Grand Drive overlooks the surroundings of Copse Hill and Wimbledon, with an attractive suburban backdrop to the pitch.
The ground is somewhat rundown and overgrown – you’ll fight your way through thorns and weeds to take your spot. The main stand, situated on the south side provides shelter for approximately 100, though attendances rarely trouble this figure. There’s small standing cover at the turnstile end. The only respite from the elements at the other end is the ‘Brian Ceefax Stand’ a bus-shelter sized wooden erection.
The clubhouse has a living room appearance to it, with a typical semi-detached front door, bookshelves and sofas. The kitchen wouldn’t look out of place in your home either. This was likely renovated when Vale won a £50,000 grant in 2013 to redevelop their facilities.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find evidence of it within the ground. In fact, life has been tough for the club in recent years. The club was only saved from extinction thanks to local traders donating vital supplies, such as fencing. Without this, and the work of an army of volunteers undertaking the essential works detailed on a ground repair list issued by the League, the club would have ceased to exist.
It could’ve been a very different life for Raynes Park though. Before their local league neighbours, Wimbledon had packed their bags for Milton Keynes, the ground, along with the rest of the Prince George’s Fields was set to be bought out by Wimbledon F.C. for their new £5 million youth academy. The pitches were sold to Dons chief Charles Koppel but proposals fell through upon their relegation from the Premier League. The rest is history.
Raynes Park Vale was just a fledgling club having only been formed in 1995, five years these events began, The club was an amalgamation of Raynes Park F.C. and Malden Vale F.C. The latter, had competed in the Isthmian League up until the merger and boasted ex-players such as Jody Morris (Chelsea) and Clinton Morrison (Crystal Palace). Raynes Park Vale continues the legacy of producing high-quality local talent when Paul Osew recently graduated to AFC Wimbledon’s first team.
Raynes Park Vale is definitely worth a visit. You’ll either love it or hate it. Take pity in its dilapidated state or see it for its characterful shabiness.