The Manchopper Awards 2016-’17

Well, here we are again. Eventually. After a season consisting of 65 games (I know, a real cut-back this one), over 10 whole months, within three countries (nothing too exotic though!) and at levels from Premier League right down to the lower levels of amateur football on the public fields, it’s time to nominate and indeed award the good, the bad and the downright ugly of this last footballing year, as well as the stranger goings on that have cropped up here and there!

Whether it be attending the soon to be flattened White Hart Lane or standing on the touchline at Flixton Fields; from Ladybridge FC at the start of July through to Turton FC at the beginning of May, there have been things that have been seen and heard that deserve some recognition, not to mention some of the things overheard in the many “locals” I’ve popped into here and there!!

So, here you have it; Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, here’s the cream of the crop from Manchopper’s Ventures 2016-’17…

*All players/teams considered must have been seen by myself during this season*

Celebrity/Former Player Random Appearance of the Season:

Nominees: Paul Dickov (at Lostock Gralam vs AFC Macclesfield) Timmy Mallett (at Middlesbrough vs Oxford Utd), Alan Kennedy (at Huddersfield Town vs Preston North End)

Winner: Paul Dickov. As the only person at a game whilst not involved in a half-time on-pitch draw, Dickov gets the nod on this award, which is surely a bigger memorable moment than the play-off goal.

Meeting Paul Dickov. Top Guy!

Cuisine of the Season:

Nominees: Middlesbrough’s Parmo, Clitheroe’s Pie, Whalley Range’s chips with chilli sauce on, Gretna’s Scotch Pie.

Winner: Parmo. I’d heard good things. They were true. The parmo is superb.

Its Parmo-O’Clock!

Clubhouse of the Season:

Nominees: Penycae, Turton, Skelmersdale Utd, Farsley Celtic, Witton Albion.

Winner: Witton Albion. Top clubhouse here. Triples up as a shop and a DJ booth!

Witton’s Clubhouse

City/Town/Village/Hamlet/other place of the Season:

Nominees: Ramsbottom, Tadcaster, York, Boston, Edinburgh.

Winner: Edinburgh. What a place. Enjoyed all the above, but the Scottish Capital is a great city.

Edinburgh

Worst Weather Experience of the Season:

Nominees: Beechfield United

Winner: What a shock, it’s Beechfield United. The only really poor weather I’ve experienced this year left all there damp and cold.

Strangest Moment of the Season:

Nominees: Discovering & watching a game at Millmoor, Light knocked off stand at Gretna, The 90-minute nil-nil at Charnock Richard (how?).

Winner: Visiting Millmoor. It was all a bit eerie and, for sure, a strange experience.

Millmoor

Welcome of the Season:

Nominees: Heyside, Richmond

Winner: Has to be a tie! Can’t split them and wouldn’t wish to!

Dan enjoyed Heyside’s hospitality.

My hospitality at Richmond!

 

Individual Performance of the Season:

Nominees: Jake Pollard (PARTINGTON vs Sale Ams), Tom Heaton (BURNLEY vs Manchester Utd), Jordan Gidley (BARNOLDSWICK vs Charnock R), Rick Tindall (POYNTON vs Eagle Sports), Connor Ripley (OLDHAM vs Port Vale)

Winner: Tom Heaton. Included the ‘Match of the Day’ “save of the season” as Heaton denied Ibrahimovic. The ‘keeper faced a record amount of attempts against his former club and still came away with a point and a clean sheet.

Heaton during a game last season.

Team Performance of the Season:

Nominees: Partington Rovers (vs Sale Amateurs), Curzon Ashton (vs York City), Leicester City (vs Manchester City), Old Ashtonians (vs Whalley Range), Altrincham (vs Boston United), Mold Alexandra (vs Caernarfon Town)

Winner: Old Ashtonians. With only ten men for the full ninety against title chasers Whalley Range, Old Ashtonians pushed them close before falling narrowly short. Great effort.

Old Ashtonians trying to hold out

Fans of the Season:

Nominees: Curzon Ashton, Oxford United, Colne

Winner: Curzon Ashton. It’s a second straight win for the Nash boys from the Nash Bar.

Curzon fans after the equaliser at Westfields

Programme of the Season:

Nominees: Charnock Richard, Boston Utd, FC Halifax Town, Ramsbottom Utd, Winsford Utd

Winner: FC Halifax Town. Still holds up with some football league clubs, as it should. But it’s a good issue nonetheless and the best I came across this year.

The Shay

Ground of the Season:

Nominees: Leek Town’s Harrison Park, Witton Albion’s Wincham Park, Boston Utd’s York Street, Colne’s Holt House, Turton’s Thomason Fold.

Winner: Turton’s Thomason Fold. It’s fairly basic, but it’s a gem. Just remember to watch the grass around the pitch!

Goal of the Season:

Nominees: Alex Murphy (PADIHAM vs Team NorthumbriaJosh Wilson (Ramsbottom Utd vs AFC TELFORD UTD), Chris Thompson (RICHMOND vs Liobians), Joe Gaughan (Charnock R vs BARNOLDSWICK T), Mark Adams (CHARNOCK R vs Barnoldswick T), Wes Benjamin (WITTON ALBION vs Kettering Town), Nathan Craig (Mold Alex vs CAERNARFON TOWN).

Winner: Witton Albion’s Wes Benjamin. Benjamin’s strike just pips it on account of it being a last-kick winner. And what a winner too.

Witton celebrations after the late winner!

Match of the Season:

Nominees: Tadcaster Albion vs Scarborough Ath, Leek Town vs Kettering Town, Middlesbrough vs Oxford Utd, Huddersfield vs Preston NE, Farsley Celtic vs Ossett Town.

Winner: Huddersfield Town vs Preston NE. A pulsating game saw the hosts take the points in the last-minute and, of course, they would go on to secure a play-off spot before taking a place at English football’s top table for next season.

Quaner sends the home fans crazy (bar the guy nearest the camera)!

Team of the Season:

Nominees: Curzon Ashton, Charnock Richard, Witton Albion, Huddersfield Town, Windle Labour

Winner: Pro: Huddersfield Town Non-Lge: Windle Labour. Huddersfield’s season was brilliant, with them bouncing back from a lower-end finish to achieve promotion to the Premier League. Windle’s was, perhaps, less spectacular, but to join the Cheshire League for a first season at the level and win the League’s League 2 is no mean feat. Congrats to both.

Player of the Season:

Nominees: Tom Heaton (Burnley), Rick Tindall, Connor Ripley (Oldham (loan)), Danny Rowe (Fylde), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)

Winner: Connor Ripley (Oldham (loan)). Twice I saw him and twice he had great games. I also heard his double pen save from nearby Royton Town too, and played a huge part in keeping the Latics up. So he pips all the above to the honour. Big things lie ahead for him I’d say.

And that’s that for this season’s award. Congratulations to all those who have achieved one of these prestigious “Chopper” awards. Also, they’re very easy to accommodate on your mantelpiece as they take up exactly zero space! See you all again next year for the fourth “Chopper Awards” ceremony….

 

The 2015/’16 Manchopper Awards!

So, after a season consisting of 87 completed games, spanning 11 months and taking in grounds in all manner of places and surroundings within three (sort of four) countries and at all levels, it’s time the honour the best, the worst, the weird and the wonderful of my travels over the past season.

From Bedians in July to Soccer Aid in June and whether on the pitch or off it, there have certainly been some memorable moments and characters & both new and old friends have been made/re-acquainted during my ventures and the awards celebrate the most brilliant, or sometimes otherwise, of all the experiences & escapades that have occurred. So without further ado… Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys and Girls the very best of Season 2015-’16… Manchopper Style….

The Non-Soccer Aid Celebrity/Famed Footballer Appearance of the Season:

The Nominees: Alan Smith, Rene Meulensteen, Paul Scholes, Assortment of managers at Bury-Barnsley.

Winner: RENE MEULENSTEEN (on a grass hill at Rudheath Social)!!

Renee Meulensteen. Spotted. Suffered umbrella issues.

Renee Meulensteen. Suffered umbrella issues.

Best Cuisine of the Season:

The Nominees: Hucknall Rolls’ BBQ Hot-Dog, Thackley’s chips, FC United’s Steak Pie, Nelson’s Pie, Prescot’s curry.

Winner: PRESCOT CABLES CURRY!! (I’m sure others will attest to this, wonderful!)

No food pic, so here's Cables' Clubhouse

No food pic, so here’s Cables’ Clubhouse

Clubhouse of the Season:

The Nominees: Prescot Cables, Eagle Sports, Rylands, Ashton Town, Hucknall Rolls Leisure.

Winner: RYLANDS!! (Lovely clubhouse, especially the exterior.)

Rylands Clubhouse. Splendid.

Rylands Clubhouse. Splendid.

Best City/Town/Village/you get the point visited (not including Manchester/Urmston):

The Nominees: Selby, Prestatyn, Coventry, Chorlton, New Mills.

Winner: COVENTRY!! (Not much loved, but a place I enjoyed  visiting fleetingly)

Coventry in the evening

Coventry in the evening

Worst Weather Related Experience of the Season:

The Nominees: Buxton, Ashton United, Garforth, East Manchester, Poynton,

Winner: BUXTON (but all were pretty awful)!!

A bit damp. Worse was to come.

A bit damp. Worse was to come.

Strangest Moment of the Season:

The Nominees: Stirling Albion fans  begin to hate their ‘keeper, “A Crafty Look” at Macclesfield, Game at Cheadle Heath not being abandoned, Everyone loving ‘Pass the Pigs’, The 110-minute referee.

Winner: THE 110 MINUTE REFEREE!! (Kept playing….and playing…and playing…and..)

There he is

There he is

Most Farcical Moment of the Season:

The Nominees: BUXTON – BPA GOING AHEAD, BUXTON – BPA GOING AHEAD, BUXTON – BPA GOI…

Winner: BUXTON – BPA GOING AHEAD!! (Should never have begun. Simple.)

Why are we here? Why? No, honestly, why?

Why are we here? Why? No, honestly, why?

Team Performance of the Season:

The Nominees: Abbey Hey (vs Warrington Town, FA Cup), AFC Fylde (vs Boston Utd, Nat North), Aldershot Town (vs Guiseley, Nat Lge), Retford United (vs Garforth Town, NCELP), Warrington Town (vs Prescot Cables (H), NPLN)

Winner: ABBEY HEY!! (Great performance to KO the eventual NPL North champs)

Great performance by this side.

Great performance by this side.

Individual Performance of the Season:

The Nominees: RCD Mallorca B’s #11 (vs Arenal), Joey Barton (for Burnley vs Brighton & HA), Fabian Speiss (for Boston Utd vs AFC Fylde), Marcus Rashford (for Manchester Utd vs Arsenal), Callum Crane (for Berwick Rangers vs Stirling Albion)

Winner: CALLUM CRANE!! (A great performance by the young on-loan Hibs wing-back)

Match Action

He’s on here somewhere

Fans of the Season:

The Nominees: Northampton Town (at Coventry), Oldham Athletic (at Scunthorpe), Boston United & AFC Fylde (same match), Curzon Ashton (vs Hednesford Town), Warrington Town (vs Prescot Cables)

Winners: CURZON ASHTON!! (An entertaining, loud bunch! Also joined in my jeer).

Curzon fans celebrate the opener

Curzon fans celebrate the opener

Programme of the Season (Non-Lge only):

The Nominees: Guiseley, West Didsbury & Chorlton, Stockport County, Prescot Cables, Warrington Town

Winner: Stockport County!! (Still a league standard programme). Credit to all the above, though.

programmes 1 programmes 2

Ground of the Season:

The Nominees: Prescot Cables’ Hope Street, Ashton Utd’s Hurst Cross, AFC Emley’s Welfare Ground, Thackley’s Dennyfield, West Ham Utd’s Boleyn Ground

Winner: THACKLEY’s DENNYFIELD!! (Not much lauded, but certainly a gem. For me.)

DSC00482

Goal of the Season:

The Nominees: Ash Flynn’s chip (for AFC Emley vs Congleton Town, FA Vase), Ryan McDonagh (Old Strets Reserves) from kick-off, Paul Ennis’ lob (for Hednesford Town at Curzon Ashton), Irlam Steel midfielder’s half-volley (vs Westbury Sports Club), Bersant Celina’s free-kick (for Manchester City u21 vs Norwich u21).

Winner: ASH FLYNN (blogged game) & Ryan McDonagh!! (Both great, so both share the accolade. Congrats.)

Main Stand

As to not repeat pics, here’s AFC Emley’s stand.

Match of the Season:

The Nominees: Curzon Ashton vs Hednesford Town (National North), Manchester Utd vs Arsenal (Premier League), Abbey Hey vs Warrington Town (FA Cup Prelim Rd), AFC Emley vs Congleton Town (2nd Quali Rd), West Didsbury & Chorlton vs Morpeth Town (FA Vase)

Winner: West Didsbury & Chorlton vs Morpeth Town (3-4, FA Vase)!! (The eventual champs throw away a four goal lead, but net a late, late winner).

West go close

Brilliant game.

Team of the Season (based on teams I’ve seen this season & their campaigns):

The Nominees: Prestwich Heys, Warrington Town, Morpeth Town, Northampton Town, Burnley. (Honourable Mentions: Curzon Ashton, West Didsbury & Chorlton, Accrington Stanley)

Winner: PRESTWICH HEYS (Treble-winning Heys get the prize).

Player of the Season (based on performance I watched live & season performance):

The Nominees: Ciaran Kilheeney (Warrington Town), Ash Flynn (AFC Emley), Nic Evangelinos (West Didsbury & Chorlton), Joey Barton (Burnley), Scott Metcalfe (Warrington Town)

Winner: ASH FLYNN (AFC EMLEY)!! (Can you really argue? What an impact!)

Emley's jubilation at 3-1...

Flynn joins in celebrations.

Player I’ve not mentioned yet, but have love for & want to get them in for an award somewhere award:

The Nominees: Joel Melia (Ashton Utd), Brett Ormerod (Bamber Bridge), Sam Freakes (Abbey Hey), Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion), the Eagle Sports Squad and numerous others….

WINNER: ALL OF THE ABOVE!!! (See the title for reasons!)

Champions!

Champions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2014-’15 Manchopper Awards

So, after a season consisting of 106 games, spanning 11 months and taking in grounds in all manner of places and surroundings within three countries and at all levels, it’s time the honour the best, the worst, the weird and the wonderful of my travels over the past season.

From Croston to Crewe, whether on the pitch or off it, there has certainly been some memorable moments and characters & both new and old friends have been made/re-acquainted during my ventures and the awards celebrate the most brilliant, or otherwise, of all the experiences & escapades that have occurred. So without further ado, Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, the very best of Season 2014-’15, Manchopper Style……

The “West Didsbury & Chorlton & Atherton Town” Best Animal Seen Escape In Order To Watch A Game Award:

Winner: The Howe Bridge Horses

Unsurprisingly given the title of this award, there was only one nominee and one result only, just like a FIFA Presidential election involving Sepp Blatter. Congratulations to the horses who escaped and decided to watch over a wall and through a gate. They were left disappointed, I’d presume.

Horses watching the game at Atherton Town

Horses watching the game at Atherton Town

The drunken escapade of the season, sponsored by #lostboyos:

The Nominees: Me at Morecambe & Me At Glan Conwy.

Winner: Me at Glan Conwy

Well, what can I say. After making a horrible mess of a bag at the hands of a Sambuca-fuelled Eagle Sports, I somehow managed to get home after being on the phone to keep myself awake, or I’d have been stranded in Warrington. I parted company with my sunglasses somewhere in the vicinity of Sankey Platform 1. I’ve not been the same since…

wpid-928334_1484582985115011_62161849_n.jpeg

wpid-10570130_557887814315861_1332808263_n.jpeg

The  “Non League Review” best away day of the season:

The Nominees: Barnet, Maine Road, Mottram Hall.

Winner: Barnet

Yes, Barnet was a clear winner of this award. After watching Barnet smash Altrincham for five at the Hive, Stew organised the first, and so far only, NLR Whistle Stop Tour. I was shown all the sights of London, before having some Chinese in A Box. Top day.

wpid-10727396_1534135503497360_2062907354_n.jpeg

wpid-10727708_614461465331227_937981613_n.jpeg

Strangest Venue Of The Season:

The Nominees: Mottram Hall, Gresty Road (NI vs Qatar), Old Trafford (Portugal vs Argentina)

Winner: Mottram Hall.

For as strange as Gresty Road hosting a home international for scheduled 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar was, as well as Old Trafford hosting Argentina vs Portugal, the Messi vs Ronaldo 45-minute non-event, a game in the grounds of the 5* Cheshire hotel, Mottram Hall, tops all. Not to mention that it featured Romanian side Dinamo Bucharest, who were being entertained by none other than Cheadle Town.

2014-06-30 19.23.15 2014-06-30 19.29.51

Most Memorable Day of The Season:

The Nominees: Glan Conwy, Barnet, Northern Ireland vs Qatar

Winner: Northern Ireland vs Qatar

An award for the fixture that has made a late entry into the gongs. All the fans, atmosphere & the day in general, and causing trouble whilst agreeing….

wpid-20150531_184442.jpg

wpid-20150531_184455.jpg

The “Where Do Vics Play?” Award, Sponsored by Football Spoon:

The Nominees: Football Spoon telling me how to pronounce Glasshoughton correctly as to avoid being lynched, Football Spoon laughing at my misfortune at Newcastle Town & Football Spoon informing Trafford FC’s Twitter account of the presence of Northwich Victoria at Valley Road, Flixton.

Winner: Football Spoon helping Trafford to locate clubs in Flixton.

Yes, after Trafford’s account had said it was only Northwich Flixton Villa who played at Valley Road, the Spoon politely informed them of the presence of Vics and also helped remind them they’d played against them a year earlier. He was subsequently blocked. Nice.

wpid-11005004_503783763096214_372679795_n.jpeg

wpid-20150217_210255.jpg

The Matt Harrison Craziest Character of the Season Award:

The Nominees: Neville and er….well no, one beats that!

Winner: Neville.

What can you say about Nev. An absolute legend and one that will live long in the memory of all of us who met him at Chapel-en-le-Frith two weeks before the end of the season. Matt has the knack of attracting these weird and wonderful folk, and he didn’t disappoint on this occasion! Neville. What a hero.

The Manchopper Craziest Team of the Season Award:

The Nominees: Eagle Sports…..And that’s it.

Winner: Eagle Sports.

As I said earlier, the club changed me on that day in Conwy, and it was damn crazy on the whole. Tbh, they’re not completely nuts, per se, but when the alcohol appears, specifically the Sambucca, everything changes. Maybe that’s just my drink-ruined mind talking, though.

Eagle Sports

Best Fans:

The Nominees: FC United, Salford City, Hemel Hempstead Town, Morecambe, Bury u18’s.

Winners: Hemel Hempstead Town.

Yes, The Tudors’ backing were the best I’ve come across this season. I saw them on two occasions, in the FA Cup, and on both occasions they were outstanding. Hemel take this award. King Henry VIII would be very proud.

Okay, onto on pitch matters now, and the best and not so good achievements on the field of play…Remember, this is only teams I’ve seen, so please no threatening messages or abuse, or I’ll send Alan Shearer round with Newcastle tickets. You’ve been warned….

The Hemel Fans complete with drummer

The Hemel Fans complete with drummer

Hemel at Bury

Hemel at Bury

Team Performance of the Season:

The Nominees: Llandridnod Wells (vs Flint), Penlake (vs Golborne), Wythenshawe Town (vs West Dids Res), Chapel Town (vs Walshaw Sports), Altrincham (vs Macclesfield)

Winner: Penlake

In the relegation spots at 3pm, Penlake had to win. They comfortably did so, disposing of Golborne Sports by 9-0, with striker Alex Grisedale netting five times on his way to finishing top scorer. Staying up in style.

wpid-20150523_160857.jpg

Penlake

Individual Performance of the Season:

The Nominees: Alex Grisedale (Penlake), Craig Ellison (Congleton Town), Chris Venables (Aberystwyth Town), Nathan Tyson (Doncaster Rovers), Javi Ramos (Atletico Benamiel)

Winner: Alex Grisedale

Despite the feats of all the above, you can’t ignore someone scoring five in a game to keep his side up, even if he was playing against a depleted side.

Grisedale (#9) in front of shot.

Grisedale (#9) in front of shot.

Best Game of the Season:

The Nominees: Stockport Sports vs Selby Town, Greenalls PSO vs Eagle Sports, Chapel Town vs Walshaw Sports, Droylsden vs Salford City, Northwich Flixton Villa vs Atherton Collieries.

Winner: Northwich Flixton Villa vs Atherton Collieries.

This one just pips Stockport vs Selby to the title, mostly because Stockport no longer exists and the game ended up in a replay after a 5-5 draw anyway. NFV, meanwhile, ended Atherton’s winning run in the league in quite unbelievable circumstances, winning 3-2 after previously being minnows in the league. They remained only mid table, but this was their finest hour.

Goal Of The Season:

The Nominees: The Athletic Fuengirola player (shot from half-way), James Lawrie (Altrincham vs Macclesfield), Joe Clark (Wrexham vs Torquay), Shane Kelsey (1st goal, Shaw Lane vs Glasshoughton), Gaz Meredith (Altrincham Res vs Irlam Res)

Winner: Joe Clark.

Wrexham skipper Joe Clark’s opener in the FA Trophy Semi-Final 1st Leg is well worthy of the award. His 25 yard strike was put into the top corner in a gap the size of a postage stamp. Or, more precisely, a ball. Either way, it was a superb goal, and pips Meredith’s super hit.

wpid-20150221_150224.jpg

wpid-20150221_161055.jpg

Ground Of The Season:

The Nominees: Cefn Druids’ The Rock, Runcorn Town’s Pavilions, Glossop North End’s Surrey Street, Squires Gate’s School Lane, Wrexham’s The Racecourse Ground.

Winner: Cefn Druids.

For pure backdrop and name alone it has to be the Rock. A nice clubhouse also features highly in my memories of the ground in Cefn Mawr. If you Smel…elllllll…ellll..el what The Rock is Cooking!

The Rock.

The Rock.

wpid-20141129_160002.jpg

Most Improved Club (primarily facilities)

The Nominees: Salford City, Wythenshawe Town, Chadderton.

Winner: Salford City.

Yes, the overall appearance and look of the club has changed massively since the “Class of 92″‘s well publicised take over of the club last summer. In my opinion, this is very much for the better, and the benefit of non-league football in general. It adds a bit of something different, as the likes of Darlington and Halifax and FC United do, for differing reasons. So, for me, Salford are well deserving of this.

wpid-20141226_151247.jpg

Moor Lane

Moor Lane

The Manchopper Team of The Season:

The Nominees: Wythenshawe Town, FC United, Glossop North End, Barnet, Rochdale.

Winner: Wythenshawe Town. (Glossop semi-pro award)

As much as you could argue that with the standard of players in comparison it wasn’t as difficult as others, in the case of Wythy, to go a whole season winning every game is some feat. In all competitions, lest we forget. A massive shout for Glossop too, who’s season was quite brilliant. I can’t split the two, really, considering the differing levels in which they play, so both sides can win an award here. If you like, Glossop win the “semi-pro” Team of the Season & Wythenshawe the Amateur award

wpid-20150509_125435.jpgwpid-20150509_145134.jpg

Greg Hall, a vital component of Glossop's campaign.

Greg Hall, a vital component of Glossop’s campaign.

GNE Huddle

GNE Huddle

Manchopper in….Walton (Liverpool County FA HQ)

Result: Eagle Sports 3-0 Byrom (Liverpool Challenge Cup Final)

Venue: Liverpool County FA HQ, Walton Park (Tuesday 28th April 2015, 6.30pm)

Att: 120

This was a game I’d planned to attend, ever since Eagle reached the final back in March. Finally,  the evening had arrived, and after finishing work at around about 4pm, it was straight to the station for the train towards Liverpool. Well, I say train, it was more akin to a battery farm, how everyone was crammed in. Anyway, after enduring these conditions for around 45 minutes, I hopped off at Edge Green, before embarking on the walk up to Walton.

However, I soon found out I had massively underestimated the walk, and it turned out to be a good three-four miles! This in addition to getting lost (shock) and ending up near Tue Brook. As such, I decided to make the most of a bad situation and go on a football tour of Merseyside, walking past both Anfield and Goodison Park. Amazingly, it was the first time I’d ever seen Goodison in my life.

The Kop

The Kop

Goodison

Goodison

Famous Stanley Park

Famous Stanley Park

After heading past Stanley Park and heading up Walton Road, I finally found myself at the entrance to Walton Park and the Liverpool “Soccer Centre”, as it was advertised on signposts. What a dreadful word, soccer. Before I set off on a rant, I will carry on. I handed over my £2 admission fee, receiving both entrance and a programme for my money. Upon entering, it struck me just how little there is featuring inside the pitch being used today. There is one stand, a slightly raised covered terrace, the changing rooms are built into the rear of the main building and there are some hedges. But apart from that, that was it. And it was very much the same story for the twin ground next door too. For me, there has to be a better place to host a final.

The Stand

The Stand

The Hedge End

The Hedge End

Clubhouse End

Clubhouse End

The game, featuring Byrom of the Liverpool County Premier League and Eagle Sports of the Cheshire League Premier Division was underway around 15 minutes of me arriving. Almost immediately, it was obvious that it was going to be a largely one sided affair, a Eagle gained the upper hand, which they were never to truly relinquish.

Handshakes

Handshakes

It's all kicking-off

It’s all kicking-off

It did, however, take them 20 minutes to finally break the deadlock. A free-kick was won on the left flank, the delivery wasn’t cleared and skipper Richard Chinn volley home to give his side the advantage.

Byrom were still recovering from this knockback when Eagle grabbed their second two minutes later. Again, it was an attack down the left that caused the danger, before a vicious strike was wonderfully tipped onto the post by the Byrom goalkeeper, who was rather unfortunate that the ball rolled along the goalmouth where Ged McAllister arrived to slide into the gaping net. 2-0, and game over, you felt.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

At thebreak, the  score remained the same, and I headed for the small refreshment window at the side of the main building, which seemed to be housing a referees course. They could do worse than to watch  the ref in charge tonight, who I thought officiated very well. There were a couple of minor errors, which are to be expected,, but nothing too major. Anyway, I managed to grab the last pie on offer, a Steak variety, for just £1. It was delicious and definitely worth the quid. So, with pie in hand, I headed back to the ground for the second period, which was soon underway.

The second period saw Byrom unleash their secret weapon, a quicksilver winger/midfield player wearing 14. He absolutely single handedly caused Eagle problems and looked like he might just give the Merseysiders a fighting chance. Apparently, he is a player for Skelmersdale Utd in the Evo-Stik League, and his class was showing. Unfortunately for him, the rest of his side weren’t up to it and Eagle’s Lee Boardman applied the finishing touch to the final with 15 minutes left on the clock. Boardman collected a through ball before delightfully chipping the ball over the onrushing GK and into the net. A fine finish. 3-0.

Soon enough, the final whistle blew to signal Eagle’s win and first silverware this season,, whilst Byrom left empty handed, having never posed much of a threat. The celebrations began and after the champers was sprayed and the trophy was lifted it was onwards home.

Eagle's Chinn lifts the cup

Eagle’s Chinn lifts the cup

The champagne is finally sprayed!

The champagne is finally sprayed!

I hitched a lift back to Sankey on the Eagle team coach, as to aid my trip home. After a quick drink back at the club on Thornton Road, and a win on the football card to the tune of £20, I left to my own fanfare and headed into the night around Warrington and arrived at Sankey station, in a much more able state than usual! 20 minutes later, I was disembarking back at Urmston and back home after two cup finals in two nights. Next up, the May Day weekend, and a trio of matches…..

My Byrom M.o.M.- The #14, didn’t catch his name sadly.

My Eagle Sports M.o.M.- Richard Chinn.

RATINGS:

Game: 5 – A one sided contest.

Ground: 4- Very simple and not great facilities for a final.

Fans: 7- All round effort.

Food: 8- Pie was very good. And cheap too!

Programme: 4-More of a teamsheet.

Value For Money: 8- Cheap travel, admission and food makes for a happy hopper!

The Manchopper Awards

Well, here they are…..eventually. The first annual “Manchopper Awards”. No, they are not to reward the best blue movies of the past year, but the best teams, grounds, people and food that I have come across during the past few months, though hopefully the latter was not blue.

Anyway, here goes for the awards. They will be awarded to Best Ground, Pitch, Facilities, Programme, Food/Drink, Goal, Individual Performance, Team Performance, Fans, Most Comical Moment of the season, worst trip of the season  and some more I think about along the way so without further ado….the nominees are:

BEST GROUND (Non-League):

BLYTH SPARTANS (Croft Park), ASHTON UNITED (Hurst Cross), MACCLESFIELD TOWN (Moss Rose), CHORLEY (Victory Park), GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY (Northolme)

WINNER: CHORLEY (Victory Park)

Yes, Chorley’s wonderful Victory Park gets my nod of approval for this award. This was a difficult one, as I like all the grounds above (and more) for different reasons, but Victory Park is gaining a reputation as something like a non-league Mecca for groundhoppers. Anyone who has been will attest to how much character the place has to it, and it’s main stand is a treat. So, well done Magpies, I can tell you are very pleased to have won.

BEST GROUND (League):

MANCHESTER CITY (Etihad Stadium), MANCHESTER UNITED (Old Trafford), BLACKBURN ROVERS (Ewood Park), ROCHDALE (Spotland), BOLTON WANDERERS (Reebok Stadium)

WINNER: MANCHESTER CITY (Etihad Stadium)

Yep, Man City’s ground gets my vote here. Good views, well laid out and got to go up the spiral ramp thing they have, so it pips Ewood into 1st place.

BEST PITCH (Non-League):

CHORLEY (Victory Park), CORBY TOWN (Steel Park), TRAFFORD (Shawe View), ALTRINCHAM (Moss Rose), ILKESTON (New Manor Ground)

WINNER: CORBY TOWN (Steel Park)

Was in pristine condition when I visited for an FA Cup tie against fellow nominee Trafford, and let both sides play football “properly” which gave rise to an entertaining game of football.

BEST PITCH (League):

MANCHESTER CITY (Etihad Stadium), MANCHESTER UNITED (Old Trafford), BLACKBURN ROVERS (Ewood Park), DW Stadium (Wigan Athletic), BOLTON WANDERERS (Reebok Stadium)

WINNER: MANCHESTER UNITED (Old Trafford)

Not that it means a lot with a whole group of them doing it, and different surfaces used, but I have to award them something seeing as how I support them no?

BEST FACILITIES:

HYDE (Ewen Fields), ROCHDALE (Spotland), KING’S LYNN TOWN (The Walks), GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY (Northolme), MACCLESFIELD TOWN (Moss Rose).

WINNER: GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY (Northolme) Smart, old ground, lovely styled clubhouse, and good food too, as well as a good sized shop. For me, this was the best all round experience this season. Very close with Macc though.

BEST PROGRAMME (Non-League):

WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON, STOCKPORT COUNTY, WHITBY TOWN, RUSHALL OLYMPIC, GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY.

WINNER: RUSHALL OLYMPIC

A very tough choice for the winner of this one, but Rushall is a worthy winner of this. It has anything you’d want in terms of relevant info and original pieces in it and more. Fantastic for the level, and well worth a purchase if ever you visit.

BEST PROGRAMME:

MANCHESTER CITY, MANCHESTER UNITED, OLDHAM ATHLETIC, BLACKBURN ROVERS, WIGAN ATHLETIC.

WINNER: OLDHAM ATHLETIC

Taking levels into account and the difference in information & staff available, I think Oldham put on a great effort for their game vs Rotherham United.

BEST FOOD/DRINK:

SILSDEN (Chilli & Chips), AFC FYLDE (Chips), WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON (Pie), NANTWICH TOWN (Chips, Mushy Peas & Gravy), STAVELEY MW (Chips & something I can’t remember but was nice).

WINNER: STAVELEY MW.

This was really good quality, and I wouldn’t hesitate in going back there next time for more. Good portion size too and good value for money.

BEST GOAL:

CONNOR BROTHERTON (EAST MANCHESTER vs Wythenshawe Town), ANDREAS PEREIRA (Liverpool u21 vs MANCHESTER UNITED u21), JAMES WILSON (Burnley u18 vs MANCHESTER UNITED u18), LEE FRECKLINGTON (Oldham Athletic vs ROTHERHAM UNITED), SHELTON PAYNE (TRAFFORD vs Frickley Athletic)

WINNER: JAMES WILSON

A wonderful solo effort for the United Youth side at Burnley in the Youth Cup, Wilson beat 4 or 5 players before confidently sliding the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper. A quite astonishing goal, and a pleasure to witness.

BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE:

SHELTON PAYNE (Droylsden vs TRAFFORD), BEN PRINGLE (Oldham Athletic vs ROTHERHAM UNITED), DAVID MARSHALL (Boltonn Wanderers vs CARDIFF CITY), WESTLEIGH RUSH (WALSALL YTH v Altrincham Yth), OLIVER CROLLA (BLACKPOOL WREN ROVERS vs Prestwich Heys).

WINNER: SHELTON PAYNE

Scoring 5 goals in a game is no mean feat, but this is what Payne achieved in an FA Cup tie at beleaguered Droylsden, earning his side Robbie Savage’s Team of the Day on 5Live.

BEST TEAM PERFORMANCE:

Whalley Range 1-1 GORSE HILL, Curzon Ashton 1-1 BURSCOUGH, ROCHDALE TOWN 6-2 Chadderton, TRAFFORD 2-1 Altrincham, ALTRINCHAM 2-1 Guiseley

WINNER: TRAFFORD

The NPL side gained an upset against the most one of the most famous giantkillers in the FA Cup. After going ahead, Trafford were pegged back, but got a late winner to send them through.

BEST FANS:

NANTWICH TOWN (& drum), FC UNITED, WHITBY TOWN, ALTRINCHAM, PRESTWICH HEYS.

WINNER: NANTWICH TOWN

Home and away, were just as loud, although appeared to have the drum AWOL when I visited their Weaver Stadium. Nonetheless, they gave atmosphere where they went. A good group.

MOST COMICAL MOMENT:

WINNER: WATER FALLING INTO A DRAIN AND SOMEONE THINKING IT WAS ME PEEING INTO IT AT WHALLEY RANGE v GORSE HILL.

Not much more to be said really!!

BEST GAME:

WINNER: GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY 5-4 ALTRINCHAM

GOALS GALORE!!!! Red Cards and the last game in Danny Higginbotham’s distinguished club career, All in all, a very dramatic and entertaining game for the neutral.

WORST GAME:

WOODEN SPOON WINNER: BURY 0-0 ROCHDALE (NB: No wooden spoon is given)

The game that was only memorable for what Matt Harrison, of Lost Boyos blog fame, termed the “Keith Hill clapping derby”  due to Keith’s penchant for, well, clapping. This was directed towards the home fans for getting a player sent off in his opinion.

BEST TRIP OF THE SEASON:

BUXTON, MACCLESFIELD TOWN, GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY, ROSSINGTON MAIN, STAVELEY MW.

WINNER: ROSSINGTON MAIN

A good day out in the FA Vase with West Didsbury and Chorlton, to see them win their first Vase game by 2-1 via a last minute winner. Great cup drama, and a new club to like in Rossington who were very friendly and welcoming.

WORST TRIP OF THE SEASON:

CREWE ALEXANDRA, CREWE ALEXANDRA, CREWE ALEXANDRA, GAMESLEY, CREWE ALEXANDRA.

WINNER: CREWE ALEXANDRA.

CREWE ID. Got to the ground, and refused entry due to having no Crewe ID. Racist. Gamesley the other option where me and Dan Watkinson got wet through. My Wookie didn’t fare well either!

STRANGEST OBJECT SEEN IN GROUND:

EXERCISE BIKE (in Rochdale Town dugout). NAPPY (Maine Road FC, Brantingham Rd), GRIM REAPER (Manchester Utd, Old Trafford), FLIXTON SIGN (At Flixton’s old ground at Valley Road, now home of Northwich Vics), ASSORTED STRANGE RUSSIAN HATS (Rubin Kazan fans at Wigan)

WINNER: GRIM REAPER. Ok, It was a guy dressed up, so not strictly an object, but this was still strange. “I’m coming for you!” Poor David Moyes.

So, what will I see next season. If it’s anything like this one, it will be another special one. No, not like Jose. Although he may feature along the way. Who knows, in this mad world of groundhopping. It’s hopping mad!