Result: AVRO 1-2 Lower Breck (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: Whitebank Stadium (Saturday 1st July 2017, 2.30pm)
Att: 35 (approx.)
Happy new season! Well, if you are happy to count pre-season games that is. If you are, then welcome along to the party. And hell even if you’re not of that persuasion, you’re free to come along anyway! I need all the help I can get!
Where to begin? Well, having had only a few games to choose from, the decision was fairly simple. Having already whittled down the options by weeding out those played on school pitches with no defined spectator area (my limit of a “ground”), the only real option was a pretty intriguing one: a visit to the newly refurbished Whitebank Stadium in Oldham. The ground is the former home of Oldham Boro FC & Oldham RLFC and now plays host to Manchester League side AVRO, who make the most of the shiny, newly-installed facilities and 4G surface.
Having pre-arranged a meet with Gibbo and Zach of Atherton Colls fame, I headed into Oldham via the novelty (for me) of the tramways and arrived bright and early before midday. It was only then the thought came to me “Why have I got here so early?” Anyway, I had and I now had the best part of a two-and-a-half hours to waste away in the North Manchester township.
With time to waste, I headed into the owl-filled town centre and to my first stop-off of the day, the Molino Lounge, which is a café-bar set-up which, by the brickwork and décor within, appeared to be built around an old police station façade. It was a cool detail and I was happy enough to while away a half-hour in here along with a pint of Cruiser Pale Ale before heading onwards up the high street.
After heading on past a guy selling something “the shops want(ed) £40 for, I’m after £5”, I found myself at the doors of a nice-looking pub at the far-end of town called The Snipe. The Snipe definitely seemed the locals’ popular pub and it was pretty packed inside. With most pints priced at well less than £3, I figured it wasn’t too hard to work out the reason why (though I later found this was largely the main for the town). Anyway, I settled on a pint of Greene King’s IPA and grabbed a table next to a large, furry, white dog.
The IPA didn’t quite match my prior expectations of how I remembered it and, not too enamoured, downed it fairly quickly before heading back out into the bustling market street and back towards the large parish church that towers over the centre. Eventually, I arrived outside the doors of both the Hare & Hounds and the Last Orders. Of course, it’d be rude to only visit one, I’m sure you’d agree?
Visiting the former first, I was immediately quite enamoured by the fact Blondie’s “Atomic” was being played, due to me having fond memories of it as the soundtrack to the ‘Eat Football, Sleep Football, drink Coca-Cola’ advert around the ’98 World Cup. Anyway, after a quick Strongbow, I headed over the way and found the latter to be far more popular with the punters during the early afternoon session.
Whilst supping away at the cheapest San Miguel I’ve ever had so far, I received a text from Gibbo telling me to head over to Whittles, where the guys were having their pre-match beverage. Not wishing to keep anyone waiting, I swiftly finished off and headed back to the tram stop for the minute’s journey down the track, during which I was to see my furry friend from the Snipe once again!
After getting a bit lost looking for Whittles (despite it being right in front of me as I got off), I soon sorted out my directional sense and met up with the Colls duo, who had also met Ipswich fan and regular hopper Mark along the way. Joining the party with a final San Miguel, it wasn’t long until Gibbo and Zach left Mark and I to find somewhere to retrieve some cash from and Mark was left with the duty of securing us a cab via the medium of bar staff. I was left with no task, which is usually for the best.
As the clock ticked ever closer towards kick-off, Mark and I began to worry that we hadn’t seen the others in a fair bit of time and began to hope all was ok. Indeed, it turned out finding a cash machine isn’t the easiest of tasks around that part of Oldham, but we were all sorted and ready to go onwards to the Whitebank Stadium for the big game of the day: AVRO vs Lower Breck of the Liverpool County League. This would also be the third different venue I’d seen AVRO play at (having visited them at both the Lancaster Club and Ten Acres Lane), as well as having already been to Lower Breck’s home complex at Walton Hall, which you can also read about here.
After a swift taxi journey, we arrived alongside the Lower Breck coach at the car park of the ground before heading through the perimeter fencing into the ground itself. It’s decent enough too. In addition to the aforementioned 4G surface, there is a small refreshment bar and two stands. The “Main Stand” is slightly raised above the pitch at the near end of the ground and is all-seater, while a smaller stand consisting of a couple of rows of benched seats is located directly opposite. The rest of the ground consists of open, hard-standing. So with little else to talk about, here’s a bit of back-story, once again, about AVRO FC….
AVRO FC was formed in 1936 as a works outfit for the AVRO aviation company, playing in the grounds of the 16th-century Failsworth Lodge (latterly the Lancaster Club). The AVRO company founder, Mr. A. V. Roe, built his first aircraft from 1909 and became a major player for the RAF from 1914 onwards, building the AVRO 540 in Newton Heath before purchasing a smaller factory in Failsworth, where the Lancaster Club is/was located. 1936 saw the Lodge purchased by the AVRO works manager prior to the company opening their main Chadderton factory, where they churned out the likes of the Anson, the famed Lancaster and latterly the Vulcan bombers.
In 1950, the Lodge was opened up to all personnel of AVRO (now BAe Systems) and took on the Lancaster Club name, with the sporting arm continuing on. The club joined the Manchester League and won the Division 1 Championship in 1989 but lasted just three seasons in the Premier Division before being relegated in 1992 and departing the league in 1995. They then embarked on what appears to be a three-year sabbatical before re-joining the league in 1998. They again won Division 2 in 2004 and promotion to Division 1, but were again relegated after three seasons.
After just one season, AVRO returned to the Manchester League’s top-flight as Division 1 runners-up and have since won the Premier Division on two successive occasions in 2010 & 2011. Last season saw the club finish up in 13th place, as they bid goodbye to their long-time, historic home.
Onto the game and it was your quintessential pre-season match-up. Not much really happened in terms of action, bar the goals, though the game itself was definitely a watchable one. To be honest, I can’t remember much of note in the first-half whatsoever and, after heading around the ground on the obligatory lap of the pitch, we arrived back at the stand for the start of the second-half. I was just hoping to avoid an immediate nil-nil by this point!
The second-half put these fears to rest as Lower Breck took the lead early on in the half, former Cammell Laird man Jamie Henders smartly finishing off a move by placing the ball into the far corner of the net. Soon, though, AVRO were level in fairly similar circumstances, a shot from just inside the area by AVRO player-manager Lee O’Brien beating the visiting ‘keeper and levelling up the scores at one-a-piece.
Both teams looked evenly matched throughout this contest, with AVRO sporting a couple of guys I know from their time at Trafford in Matt Landregan & Melford Knight. Both had some game time in this game as AVRO look to turn their sights towards the semi-pro game. They had their chances to move into the lead as the second half progressed as well, a low shot being well kept out by the Breck ‘keeper.
The game settled down a little for the next ten minutes or so until the winner arrived with just a few minutes left on the clock and what a strike it was! A free-kick was awarded around 35-yards out and with the keeper well off his line and stranded, Paul Mooney saw his opportunity and took a quick one. The ball looped over the back-tracking home custodian and into the net to secure Breck the win in this clash. Full-Time, 1-2 and the Liverpool side took the bragging rights in this friendly rivalry.
With taxi again sorted out prior to the end of the match, our group headed back outside and were soon back in the town centre. Here, Mark left us to head on home, while Zach, Gibbo and myself headed on to the first of Oldham’s two Wetherspoons, the Squire Knott before Zach would bid us farewell before we went onwards to the Up Steps Inn, which is the better of the two in my opinion, with it having a few little booths to separate you from the usual chaos!
Upon finishing up our Punk IPA’s, I decided I still wanted to head to the Ashton Arms, the pub I’d had to leave out of my pre-match plans. Also, it was just around the corner from the tram stop, so it was to here we’d head for the final stop-off of the day while watching Leigh lose in the rugby to some French outfit. I didn’t really care. Anyway, after our final pint in here, it was time to leave Oldham and it had been a surprisingly good day in the town.
After originally agreeing to Gibbo’s suggestion of a further pint out in Manchester, I came to my senses and decide this probably wasn’t quite the best idea and so I remained on the tram back towards home before switching onwards to the bus back while trying to stave off the inevitable spectre of sleep as I went. Luckily, I was successful in my quest!
All in all, as I said earlier, a much better day than I’d previously expected in the run-up to the game had been had. Oldham as a town is decent enough pub-wise and it was good to catch-up with the guys who I’d either not met up with for a while, nor met before at all. A new ground allied to this meant a fine start to the season and now it’s onwards to the Bradford derby clash on Saturday….
Value For Money: 8