Streatham-Croydon face Esher on Saturday for the Skull and Goalposts, the trophy first played for in 1962 and one that can claim to be the world’s scariest trophy.
The fixture sees all three of Streatham’s teams take on their amateur equivalents at Esher – Esher’s first team play in the semi-professional Championship – with Esher Priors taking on Streatham in Esher, Streatham Scorpions playing Esher Bees at home and Streatham’s third team Serpents making the trip to play Esher Veterans.
Last season saw Streatham win all three games as the trophy was contested for the first time in twenty years. With the fixture now back in both club’s fixture lists for the foreseeable future, it now forms an important piece of the season.
Streatham’s President, Dick Towers, who played for the Skull many times in the 20th century, said, “Whilst it is important that we continue to improve our league standing, it is absolutely imperative that the Skull stays in Streatham. We never want it to leave. Playing for the Skull is a huge honour for any young player coming to Streatham; they will be following in the footsteps of many great players and will have the chance to be part of this club’s history. More importantly, they will be able to say they played for the Skull.”
One man who is a little nervous about Saturday is club Chairman Neil Hughes, who believed that last year’s fixture was a one-off. “I thought last year’s game was because of the 140th anniversary,” he told me last night, “I didn’t realise we’d be playing for it again. I don’t think we should be playing for it – it’s ours, and it can’t leave our clubhouse.”
Hughes’ panic over the possibility of seeing the Skull leave Thornton Heath can either be explained by the passion the trophy has inspired in him over the last thirty years, or a slightly darker glimpse into the Skull’s past and Hughes’ relationship with it.
He may not need to worry, as Streatham go into the match with the first team unbeaten in the league. The game will also be played almost exactly 140 years after their first fixture, on the 25th November 1871 when Streatham FC played the now defunct London club Red White and Blue.
The origins of this ghoulish prize are still shrouded in mystery. A historian who has visited the club claims the skull could belong to someone of Asian descent, but Serpent’s captain Abdul Chowdry is not so sure, “I think it might have been a visiting referee from Sutton made a few controversial decisions” joked the veteran skipper. Head Coach Jeff Greenleaf thinks a former player somehow ended up leaving his skull to the club, but no-one really knows. Certainly no-one is telling.
Whatever the origins of the Skull and whatever the status of the two teams in the modern era, the fact remains that Streatham are still Streatham and Esher are still Esher, and whoever comes away with the Skull on Saturday will know they have been part of something very special.