Result: Tamworth 4-0 Leiston (FA Trophy 1st Qualifying Round)
Venue: The Lamb Ground (Saturday 26th October 2019, 3pm)
Another weekend of action in the FA competitions rolled around, with this one seeing the FA Trophy version of the ‘Road to Wembley’ move on a step closer to finals day under the arch. But this weekend’s weather would throw all plans out of the window – even going as far as to threaten any chance of seeing a game at all. However, persistence pays off on occasion and this, thankfully, was one of those days. Although, this would be a plan made on the fly and all quite last minute at that, as flooding, delays, cancellations and postponements all played their part in one way or another.
Eventually deciding to play it safe and make headings to Tamworth’s 3G Lamb Ground pitch, on account of the likelihood of a call off of my planned game at Radcliffe (which soon came to fruition), I made my way into Manchester and jumped on one of the delayed, rammed trains headed for Euston. My plan was to get to Crewe and then grab the connecting service down to Tamworth and, with a good twenty minutes in hand, my split ticketing theory (which saved about a fiver) would all go smoothly. I did catch the train without issue, though the delays reduced that 20 minute bracket down to just four – a sprint through the station underpass seeing me catch it just in the nick of time. Regardless, I was on my way, safely, to Tamworth where the flooding, that had apparently been prevalent earlier in the morning, had now seemingly subsided.
I arrived into the station’s lower-level platforms at a little before 12.30pm and after traversing the steps up and down again from the high level station, I made my way towards the town centre’s hostelries, whilst making a note of the Albert pub, not too far from the station entrance itself, as I went. I arrived at the narrow high-street-like area ten minutes walk later, and first came upon the small, unassuming taphouse by the name of the King’s Ditch. The downstairs area is more akin to a small front room, though now complete with tables and a bar in the corner, whilst the barrels are shown on a screen, so you can watch your drink being poured ‘while you wait’; different! I opted for a pint of the Shipley Brewery’s Harvest Muse Pale Ale (£3.60) before heading over the way to the Globe….though not before a few guys in with me blamed my exit on their acquaintance’s ‘boring conversation’!
The Globe was packed full, with quite a number seemingly having been out and about watching England make the World Cup Final a few hours earlier, and space was definitely at a premium. Unfortunately for me, I arrived just at the point where another guy was seemingly buying a round for half the place, but my wait wasn’t extortionate if I’m honest and I settled in to watch the remainder of the first half of City-Villa over a pint of Hop House 13 (£3.90). Thankfully, the rain began to abate during my brief abode in the Globe, which meant my hopes to pay a visit to Tamworth Castle just across the town centre were definitely becoming more positive as the minutes went by. As such, I bypassed the other couple of pubs in the centre and continued castle-wards before coming across the interestingly named ‘Crafty Two’. However, upon entry, I found the small bar to be rather bare, with not much on tap or draught to choose from. As such, I opted to sup at a bottle of Blue Moon (£3.70ish) and it was as I took it into my grasp that I saw the blackboard outlining all the options they did have along the way. The lesson here is to always take in your full surroundings.
Tamworth is a Borough and large market town in Staffordshire, standing to the North East of Birmingham and derives its name from the River Tame that flows through it. Upon the arrival of the Romans, the area around Tamworth and the Trent Valley was already home to the British Coritani tribe, and evidence of Roman building materials in the area suggest it held some importance, lying close, as it did, to the Roman Wartling Street Road and larger town of Letocetum. Following the Roman departure, the area fell under the rule of Anglo-Saxon peoples, likely the displaced Angles. The flood victims found their way to an “open meadow by the Tame” and christened it as such – Tomworðig, whilst also creating an enclosed estate named Tomtun, which was fortified by palisade walls. These people then named themselves as the Tame settlers, or Tomsaete.
They became more wealthy and Tomtown became ever more fortified due to their fighting tendencies, though their success led them to become the dominant force around the Midlands. This later would become the Kingdom of Mercia and Tamworth became the Royal Centre under King Penda and then the capital under King Offa, due to its far larger size and importance over any other nearby settlements. It was the ideal place for trade too, with it standing at the meeting point of the Tame and Anker rivers,but this also led it to attract unwanted attention and it was sacked and left a ruin by the invading Viking Danes in 874AD. It remained in this state through to 913, when Lady of the Mercians Eathelraed, daughter of King Alfred the Great, rebuilt the town and constructed a burgh to defend it from further raids. This proved successful and she remained there until her death.
An 11th century Norman castle was later constructed on the probable site of the earlier Anglo-Saxon Fort, with Tamworth becoming a market town during the 1300’s and being granted Royal charters to hold fair celebrations due to its history as the Saxon seat. Sadly, much of the town burnt in a 1345 fire, but was soon rebuilt once more. James I, the first Stuart King, visited Tamworth Castle in 1619, though this was later besieged during the English Civil War by Parliamentarian forces in 1643. Capturing it, the order was given to destroy, though this was, for whatever reason, not carried out.
The next few centuries saw Tamworth continue to grow in size and stature and the railway arrival of the 18 & 1900’s only proved to aid this, with both mainlines meeting there, and it was linked to the canal system by the Coventry Canal. Victorian PM Sir Robert Peel was MP of the town and later came up with the modern idea of the police force – lending his name to the “Bobbies”. In more modern times, Tamworth switched from its 19th century gas lighting to electric in 1924 and continued to grow around wartime as an overspill for influx of peoples in the West Midlands. It became home to the Reliant car factory, famed for its three-wheeled Robin, and the more racy Scimitar.
The drizzle returned once more as I departed the Crafty Two and so I dove into the nearby White Lion, which lies on the road junction just a couple of minutes down the road from the castle and its surrounding gardens. This seemed to be one of the cheaper places on offer in the town, a pint of the ‘new’ Carlsberg Pilsner coming in at the wallet-pleasing £2.50, though my stay would prove brief, as time began to go against me. Following this, I arrived into the market area of the town which housed a couple of my target pubs – a Joules’ place, the Market Tavern and the Tamworth Brewing Co. – where I indulged in a Joules’ Pale Ale (£3.60) and rather large bottle of Aspalls Cider (£5) before finally making haste ground-wards….but not before a visit to the castle, of course. Going up and down as swiftly as the Grand Old Duke of York, I then navigated the gardens below and crossed the rather swollen Tam before the Lamb Ground’s floodlights began to come into view.
Soon after crossing a dual carriageway, I found myself arriving into a sprawling car park and leisure centre complex and couldn’t find my way out of it. Shock, I know. As it was, I found a few guys with football shirts on and thought I’d follow them to the ground….until I spied what I thought, in my unequalled wisdom, was a shortcut across an area of grass. Now, considering how much rain there’d been and the length of the grass that lay just the other side of the waterway bridge, there really should have been an appropriate amount of warning signs there to point out that this was probably not the smartest idea. However, my brain thought differently to any relatively smart person and I soon found myself wading (no exaggeration) through what seemed like shin-like hidden puddles within this waterlogged piece of hell.
Finding a bit of refuge in the tarmac jungle of another underpass, I soon came upon the main entrance of the Lamb Ground and I made my way to the club shop where I’d seen that programmes were on sale. This visit also gave me the opportunity to try and get some sympathy for my watery misadventures, though they didn’t seem all too sincere….if they existed at all! Anyway, I digress; after picking up a ‘bible’ for £1.50, I made my around the other side of the ground and to the turnstiles at the bottom of a street I’d come across on Maps during my peruse of possible ‘ticks’ during the week. This all went fine and dandy and after paying £12 on the gate and receiving a paper ticket in exchange, I entered into ground 323 – Tamworth’s Lamb Ground home, which is a mix of both old and new, though even the newer bits actually lend themselves to its overall charm.
Both ends house terracing, though only the ‘near’ end is covered, the larger ‘far’ end being left open to the elements. Down one side runs a covered standing area, onto which the clubhouse/food bar backs onto, the entrance to both found at the far side of it – in the gap between this stand and the open terrace. Meanwhile, an all-seater stand runs the majority of the opposite side, with a small bit of open standing on either side, the tunnel, dressing rooms and other amenities) including an additional food trailer located around here too. The 3G pitch does take away from the overall look and feel of the ground as a whole of course, but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives – especially so on days like today. As with Buxton, you feel these will become the norm at some point in the not-too-distant future and, to be honest, they play far, far better than their predecessors ever did. Grass is always preferable, of course, but I don’t have the resistance to the artificial surfaces that some others do, indeed a number of higher-level pitches are already (as I understand) hybrids of the two. Anyway, before I fully ramble, here’s the story of Tamworth FC….
Tamworth Football Club was founded in 1933, following the demise of predecessor Tamworth Castle, with the new club originally taking up residence at the Jolly Sailor Ground prior to moving to their current Lamb Ground home after just one year at the Jolly Sailor. They began playing in the Birmingham Combination from their formation, where they won their first silverware in the form of the 1937 Bass Charity Cup (which, incidentally, Castle had won a decade earlier) and went on to join the West Midlands League (re-named the Birmingham League in 1963) during the 1950’s. The following decade saw Tamworth win two Birmingham League titles – in 1964 & ’66 respectively – whilst the club would also add the West Midlands League Cup (1965,’66), Birmingham Senior Cup (1961, ’66 & ’69) and Staffordshire Senior Cup (1959, ’64, ’66) to their honours roll during the same 10-year span. 1972 saw Tamworth promoted to the Southern League, though their stay here would only yield poor attendances and financial issues, with these eventually leading to the club returning back into the West Midlands League once more in 1985.
The club had seemingly not been helped by being moved around from the Southern League’s Division One North to the Northern Premier League in 1983, and back to the Southern League’s Midland Division four years later, but a change in ownership saw fortunes (no pun intended) change for the better. The club again won the league in 1988 to return back to the Southern League ranks, where 1997 saw the Lambs take the Midland Division title and win promotion to the Premier Division, a position they’d hold through to 2002 (despite a near miss the year before) and their achieving promotion to the Football Conference as Southern League champions. That season also saw the Lambs end as FA Trophy runners-up to Burscough. Before that, however, Tamworth had added their first major cup silverware to their cabinet in the form of the 1989 FA Vase, the club overcoming Sudbury Town 3-0 in a replay at London Road – after the original game at Wembley had ended 1-1, lifted two further West Midlands League Cups – in 1986 & 1988 respectively – and two Harry Godfrey Trophies in 1994 & 1997.
After a spell of two matches with Paul Merson in the playing squad ahead of his 2006 retirement, Tamworth were spared the drop at the end of that year due to Canvey Island’s demotion, though didn’t make the most of this sparing, the club being relegated the very next season to the Conference North – though the FA Cup proved a somewhat happier hunting ground, with the Lambs reaching the 3rd round in both seasons. A poor initial season in 2007-’08 yielded only a 15th place finish, though the next campaign was far more successful and ended with Tamworth returning back to the Conference Premier as Conference North champions. They would go on to spend five-years back in non-league’s top-tier, and despite another 3rd Round FA Cup appearance at Everton in 2012, relegation back to the Conference North was suffered in 2014. Here they remained through to 2018, when relegation back to the Southern League saw the club in the ‘Premier Central’, where they finished last season in a seemingly disappointing 12th position.
The game began with Tamworth quickly asserting themselves as the likely dominant force going forward. A few chances came and went during the first ten minutes, with Tyrell Waite being the main threat, his best sight of goal being a shot that deflected wide off of a centre-half. Despite their dominance, it would take until the stroke of the half-hour for the hosts to finally break the deadlock; James Fry becoming the creator moments after firing narrowly wide. On this occasion, he advanced into the space in front of him before sliding in Rhys Hoenes who gleefully rounded Leiston ‘keeper Charlie Beckwith and slotted home. 1-0 the Lambs.
As the half continued on into the final 15 minutes, Leiston were finally able to attempt some kind of threat to the Lambs’ goal, but stout defending saw the shot cleared before it troubled Jasbir Singh between the sticks. This then allowed Tamworth to double their advantage as I awaited my chips and curry from the food trailer, when Waite used his pace to rush on through the visiting back-line and wrongfooted Beckwith, rounding him and sliding into the net via the desperate lunge of a defender on the line. Joe Magunda also went close just before the break, when he headed over at the back-post following a corner, but the score remained 2-0 through to the break.
Following a visit to the clubhouse for a dual case of a warm and dry, it was soon time to head back out onto the terraces for the second half, which again Tamworth began on the front foot. The impressive Waite fired over after good walk by #10, before Dan Creaney made it three, when he met a Jordan Clement free-kick in the inclement conditions (eh?!, eh?!….oh, ok then) and directed his header into the net via the inside of the far post. Waite was mightily unlucky soon after, when his fizzing drive cannoned over off the crossbar, whilst fellow winger Hoenes was denied by the upright after he’d executed a quick free-kick and one-two.
Bilal Yafai’s curiling effort was kept out by an acrobatic Beckwith, whilst the experienced Singh was eventually forced into some kind of action as the clock ticked on, the Lambs’ ‘keeper having to be watchful in the conditions to keep out Mason Sinclair’s long-range drive. But it would be, rather fittingly considering the gulf in the play, Tamworth who would add gloss to their victory late on; Waite’s replacement Delano Reid seeing his ball in met by Creaney, who diverted the ball past Beckwith for number four. Full-time arrived shortly afterwards with the game as one-sided, if not more so, than the score-line suggested. That’s not to say Leiston were hammered, though, they just never really made an impression on Tamworth’s back five.
Post-match, I returned back to the high-street area and to the first of two pubs I’d earmarked on my way ground-wards. I’d been spurned first time around by the Sir Robert Peel due to it being closed past its usual opening time, though it was in full flow by the time my second attempt had come around. Probably the nicest in the way of traditional pubs I visited during my Tour de Tamworth, the Bobby Peel yielded a swift Dark Fruits (£3.70~) as time remained at a premium, before I returned station-wards to the Albert I passed on my arrival earlier in the afternoon. A bottle of Desperados (£3.60) was had prior to the train, which was a little delayed anyway as it turned out, so the rush wasn’t as needed as I’d expected. A bit of a doze back to Crewe passed the time on that leg of the return trip, with the connection at Crewe being swift and easy, and I was back in Manchester by a little after 8pm and home half an hour later or so.
Can’t complain with the day as a whole in the end, though the game was rather one-sided and the weather a bit….well, shit, the Lamb Ground itself was nice to finally tick from my ‘wanted’ list and Tamworth a decent little town too with a number of nice drinking holes to visit. Up next is my first addition to my ’92’ quest of the season (in November, no less), as I come down to a bridge, although I’m not certain that’s quite in the correct tense….
Programme: 5 (Cut-back issue, I guess?)
Value For Money: 6