Result: Hucknall Rolls Leisure 0-9 Notts County X1 (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: Rolls Royce Leisure (Saturday 11th July 2015, 2pm)
Att: Around 600 (approx.)
The early stages of this blog are the only time the club will be referred to as Hucknall Rolls Leisure, as I know pretty much all of us will prefer Rolls Royce FC, no? Well, hard luck if you don’t, ’cause it’s happening anyway!
After seeing this game flagged up a fair few weeks earlier by lostboyos’ Matt, I was immediately attracted to the fixture as part of my quest to do some of the stranger named clubs in the country. A team named after the legendary transport company certainly fitted the bill, and so this was immediately added to the itinerary.
Eventually, the morning of the 11th of July arrived and I set off in pursuit of Matt, who’d arrived into Nottingham earlier than I was travelling, setting off from Manchester Oxford Road at just after 10.30, and arriving in the Midlands at around half-past midday. After a connection onwards from here, it was off to Hucknall, which was a further short hop on from Nottingham and 15 minutes later, I was pulling into the one platform station, adjoining the tram line and retail park.
After climbing the stairs and crossing the bridge over the tracks, it was onwards towards Watnall Road, guided by Google Maps, which was working perfectly fine for me, but not as well for Matt, it turned out, who informed me of his and his County companions’ minor strife in finding the ground! For me, it was a rather simpler task, including taking in the sights of Hucknall, which include….Hucknall Town’s ground and…er…not much else. Luckily, about a half mile after Town’s Watnall Road ground, Rolls’ Watnall Road home comes up upon you, easily found today due to the stewarding of the car park and the resulting traffic waiting to get in. Indeed, just as I arrived, the main car park had to be closed, due to the sheer volume of traffic, with some being sent three blocks away to park!
After walking down the long access road, more akin to a holiday camp than a football ground, I entered the club building, handed over my £5 entry to a man sitting at a table, before entering the bar area which, to my delight, was showing the Ashes Test on two large screens either side of a large club badge, which features an aircraft engine-like design, harking back to the factory produce. Further on was a conservatory and raised patio which is where I spotted Matt, perhaps unsurprisingly, holding a beer. After greeting him and grabbing one myself, we attempted to enter the pitch before being stopped by a steward due to the alcohol being in appearance (though he disappeared soon after), meaning that everyone was free to come and go as they pleased. Much better for all.
By now, the teams were making their way out towards the pitch, which is basically just a barred off area with one covered stand behind the left hand goal. The problem was is that the dressing rooms were about a half-mile from the pitch, so the applause for the sides went on….and on…and on, with the walk being the longest seen in England since the old Wembley. Alan Smith was leading out the Notts County side for today, so being in the presence of a Manchester United legend made the trip all the more worth it. The game got underway without us realising from our “VIP” patio area, featuring a BBQ and DJ, but before we get into that, here’s the history of Huckna….sorry Rolls Royce FC…
The current club only began life in 2009, but can trace its roots directly back to 1935 and Rolls Royce Welfare F.C. This side came into being on the opening of the Rolls’ Hucknall factory. This side were dissolved in the 1970’s, but reforemed within the same decade before renaming as Hucknall Rolls Royce in 1991, before a further name change was undertaken, with the club becoming known as Rolls Royce Leisure in 2002. Alas, soon after, the club was to dissolve again, before reforming under its present guise in 2009.
The club competed in the Nottinghamshire Senior League from 1991-1997 and the Central Midlands League from ’97 to 2009. The current side rejoined the Notts Senior League upon its reformation in 2009 and remain there to this day. The club also reached the first round of the FA Vase in 2002, entry being granted through the club’s access to floodlights. The club also lifted the Notts Senior League Cup in 2014.
So, back onto today then and after completing a lap of the ground and climbing up onto the Rolls’ equivalent of the Curva Nord alongside the sole stand, the game began to swing Notts way after a tight start, which saw the Rolls #14 go close a couple of times. But, Notts’ quality shone through, though they took the lead slightly fortuitously, as an effort from Filip Valencic looped up and over the goalkeeper before nestling in.
This was quickly added to by two strikes from Jimmy Spencer, his first a close range tap-in following a decent stop by the Rolls keeper, his second a neat curling finish that left the ‘keeper rooted. The fourth came courtesy of another big name, Jon Stead, who rifled a shot into the roof of the net in a flash, prompting a heckle to the ‘keeper of “You never even smelt that one!”, to which the ‘keeper replied “I never saw it, never mind smelt it!”. It was unfortunate or the ‘keeper, who’d made a number of cracking saves.
Blair Adams’ fine strike was sandwiched in between this and Stead’s second, classily volleying in from a cross, to leave the score at 6-0 at the break, and leaving me, Matt and the County fans, namely Stu and Landy, who’ been introduced to me by Matt at the game. We all wanted ten. We sort of expected 10. Would we get it though?
Well, after heading to the bar for the second time whilst Matt queued up for some BBQ produce, one barman proceeded in becoming a comedian for the half-time, including barring all and sundry who didn’t take the pre-poured Carlings. My tip would be to not give up the day job any time soon…..In all seriousness, though, it’s good to see this sort of service and gives a good account of the club.
So, with alcohol now joined by hot dog, it was back through the the now steward-less barricades and onwards to the pitch where, I think this applies to everyone there, a first was taking place. The teams were playing in the same direction for the second period too! It’s a good job the FA weren’t there, or they may have kicked everyone out of all competitions or something just as shitty as they usually do.
County, now featuring more youth and triallists in this half, took their time to gel and it wsn’t until after the hour that Genaro Sneijders added a seventh, before late strikes by Lartey Sarpong and a pen from lanky giant striker from Germany, Abdoulla Alliyu, along with a small bush fire setting alight upon the Curva Nord ended matters at 9-0 with boos emanating from the terraces at the distinct lack of goals.
So, after pictures with the legend Alan Smith, who seemed distinctly buzzing to be a part of the fun, and a quick pint back in the clubhouse, he four of us set off back for Hucknall centre, but not before a stop off at Storth Avenue, which I was promised was not to be missed. What an avenue this was! It featured what must be the biggest junction ever seen, amongst many other things, though Matt had decided that some trees resembled palm trees, when they most definitely did not.
Storth Avenue left behind, it was onwards past the many Byron named features of Hucknall (in relation to the fact Lord Byron is buried there, thanks Matt), and past the Hucknall Miners’ Memorial before Stu. Landy and Matt boarded the tram back to Nottingham, whereas I waited slightly longer for the train back. I reunited with just the latter pair in Fellows, Morton and Clayton, apparently named after three men who undertook the first ever hot air balloon flight, according to historical story encyclopedia Matt again, who I delighted by bringing back a pint in real glass. He later told me this was due to him encountering solely plastic cups all day. (I was later informed that the composer of the Dam Busters march amongst others, Eric Coates, was born in the town too.
So, with about an hour to waste until our train back, Matt and I bid farewell to Landy who was heading somewhere to the south and headed to the infamous Hooters establishment in Nottingham, a lostboyos tradition so I was told, which is within sight of the holy trinity of grounds. After spending the time watching all manner of stags and more sights, it was time to head back, where further ales were purchased for the ride home. Now, I spotted Newcastle Brown Ale standing in the coolers, and having wanted to try one ever since the days of them sponsoring Newcastle United, I decided this was the time. So, with Ale purchased, it was off tot he platform, where we boarded the train and soon got a table, after a large de-training at the mecca of entertainment, Alfreton.
After discussing Rolls Royce, the day as a whole and football in general, I stated that it was best we had done the trip now, as it wouldn’t be one for the faint hearted on a cold, blustery mid-December evening! The whole day and experience added to it, with a full crowd, a DJ blaring out all sorts of tunes, a barbecue, Alan Smith and dugouts in a car park. There’s probably more I could add, but for now, I’ll leave it at that. Hucknall Town has a lot to live up to next time!
Game: 6- Lots of goals, but a stroll in the park for County.
Ground: 5- Decent for the level Rolls are at, considering there’s a stand and lights.
Food: 8- High quality hot dog and onions for £1.80.
Fans: 5- There was a handful, though you wouldn’t have known it!
Value For Money: 7- £30 travel, £5 and about £20 for other necessities!