Result: Leyland United 1-3 Longridge Town (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: Centurion Park (Saturday 30th June 2018, 3pm)
Att: 45 (approx.)
With the possibility of England reaching the World Cup quarter-finals the following Saturday, I duly decided to start off the season a week early to make up for it. Also, it would have been silly to miss out on the glorious weather that the UK was experiencing during the latter part of June, as it certainly isn’t anything to rely on year-on-year, as many of you will know! Anyway, fixtures were threadbare for the weekend locally, but a couple stood out. Airbus UK had an early kick-off which would enable me to catch the France-Argentina game later in the afternoon, whilst Leyland United’s game with North West Counties new-boys Longridge Town provided an easier travel option.
As it was, Airbus proved to be too difficult to bother with on this day (despite the allure of the Red Arrows and Beluga movements at the neighbouring Hawarden Airfield) and so, come the mid-morning of the final Saturday of June, I caught the train from Manchester up to the Lancastrian town – also famed for its transport-making heritage, hoping for a nice, comfortable journey. Alas, the bloody thing was packed out and it was standing room only once again, with many obviously taking the chance to head to the seaside on this rarest of days. I eventually escaped the sweat box and continued into the town centre of Leyland, all the while in the shadow of the smoke emanating from the wildfire from the nearby Winter Hill.
A five-minute-or-so walk later and I found myself outside the town’s Wetherspoon’s outlet, the Leyland Lion, not far from the town’s British Commercial Vehicle museum – which celebrates the famed truck and bus maker Leyland Motors (later British Leyland Motor Corporation) which later grew to include the likes of car and motorcycle constructors Triumph, Rover (duly taking hold of the Land Rover and Jaguar brands too) and became British Leyland. It would latterly become the Rover Group and lives on as part of Jaguar-Land Rover and MINI, whilst the Leyland name is still carried by the original Leyland Trucks company and survives as part of an American heavy-duty company. Also, a marker point nearby marks the half-way point between London and Glasgow (some 198 miles in either direction).
Prior to becoming industrialised in the more recent past, Leyland was an area of fields and a meeting point of Roman Roads from Wigan to Walton-le-Dale. For a long while, the area fell into disuse prior to being rediscovered after the Battle of Hastings and was duly named in the Domesday Book. It is home to a late 12th or early 13th century church and is home to a Saxon cross.
Once at the bar, I decided to go a little more adventurous and opted for a pint of the Windermere Brewery’s Pale Ale, which set me back just the £2.29. Not too bad but, as it turned out, this wouldn’t even be the cheapest drink I’d find today! Anyway, after enjoying some sunshine in the pub’s beer garden which, interestingly, featured a derelict phone box, which was seemingly serving as an extension of the smoking area, I continued on Northwards and off towards a Morrison’s supermarket where I was told I would come across the Old Leyland Gates hostelry, one of the more up-to-date foodie pubs.
The information was good and having navigated my way through a rather tidy group of bungalows, I was more than happy to set eyes on it and headed within. My eyes were again drawn towards the pumps of real ale and, as a result, I couldn’t resist opting for a pint of the Chris Kamara-inspired Un-beer-lievable World Cup special beer and supped away whilst slightly in awe of the fact the pub had gone out-of-the-way to invest in, not only World Cup competitor bunting, but also full-sized flags from each of the 32 nations. I found this brilliant, as I’ve always had a fascination with World flags for some reason….no you’re weird! Back onto Un-beer-lievable – it tasted strangely close to the Greene King IPA which, come to think of it, was also on offer. Hmmmmm…..
Luckily, I quite enjoy that anyway so wasn’t bothered at all, especially as it only cost a further £2.89 and after finishing up here, I carried on down the main road and back towards the station where I had previously seen the Queen’s pub. It didn’t seem to be Liz’s own place though, sadly. This seemed far more of that traditional type of establishment and, much to my delight, also displayed full-size flags! Sorcery, where the hell are Leyland’s pubs sourcing them? I’ve not seen any anywhere else, so fair play to them for digging them up. Also a pleasant surprise was the appearance of McEwan’s Lager (no idea why either) as was its price – £2.10. Magic.
After debating whether or not to watch the F1 qualifying on the small, distant screen in here or risk dipping into one of the two pubs en route to the ground, I opted for the latter option and headed up and over the road-bridge that crosses above the station. I bypassed the Railway pub for now, thinking it would be a better stop-off after the game, and instead carried on just around the bend where the Rose of Farington, named after the nearby area of the town, was located. The Rose also had the lovely alcoholic version of Dandelion and Burdock in stock, which is bloody lovely in the hotter weather especially, and they kindly switched over one of the TV’s to accommodate me, having given me the option of any number to pick from. Really nice place too, and with the bottle setting me back a very fair price of around the mid £3 mark, I settled in to see where Kimi would end up on the Austrian grid (by the way, screw those fans who booed at Silverstone and the salty Merc lads!).
After watching him end up a decent 4th, the clock was approaching 3pm and therefore kick-off. Centurion Park lay around a ten-minute walk away, and I arrived just outside the gates of the ground as the referee’s shrill whistle rang out over the nearby area to signal the game was underway. Upon entering past the sign bearing today’s opposition, you are immediately within the ground’s car park which is located right behind the goal and also extends round onto the grass to the right-hand side, so watch your cars! There is little to speak of with regard to Centurion Park which is a simple West Lancashire League home. Along the left-hand side of the ground, there is a cabin which houses the dressing rooms, a closed-up food trailer (which may be used at other points), another building of some description whilst a pair of dugouts are located at pitch-side, to the front of them. The ground is all open standing, with the vast majority of it on grass, apart from the area immediately between the dressing rooms and dugouts, though there are a couple of benches outside the cabin upon the paved area, and another in the corner of ground on the same side near the car-park area which provide somewhere to rest up if required. So that’s Centurion Park, and this is the story of Leyland United F.C….
Leyland United Football Club was formed in 2011 after the merger of Leyland Football Club and Leyland Red Rose, with the feeling being it was better to put the resources of two good teams in the town into one joint effort going forward. After a sole season in the Preston & District League’s Premier Division (now the Mid-Lancashire League) where they won both the Premier Division (First Team) and Division One (Reserves), Leyland joined the West Lancashire League, taking a spot in Division 2 and winning the early season 2012 Guild Cup via a penalty-shootout win over Mid-Lancs League side Blessed Sacrament after a 4-4 draw.
Their first season saw them finish a highly respectable third, with a six-point deduction putting paid to their promotion hopes, before finishing 6th, 4th, then dropping to second-bottom prior to recovering to 3rd once again in 2017. Last season, the club won the West Lancs League Division 2 title and were duly promoted to the Division One for the coming season.
With the game at the second venue in Leyland I’ve seen a game at (after the Lancs FA HQ) underway, let’s get straight into it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the visitors, making the step up from the West Lancashire League this season, who began the stronger with regular raids on the Leyland goal undertaken. They went close early on, the Leyland ‘keeper’s original save being headed back towards goal but, fortunately for the hosts, bouncing back off the woodwork. Both wingers then went close, with #11 seeing his headed effort saved comfortably by the GK, before #7 saw a shot whistle narrowly past the post.
The first half continued to be dominated by Longridge Town, with #10 seeing his effort cleared off the line with the resultant follow-up effort by #11 saved, and the former then went close once more, a free-kick from a fair way out drifting narrowly off-target. Eventually their pressure told and it was the player wearing the #14 shirt who grabbed the opener, converging onto a through ball before turning well and finishing nicely. One-nil to the visitors and they continued to press forward, with #3 firing wastefully over from a good position before Leyland finally began to gain something of an attacking threat towards the end of the half, #10 being thwarted when one-on-one with the Longridge GK and just before the whistle, the gloveman was forced into a good stop from a free-kick.
After making acquaintance with Buddy the dog and his Dad, the half-time whistle duly blew whilst a Longridge player was stricken on the floor, with the early part of the half being taken up by him receiving his due treatment, before trudging off with a little help. The sides and officials quickly returned to the pitch from their dressing rooms within the cabin within ten minutes and we were swiftly back underway.
Unfortunately, as so often happens in friendly contests – especially those at the start of the programmes, it became a bit of a stop-start affair, with subs a plenty featuring throughout the 45. However, goals were more prevalent despite the lack of overall action, with #9 latching onto a through ball and sliding the ball across the Leyland ‘keeper early on in proceedings to increase the visitors’ lead. He then presented the #11 with a chance following a tidy 1-2, but he shanked the ball well wide of the mark.
As the substitutions began to make more of an effect on the game, along with occasional water breaks that were being afforded to the players, things quietened down for a while before #10 sealed the win for Longridge, firing in a free-kick. Leyland were able to respond late on, their own #10 seeing his initial shot well-kept out by the ‘keeper, but he was powerless to deny the rebound which was forced over the line.
#7 had a late chance to add further gloss to proceedings for Longridge, but his shot ended up hitting the side-netting and the game ended up three-one to the visitors come the full-time whistle. As for me, I bid a quick exit and re-traced my steps back down the main road, passing by the Rose of Farington on the occasion and instead popping into the aforementioned Railway. A Coors was had in here (£3.65), just before an influx of players and staff from both sides swiftly followed, all in time to watch the Argies bow out.
Upon finishing and giving my table to a few managers and players, I remembered that I hadn’t seen the small real ale place that was apparently near the station and opposite the Queen’s. This despite having been there twice. Even then, upon returning, I originally walked past it before eventually seeking it out within the row of shops! It was worth the (self-imposed) trouble too, the Golden Tap was a nice little place and the Euchre Pale Ale was lovely and, for just the £2.80, you can’t complain too much, can you?!
After nursing the pint for just less than an hour, it was time to head the short distance back to the station where, I hoped, the train would be far more conducive to comfort than the one I had on the outbound trip. I was wrong. It was standing room only once again, though at least this time there was room to breathe! The journey was spent bemoaning the fortunes of Northern’s service with a lady who at least had a holiday to look forward to at the end of the experience, whilst I had to make do with more drink. It could be worse, I guess. We could have been stopped by the line-side fire we passed near Wigan!
Anyway, that ends the first trip of the new 2018/’19 season (despite it still strictly being 2017-’18 still, but it’s close enough). It’d been a good one, Leyland was decent and very cheap, the game was ok and was also free so you can’t really go wrong and the journey was easy, albeit not too comfortable. As they say, two out of three ain’t bad. Onto the next game, wherever that may be….
Value For Money: 9