Result: Cadbury Athletic Reserves 1-4 Gresley Reserves (Midland League Division 4/Reserves)
Venue: Bournville Recreation Ground (Saturday 28th December 2019, 2pm)
The final Saturday of 2019 saw me without a nailed on game once again. I’m not used to this freedom! With the weather again something of a factor, I was obviously on the lookout for an early bit of confidence to emanate from some parts of the country. Now, I’d been looking at doing Bournville – somewhat famed in ‘hopping circles – for quite some time, and this had only grown as I became more familiar with the ground as a….well, ground, i.e. more than just a pitch. As luck would have it, the Bournville Rec looked to be all set to go, as Cadbury Athletic’s Reserve side – who currently are the major side here with the first time in exile just down the road – saying the pitch was in good nick and all set for play. So no time like the present then. To Bournville it was!
A pretty problem free journey saw me heading through Manchester and to Birmingham New Street, arriving at a little before midday. Unfortunately missing an earlier connection by mere seconds, the frequency of the service meant this mattered little, the short hop to the purple giant’s suburb taking just the 10 or so minutes. Alighting in the shadow of the Cadbury factory (which I neglected to get a picture of for some unknown reason), I took a left turn out of the station and headed for the main road through the village. Well it actually turned out to be the adjoining Stirchley, but close enough!
I began with a walk towards the far end of the road, where I was expecting to come across the Three Horseshoes. This I did, but I found it closed and within a state of flux – a sign outside stating it was to reopen under a different name shortly. To be honest, it didn’t look to be the case, but let’s hope I’m wrong. Anyhow, I returned back to the group of three bars that populate the area just a few minutes from the station itself, beginning with the rather grandiose British Oak. This pub looked like it was going to be more of your Carling, Fosters etc. establishment, and to a point it was. However, it was also home to a decent number of craft ales and the like, with me opting for a pint of the fine Clwb Tropicana (£5.20) – a hark back to my Millennium Stadium visit earlier in the year.
Watching a bit of the South Coast Derby clash between Brighton and AFC Bournemouth here, I soon finished up and crossed over the way to the Cask & Cage. This was a fairly strange set-up, offering Turkish dishes in a micropub-designed place, whilst having said micropub beers on offer. It felt a bit weird having a family lunch on one side as I sat in with a pint, although they left soon after, clearly not wanting this borderline alcoholic to give the kids any ideas! A pint of the Mancunian Cloudwater Pale Ale (at £5 and which I found to be similar to the Clwb strangely enough) was the tipple of choice here, whilst I scouted out any other possibilities. Be aware – it’s card only in here.
Bournville is a model village in the southern outskirts of Birmingham and is best known for its connection to the much mentioned Cadbury chocolate company. Historically a part of Worcestershire, it is also now a ward in the Selly Oak constituency and was even named as “one of the nicest places to live” in 2003. The area began as little more than a few farmhouses, cottages and the larger Bournbrook Hall, whilst parts of the ancient forest of Arden and Roman remnants have been found nearby. Upon the purchase of the area by the Quaker Cadbury siblings, they moved their factory from central Birmingham to allow for further expansion of their business, and required somewhere that would have good links by both rail and canal. Thus, the area that was to become Bournville was earmarked, with the future Birmingham West Suburban Railway being an obvious plus for them and it was already served by Stirchley Street station too. It gets its name from the nearby river Bourn and the French “ville” which, for anyone familiar with any kind of French language, shouldn’t need explaining!
The Cadbury workers were treated well by all accounts and the model village was cultivated to “alleviate the evils of modern, cramped living conditions”, which, to be fair, the brothers had a point about! Growing up slowly pre-World War One, it would go on to set the blueprint for the model villages of the future to follow, though completely unacceptably, there are no pubs due to the Quaker beliefs of the Cadbury’s. Terrible. However, this has been (apparently) rectified somewhat as the Rowheath pavilion is now licensed. Gw’arn! The pavilion, alongside which the recreation ground sits, held balls and the like, whilst the usage of the grounds were at no charge to those working for the business. In 1900, the Bournville Village Trust was set up to independently control the estate’s development and focussed on public amenities and to later oversee the in-keeping with its conservation area status, whilst Cadbury maintains its status as a large force both on the skyline and on the workforce.
The station, Bournville, is separate from the others, in that it’s painted purple, over the usual corporate WMR colours. The Worcester and Birmingham canal towpath can be joined straight from the station platform. Bournville has also been home to, along with the Cadbury family, “Hero of the Holocaust” recipient Bertha Bracey, suffragette and trade unionist, Julia Varley and actress Felicity Jones; whilst Cadbury Athletic has aided in the development of footballers like Daniel Sturridge, Ryan Burge, Corey O’Keefe and Demarai Gray – two of whom hold Premier League winners’ medals.
Options, as expected, were low on the ground and after an attempt at an art gallery/cafe-bar (I kid you not) was unfruitful, I decided to make my way to the Attic Brewery – one of those modern ones set up within an industrial unit. Having seen it wasn’t open for another half-hour past its scheduled opening time, another attempt at the gallery thing was again brought up a whole lot of nothing, and so I returned back to the industrial estate once again, whereupon I settled in with a pint of the brilliantly named Bob’s Revenge Pale Ale (£4.50). Lovely it was too, so whatever Bob wasn’t pleased about, he’s done a good job in getting his own back. Maybe; depending on his intentions….
Time had ticked down towards the 2pm kick off time and after a five minute walk, I passed by the entrance to the Cadbury factory and came within sight of the fine pavilion that Bournville is home to. The sides were just heading out onto the field as I arrived and the pitch was, as promised, in fine fettle. The Recreation Ground is kind of a throwback. It shares a cricket outfield, though is flanked on the near side by a decently sized open terrace, with a larger set between the entrance and pavilion. The opposite side is where the cricket square is roped off, with the far end hosting open, hard standing, though may have been off limits, but I wasn’t aware and it hasn’t stopped me before anyway. Oooh, what a rebel! That’s pretty much that really for the Rec and with it being a Reserves game, I wouldn’t usually do a history lesson. However, with it unlikely to be revisited for the first team, let’s get on with the show!
Cadbury Athletic Football Club was founded in 1994 and are, of course, usually decked out in the purple and white colours associated with the company’s branding. However, a Bournville Athletic side did compete in the Birmingham Combination from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, winning six straight titles between 1898 and 1903. Back to Cadbury, and the club were admitted into the Midland Combination’s Division Three and were promoted at the end of their first season, despite finishing in 9th. They remained in Division 2 until 2001, where a 4th placed finish was enough to secure promotion up to Division One, whilst the club also picked up their first piece of silverware in the form of the Midland Combination’s Challenge Vase, with a 1-0 victory over Rugby Town. In 2005, Cadbury finished as runners-up in Division One to reach the Premier Division of the Midland Combination and they would remain in situ through to 2012, whereupon they resigned from the division – despite finishing 12th – and voluntarily took the drop back to Division One.
Despite losing out in the next season’s President’s Cup Final, this drop in divisions would prove fruitful in 2014, as Cadbury lifted the Division One title in the Combination’s final season, ahead of its merger with the Midland Alliance to form the Midland League. Despite their previous year’s title win, Cadbury were placed in the Division One here too and they have remained there through to this day, finishing last season in a solid 8th position, now playing just down the road in King’s Norton, having been forced into a move from Bournville due to a lack of floodlights. However, the Reserves continue on within the factory grounds, where they began life at the turn of the millennium, mirroring the first team’s origins by starting in the Midland Combination’s Division 3. They were immediately promoted to Division 2 after a 6th placed finish, and remained there through to (I assume) the first team’s voluntary drop and it seems the reserves joined the Reserve Division 2 and won the Challenge Urn in 2013, ahead of the league merger a year later.
Now in the Midland League, the Reserves finished up third in the Reserve Division 2, with the divisions being merged together into a single division for the following year. That season, 2015-’16, saw the reserves lift the Birmingham Saturday Amateur Cup with a penalty shoot-out win over Peugeot Millpool and when the Reserve Division was again re-designated for 2016-’17, as the long-winded Division 4/Reserve, they again secured a third placed finish. However, they struggled to 10th (second bottom) last season and have had something of a ‘hit-and-miss’ start to this campaign.
The game got going and within the first sixty seconds we had the opener, Gresley getting swiftly forward and giving the ball to James Shakespeare, who curled a fine effort around the Cadbury ‘keeper from around 20 yards out. A great start, and Gresley were almost two up shortly afterwards, when some good build-up play allowed Nathan Bowen a sight of goal, but he was denied by a fine stop from the home gloveman. Cadbury would respond, with good work by Deon Colstock forcing an eventual corner, from which the resulting delivery was headed over by John Baker. An exciting start and it belied the fact that this was, apparently, supposed to be the two sides’ reserves!
Gresley still maintained the slight upper hand over their hosts during the first 45 as a whole, and after Bowen had shown some good strength to force his way into a shooting opportunity, he’d have been somewhat frustrated to direct the effort wide of the mark. His strike partner, Shakespeare, who’d struck in the early seconds then wasted a fine chance to make it two, and was almost punished as Cadbury went right down the other end, but Baker’s attempt lacked conviction and resulted in a pretty comfortable stop for the Gresley stopper.
Cadbury though they had levelled it with around ten minutes to the break, when a challenge on the visiting ‘keeper led to him dropping the ball, and it being slotted in, but the officials adjudged him to have been fouled. However, to me anyway, it looked as though he may have got a little lucky, as he seemed to be mis-controlling the cross before contact was made; and if Athletic weren’t in the best mood after that, then they would go in fuming at the break. The visitors attacked, Gresley’s front two linked-up well, with Bowen unselfishly squaring for Shakespeare to side-foot home into the largely unguarded net.
So it stood at 2-0 come the break and I wasted the ten minutes or so of half-time by wandering just around the corner and into the centre of Bournville itself – or what there is of it anyway. The entrance to Cadbury World wasn’t in any great use today either, and I was able to cross both ways in short order without the threat of being run over, which may not always be the case come the summer time, perhaps? Anyway, the sides were just getting underway as I walked back around to the pavilion entrance and Cadbury nearly got back into it almost immediately after the start, when Stuart Butcher outmuscled his defender and got something of an effort away, but the Gresley ‘keeper was able to block it out and onto the post. A close call.
Colstock went close shortly afterwards as the hosts strove to get back into the game and, as the bells behind the far goal began to replace Christmas Carols with ABBA’s “Supertrooper” for some unknown reason, a low ball in by Baker was turned in from close range by #10, Joe Busst, and it was game on! However, it looked as though the goal just arose Gresley from a half-way slumber and they began to gain a foothold once more – #11 forcing the Cadbury ‘keeper into another good stop, before a long ball by the Gresley ‘keeper looked to be heading to his opposite number directly, and with no danger seeming to be imminent, I looked away for a split second….
It was then I heard some excitement I hadn’t expected and glanced up just in time to see Bowen knocking the ball into the net with no-one near him and the ‘keeper accepting the blame for whatever the hell had just happened. For whom the bell tolls, I suppose?! This setback seemed to rouse Cadbury just as their strike had done for Gresley, and both Butcher and Baker (almost sound like a comedy duo) were both superbly denied by the visiting ‘keeper who, it has to be said, had a fine game between the sticks. Unfortunately, I can only link the scorers with their numbers for Gresley, so I don’t know who he is. (NB: I’ve since been informed by “Clive” that this was 16-year-old Charlie Leak. I look forward to seeing his progress over the coming years (God, I feel old!).
Soon after the fact, a poor ball gifted Gresley possession in the midfield, and the ball was slotted through to Bowen, who calmly slotted home to make it 4-1, a score that was somewhat harsh on Cadbury, though Gresley had, for the most part, taken their chances when they had come along. The home side would go close on a couple more occasions before the final whistle, a goalkeeper clearance being charged down, and the ball ricocheting wide, along with a drive from Dan Shea also being tipped over by said custodian, but the whistle would go to ensure the points would be heading back to the Moat Ground.
Upon the final whistle, I beat a hasty retreat under the railway and back to the main road, where the third of the trio mentioned earlier on was now open. Another micropub style place, the Wildcat Tap was certainly more of the usual in this respect, a good range of ales on offer too. Again, I stuck true to my roots with a Pomona Island Pale Ale (£3.90) before taking up a tip I’d picked up on twitter – that being that the newsagent next to the station was an off-licence, and with the offerings not exactly plentiful, I thought I’d give it a go. A Kopparberg was eventually decided upon, before a war between me and the bottle top ensued, my opener key ring isn’t exactly the best, it has to be said!
The journey back allowed me to catch the original train I’d hoped to catch in planning, before the one from Bournville was cancelled, so an earlier return from New Street home was more than welcome. The remainder of the journey was smooth sailing and, for the first time in what seems like an age, I’d had a trouble free trip. What is this sorcery?! Anyway, it had been a good day at a long-time target of mine. It’s certainly something a bit different and well worth a visit. The game quality was better than I expected too, but despite the few pubs being superb, the area itself was a bit of a let down in this respect (look, look, I’m being negative!). All things considered, though, the positives outweighed the negatives for sure (well, that lasted long). Onto New Year’s Day and, fingers crossed it isn’t a repeat of last year’s drab, drab beginning….
Value For Money: 7