and that was clear in his performances for the club. Then there was the young scamp up front, Boony. It’s not just about the amount of goals he scored but a lot of them were beauties, add that to the goals he created for others with his skill and vision and it’s no wonder he’s an OR legend. I feel lucky to have been part of great era while playing in the first team, and it was a privilege to play with many fantastic players but the team-mate who I’m gonna choose is centre-mid partner Jeremy Capper. It was a joy to play with him…..we had a great understanding, at times it felt telepathic, instinctive and trusting. His energy was boundless, his tackling fearless, as good in the air as he was with the ball at his feet and always able to hit the back of the net with more than his fair share of goals. On top of this he represented the USA soccer team at the 1994 World Cup!

Question 7 – Favourite Goal you scored or were part of in the build up?

It wasn’t a big part I played but it was a big goal, one of the biggest in the clubs history. I nodded the ball back to either Piers Capper or Steve Rowlands, who smashed the ball out to Darren Knott on the left wing. He produced the type of cross that he was so good at…..a pin-point cross to the far post… was begging to be finished off by a big no.9…..but who was there, the smallest firefighter in the fire brigade and possibly the worst headerer of a ball in the club, Simon Minihane. But what a finish, he rose like a salmon and headed the ball past the stranded keeper, and in doing so won the first Surrey Cup for the Old Ruts…..and earned player/manager Erol Yilmaz ‘the Freedom Of Poplar Road’.

As someone who has spent some time between the sticks I’d like to include the best save I’ve seen by an OR. It was in the same season and it ensured the 3rd team progressed in the Surrey Cup, in effect it helped us win the Cup. I don’t know who the opposition were but it was played at Nursery Road, and with the ball flying toward the top corner, Steve Shaw somehow managed to fling himself in the air and tip the ball on to the bar and over.  A remarkable save from a remarkable fella.

Question 8 – Most embarrassing moment in a Ruts Shirt? (Playing or Socially)

Will keep this brief… happened whilst playing in goal. The opposition had played the ball towards our goal and with their centre forward chasing a hopeless cause I came out to gather the ball only to slip on some leaves, miss the ball and gift the centre forward the easiest of goals.