Result: Sheffield 2-2 Loughborough Dynamo(Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 South)
Venue: Coach & Horses Ground (Saturday 10th October 2015, 3pm)
Previously on this blog, I’ve stated about overdue trips to clubs before, but none can outdo Sheffield FC for being such. Sheffield have been a club that have long been on both myself and my groundhopping partner-in-chief Dan’s wishlists and after being denied a trip there by some extreme weather some 18 months or so prior to this, today the trip to the north Derbyshire town of Dronfield was finally on. The oldest football club in the world was finally to be ventured to by the equally famous Manchopper. I jest, of course….
So, I arrived into Manchester Oxford Road station at around 11 am, with more than enough time to catch the connection onwards to Sheffield. Soon, I was joined by Dan, who the night previous, had acquired some Rugby World Cup tickets for the game at the Etihad between England and the mighty Uruguay. Of course, I’m not huge rugby aficionado, but I easily prefer Union to League. The latter is just a borefest to me, but that’s just me and my opinion, and I know I’m in the minority in the North!
Alas, despite the half-hour early arrival at MCO station, the train was delayed due to a door issue and when it did finally arrive, we were told we couldn’t board it due to the problem and that was that. CANCELLED. So, onwards it was to Piccadilly for the alternative service offered by Trans-Pennine Express. Hopefully, they were to be more reliable than there East Midland Trains counterparts. Good news is, they were as they arrived. Bad news was, due to the cancellation, we were all packed into a sardine tin that, if there had been an accident, would have certainly caused many deaths. I love our rail network.
Anyway, with yet another rail-related rant completed on these pages, it was off to the dark-side of the Pennines, Yorkshire. But only briefly, as a quick connection would see us head out of the worse-Rose County and to Chesterfield. But first, it was a battle to get off the train in Sheffield and was a welcome relief to have oxygen once again filling the air and not recycled breath, following a 55-minute experience of rubbing up against people you’d not usually welcome rubbing up against, nor would they welcome you doing it either. However, it must be heaven for a groper!
Upon arrival, the planned stop in the much-loved Sheffield Tap would be set aside, as a quicker trip to Dronfield was worked out that would give us a further 15 minutes in the town. After arriving over an hour later than planned, small graces were welcome. So, into and out of Chesterfield we went, with the highlight being the Dronfield-bound platform’s Milk-vending machine. However, as I sadi to Dan at the time, I am curious to who stands on the platform and thinks, “I really could do with a pint of milk right now”. There must be some of you out there to warrant it and here it is in all its glory….
So, Dronfield was finally arrived in at shortly after quarter-to-two and headings were made straight for the Coach & Horses pub outside the ground, which effectively acts as the club’s clubhouse. This is probably of no surprise, as the ground is known as the Coach & Horses Ground, just as the Butcher’s Arms and others are named after their public house neighbours. Of course, the Butcher’s is no more but, happily, the Coach is in much ruder health and was a buzzing hive of activity leading up to kick-off, with people with all sorts of sporting paraphernalia inside, including one young “football hipster” wearing a Schalke 04 shirt.
After Dan had “fainted” on the grass verge near the ground due to the “high levels of intensity” (if you don’t know, we tend to give levels of intensity too things, with Sheffield being high on the list), the first beers of the day had been purchased in the warm, welcoming surroundings of the Coach & Horses. Sadly, due to our late arrival, we didn’t have more than 20-minues to enjoy the pub and we were soon heading up the small rise to the left of the pub and through the car park to the “home of football”. Due to it being Non-League Day, the club were offering those with Premier League season tickets £1 entry. This is where one of my biggest bugbears comes in. Though I understand the reasoning behind it, I do feel that it takes the support of those week-in, week-out supporters of this level for granted. Not that I’m singling out Sheffield, I’m not, but I just can’t see how it’s fair. One rule for all, perhaps? There must be better ways.
So, after paying my £8 entrance fee, I was into the Coach & Horses ground, before doing a U-turn when through the other side and heading back to the turnstiles for a “bible”. A further £2 was taken, but that is a very fair price, for what is a very good read. Dan headed to the food hut for a pie, whilst I headed off for some pre-match ground browsing. The C&H (as it will be referred to as such from now on) is a mix of old and new, with the stands both being of relatively new-build, especially the seating structure behind the goal at the end from which you enter. Down the right hand side is a covered, raised terracing area , with the far end open, hard standing, complete with a large manual scoreboard. The far side is further hard standing, with the dugouts here too, but also here is where the ground loses points. It has a large blue tarpaulin covering a grassy mound, complete with FIFA logo. Tsk. Not that it Blatters….With that terrible FIFA related “joke” thankfully behind us, it’s time to have a look into the, only slightly lengthy, history of the original Club….
After Sheffield Crocket Club had informal kick-abouts as far back as 1855, it wasn’t until two years that a formal meeting would take place regarding the formation of Sheffield FC. They originally played games amongst club members, taking on the titles of “Married vs Singles” & “Professionals vs The Rest”. (Thanks, Wikipedia!).
Soon, members Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest were responsible for creating the club’s rules, which became referred to as the Sheffield Rules, the first ever official rules for football, which were later adopted by the Sheffield FA upon its formation in 1867.
Following Hallam’s formation in 1860, the two contested their first local derby fixture and by 1862, 15 clubs were in situ around Sheffield. They became members of the FA in 1863, but continued to use their own rules, but did play outside of Sheffield for the first time in 1865, when they played Nottingham under Nottingham-rules, meaning an 18-a-side game. The club had also decided to only play clubs outside of Sheffield as they sought more of a challenge, and this saw them play in Battersea against a London side. London won by two-goals and four touchdowns to nil!
After playing Shropshire Wanderers in the club’s first ever FA Cup tie in 1873, the only tie to be decided by a coin toss, Sheffield finally adopted the FA rules in 1878, following the FA’s reluctance to sanction matches involving Sheffield. In opposition to the club not wishing to play Sheffield-based sides, Thursday Wanderers were formed, made up of players wishing to play in the Sheffield Challenge Cup, but the Wanderers lasted just three years, but did win the cup in their final year. Following professionalism, the club fell into decline, and following a campaign by the staunch-amateur Club for an amateur’s only competition, the FA Amateur Cup was formed, that Club would go on to win in 1904.
Their first league was the Midland league, joined and founded in 1889, but left after just a season. Club also founded the Yorkshire League in 1898, but again only competed in one season. After largely competing in the local leagues from 1900, Club eventually joined the Sheffield Association League in 1925. In 1949, 50 years after last competing in it, Club rejoined the Yorkshire League. Three years later, they were promoted to Division 1,but were relegated after two seasons, but bounced back in their centenary year, 1957.
1961 saw Club relegated again, taking six years to reach Division 1 again, before continuing their yo-yo existence wih another drop after one season, and were relegated to Divison Three in 1970, where they remained until 1976,but by 1978, they were back in the Division 1. The same season as their promotion, Club played at Wembley in the FA Vase Final, drawing 1-1 with the “should be an Irish place” Billericay Town, before eventually losing the replay in Nottingham.
After the merger of the Midland and Yorkshire Leagues to form the Northern Counties East League, Club were placed in Division 1 South. After reassignments and restructure, Club won Division 1, but spent just one year in the top flight, before being relegated on ground grading, but conformed and won the league again immediately. After a first ever Sheffield & Hallamshire Cup win in ’94 (since won four further times) and a pair of NCEL Cups, the club won promotion to the Northern Premier League in their 150th year, 2007, as runners-up. After celebratory games against Internazionale and Ajax, the former played in front of Pele and including the likes of Mario Balotelli and Marco Materazzi. Club have reached the play-offs of the Division 1 South on three occasions, to no avail and last season finished up in 15th place.
Back to today’s game and it was some sort of celebration of the “Kick It Out” movement and anti-discrimination in general, with free badges etc. being handed out and a flag being paraded prior to kick-off. Soon enough, this was all through and Club and visitors, Loughborough Dynamo, made their way to the field to undertake the pre-match pleasantries and formalities. With these sorted and out of the way, we were all set at the “Home Of Football”.
After we’d taken our seats in the stand behind the goal Dynamo were attacking during the first period we found ourselves next to a group of fans ranging from 7 to 77, with the elder fans coming up with some songs and hitting the rear of the stand to the beat. Loughborough made all the early running and it was no surprise, therefore, when they did eventually take the lead. After missing a great chance moments earlier, Dynamo skipper Rob Norris made amends, nodding in a header at the near post from a whipped in cross from the left.
After Club had recovered from their poor start, they fashioned a couple of long range efforts, but not too much to speak of, while the visitors’ striker, sporting that short ponytail look that’s in vogue for some reason, gained less friends by the minute on the terraces as they adjudged him to be going down far too easily on a number of occasions and thus, when he was booked himself for a foul, the cheers went up and would have been confused for a goal had someone heard from outside.
As Dan and I went on a wander of the ground, we ended up in conversation with the Dynamo goalkeeper, who told us about his many previous visits to the ground whilst in the colours of Rainworth (apparently pronounced Rennerth) amongst others. He also mentioned that he usually gets beaten 4-0 here, so this was a far better day so far for him. But, when I suggested this to him, he warned that his Dynamo team tend to tire as the game goes on and he wasn’t “counting his chickens yet”. Leaving the ‘keeper to his concentration for the rest of the game, we went off on our way, just after this happened….
Loughborough doubled their lead. Norris showed tenacity to pounce upon a loose ball and after seeing his initial effort smothered, he recovered to round GK Tom Dunn, and slot into the empty net. Dynamo still had time to strike the post before the interval, though the effort appeared to be covered, left somewhat by a confident Dunn, and the sides went in at the break with the home side about to receive a bollocking from manager Andy Kiwomya, you’d have imagined! As for me, it was to the food hut, where a Chicken Bali pie was purchased for (I think) £2. It was your standard Pukka offering, nothing special, but decent nonetheless.
Before long, the sides had re-entered the pitch and if you wanted the epitome of a game of two halves, then this one was just that. Sheffield dominated this half, just as the visitors had the first. Joe McCormack, the Dynamo GK had to pull off a decent couple of saves to keep his side’s two goal lead intact, but was helpless to deny James Gregory’s fizzing drive from the angle of the box, which flew into the top corner. 2-1, game on!
Club’s Bruno Holden then headed narrowly wide of the target soon after the goal, but eventually McCormack’s prophetic words came to fruition, when the ball was only half-cleared out to Club sub Temi Raheem. The #15 steadied himself, before lofting a measured chip/shot over McCormack and into the top rightt-hand corner. A tremendous effort and it looked like Club would likely go on to win the game from here, but it never really carried on that way as Dynamo appeared to show resolve to hold out for the draw. In fact it was Dynamo who had the best chance to win it in stoppage time, when Steve Hart’s drive from close range was well kept out by Dunn.
So, 2-2 was the final score, as the ref brought the fluctuating game to a close and a fair point for both sides. Dan and I had a cab waiting for us to take us into Sheffield, with the cabbie seemingly perplexed by what we were doing in Dronfield watching this game in the first place. He thought he’d grasped it after deciding we’d come to watch the visiting side, but when we said it was Loughborough and not a Manchester side, he was dumbfounded. Despite this, he beat the Blades traffic leaving Bramall Lane, getting us to Sheffield Station with half-an-hour to spare, meaning a brief stop in the Tap would now have to happen. Shame. Oh, and if you need a cab from the C&H, City Taxis are the ones. See, advertising boards at non-league ground pay dividends!
After a quick stop in the Tap , including Dan informing a guy “we’d” drew 2-2, but our stranger deciding “we” was Rochdale, then quizzing him on Dale matters, we left the crowded pub for the platform and the train back to Piccadilly and the Etihad for the Rugby World Cup crunch tie….oh, yeah that’s right…Ah well, still. It was to be my first live rugby experience and in international form, even if one of them was the minnows of the South American nation, Uruguay.
After being toilet doorman on the train for some reason, as the doors kept breaking down, we were getting down to the Metrolink station after our arrival back in Manchester and getting on a Ashton-bound tram. Well, we were to, but they were more sardine tins and we eventually got on one that the Met had sourced from somewhere that was empty. Probably after my ingenious heckle that public transport companies didn’t do common sense, after two terminated in front of us and left empty. Still, we eventually managed to leave and arrived in the Etihad to find a guy selling half/half scarves at the top of the steps from the stop and bemoaning his luck in doing so: “This is what happens when you don’t listen in school”.
Before long, we’d arrived in our seats in the front row, North Stand, on the touchline behind the posts at the Etihad, and thus saw the only Uruguayan points of the game at close quarters. After the half-time break, we then saw them taken apart by the English side, including Owen Farrell, who is definitely a hit with the ladies, if the female a few rows behind me is to be believed on her reactions to his successes.
So, upon the end of the 60-3 thrashing, we got to the Met stop quick enough to be in the second wave allowed down to the platform, which was a definite success. Before too long, we were disembarking in Piccadilly Gardens , where I bid goodbye to Dan (thanks for the tix, by the way) and I continued on to Oxford Road for the last train back to Urmston. A superb day, ticking off two sporting ambitions in it, visit the oldest football club in the World and watch a live Rugby game. Now, what’s next on the list?….
Game: 8- Great game, entertaining. Good goals too.
Ground: 6- It was alright, nothing great to speak of.
Food: 6- See above for description!
Programme: 8- A decent read, full colour publication too.
Fans: 8- The old and young mix in the stand was quite something!
Value For Money: 9- A great day all round.