Result: Turton 3-0 Eagley (West Lancashire League Premier Division)
Venue: Thomason Fold (Saturday 13th May 2017, 3pm)
Att: 105 (approx.)
So it arrives. The final day of my 2016-’17 season dawned and it was a pretty dull and dank morning. Why change the habit of a lifetime, eh British weather? Anyway, avoiding a rant on that subject let’s get back onto the actual subject at hand; the football, for the final time this season.
Having had a random draw decide my destination for the final day’s play, fate said I’d be off to West Lancashire League side Turton and their Thomason Fold ground. Now, I’d only heard good things about both club and ground from various other hoppers etc., and so my hopes were set high.
Having headed off at just after 10am, I arrived into Bromley Cross station at just after eleven, with a 2.5 mile walk ahead to reach the town of Edgworth where, strictly, the ground is located. So, I set off on the largely uphill trek, stopping off only to visit Turton Tower (exterior only, as it cost a princely £6 to get in), a “historic” manor house and give a guy some bad directions. Sorry…
To be honest, by the time I’d headed through the woods from Turton Tower up to Chapeltown, I was feeling a bit parched. Luckily (or not so as it was planned), there be a pub by the name of the Chetham Arms. Almost a great name there. Anyway, the Chetham dates from the 18th century but has been modernised somewhat within, but not to the extent to lose its whole character. It also sits at the foot of the road to Old Boltonians’ ground, so I may just be back rather soon!
After a pint of Amstel in here, I got some affirmation of directions round to Turton before heading slightly back on myself to reach the town as outlined by the bar staff. However, I probably should have said I was on foot, as a cut-through over the reservoir was blatantly there and would have saved a good ten minutes that I could have spent in the next stop, the Black Bull.
This was your quintessential small town pub, traditional in its build. It was, however, the home of my joint priciest pint of the day (I think), with the Kronenbourg setting me back £3.50. Again, though, it seemed the people of Turton/Edgworth weren’t too forward in coming out to play so early and so I bid goodbye to those at the bar and headed up the road to Edgworth’s town centre, bypassing the cricket club for now to reach the pub at the far end of town, the Rose & Crown.
Unfortunately, this was shut until two, so a quick backtrack to the White Horse was made, with me deciding to venture into the local ales of Bolton. The one I tried had a cricket-themed name (I can’t remember it off the top of my head) but didn’t settle too well on me. Neither did the lager pint I had in the cricket club of Resolution or Revolution…or something-ution. Maybe it wasn’t anything to do with “-ution”.
After spending a good half-hour watching the City-Leicester game plus a bit of the leather and willow boys braving out a heavy shower, I saw the time had just passed two and, with my pint nearing its end, I thought it’d be something of a shame not to head back to the Rose & Crown and finish off there. So, I did just that, ending off on a pint of the fine Aspall cider, bringing back memories (what I can recall anyway) of the station bar in Sheffield after visiting Millmoor at the start of the year!
With the clock now approaching kick-off rapidly, I made the short five minute walk back around the corner and down a couple of alleyways, with a couple of locals to help guide my way, otherwise I’d likely have got lost somewhere. Obviously. I headed through the small gateway which gives entry to Thomason Fold to find a pretty decent attendance on for the Tigers’ derby clash with near-neighbours Eagley. I’ve seen it termed as “The Oldest Derby” and with Turton being the oldest club in Lancashire and Eagley themselves not too far behind, it’s probably true!
Thomason Fold itself is a nice enough little ground. It features a little hard standing, some raised, on the near touch-line from where you enter, with the remainder of the ground being grassy, uneven standing, which I discovered to my peril when, after retrieving a ball ahead of a corner, bailed over some of that very ground down near the changing rooms!
Thankfully, no-one bar the Eagley right-back seemed to notice, or maybe they were just being kind. Or shaking their heads in disappointment… Other than that, there is a clubhouse/food hut down in the corner, sandwiched between the terracing and the changing rooms, with a large grass mound giving great views over the pitch, despite actually being outside the ground, but a small mesh fence doesn’t hinder access to it too much. So, what about Lancashire’s oldest club? Well….
Turton FC was formed in 1871, thusly becoming the oldest club in Lancashire. Originally playing at Tower Street in Chapeltown (now host to Old Boltonians and possible oldest ground in the world), the club can hold a claim to having been Lancashire’s leading club through the early years of their formation and Lancastrian football with 1878 seeing the Tigers be a force in forming the Lancashire Football Association. Turton also entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1879, reaching the Third Round on two occasions (1881 & ’82) and competing against the likes of Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday.
There is also the belief that Turton’s kit influenced Bolton Wanderers’ colours with a former player of Turton, John Bentley, being a key player in forming BWFC.
The latter part of the decade saw Turton compete in the Lancashire Combination, largely finishing in mid-table, relegated to the recently formed Second Division in 1904 before taking a season out in 1906-’07 prior to a three season return until 1912, where the club maintained a place in the Combination’s second tier. However, with the growth of professional football in the 1880’s, Turton’s influence faded. They did, though, lift four Lancashire Junior Cups (1900, ’02, ’03 & ’05) and also triumphed in the 1913 Lancashire Amateur Shield.
However, since that time, the club has folded twice for lengthy periods, not reappearing until 1987 in the West Lancashire League’s Division 2. As such, the club’s next major success came in the form of the 1988 West Lancashire League Division 2 title, before they became runners-up in the First Division in 1994.
Relegated back to Division 2 in 1999, Turton were promoted as runners-up the next year returning to Division 1 which they again finished second in two seasons later, maintaining a spot in the newly named Premier Division. Relegation in 2010 saw Turton back in the second tier of the league, and 2015 saw the club finish as runners-up once more, only to see the club refused promotion due to ground grading issues.
Thankfully for the Tigers, they soon put those right and were promoted at the close of the next season as champions to take up a spot in the Premier Division for this season, where they finished up a solid ninth.
The game got underway with Turton being the largely dominant force against their already relegated opponents. However there is a case, you’d at least admit, that this game shouldn’t have been happening on this very day, what with the original game at the end of March being abandoned for “bad light” with three minutes left on the clock & Eagley 3-0 up. Apparently, the league confirmed the result only to reverse the decision the next day and decide a replay should happen. So, here we all were.
Eagley, under the stewardship of ex-football league player Simon Whaley, never really got going, though with nothing to play for, it wasn’t too surprising. The hosts took the lead just before the break, with a loose ball falling to Steve Fitton who clipped a chip from at least 25 yards into the net. A fine finish.
Turton saw the rest of the half out while I took refuge in the bar sampling some soup before moving on to a hot dog, both priced at a quid. The game had been a real end of season, run of the mill game, with little to get anyone going. But, there had at least been a goal and the sides headed in, separated by that solitary strike.
The second half was a more open contest and, after my trip, Turton doubled their advantage. The visiting right-back did well to clear an initial effort off the line, but saw the clearance fall to Luke Bradbury who took the second chance. The result was all but confirmed soon after, with Eagley’s #4 seeing red for a second bookable offence.
The Tigers added a third with around five or so to play, Matt Warburton nodding home from a corner to well and truly wrap up the derby success and they even could afford to miss a penalty shortly afterwards (which looked fairly fortunate to be given in the first place), with #6 seeing his kick saved pretty comfortably.
That was pretty much that in terms of action and Turton saw out the win, ironically managing the same score-line as Eagley had registered in the original, abandoned contest. However, this did enable their defender Richard Battersby (I think ex-FC United & Trafford from my memory) to bow out of football on a win. I was bowing out of football too, but only for this season of course, so don’t get too worried…or celebrate too hard.
The long walk back was punctuated by a stop-off in the King William pub which is about a fifteen minute walk from the station at Bromley Cross. So, having wasted a good forty-five minutes in here, I headed onwards back to the station and it’s one of those where you have to cross the tracks to get to the other platform, which is always a rare quirk for me!
An eventful trip home followed to end off my footballing year. For the next month and a bit, cricket returns to these pages (which is always a welcome way to recoup some funds!). As for Turton, it was all pretty good. The ground was nice and scenic and the area around it was decent too. The game itself was a bit meh, but it certainly could have been worse and I didn’t expect too much more. Plus, it being the “oldest derby” definitely added some allure to it! So, I’ll leave off there and sign off for 2016-’17. 2017-’18, can you beat that?!
Value For Money: 6