Venue: Park Road (Saturday 28th March 2014, 3.00pm)
A wet, miserable week culminated on Saturday with a decimated fixture list and very little fixtures to choose from. Games fell left right and centre both before and after kick-off up to League 2 and my first choice for this Saturday, Wythenshawe Town’s Cup Final with Failsworth Dynamoes was called off during the morning due to a severely waterlogged pitch at the Regional Athletics Stadium next to the Etihad. Needless to say, I doubt its more illustrious neighbour has similar drainage problems.
Still, this left me with something of a dilemma. Just where was I going to end up? As the games continued to fall, through the gloom there shone a beacon of hope. Cheadle Town confirmed that their game against Barnton in the North West Counties was all set to go and so off to Park Road I set.
After jumping on a bus to Parrs Wood and changing at the cinema complex onwards towards the small Cheshire township a couple of heavy downpours came upon that seriously made me consider that this may just have been a wasted journey. But I needn’t have feared as I walked up to the turnstiles at a damp, but ready ground. After paying my entry fee to the gateman and purchasing an issue of the club’s Talk of the Town programme, I headed inside but not before I heard the gateman exclaim to the guy behind me that he’d “…almost sold out of the programmes already”. Clearly, getting your game on can help boost the coffers on a day like this as the hardcore football fans stick it out.
Park Road resembles something of a work in progress at the moment, but with little to no work actually going on. The lack of an actual clubhouse of note is a worry, but figuring that Irlam have lasted a few seasons in the Counties without one, this shouldn’t be a pressing issue (Irlam are building one as I type and there is one in the pipeline at Cheadle). The rest of Park Road is open standing, apart from the Main Stand, which is an old style structure which has been done up slightly recently, including a new hard standing area directly in front of the stand, around the tunnel that the players appear from underneath the stand. The refreshments bar is currently a mobile home with a club sign in a bathtub across from the kitchen and there is another caravan near the astroturf pitch to the right of the stand. Ah, non-league. The car park is situated to the left of the mobile, which is effectively in the car park itself.
The distinct lack of cover forced the ground to look quite unpopulated due to the steady rain that was hovering over the ground for the vast majority of the game, though the pitch did hold up quite well until the late deluge, but any pitch outside the top two tiers of English football would have struggled after that, as Bury found out! So, there is no better time to explore the short, but extremely colourful history of Cheadle Town FC then right now, I’d say. So, here goes….
Cheadle Town were formed in 1961 under the name of Grasmere Rovers, originally playing Sunday League football as well as fielding a side in u-16’s in the Manchester & District Sunday League, winning a number of honours. They switched to Saturday football in 1972, joining the Manchester League. When Albert Pike took the reigns in 1978, the club won the First Division and Manchester Amateur Cup double in his first season in charge. In later years, they were to add the Manchester and Derbyshire FA Cups to their cabinet.
Grasmere Rovers moved in to Park Road in 1982, changing their name to Cheadle Town a year later. The name change co-incided with a move to the North West Counties League. They have remained in the old Second/ current First Division for the vast majority of their time here, bar a five season stay in the First (Premier) Division from 1996 to 2001 after promotion at the close of the ’95-’96 season.
Park Road itself has a strange history starting with featuring as Manchester City’s training ground for a period following the demise of the town’s original club, Cheadle Rovers, who used the ground prior to City’s incumbent-ship. Portugal, and the late, great Eusebio, used it as a training venue for the 1966 World Cup and Jairzinho ran a soccer school for Cheadle Town there in 1993. Cheadle beat a Manchester United Youth side in 1995 when inaugurating the new floodlights, but their more famed legacy is still to follow…
Cheadle, playing under their tour name of Manchester AFC, have played 96 games in 30 different countries, ranging from playing in front of 65,000 people in the Aztec Stadium, Mexico City to Dar-es-Salaam, Sudan. Within their travels, they have also taken in the sights of Rio de Janeiro, Acapulco, Cannes, Phuket, the Bahamas, Haiti and Guangzhou, China. They have scored 111 times in their 96 contests, including seven games against national sides and have come across figures such as the late Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano, Ronnie Biggs and Rajiv Gandhi. They have competed in front of over 312,000 people during their worldwide ventures. All this in just over 50 years of existence is quite incredible!
Take a breath from all that and bring yourself back to the damp, dreary UK, England, Manchester, Cheadle, Park Road. There? Ok. So, Barnton, now led by new manager, ex-Swansea City player Leon Knight and less new signing Lee Trundle accompanied the home side onto the pitch where a minutes silence was held in memory of the Holker Old Boys and North West Counties member who’d died since the sides had last played. The silence was observed impeccably by those watching the game, but not quite so well by the young lads who were too into their game to notice what was going on. I’m sure that in many ways it was fitting that football was the distraction…
We got underway with the heavy pitch not doing much to help either side but it was Barnton who looked the more likely to break the deadlock as they spurned a couple of good chances, before they did get the opener, when a quick breakaway led to a low cross being bundled in by Joe Jennings. 1-0. The two sides traded half chances throughout the remainder of the half, for little reward and they headed back inside with the score remaining 1-0.
With half time underway, I already had my pie in hand, which was really good I might add. This was how I saw the sign in a bath. I went inside the mobile home after seeing a small refreshments sign lodged up in a window and there found the cramped kitchen area being manned, or should I say womaned quite well in such a confined space! After paying £1.50 for my crusty offering, I headed back outside and into the cover of the Main Stand for the second period. After a chat with James Lobley who braved the weather in the quest for photos (madness!) we were back underway.
The ground is directly on the flight path into Manchester Airport, which gave the Barnton cameraman something else to take pictures of when nothing much was being offered upon the pitch, though as the rain began to come down heavier, it began to obscure our view. I say our, as I do tend to have my eyes drawn skywards in these venues. I love a ground on an airport flightpath, so any recommendations, please do let me know! Anyway, Lloyd Dean who was a real danger throughout the game was finally rewarded with a goal his performance deserved. The well-built frontman showed his poachers instinct by slotting home a rebound after an initial shot had struck the post. 2-0 and it looked like game over.
Indeed, it was as the rain absolutely teemed down in torrential, monsoon like conditions that weren’t much removed from those seen in Malaysia during the F1 Qualifying. As such, the pitch began to waterlog, but the ref carried on and was correct to as the conditions were certainly fine for play. The aircraft were taken out of vision until they were overhead, but Anthony Wynne’s, the Barnton sub, vision wasn’t hindered as he swept home a late third to add gloss to the scoreline. The result was well deserved for Barnton, who look like strong candidates to go up as the play-off winners. Kudos to those who pushed for the play-offs in the Counties First, it’s kept the division alive.
I bid goodbye to James before quickly making my way out the ground to catch the bus back towards Manchester before I got any more wet than I needed to be. The journey back was largely uneventful, and I was soon back home and having a couple of beverages to end a good, yet wet day. Hopefully, the Easter weekend which beckons will offer up better weather for us all!
My Cheadle Town M.o.M.- James Horan.
My Barnton M.o.M.- Lloyd Dean.
Game: 6- Hindered by the weather and conditions.
Ground: 5- Not much to it, work in progress. Nice stand.
Programme: 6- Light on content, normal for the level, but well presented.
Food: 7- Tasty pie.
Fans: 4- Not many supporting Cheadle as far as I could see or hear. Mostly away/neutral.
Value For Money: 7- Happy to get a game at all, cheap day out.