It does play host to a number of Non-League sides, the highest ranked being Eastleigh F.C., a town-team located on the fringes of Southampton that play in the National League. Without its ports, Hampshire is starved of the professional side of the game.
But it does make up for it charm, especially if you delve deep down into the County League – The obviously-titled Hampshire Premier League. The HPL (if you can say EPL, then I’m allowed to say HPL) is made up of two divisions which sit at step seven and eight of the non-league system.
Liss Athletic have been stalwarts of the league since the mid-seventies, with just a brief foray into the Wessex League in the early 2000s. They play at a local public recreation ground in the village of Liss, named after a Mr H. Newman Collard, an old local councillor who was a pillar of the local community. Liss is located just off the A3 near Petersfield and is birthplace to Darting legend Cliff Lazarenko and TV presenter Rick Edwards, who can be found on-screen daily courtesy of BBC’s ‘Impossible’ quiz show.
Their ground is a charmer. There’s not much in the way of ‘furniture’. Dugouts, a railed off pitch on three sides and a clubhouse/changing rooms but is otherwise sparse. Raining? Bring a brolly or use the trees on the far side to cover from the elements – there’s no covered stands.
The backdrop is, however, gorgeous, overlooking the local parish church and the South Downs in the distance. Athletic have to be one of the few clubs who have hosted floodlit matches, but do so no more. Their floodlights fell into disrepair and following the collapse of one, the council removed them due to safety issues. Thus, the club are resigned to playing no higher than step seven in the non-league pyramid. They had hoped to share with Petersfield in a bid to push into the Wessex League but that fell through.
Despite their lowly status, Liss have a glitterati of senior officials, including the timeless television presenter, Fred Dinenage OBE, who is club’s president. How? Not sure, but Dinenage lives in nearby Hambledon and has a great enthusiasm for both the region and sport. The Chairman is Peter Storrie – the controversial ex-CEO of Portsmouth, through their boom and bust period. Storrie was responsible for bringing Harry Redknapp to Pompey and is likely how he obtained signed copies of the ex-Manager’s book to help fundraise for Liss following vandalism to the ground.
It’s not the highest standard you’ll ever see, nor is it the most complete ground you’ll ever visit. But you know what? I really like it. I’d almost go so far to say ‘sheer B-liss’.