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…

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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

GNE Huddle

GNE Huddle

Manchopper in….Sutton (Penlake FC)

Penlake Golborne Sports

Result: Penlake 9-0 Golborne Sports (Hallmark Security Cheshire League 1)

Venue: Sutton Leisure Centre (Saturday 23rd May 2015, 3pm)

Att: 40 (hc)

The penultimate weekend of the season signalled the penultimate game. A straight shoot out between two sides, Penlake & Walshaw Sports was decided when Walshaw’s gamewas switched to a 3G venue, thus leaving me with a trip towards St.Helen’s for a crucial game in the Cheshire League 1. Penlake, the home side, sat 11th out of 12 in the table and required no less than a win to stay up and send Warrington Town Reserves down instead. Golborne Sports provided the obstacle, looking to do their near neighbours a favour and put their opponents through the trap door.

Again, I was to be joined on another journey into the lower reaches of the English system by Dan Watkinson, who I was to meet at Manchester Oxford Road Station, for the train onwards to Newton-le-Willows. Whilst on the platform, we briefly met up with Trafford supporter Richard Parkinson, who was heading off to Southport for the Lancashire vs Derbyshire County Championship match. I’ve known Richard for a fair while now, and it’s always good to have a chat with him, however brief it may be, as a couple of minutes later, he departed off on his way towards the leather and willow. We, however, were on our way soon after, on the Llandudno-bound train.

After disembarking at the first stop on the route, it was soon onto a novelty of sorts, a comfortable Northern Electric train! How exciting. Dan, meanwhile, ended up meeting an old colleague, as you do, before we soon rolled into Lea Green station at just after 1.30. With loads of time to spare and with Sutton Leisure Centre, the venue for today’s game, just two minutes walk from the station, we decided to scout out the entry etc. first. After doing so and spotting the first players beginning to arrive in the car park, we decided to backtrack towards the pub, situated on the station approach.

Newton-le-Willows

Newton-le-Willows

Comfort

Comfort!

The Bull & Dog

The Bull & Dog

Now inside the Bull & Dog, and with a, rather expensive, £3.70 Kopparberg in hand, we made our way over towards the tables and benches running along the far wall. Here, we were greeted with a voice calling “Well, you’ve just avoided the worst game in the history of football!”. The comment was made about the Dundee-Rangers game, which Rangers scraped through by a guy sitting next to us. It turned out that, he too, was heading to the Penlake game and informed us that there would probably be quite a few groundhoppers down at the game, himself being one. After a further conversation about Minor Counties cricket and football in general, we headed off in unison to the leisure centre. On arrival, you make your way through the car park, past a sign warning of “No Ball Games”, and past a large blue penguin which stands guard at the entrance to the facility itself. P-P-P-P-Penlake then!!! No? No? Okay then.

Once inside, our fellow hopper, whose name escapes me, came across a familiar face to him, by the name of Andy, who wished us luck in finding the entrance. Surprisingly, it was I who had the best of this, spotting the signs for the way to the Athletics Track, which surrounds the ground. After passing by the dressing rooms of the respective teams, both bearing the names of their previous inhabitants for a cup final, we headed outside and back into the sunshine of St. Helen’s. As stated above, the pitch itself is surrounded by an athletics track, though this matters little, as it seems to not affect the views too much. This is probably aided by the fact there is a grass banking which runs the length of the far touchline, before curving round behind the far goal, Curva Nord style. Behind both goals is open, with a pathway leading behind the “road end” and grass and bushes behind the far net. The near side touchline is where the hatch with a Slush Puppy Machine is situated, with a patio-like area providing views of the pitch. This is where you enter the barred-off pitch area from when you first exit the Leisure Centre.

Approaching the Centre

Approaching the Centre

This May Be An Issue...

This May Be An Issue…

Dan and the Blue Penguin

Dan, our  hopping friend & the Blue Penguin

The players soon followed us through the door, before carrying some “mobile” dugouts towards the touchline! The two sides awaited kick-off, whilst Golborne struggled to get up to 11, but once they did, we were all set to go. But before then, here is a bit of history about Penlake Football Club….

History Lesson:

Penlake FC was formed in 1971, by the current club president, Chris Duffy, along with Eddie Guinness. The club, Penlake Juniors, as a whole, derives its name from the British Rail Club within Sutton Junction. The traditional name of the club’s home is The Beeches Playing Fields, which is part of the wider leisure centre on Sutton Road.

The club hosts age groups from under 7’s up to the open age side, and their claim to fame is being in the Guinness Book of Records. This was achieved in 1986, when the Penlake first team went on a 153 game unbeaten streak, which lasted for over five years. This record still stands to this day, and apparently makes Penlake Juniors the “Team of the Millennium! Not a bad title to hold!  The club played just one season under the Penlake Juniors name in the Liverpool Combination, before dropping the suffix for the senior side. They continued in the league for a further two seasons, before dropping out of competition, it appears, in 2007. They returned, in the Cheshire League 2, in 2012, playing two seasons in that division, before gaining a place in the League 1 in 2014 as a result of the Cheshire League restructuring, after a ninth placed finish.

Helpful Signage.

Helpful Signage.

Mobile Dugouts

Mobile Dugouts

Kick-Off

Kick-Off

So, what would the Team of the Millennium have in store for us today then? Let’s find out….

The answer was fireworks! No, not literally, but figuratively speaking, they were on fire! After a rather even start to the game, the home side began to take control and it was no surprise that they struck first, with the Penlake #9, Alex Grisedale, being played in, before slotting in comfortably.

As we were undertaking a half-lap of the ground, taking pictures of many things including Dan’s foot, Grisedale grabbed his, and his side’s, second soon afterwards, when the striker hammered in an effort from inside the area off the underside of the bar and into the net. Great start for the relegation threatened side, who looked full of confidence and this was only enhanced before the break, when the #14, who started the game, again found the crossbar friend rather than foe, firing in off of the woodwork.

Miles Away

Miles Away

The Curva Nord, Cheshire League Style!

The Curva Nord, Cheshire League Style!

Dan's Foot

Dan’s Foot

Half-Time came and went with a spot of sunbathing (unheard of, I know) being undertaken upon the grass banking which Dan and myself found as our vantage point of choice, and I’m sure Dan also took the opportunity for a few, not quite 40, winks. As for me, I found more than enough entertainment on the field, as Grisedale notched his hat-trick soon after the restart.

Then came the goal of the game. The #11 picked up the ball on the left wing, before unleashing a volley from 25 yards which flew past the GK, with the crossbar again helping the ball on its way. The sixth and seventh followed shortly afterwards, #11 nicking a less spectacular second, tapping in after #14 had been his shot well repelled by the Golborne GK, and Grisedale got his fourth, again smashing one past the beleaguered visiting goalkeeper, just as an Airbus Beluga flew over. Even the large cargo aircraft would struggle to hold the amount of goals today!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

There was still time for Grisedale to become the league top scorer by grabbing a fifth goal, poaching one at the back post and lastly came substitute #12, who got inside the area before slotting it across the ‘keeper for #9. To add insult to an awful lot of injury, a comment from the crowd exclaimed “I don’t think he’s scored since he was 13!”.

If it wasn’t for an offside at 4-0, it would’ve been double figures and that wouldn’t have flattered Penlake at all, nor would it have been harsh on Golborne who were truly awful. True, they may have been light on numbers and playing for nothing but pride, but that doesn’t explain a 9-0 hammering against the side second bottom. Still, full credit to Penlake, who fully deserved their points.

Celebration of the last goal

Celebration of the last goal

The Leisure Centre

The Leisure Centre

As a result, the small band of Warrington fans went home slightly down, but I doubt they’d lose too much sleep. As for Dan and I, we headed back to the station, where we missed the first train back, but for me, this was for the best as the cancellation of a service was the one I’d have arrived for, therefore being left stranded. Happily, there was another in 20 minutes, so after wasting away the time with pointless conversation and the disturbing “Shrek is love, Shrek is Life” video, we soon set off for Victoria station and Dan again must have found me boring company as he once again visited the land of nod….

After arrival at Victoria, and Dan’s trouble with the ticket barriers there, we headed over to Piccadilly Gardens where I bid goodbye to Dan,who headed on his way home, whereas I walked on back to Oxford Road and parrived around about 10 minutes before my train home was due to depart. Perfect! A good day, at a nice venue and a very entertaining game, unless you hold a Golborne Sports point of view….

My Penlake M.o.M.- Alex Grisedale.

My Golborne Sports M.o.M.- The manager who was absent, referring to his many reporters on Twitter!

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RATINGS:

Game: 8- Entertaining, but very one sided.

Ground: 6- Athletics track a downside but, nonetheless, a very nice venue.

Fans: 6- Extra points for the comment above!

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 9- Only downside was the dear-ish cider in the pub!