Once upon a time, Kings Langley was a paper manufacturing hub. Nowadays, the village is known as the home of Ovaltine, the home of the late Graham Taylor and for the exploits of their football team who savoured 3 straight promotions from Step 6 to Step 3 (2013-2016).
This is a remarkable feat for any side let alone a non-bankrolled village team who struggle for any support against the big-time lures of both Watford and Spurs. They claim to be the highest-placed village team in the Pyramid, though North Ferriby would no doubt object.
Last season, the Kings struggled to retain their status, watched by an average attendance of just 130. Only a winner-takes-all last game against Cirencester caught the locals’ attention with a record-busting attendance of 645, boosting the average gate to 165 and importantly securing the points to send the Gloucestershire side instead.
There is, in theory, room for nearly 2,000 people, so no need for tickets. I met the splendidly named Club Secretary Derry Edgar. He positively beamed with pride at the clubs’ recent achievements and how the committee bonded to deal with the increased workload.
Have history do Kings Langley. Their club 130+ years old, a lineage longer than most professional clubs. Gaywood Park is reminiscent of many smaller football venues we’ve visited. The ground lies in a dip with the entrance raised above the pitch a la Larkhall or Shortwood. Car parking is on the training pitch (cue Coventry Sphinx, North Leigh…).
The clubhouse is small, serving keg beer or lager (everyone!). The ground is dominated by a 250-seater main stand which is a supporter self-build project. There is a shallow terrace either side. Opposite are two small covered terraces obtained from Rushden and Diamonds. Behind one goal is a petite 50-seater stand.
Our Disabulls will need care to access pitchside down the hill from the entrance. The disabled toilets are uphill in the clubhouse so may be more difficult.
Admission prices are £11 adults, with £7 concessions and £2 for kids. The home club plan to augment their refreshment provision for our visit with a barbecue and a beer tent.
Those who seek their pleasures elsewhere have limited choice. Easy option is the Toby Carvery, a few minutes away in Hempstead Road. Real ale is promised. Further afield, the High Street offers more choice.
The Saracens Head is a 16th century freehouse with serious suppers tempted by the Tring Ridgeway and the well-known ESB or London Pride.
A few doors away is the Rose and Crown. This is a M&B house, with handpulled Adnams and Ubu though is better known for its food offerings. Of the two local stations, Kings Langley is better than Apsley as it accesses the High Street. Expect a full 30-minute walk from here so a £5 taxi ride may be preferable.
Trains from Hereford take over 3 hours and requires changes at New Street and Watford Junction. London Bulls are in easy street for once with Euston just 25 minutes away. By road, the journey is 124 miles.
From J20 M25, its A4251 to Kings Langley. Over first roundabout and through village, past the Toby Carvery on your left. Go past Coniston Road on left and immediately indicate and move into ‘turn right lane’ in middle of road. Turn right into Ground. (Postcode WS4 8FR)