Result: Cheadle Heath Nomads 0-8 Stockport County (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: The Heath (Saturday 6th July 2019, 3pm)
As pre-season rumbles (or maybe crawls is a more appropriate word) on, I was on a quest to discover somewhere local for a revisit for this weekend as I wanted to be on something of a tighter budget ahead of the following week’s trip over to Scarborough. This resulted in a trip into town to meet regular ‘hopping accomplice-in-chief, Dan, to sort out a final destination. Over a pint in Piccadilly Gardens’ Wetherspoon’s outlet, options such as Hindsford and Stockport Town, amongst others, were floated, but were discounted for varying reasons before we settled on a Father Ted-inspired visit to Crilly Park for Atherton LR vs a Witton Albion XI. So we were off to Atherton….
Or so we thought! Moments before we were to set off, Dan had a check of the NWCFL website and discovered the game was postponed (it actually wasn’t as it turns out, so no idea what was going on there) and so back into the pot of grounds we dipped, deciding on one of those options already mooted – Cheadle Heath Nomads vs Stockport County. Splitting our transportation routes to suit our respective needs and budgets, Dan headed for the bus station whilst I was off back uphill towards Piccadilly station for a service the short way over to Stockport – deciding this was an easier option than waiting for one bound for the closer stops of Cheadle Hulme or Davenport. Indeed, the plusbus would see the onward bus journeys be a breeze anyway….or so I thought; but more on that later!
Anyways, for the moment, all was running smoothly and I headed into and out of Stockport in quick time, arriving into Cheadle Heath for a touch after 1pm. With Dan still en route via the joys of Greater Manchester’s bus system, I reckoned I might as well squeeze a pre-Dan pint in before returning to our pre-planned meeting point in the Cross Keys. So upon disembarking at said Cross Keys, I instead took the short-ish walk around the corner and within five-or-so minutes was arriving at the March Hare, which is set back quite some way from the road itself and is accessed by its own, rather lengthy, access lane which is lined by old-school lights all the way down, giving it a quaint look. The pub itself was pretty too and a warm welcome was received which is always a bonus.
With a pint of Amstel (£3.50~) in hand, I settled into the largely timber-framed inside and was pleasantly surprised to hear the dulcet tones of Dawes over the stereo system; this had been a decent start to proceedings! With that said and Dan’s arrival becoming ever more imminent, I finished up and headed out on up the lane back to the main road only to, at that moment, catch a fox with its cub in the middle of the road. The cub soon made its exit into the vacant lot alongside, whilst the adult gave me a long, watchful stare before joining its youngster the other side of the wall. A definite first for me doing this….at least I think so!
Cheadle Heath is a suburb of Stockport within Greater Manchester, eight miles to the south east of the city centre, and has and still is home to numerous engineering companies. A large factory was built in Cheadle Heath by Henry Simon in 1926 and its distinctive tower went on to be used for testing of experimental flour milling equipment, whilst it has also been home to large oil equipment manufacturers and underwater sonar companies too. The town did have a railway station through to 1967, but this has gone the way of many a football ground and is now a Morrisons.
I arrived at the Cross Keys once more soon after and waited only a short while for Dan to join me whilst supping a pint of Holsten (cheap at £2.75). Our initial coupling would be brief though as he headed off to the ground a little earlier so to enable him to not rush, whilst I (being quite happy and rather used to last minute arrivals by now) headed for a final pre-match beverage in the Micker Brook Smokehouse a short walk down the road. Not much to really report on here though and upon swiftly finishing my pint of Heineken (£3.80) I cut through the park on the opposite side of the road, to the bus stop to catch the carriage the few short stops up the way towards Nomads’ home – The Heath.
With the bus running a little late (shock, horror!) I had to do a short jog to ensure my arrival at the ground in time for the game’s beginning – well within earshot of the whistle anyway. The clubhouse building, set back a fair way from the pitch itself, was still rather busy with people finishing off their own last bits of respective drinks ahead of making their way to the turnstiles – a new addition since my previous visits here in the Cheshire League. A nice touch was when, upon handing over my £5, I was pulled up to ensure I awaited my match ticket, which it turned out was actually a free pass to a game at any point later in the Nomads’ season. A good idea too, considering they’ll likely pick up some extra numbers on the attendance figures here and there.
Whilst league surroundings have changed for the Nomads, so their ground itself has changed a bit too. Along with the pre-existing, but itself rather recent, changing room building, the ground now plays host to a covered standing and all-seater at-cost-style pair of structures at its far side which, on myself and Dan’s last visit here was not much more than a sodden swamp, so that’s quite the improvement, for sure! The pitch is fully-railed and is open, hard standing for the majority of the remainder, with a small food bar to the rear of the dressing rooms, between it and the turnstile, whilst another barred-off pitch lies behind the near-end goal. A railway runs right behind the other end too, for those who like that sort of thing, whilst the Manchester Airport flightpath allows excitement for those of a aluminium-based avian variety persuasion. That’s The Heath in a nutshell and this is the story of the Nomads of Cheadle Heath….
Cheadle Heath Nomads were founded in 1919 with the club’s founders later purchasing land which would become the present Sports Club site in 1921. The club went on to join the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL soon after and bar a brief stint away in 1927, remained as members of the league right through until 1994 – a period which saw their pre-WWII season’s become a struggle money-wise, resulting in an enforced kit change to all-white, with all players having to supply their own tops! Post-war, Nomads took on their claret and blue kit which has become their regular scheme, although a switch back to their original yellow and green kit has been introduced for this, their centenary season.
Cheadle Heath grew stronger in the aftermath of the Second World War and the 1950’s produced a somewhat golden-era for the club and the expansion of facilities at the sports club as a whole. Springing forwards to 1994, and after maintaining regular strong showings in the Lancs & Cheshire League, the club finally undertook the much-mooted move to the Mid-Cheshire League after the pitch-clash with the cricketing outfield was solved by the demise of the leather and willow section. They immediately won the Second Division title at the end of their first season in the league and they remained in the First Division there through the best part of a decade prior to the club merging with fellow Mid-Cheshire outfit, Linotype, based in Timperley – a move which saw the Linotype name remain in the league (they were struggling to ensure their home at the Silver Wings Club) and enabled Nomads own struggles were somewhat abated.
Competing as Linotype/Cheadle Heath Nomads, the side maintained a place in the First Division through a league name change (to the Cheshire League) and a divisional name swap (to the Premier Division), finally winning the league title in 2014-’15, a season which allowed Nomads to maintain a place in the upper echelons of the table for the next few seasons, with them just missing out on a successful defence of the title the next season, eventually ending up as runners-up. Attentions soon turned to aiming for the North West Counties League and swift ground improvements allowed for entry upon the league’s expansion ahead of the 2018-’19 season – with floodlights, further spectator cover and improved pitch barriers all being installed, with the second pitch also being spruced up. They finished last season, their first at Step 6, in a highly creditable 9th place.
County’s first pre-season outing ahead of their long overdue Conference return started off well for the Hatters as they struck to open the deadlock just a few minutes in. Nomads’ centenary-season special colours of canary-yellow and green did little to aid them against their illustrious neighbours as Ash Palmer got up highest to guide a header beyond Cheadle Heath ‘keeper Aaron Tyrer. Around quarter of an hour into the game and it was two when Frank Mulhern’s powerful long-range drive burst the gloves of Tyrer and hit the back of the net; the keeper surely feeling he ought to have done better.
However, he was pretty helpless just a couple of minutes later when left one-on-one against Elliot Osborne, with the County man rounding Tyrer and slotting home, before it was four on 25 minutes when Mulhern hit one across goal on the turn, the ball hitting the far corner beyond the beleaguered Nomads gloveman. The dangerous frontman then clipped the top of the crossbar as he searched for a double-quick hat-trick and was denied by a fine Tyrer stop from a well struck free-kick, but it wouldn’t be for Mulhern and instead it would be Jake Kirby who would make it five on the half-hour as he knocked the ball home after a corner wasn’t cleared. The rest of the half was largely uneventful outside of my visit to the food hut (well, the BBQ next door) for a cheeseburger; though was denied access to the chips being cooked as they were bound for those with the blue blood (no pun intended).
A much-changed County line-up emerged for the second half which seemed to be made up of a number of younger players, but this didn’t seem to dampen their forward forays. First, Michael Elstone hit a low drive which Tyrer was able to get down well to and push behind, though he would beat the Nomads stopper at the second attempt soon after when, after a cross was only half-cleared, a calm pull-back was fired home from the edge of the area. A couple of further Stockport chances came and went but the game was beginning to fizzle out at this point in truth – though Cheadle Heath did eventually get a sight of goal well into the second period when Jake Wright’s low drive was saved comfortably by the long-serving County stopper Ian Ormson.
The hosts began to fashion a couple of chances against the ever-changing Stockport on-field personnel with a couple of chances coming and going – Andy Simpson nodding narrowly wide of the mark, but the Hatters would finish strongly and add a pair of goals late on. Number seven would come courtesy of Elstone’s second strike of the game – a close range knock home from a low cross – and Szymon Czubik added the eighth seconds later after charging down Tyrer’s attempted clearance in the flank. Eight-nil it would finish to a strong-looking Hatters and Cheadle Heath can take heart from the fact that County have since gone on to tonk Stockport Town for ten without reply and also defeated Curzon Ashton. Of course, friendlies are notoriously unreliable when it comes to a season’s predictions and outlooks, but the Hatters will be hoping that this isn’t the case for them!
Post-match I came up with the plan to undertake the walk in the opposite direction from whence we came, towards Cheadle and the Farmer’s Arms. Dan didn’t take too much in the way of encouraging to tag along(!) and upon arriving we were soon in possession of a pint of Boddington’s and a Carling…..bet you can’t guess which one is mine. The round was only £6.25 though, which wasn’t too bad and certainly not as bad as the attendance at the Women’s World Cup 3rd-place play-off on the TV, that’s for sure. We soon headed on out for the bus back towards Stockport only for a different one to turn up immediately meaning we jumped on. Of course, in my haste, I couldn’t find the plusbus ticket, but the driver allowed me on nonetheless. Despite much checking of all nooks and crannies of my bag, the ticket still wouldn’t show up but, to be fair, the guy said he’d give me the benefit of the doubt and only charged a quid to get back – which was decent of him, to be fair. Of course, I then found it almost immediately.
When I was getting off though, the driver actually apologised for charging me an extra £1 which was good of him as he’d actually done me a good favour anyhow, and I arrived at Stockport station to find all trains in disarray once again – though one was just pulling in much delayed which helped me at least, though I’m sure many more weren’t as lucky. A few minutes later and I was back in the sprawling metropolis of Piccadilly and took a sojourn to the Piccadilly Tap, a place I’ve been a stranger from for far too long. A pint of Budvar was enjoyable here (£4) before heading back to the station and the couple of connections through town and home to round off week two of 2019-’20. Goals galore, one-sided games aren’t my favourite, but in pre-season I couldn’t care less if I’m honest. It’s always nice to visit the Heath and I’ll be certain to make use of my ticket later this season. Food was good, the pubs were too and the programme was a fine edition, though I’m not sure quite what the regular size will be as this covered all PSF’s. Anyway, up next is Scarborough for football – but not at a football ground….
Value For Money: 7