Result: Mossley 2-1 Bamber Bridge (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)
Venue: Seel Park (Saturday 17th October 2015, 3pm)
The month of pre-planned out games continued with this visit up to Tameside and to the small town in the Pennine hills, Mossley. Mossley’s club, which carries the name of the town unsurprisingly, is a favourite of many in the groundhopping fraternity. As for me, having only been prior to today in a “biased” mindset but been largely not as enamoured as others, today was the chance to cast a full eye over Seel Park, home of the Lilywhites.
It was just prior to 11am as I caught the train after a sprint up to the station at Urmston, that otherwise would have cost me a half-hour, but I caught the rattler and was soon through the other side of Oxford Road station and onwards to Stalybridge, which was reached after the, now a formality, packed train. Happily, this only lasted until Piccadilly, so lessened the chances of injury on this occasion. After a rather trouble-free journey, I arrived at Stalybridge, with plans to pop into the station’s buffet bar, but plans were changed when I saw a connector train through to Mossley was delayed and therefore was catchable, getting me in a half-hour early. Exciting or what?!
After disembarking at Mossley, I headed to the post office for some much needed beverage money. This time, it is actually rather warranted, if you take into account the hill you must conquer to get up to “Higher” Mossley from “Lower” Mossley. With the “lower” end seeming rather dull and empty, resembling a wild west town prior to a shoot out, it was up the hill immediately and for the pubs up at the top. One I’d already scouted the night before was the wonderfully named Blazing Rag Inn and it was here where I set my sights for first.
The Blazing Rag is in the centre of the “higher” part of town, but up a small street, so can be slightly tricky to discover if you don’t know where it is prior. But, do your research and you will be rewarded by a quite brilliant little boozer, with no airs and graces, just an old style pub with a pair of friendly canines to welcome you on arrival. After taking a pic of the exterior, I headed inside to be met on the threshold by a lady who, for a moment, I decided had come out to inspect quite what my business was in taking said image. My fears were allayed soon after and I headed in and was immediately met by the friendly bar man (who told me his name, but I’ve forgotten it unfortunately), who quickly sorted me with a pint of Warsteiner, after complimenting my choice over having a Carling, which “tastes like water”, apparently.
Anyway, after telling him what my business was, it came about that the bar man had in fact ran Mossley’s social club up until a couple of years previous and that he’s retired from that but gone to help out in the Rag instead. After a convo about all things Mossley, including deer outside a bedroom window, scenery and his future holiday plans, I was informed of his past history of being born on the “site of the McDonald’s opposite the Etihad” which is in “Bradford, not “Beswick”. This latter point was one he was very staunch about and pulled out a map to prove the geographical point was correct.
After more about horses and football and the sad news about Howard Kendall, I was joined by estranged(?) FC United fan Adam Devlin, who’d informed me yesterday of his intentions to head up to Seel Park as well. On his arrival, Adam told me about his troubles in finding the place, which (see above) was rather unsurprising and after a further pint of the “bubbles of truth” as my Dad calls it and setting the football world to rights some more, we were given a nice farewell and a promise to receive a warm welcome on the occasion we return to the town and the Rag. This will happen, for sure! Great pub and people in there.
So, Adam and I headed down to Seel Park, which sits no more than a 5 minute walk from the pub, or a 550 metre walk from the station, so Adam informed me his Google Maps informed him, which we gathered must mean a number of breaking and entering properties throughout the Mossley area, to find the ever present “Car Park Full” sign out in force, despite there being 45 minutes to kick-off (at least). This wasn’t due to a capacity crowd, though, more to do with the fact the car park caters for about 20-25 vehicles, so once the players are in, there’s no room for spectators.
It was a good job I’d decided to camp out in the Rag, as the Highland Laddie, the pub outside the ground, has sadly shut up its doors now, and so it was to the Social Club for a next, much required drink. Too get there, however, means entering Seel Park so, after handing over my £8 admission fee, plus a further £2 for the programme in the walkway through the car park, I was in. After going through the entry way in between the dressing room area and hospitality suite, you turn right for the bar and left for the stand. Right it was and after I ordered a Kopparberg on the basis I can drink these much quicker than most other drinks, to join me in watching the final stanzas of Spurs vs Liverpool on the big screen.
Mossley’s social club is a lovely place, smart and with a nice feel to it. Adam went and sourced a team sheet, where it was discovered that Brett “soon to be birthday boy” Ormerod was starting for the visitors, Bamber Bridge, this afternoon. At that very moment, we were joined by Dan who had soldiered on up the hill too and made his way into the ground, vowing to never come again unless he’s in some sort of motorized transportation. Dan ordered himself a much needed beverage too (sensing a theme here, yet?) and we finished these off at 14.59, just as the sides entered the pitch for the pre-match handshakes and all that. Seel Park itself is a characterful ground, with three stands. A newer, covered terrace sits opposite you when you enter, on the far touchline, with an older covered, raised terrace set behind the right hand goal. The main, all seater stand sits alongside the entrance and is surrounded by further open terracing. The far “school” end is open standing, but this end is naturally raised, so provides a good view too. It’s probably one of the better grounds for vantage points you’ll find at most levels. After that, I think a look into Mossley AFC’s history is called for….
Mossley AFC were founded in 1903, under the name of Park Villa. After just one season, the club changed their name to Mossley Juniors and played in local leagues. After changing names again in 1909, this time to Mossley AFC, they moved to the disused cricket pitch at Seel Park in 1912 from their previous ground at Luzley. They initially competed in the Ashton & District League, where they won a league, Manchester Junior Cup and Lady Aitken Cup treble in 1915, before switching between four leagues in quick succession between 1915 & 1919, spending brief periods in the South East Lancashire League, Manchester Amateur League and Lancashire Combination, before becoming founder members of the Cheshire County League in 1919. Here, they finished runners-up in their first season, before winning the league cup the following year.
Between this success and the early 1960’s, Mossley won very little silverware, bar much success in the Ashton Challenge Cup. 1961 saw the Lilywhites win the Cheshire League Cup for a second time, before having a strong ’69-’70 season, where the club finished runners-up, reached the FA Cup 1st Round and the quarter finals of the FA Trophy. In 1972, after more than a half-century of years in the Cheshire County League, the club were elected to the Northern Premier League.
The late 70’s saw Mossley become a non-league force, winning successive titles in ’77-’79 & ’79-’80 and three further runners-up spots in the next three seasons. They also reached the 1980 FA Trophy final at Wembley after defeating sides such as Altrincham, Blyth and Boston on the way to losing 2-1 to Dagenham. Mossley’s trip to Wembley was featured in a Granada programme, imaginatively titled “Mossley Goes To Wembley”. The following season saw Mossley beat Crewe Alexandra at Seel Park, in Mike Summerbee’s only game for the club. After a massive downturn in fortunes saw the club finish bottom in 1984 and seek re-election, Mossley entered a period of rebuilding.
1988-’89 saw Mossley gain back success, winning the NPL Cup, Manchester Premier Cup, Reporter Floodlit Cup and the NPL Shield at the start of the following season. But, another downturn saw Mossley narrowly avoid relegation in 1992, but’93 saw the club be unable to stave the drop off. In 1995, the club dropped to the North West Counties League after a 23-year stay in the NPL. In 1999, Mossley missed out on the title on the final day. 2003, under Ally Pickering’s guidance, Mossley won the Worthington Trophy and were again pipped to the title on the final day of the season.
Back in the NPL Division 1, Mossley won the division in 2006, beating Fleetwood Town to the title, earning promotion to the Premier Divison, but this lasted a season as Mossley were relegated back to the Division 1, now regionalised, and placed in the North section. After a number of managerial changes throughout the next few years, the club won the Manchester Premier Cup again in201, beating Salford City on penalties at a game I attended, before Steve Halford left the club to join Ashton United, with his joint-manager, Peter Band, appointed alongside Lloyd Morrison and they achieved a solid mid-table finish, before improving last season with a 7th placed finish, with the club narrowly missing out on the play-offs. They did, however, beat NPL Play-Off winners Curzon Ashton in the Manchester Premier Cup Final, to lift the cup for a third time in four years.
So, back onto today’s game then and, to be honest, not much happened during the first period. Brig started on top, having a header comfortably cleared off the line before Ormerod missed an easy chance by his standards, driving wide from 10 yards. They were taken by surprise, therefore, when Mossley took the lead on 20 minutes when, against the run of play, Mike Fish was found and he advanced through the defence, before neatly finishing across the GK and into the net, via the post. 1-0.
The rest of the half was rather dull, with Dan, Adam and myself comparing views on players’ hairstyles, before making it through the gate of the tunnel just before the ref blew the half-time whistle, to thankfully bring a tedious half to a close. To the food hut it was, where a portion of chips was ordered for £1.50. Again, not bad at all. This took up the majority of half-time, before we took our places on the open terracing outside the social club for the second period.
Not long after the break, we’d begun to support Brett Ormerod exclusively, not that he’d have been too enamoured by it, I’d guess, but this wasn’t his decision and he was getting support regardless. It was then that a broad scouse accent introduced itself through the nippy Tameside air. This was, it turned out, Paul Rowan, whom I sort of knew through Twitter, but had no idea was at the game. But, as is the norm, we welcomed another member to the “17th October Ormerod Supporters’ Club” and our numbers count at four, almost as many as some club’s have in theirs I hear!
Alas for us, it wasn’t his number #9 who was on target for the next goal, but rather Andy Keogh of Mossley. The skipper using his formidable frame to climb highest and power a header into the net. It’s always nice to see a former Flixton FC player going on well, so this was a welcome goal, despite it not being Brett, of course.
It was game on again, though, when Mossley conceded a corner on the right flank. The ball was whipped into the back post area and fell to right-back Danny Mahoney, who seemed to have an age to compose himself, before firing into the far corner. I thought it took a touch at the far post to take it in, as did the rest of the 17OOSC crew, but Mahoney was credited with the goal and who am I to challenge the powers that be? This started a last 15 of Brig pressure, with a two-footed lunge going unpunished in the area, much to the chagrin of the Brig faithful behind the goal, but in the last minute, this happened…
The ball bounced up off the knee of a Mossley defender, up onto his hand and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and I don’t think there was too many complaints. We were all excited by this point as it meant Brett was going to score and gain an early birthday present. Until Mahoney stepped up and changed our minds. We were outraged that Brett wasn’t taking the pen and therefore were royally delighted when it was a poor kick and easily held by home stopper Liam Flynn. I felt for Mahoney, but it should’ve been Brett. So, 2-1 it finished and a deserved win for the Lilywhites and we headed, en masse, down to “lower” Mossley for a final drink in the Britannia, opposite the station.
After being quite impressed by lamp shades, old police stations and band clubs, we reached the Britannia. The Britannia was quite full, with people either watching Watford v Arsenal in the Premier League or the featured game, Wales vs South Africa in the Rugby World Cup. I’ve become quite enamoured with the sport during the lengthy tournament, having ticked off the ambition to do a live game last week after Sheffield, so this will likely become a more regular thing. I’m not sure if I’m worried or happy with this change in opinion! Desperados for me, it was the latter for us to watch for a half-hour before the train back to Stalybridge.
After finishing drinks in the Brit, we headed back to Mossley station. We left Adam on the train at Stalybridge, as he headed back through Victoria, where I persuaded, not that much was needed, Dan and Paul to head to the buffet bar. The bar is something else and is a certain stop off if you are in the town. After a quick pint of Amstel in here, following my technique of picking a beer on basis of its logo or involvement in football, it was back over the platforms to catch the train back to Manchester and, for Paul, Liverpool. After Dan headed off at Piccadilly, I bid goodbye to Paul who went on his way with a trusty bottle of Veltins for the journey and a suitcase for company. It seems the three of us are to meet up again next week at Macclesfield too, so further shenanigans await, as the FA Cup approaches Round 1….
Game: 5- Average game, not great for neutral viewing.
Ground: 6- It’s a nice ground, as I said earlier, but it doesn’t grab me as it has others.
Fans: 6- No reason here.
Food: 6- Decent, nothing to shout about.
Programme: 6- Decent issue, nothing great though.
Value For Money: 7- Game not great, cheap travel and better day than expected helps. Added bonus of Brett and the founding of 17OOSC.