Meet Mr Cook and Mr Argent!
It's an invitation which all defenders in teams in the Combined Counties League Premier Division would gladly decline. Sam Argent and Ross Cook score goals and they score lots of them. In the last 16 months the twin strikers of Hartley Wintney have banged in an amazing total of 148 goals. Sam has scored 77 and Ross 71. Their exploits have helped Hartley Wintney to the top of national league goals scored, with total of 70 league goals. This is higher than any team in England. From the north of Newcastle to Penzance; from the top of the Premiership right down to Non League Level 5 (9 steps in the FA Pyramid). If Cup matches are counted, the Hartley total rises to 90 goals.
The two boys from Oakridge have known one another for some time, although their routes to Green Lane at Hartley Wintney were from different directions in the form of the two South coast rivals. Ross learned his trade courtesy of Portsmouth FC and Sam courtesy of Southampton FC. Ross said, "When we met up at the start of the 2015/16 season we immediately gelled as strikers and it was evident early on that we would have some success".
By the end of the season the pair had netted a remarkable 92 goals between them (Sam with 51; Ross with 41). The goals scored helped propel the village side to the Combined Counties Premier League title. In addition, the team had good extended runs in the FA Cup and also the FA Vase.
This season (2016/17) the pair has carried on where they left off and the ball has continued to hit the back of the net on a regular basis. In just 3 months, the pair have scored 56 goals between them, with Ross at 30 and Sam at 26. The goals have driven 'the Row' to a large lead at the top of the league again and, in addition, the village side have knocked out the holders Havant & Waterlooville from the Hampshire Cup. Sam says "It is a team game and our quest for goals is greatly helped by playing in a team of smashing players. We are a close knit unit and we work hard at training with our managers and coaching staff. Dan Brownlie, Anthony Millerick and Luke Tuffs always motivate and prepare us well for every match".
Sam Argent is the team captain and he leads from the front. His selection as team captain was an inspirational choice, as he provides a high work rate ethic as an example to the rest of his team. He commands respect with everyone at the club and this was demonstrated at the end of last season when he picked up all of the 'Player of the Year' awards.
By the end of the season the pair had netted a remarkable 92 goals between them, helping to propel the village side to the Combined Counties Premier League title.
Ross Cook's total may have been higher had he not been sidelined at various parts of the season. Ross says, "I believe in playing with a bit of passion!". The referees in the league wouldn't argue with that statement but probably think he plays with too much passion at times. This has resulted in Ross being branded yellow cards and the odd one or two red cards, followed by the inevitable suspension.
This season has seen a vast improvement by Ross in this area, despite the fact that he is often the victim of some terrible challenges by opponents. This improvement is reflected by the fact that Hartley are near the top of the Division 'fair play' league for teams with the fewest yellow and red cards.
Both players say they look forward to playing in the FA Vase this weekend. Sam says, "Last season we played Hereford at home in front of an all ticket, 1300 sell out crowd. Although we lost, we'd like more occasions like that." The match attracted a lot of local interest and the 600 allocated tickets for the Hartley support were quickly sold.
If Hartley Wintney have a good team on the pitch, they also have a good team off it. The club tries to ensure that visitors have a good match day experience. This ranges from a professional website to a top notch programme, as well as good clubhouse bar, with Sky and catering provision. A good percentage of the committee are ladies and this is reflected in the cleanliness and care taken in and around the clubhouse. In past summers, hanging baskets have been fixed along the frontage to the clubhouse.
Having earned themselves passage through to the Second Round Proper due to their success in the cup last season, Hartley's quest for a run in the FA Vase this season begins with a tough home match against Melksham Town. The Wiltshire side are having a good season, playing in the Western League at the same level as Hartley Wintney. Last season 'the Row' played Bradford Town from the same league as Melksham in the Vase and won a good match 3-1. They will be hoping that many of the supporters who attended the Hereford match last season will be at Green Lane on Saturday in what promises to be an exciting match. [David Graham]