Manchopper in….Eccleshall

 

Result: Eccleshall 0-0 Cheadle Town (NWCFL Division 1 South)

Venue: Pershall Park (Saturday 19th January 2019, 3pm)

Att: 56

A trip down to rural Staffordshire was on the cards as the twitterverse once again had the opportunity to decide my footballing fate. Extra responsibility was put upon them too, as it would be my first meet up with fellow hopper Paul in over a year but a draw would be the result for a second consecutive week – Lex and Eccleshall coming out on top. A meeting of our minds (or lack thereof in my case at least) was had and an executive decision made. To the, slightly tricky to get to, town of Eccleshall we would be off.

Grabbing the train into Stafford, I had a short wait, until Paul’s train from Liverpool would arrive and so I set about getting some of my Pontefract blog done because, you know, that’s definitely normal. Anyhow, Paul was soon setting foot in Staffordshire too – tales of a loaded guy paying out £118 to get to Southampton being the highlight of his trip down – as we caught the bus from outside the Lamb Inn (which I visited on my visit to Stafford Town a few weeks back) to the outlying market town.

Eccleshall

Eccleshall

Little George and its Barber Chair

After travelling through the midst of seemingly nowhere, a few villages and farmhouses being the only signs of civilisation on that route, we eventually pulled into Eccleshall. Disembarking, we quickly set about what we’d come here for. Pub…er, I mean a rest before the football. Definitely that. Unfortunately, we could only find pubs, along with a barber shop with a Carling pub board outside it, and so with the clock just approaching 11.30 (the buses were two-hourly, don’t judge us) we headed for our first stop of the day:- the Little George. The Little George wasn’t all too small in truth, a sizable bar aside a hotel with a fair amount of craft beers and the like on offer. Being a Bent’s tap, we each opted for a pint of their 30J’s which came in at a decent £3.70 each.

Sorting out our bets and the like in here alongside an interestingly placed barber’s chair at our table, we finished up and returned back up towards the bus stop and to the King’s Arms – a pretty old establishment, especially when it came to the kitchen/outdoor area. A pint of Warsteiner each was the order of the day in here (£3.90 pp) before we settled in within the beamed hostelry. From there, we began to work our way groundwards. After popping into the Bell for a pint of Sharps Atlantic each (£3.30 pp), that was still the intention, until I spotted a sign taking us down a narrow road and to the slightly out of the way Eagle.

King’s Head

The Bell

Eagle

A “Sports Bar” (it had a pool table and a few TV’s of racing/football) we had a quick bottle of Marston’s decent Resolution, bringing back memories of our visit to Alfreton (yes, I remember things like that), before swiftly returning to the town’s main streets and a pair of pubs standing on either side of the road from each other. First up came the Joules tap by the name of the Royal Oak where I coaxed Paul into having a Lakota-which I think he ended up being happy with – before, with a bit of time in hand, crossing and backtracking slightly to the Belgian Bar which was what you might expect from a bar with that name. With time beginning to conspire against us, just a half of Hell (it wasn’t Hell luckily) was had whilst Paul sampled the other type from the same brewer that was on offer before proceeding to almost bleed to death after making the mistake of locking the toilet door. Get the paper towels out…. 🙂

Eccleshall is a market town in Staffordshire and was mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book as a small village of around 100 inhabitants. The church that currently serves the town dates from the 12th century, eventually being completed by the 15th, though stone found on the land surrounding it suggests a chapel may have stood on the site from around the 10th century, with a cross stood outside the church dating from this time. The church is also host to the tombs of no less than five Bishops of Lichfield, with the slightly later castle being the Bishops’ Palace, with the estate having been given to the Bishops in the few centuries preceding the Norman Conquest.

Eccleshall had become an important market town from the mid-1100’s when it was granted the right to host a weekly market from 1153, eventually growing to gain “Borough” status by the early 1200’s and would go on to become a largely agricultural-based area. Land was apparently given originally to St. Chad and this would later pass onto the Bishops of Lichfield, with Geoffrey de Muschamp granted a licence to build a castle in 1200 by King John and the land on which this was built would go on to be in regular use by the Bishops through to the mid-19th century. However, 1867 would see the Bishop of the time decide to sell off the castle to distant relatives of Jimmy Carter (who’d later become U.S. President, of course) due to, amongst other things, the lack of railway access. Things haven’t improved much on this front, with the nearest station, Norton Bridge, rarely, if ever, used.

The old church and cross

Important dates

The castle ruins that our visible today are actually from a slightly later construction, dating from 1305 and the Bishop William Langton, who would later go on to become Chancellor of England. The impressive stronghold would later play a role in the Wars of the Roses, when it became a base of operations for Queen Margaret of Anjou and her Lancastrian troops ahead of their eventual defeat at the 1459 Battle of Blore Heath. Later, the castle would again feature in a civil conflict, as the Civil War saw it besieged by the Parliamentarian forces led by Sir William Brereton who camped out around the church. The Royalists held out for a good two months until late August of 1643, when it eventually fell – the Roundheads finding the Bishop dead from a heart-attack whilst many of the defenders were either drunk, or had abandoned the fight to drink in the town. My type of guys. The castle was sacked and the remnants becoming a prison for the Royalist high-brow.

As the years rolled on, Eccleshall has spells being a glassmaking area (when Bishop Overton brought French family glassmakers over) for a short period from 1580-1615, before later going on to be an important leather and shoemaking centre through to the late 1800’s when the industries in the town had largely died out on account of the growing machine-based factories in the nearby county town of Stafford. It also spent time being an important stop-off point for travellers on the main route between Chester and London as coach travel and road improvements began to improve and become more widespread and favourable. The largely Georgian high-street is a conservation area and the town regularly is placed in the Britain in Bloom competition. The market continues as a farmer’s market and is held bi-weekly, whilst an annual Eccleshall Show is held on the town’s Sugnall Parks.

Royal Oak

Belgian Bar

Arriving at Pershall Park

Finishing up and with the blood still pouring like he’d been shot, we headed onwards up the winding country road, eventually arriving at the Pershall Park gates with around ten-fifteen minutes to kick off. Programmes had sold out by that point (only around 10 were printed apparently), though I was lent one for a while by the gateman. £5 in, we headed to the bar for a warm before kick-off where I decided to see if I could get any extras printed out. I was pointed out Anthony, and on getting to him, Paul found out a couple had been kept back per our request and, with debts cleared, we headed out for kick off.

Pershall Park is quite a quaint, smart little ground and consists of three stands. As you enter from the car park in the corner of the ground, you have the bar/tunnel/food hut building on your immediate right and this has a few rows of covered seating out front. Behind the near end goal is another bit of covered seating and standing, though some of the latter is currently home to some deckchairs, giving you that holiday feel! The far side features a small covered terrace that straddles the halfway line, whilst the far end is open, hard standing, as is the remainder of the area around the pitch. That’s Pershall Park and this is the story of Eccleshall FC….

History Lesson:

Eccleshall Football Club was founded in 1971 as Eccleshall Old Boys by members of the town’s Secondary School. The club would join the Mid-Cheshire League’s Division 3 and went on to lift the Division 3 Cup in 1974, whilst finishing as runners-up in the league and so were promoted to Division 2. The Division 2 Cup was won in 1975 and, soon afterwards, the club changed its name to, more simply, Eccleshall. Eccleshall joined the Staffordshire County League in 1979, playing in Division 1. Promoted to the Premier Division in 1981, they lifted the League title, Premier Division Cup and May Bank to complete a 1983-’84 treble.

Eccleshall FC

This would prove to be the club’s final season there too, with the team becoming founder members of the Staffordshire Senior League – becoming champions in 1990. In 1994, the league was renamed the Midland League and Eccleshall remained here through to 2003 when, after winning their second successive Midland League title, alongside that year’s Staffordshire FA Vase, the club were promoted to the North West Counties League Division 2, which became Division 1 in 2008 upon the “old” Division 1 becoming the Premier Division. They have remained there to this day, though silverware has dried up in the meantime.

The game got underway with the visitors starting the stronger, Matty German going close with a headed effort, before Eccleshall somehow survived a goal-line scramble in blocking out two consecutive shots from Rhys Clooney and Callum Knight prior to ‘keeper Louis McCarthy keeping out Connor Naughton’s own follow-up. Eccleshall would respond soon after and were awarded a spot-kick on 27 minutes when Tom Wakefield was brought down in the area. Up stepped Luke Walsh, but his shot was at a perfect height for Dan Whiting in the Cheadle goal to palm away to safety.

Match Action

Whiting saves from the spot

Match Action

Both teams would have a late chance each at the end of the half – Knight being denied by McCarthy for the hosts and David Neligwa firing wide but the teams would go in still deadlocked at nil-nil, whilst I managed to get the penultimate pie, one of the steak variety, along with peas and gravy too. Good stuff too for £3.

Back underway soon after I’d finished up and with Paul getting ever more distracted by Liverpool’s score, the game was a fair bit poorer during the second period than the first. Eccleshall did find the net after ten minutes, but Walsh was well offside. Namesake Isaak Walsh then had a shot creep narrowly wide despite Whiting seemingly deciding it was safely covered off, before Cheadle responded with a shot from range that McCarthy was forced to tip over.

Match Action

Match Action

Lesser-spotted half-way line flag!

The game continued to wind down and the spectre of another goalless draw began to loom large as Cheadle were reduced to ten men with a couple of minutes left when, seconds after a bit of a kerfuffle between the two, Oliver Hatfield-Banton needlessly pushed Brad Carr over off the ball. After a slight scuffle, the red card was brandished. However, this made little difference to the closing stages as Cheadle dropped in to secure their point.

The game finished up with a draw being fair and the final whistle meant that, after going 81 games and thirteen months without one, I’d now seen two nil-nil’s in the space of five games, over 18 days. Unbelievable. By this point, Paul had reappeared safe in the knowledge the Reds had secured a vital three points and we had kindly been offered two lifts back into town to save us from certain death. We accepted both, just in case something went awry along the way, but eventually our original offerer Malcolm returned to drop us back at the Eccleshall clock.

Old Smithy. The planned final stop!

Thanking him for doing so, we bid goodbye to him and the younger lad Elliott in with us before heading around the corner and to what should have been our final stop, the Old Smithy. A pleasant restaurant/bar, we settled in to await our carriage back, me with a £4.20 Moretti. We headed out to the bus stop where I spotted an issue. The bus seemingly didn’t exist. As such, I headed up to the top of the road to see if I could shed any light as Paul assured me that was the correct stop. Then the bus came around the corner. Only problem was it was on the wrong side and past it went. Cab? I asked.

The answer was to the affirmative, as was Paul’s suggestion of waiting somewhere a little warmer. On account of the fact the (I assume) landlord of the Bell had put the football on for us in the back room off his own back, I thought it’d be nice to head back to wait out there. They rang us a cab, we had a pint (more Moretti for me) and we were soon rocking and rolling back to Stafford a fair bit quicker than the bus would have allowed us to do. £13.80 too wasn’t too shabby for a twenty minute trip. Back at the station, we said our goodbyes and headed for our simultaneously arriving trains, a now normal nap on the way back allowing the hour-long journey to pass smoothly. Well, bar the mates’ attempted scuffle behind me just after I’d awoke! I tried to offer some help, but was called off, probably fairly, by one of the group, though did talk to one to lessen any tensions. It’s all fun and games in this world!

So that ends another trip. Bar the nil-nil result, it had been good one. Eccleshall is a very pleasant place to visit, as is Eccleshall as a club too. Nice people and places are what I’ll take away from my visit, I can’t recommend it enough. The only issue is getting back in truth of you’re not of a driving persuasion. Aside from that, beers were good, food at the ground fine and the game was decent considering it was goalless. That’s that and it’s off to the seaside to see the seagulls….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 7

Food: 8

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Abbey Hulton

Result: Abbey Hulton United 1-1 Cheadle Town (NWCFL Division 1 South)

Venue: Drayton Beaumont Park (Saturday 5th January 2019, 3pm)

Att: 125

I still had a free weekend with my destination still up in the air, as I set out on my journey during the morning of this first Saturday of 2019. I was also looking to start from scratch again on the no nil-nil front after my New Year’s Day blank at Chester and I had a trio of Stokie clubs on the radar at which I hoped to accomplish this:- Abbey Hulton Utd, Eastwood Hanley and Foley Meir. As I had only set off from Manchester at midday, the easier option was the first, with the Counties side’s game kicking off at 3pm, whilst the two Staffordshire County League sides began their contests an hour earlier. As such, I hoped for the former to prevail for ease purposes and that it did. As I arrived into Stoke, my decision had been made for me. To Abbey Hulton I was bound.

Upon arriving into Stoke, a quick exit from the station had me on a bus towards the outskirts of the city within a couple of minutes and though a change of driver at Hanley would delay me a little, I was arriving at the foot of Birches Head Road at around a quarter-past one. After a bit of mental planning on the pub front, I reckoned I’d start from on-high and loop around back towards the ground and Abbey Hulton itself and so made my way uphill to the Sneyd Arms. Upon my eventual arrival, I was glad for the warmth, though the cold refreshment of a San Miguel (£3.69) was just as welcome. After watching some of the early Manchester United-Reading game in here, I continued on down the road to the side and back down a rather steep decline to the Berwick which was complete with an old cricketing set, though I’m not sure of what its importance was. Anyway, I opted for a second, cheaper San Miguel for £3.25 in here whilst seeing the conclusion of the game roll around before heading ground-wards.

Sneyd Arms Mk.1

Berwick

Sneyd Arms Mk.2

After crossing the river and ending up on a country road along with a “Dukes of Hazard” horn-equipped car, I popped into the ground to secure a programme (as it was on my way round anyway so didn’t take me out-of-the-way) and took in a quick look at the remnants of the 14th-century abbey which lends its name to the area, before visiting my second Sneyd Arms of the day. A strange occurrence for sure and one I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced before – outside of the Royal Oak’s and the like – anywhere I’ve been. Seeing that the fine 61 Deep was on in here, I knew what I was having, and with a nice amount of time remaining to enjoy it and undertake the short, five-minute walk back to the ground, I was more than happy to sit in and wile away the time.

The area of Abbey Hulton on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent takes its name from the old Hulton Abbey, the ruins of which can still be seen in the local park and has ben part of the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent since 1922, having previously been a part of the parish of Burslem and known as the lordship of Hulton. The area was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Heltone (hill town) and was grouped with the nearby areas of Julton and Rushton in the Pirehill Hundred. The abbey – dedicated to St. Mary – was founded in 1223 by Henry de Audley and belonged to the Cistercian White Monks in what was, at the time, a rural location in the county off the route from Stoke to Leek, in keeping with their usual site of choice. The monks would begin sheep farming and later began to produce tiles, whilst the abbey would later become the location for the tombs of James de Audley (notable for bravery in battle in serving the Black Prince at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356) and his wife, with legend saying that, upon the opening of the graves when the abbey was demolished, the latter’s hair had continued to grow despite death.

After being surrendered to the crown and dissolved in 1538, the monastery and its site was sold off and by the mid-1600’s, Hilton (as it came to be known by the late 16th century) was home to a manor house instead. After excavations of the abbey in 1884 and the 1930’s had brought it back into interest, some of the original stone was repurposed for use in buildings around the local area including the Abbey Farm, once home to the grandfather of the primitive Methodist church founder Hugh Bourne, John, not far from the ground. The crossing nearby is thought to be the 18th century crossing of the Trent on Birches Head Road, just outside the gates of Drayton Beaumont Park.

The old remains of the abbey

Trent, Horses, Football. Only in this hobby.

The coal mine worked by the abbey in Abbey Hulton continued on after its dissolution by Henry VIII, and continued on into the 19th century, with the early pottery industry also continuing on for many a-year. A year after being dissolved, the demesne of Hulton and Stoke and a coal mine in the ‘field of Hulton’ were leased to a Londoner who’d already purchased the abbey’s movables, before later being granted to Sir Edward Alston – along with the abbey site, the manor of Hulton and all other possessions in the nearby areas of Hulton, Sneyd, Baddeley, Milton and Burslem. The Sneyd’s would be conveyed the manor by Alston’s grandson in 1611 with the Keele family remaining holders of the manor, though they would sell off land with only a few farms remaining in their hands by 1951 and these too were offered up upon the break-up of the Keele estate later that year.

The Caldon Canal, opened in 1779 and linking Etruria near the city centre and Froghall, passed through Abbey Hulton and is neighboured by the former site of the Biddulph Valley railway line which opened in 1864 linking Congleton and Stoke-on-Trent before closing in 1988 and a fair bit remains as a walking route. The Housing Act of 1919 would transform the area into a housing development due to need to rid the slums of Hanley and Burslem especially. Upon becoming a part of the Borough of Stoke-on-Trent in 1922, it would get its own church, St. John’s, in 1963 and so left the ecclesiastical parish of Burslem.

Arriving at the ground

Soon enough though it was time to return back to Drayton Beaumont Park, with the game just getting underway as I arrived at the gate. Alerting the guys at the gate to my arrival, I handed over my entry fee (£5) and headed straight to pitch-side with the game, as I stated, in progress already. Drayton Beaumont Park is a tidy set up, with the clubhouse, dressing rooms and food hut located behind the goal from which you enter behind whilst two small at-cost style seated stands populate the far side touchline. Hard-standing is available at both these parts of the ground, whilst the remaining two ends are off-limits, the dugouts located on the near-side touchline where a raised banking does remain. That’s the ground in short and this is the story of Abbey Hulton United….

History Lesson:

Abbey Hulton United was founded in 1947 and is, according to their site, one of the oldest clubs still playing in North Staffordshire. They originally played upon council land in Abbey Hulton and remained here for the first fifteen years of their existence, despite the fact that, quite interestingly, the changing rooms were more than a mile from the football pitch! Eventually, the club decided to move and the Parks facility at Bucknall Park become The Abbey’s new home and they would remain there until their move to their current home on Birches Head Road in 1985.

During this period the club competed in local leagues, initially starting in the Longton League before having a spell in the Newcastle & District League, prior to joining the Burslem & Tunstall League. Despite not winning any silverware in either the Longton or Newcastle & District competitions, Abbey had more luck in the latter, finishing as Burslem & Tunstall League Division 2 runners-up in 1974 and being promoted, becoming champions of the league after winning the Division 1 and also lifted the B&T League Cup in a 1979 double-winning season. Moving to the Fenton & District League for the beginning of the next decade, the club would finish runners-up in both the league’s Division One and President’s Cup in 1982, but would go on to win a treble just the next year – consisting of the League title, League Challenge Cup and Charity Cup.

AHUFC

After moving into their new home, the club became more stable financially and thus their ambition grew. The clubhouse and other facilities were duly added swiftly and the club immediately joined the North Stafforshire Alliance League upon said move, remaining there for the next couple of seasons. Seeking, and being awarded, election to the Staffordshire County League (North) in 1987, Abbey Hulton would go on to spend just over a decade here, winning a League and League Cup double in 1998 before being switched into the Midland League (not the current one) for the next season, 1998-’99. Winning the Midland League title in 2004, Abbey would remain here through to the league’s merger with the Staffs County League in 2005 and were duly placed in the newly formed Staffordshire County Senior League’s Premier Division for the following year.

Abbey Hulton would eventually see further success in the Staffs County Senior League, though would have to wait a decade for their next silverware in the form of the league’s President’s Trophy in 2014, and then built on this to achieve a cup double in 2015 in the shape of the Leek Cup and the Staffs County League Challenge Cup – the former at their second attempt, having been defeated finalists in 2008 – and 2017 saw the club lift the Leek Cup for a second time, with Abbey also securing their first Staffs County Senior Premier League title at the end of the same campaign. This latter double would be the catalyst for The Abbey’s decision to seek promotion to the North West Counties League for the following year and this was duly achieved following major ground improvements, the club finishing their debut season at Step 6 in 13th in the NWCFL Division One ahead of its regional split for this season. This season has also seen Abbey Hulton make their FA Vase bow, though a difficult tie against Whitchurch Alport ended in a 2-3 defeat.

The game began rather quietly and sedate with little in the way of action early on. After Cheadle’s midfield loanee Laurence Taylor had seen his shot comfortably kept out by the home ‘keeper, his team-mate Ben Brooks had the best chance of the first quarter-hour, seeing his shot saved by the legs of Abbey Hulton custodian Jacob Holding. The hosts responded, with Jon Beaumont’s free header flying over the bar when he likely ought to have done better but unfortunately, aside from the odd effort going harmlessly off-target in the remaining twenty-five minutes or so, that was pretty much that in terms of action for the first forty-five, and I began to have the spectre of the nil-nil creep out of the shadows once again.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Surely, I pondered as I chomped away at a cheeseburger and chips, I couldn’t go over 13 months without one, only to have two in four days? Could I?! No. No. Surely. As a side-note, I did originally head to the food hut to partake in one of the area’s famed oatcakes but on arrival, I noticed that the only one around seemed to be a cheese one. Now, I like cheese. In fact, I’d say I love cheese. I couldn’t live without it. But in certain things, I think it seems disgusting – like cheese savouries or cheese & onion pasties. I don’t know why, it’s just what it is and a cheese oatcake rekindled those ideologies! As such, a cheeseburger had to indulge my cheesy needs. It was a shame the chips weren’t cheesy too…..

Aaaaaanyway, getting off that dairy tangent, let’s get back on with the game, shall we?! Abbey’s shooting continued to be awry, with veteran striker Lee Cropper and Angelo Errico both seeing a couple of efforts evade the target, whilst Joe Neild saw his own shot go wide, before the deadlock was eventually broken with twelve minutes to play, when a ball into the area eventually fell at the feet of the impressive Dylan Bath who lashed the ball beyond Cheadle ‘keeper Danny Whiting and into the net from close range to the delight of the majority of the fans in the ground.

HEADS!!

View from one of the stands

Phantom balls

Finally leaving my camping out posts of the pair of stands in the last five minutes or so after overhearing some Abbey fans experience-fuelled plans to beat the dropping of the tunnel bar come full-time, I watched the final throes of the game from the park-like area just by the gate/car-park expecting the action to wind down to the close. It looked to be going that way too until, in the 95th minute, Cheadle were awarded what looked to be a pretty stonewall penalty (even from my distance) and Joe Neild stepped up to nervelessly send the Abbey ‘keeper the wrong way and secure his side a deserved point in what was, despite the lack of true goalmouth action, a good game to watch throughout with the likes of the aforementioned Bath and Matty German standing out for either side.

After the game, I headed off up the nearby hill and down the road to the Birches Head Inn which shares the road on which it stands’ name of course. I was served without being asked for any ID, though when the girl behind me was asked – as she was lucky enough to look younger – I took distinct offence to this! Obviously, I jest and joked that I must be way past that point by now, which wasn’t exactly denied….hmmm. With the late kick-off just getting going as I arrived, I supped at my pint of Moretti (£4.30) in here before returning around the corner to the pub just next to the bus stop I required to get back to the station. It’s nice when everything works out quite as well as this as it definitely doesn’t happen so smoothly all too often.

Birches Head

Cheshire Cheese

Finishing off with a pint of Sharp’s Atlantic Pale Ale at the very economic £3 in the Cheshire Cheese, I spotted a few delays on the go and reckoned I’d cover myself with an earlier bus, just in case things went awry. The bus arrived right on time and I got back for the rattler a few minutes ahead of its scheduled arrival too, getting back into Manchester just nicely for my bus home. Honestly, is this a dream?! I wasn’t complaining, that’s for sure.

All in all, the day had been decent, especially considering it was all done on the fly. The pubs I visited were all welcoming and the beers were certainly kindly priced (especially considering what was to come the following day at Fulham), whilst the game was alright for the most part, despite the lack of goals for the most part. The food was lovely too and the programme not a bad effort for the £1.50 price tag. Not too bad and, having challenged somewhere to give me something negative to write (Chester, you did well on that front), it’s good to be back in a more positive mindset! Onto Sunday and I’m Fulham bound. Anyone for an upset…..?

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 5

Food: 8

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Cheadle

Result: Cheadle Town 7-1 Hartlepool (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Park Road (Saturday 14th July 2018, 2pm)

Att: 28 (hc)

After a week’s hiatus from the silliness of these pages whilst England continued their run through to the semi-finals of the World Cup via victory over Sweden, it was back on the road once again with a return to Cheadle Town’s Park Road. It would be my third visit to Town’s home but this one was a little more attractive of a proposition. With a North-East side providing the opposition, a tour of the town in the offing and the sun shining (which was certainly a little different than my last visit here!), all was set fair for another good trip to begin the new season with.

After heading into Manchester during the late morning, my intentions to sort out tickets for the first few weeks of the season “proper” were spurned by large queues within the ticket office, so it was off to the platform for a slightly earlier train over to Gatley station instead, Gatley being easily the closest stop to reach the ground by if travelling by rail. With the short journey taking just around fifteen minutes, I was soon somehow managing to get lost despite, as I said earlier, having visited twice before. Things never change, do they?!

Eventually found it!

White Hart, with wedding next door

After going the right way, then the wrong way, then the right way again, I eventually found myself at the foot of Cheadle ‘village’, with the bells of the 16th century (Henry VIII) Tudor-era church ringing out over it as a bride and groom entered, having struck lucky considering the weather! As for me, I was bound for next door, which just happened to be, by pure chance of course, a pub by the name of the White Hart. Who’d have thought it? The Robbie’s filled pub had a decent range of ales on and I opted to sample the local brewery’s finely (yet also quite poorly punned) named Obi-Hops Kenobi. No, me neither.

On Cheadle itself, the area can trace its roots way back to pre-historic times, with tools and evidence of occupation dating back to the Iron Age Celts, who occupied Britain at the time. Later, Cheadle also saw itself become home to the Brigantes (a large Northern English tribe centred largely in Yorkshire) before the Roman colonised the area within the first millennium. This period also saw the area begin to gain the basis for its current name, when St. Chad visited in the seventh century to preach to the people of the area. A stone cross dedicated to him was unearthed close to the nearby meeting of the Mickerbrook and River Mersey in the 19th century, with the area becoming known as Chedle, a corruption of Chad Hill.

Prior to this, the area was noted in the Domesday book as “Cedde” (from the Celtic for wood) and was held by the Saxons who would become the de Chedle family. The area was later split into two, with Chedle Bulkeley (now Cheadle) to the North and Chedle Holme (now Cheadle Hulme) to the South. The town later played host to the armies of the Scot “Bonnie” Prince Charlie, as his forces marched through the area upon his uprising before becoming growing largely in becoming an important Industrial Revolution stopping point for travellers heading into Manchester. However, the ‘village’ did lose its own train station in 1964, when the Cheshire Lines Committee station was closed (now a pub which you can see a little later on) with another having been closed earlier in the twentieth century, having previously stood near the still-standing railway bridge within the village centre.

Cheadle

Not sure who this guy is! He’s pretty wooden though…

I spent a fair amount of time in here whilst trying to come up with something of a plan of action with regards to which pubs to visit when, before continuing on just across the way to the surprisingly spacious Crown Hotel. I say surprising as you’d never think it was anywhere near as big inside as it appears from the narrow exterior. It’s not huge by any means, but certainly wasn’t cramped with space freely available with only a handful of punters in at this early part of the afternoon. A pint of Amstel (£3.50) kept me company in here whilst watching a bit of the cricket, where another wedding was entering its first stages. Aw, it must have been in the air!

After a stop off in the café-bar Lounges chain by the name of Brezo Lounge for a pint of their session Goose IPA (of which I’d already braced myself for the £4.85 price tag) where the staff were really friendly, so props to them, I continued the zig-zag nature of the crawl down the main road through the village, popping into the James Watts which, surprisingly considering the name, wasn’t a Wetherspoons. Instead, it was something of a crafty bar with a good range of ales and the like on, though with time beginning to go against me, I played safe with a Thatcher’s Haze and headed up onto the rooftop terrace out back to take advantage of the sun. A good spot to see some of the arrivals into Manchester Airport too and no I’m still not sad, ok?!

Crown Inn

Brezo Lounge

James Watts

From there, it was off to Park Road where I was to meet regular blog appearance maker, Dan, making his season’s debut. Speaking of Dan, he even had the experience of seeing a pure doppelgänger at Alty the following midweek too which may already be giving an indication that another strange season is on the way! Anyway, without wishing to get sidetracked, we met up at the turnstiles and handed over our £5 entrance fee as Dan finally got the Park Road “local ground monkey” off his back. No Hartlepool pun intended.

With kick-off already imminent as the clock struck 2pm, we headed up into the fairly unique stand the ground plays host to, which is also the only covered area. The remainder of the ground is open, hard standing only, with a small 3G pitch to the far side of the stand and the clubhouse/food bar and other club buildings standing in the gap between it and the turnstiles. The changing rooms are located within the stand with the players entering from underneath, on the half-way line. Interestingly, the ground has previously played host to the Portuguese national side during the 1966 World Cup and also hosted a ‘soccer school’ run by the Brazilian legend, Jairzinho. Anyway, that’s Park Road in a nutshell and this is the history of Cheadle Town FC….

History Lesson:

Cheadle Town Football Club was founded in 1961 under the name of Grasmere Rovers, their formation can apparently be traced to a 14-year-old asking a neighbour to help him and his friends form a side. Crazy. Anyway, this all came to fruition and the club took their original name after the street they lived on. They originally competed in the Sunday afternoon Manchester Junior Football League (on account of the lads’ ages, of course) which they won in 1968 prior to moving into Saturday football and the Manchester League in 1972 and winning the Manchester and District Cup in season 1972-’73. The club had moved from their original home in Belle Vue to Glossop North End’s Surrey Street ground and were growing ever stronger, becoming a force in the Manchester League which eventually saw them lift a quadruple of the Manchester League Division One, the league’s Gilgryst Cup, the Manchester County Amateur Cup and the Derbyshire Junior Cup all in season 1979-’80.

Today’s game!

After finishing runners-up in each of the following two seasons in the Manc League’s Division One, Grasmere Rovers moved to Park Road for the 1982-’83 season and, rather interestingly, the club played Al Sadd in their first ever game at their current home, with the Qatari side running out 4-1 winners. The end of that season would also see the end of Grasmere Rovers, as they became Cheadle Town F.C and joined the North West Counties League for the 1983-’84 season, taking a spot in Division 3. 1987 saw this division absorbed into the Division 2, with Cheadle going on to spend much of their existence since within that division, the highlights of their first stint before promotion being runners-up finishes in the 1990-’91 Lamot Pils Trophy and the 1995-’96 NWCFL Division One Trophy.

Upon the 1998 promotion to Division One after a 4th placed finish, Cheadle went on to spend three years in the top division before being relegated back to the Division 2 again in 2001, after finishing bottom. Since then, the club have failed to escape the Counties’ second-tier, though are now a Division One mainstay since the “Premier Division” rebranding in 2008. They are still to win further silverware since their golden 1979-’80 season, with a final appearance in the NWCFL Division One Trophy for a second time in 2010 again ending in disappointment. The reserves have lifted the Stockport DFA Cup since then though (when they also finished runners-up in this competition), winning it in 2013 and 2017. Last season, Cheadle Town finished up in 12th in the Division One, prior to its regionalisation split for this coming season.

CTFC

On a side note, Cheadle Town are a well-known touring side when venturing abroad. Under the name of AFC Manchester, they have travelled over 200,000 miles whilst competing in 96 games covering 30 countries. They have played seven national sides, became the first (and, apparently, to date only) English side to play in and against Cuba in 1975 whilst having also graced the turf of the legendary Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. They also own the infamous honour of being defeated 0-22 by a touring Russia u-19 side as the Russian youngsters warmed up for a game against their Northern Irish counterparts at the Mottram Hall Hotel where, incidentally, I watched Cheadle entertain Dinamo Bucharest a few years back now too.

We were soon underway and it was soon apparent that Cheadle were going to be on top. They quickly stormed into a two goal lead, the first arriving courtesy of Luke Hincks who met a Chris Sherrington cross to head past the Hartlepool GK Elliot Coils. The second came via the boot of that famed journeyman A. Trialist (later found to be Rhys Webb), who finished nicely, tucking the ball away in the corner. A strong start by the North West Counties South outfit against their Wearside League opponents.

View from the stand

Guinness & football. Not a bad combo!

Smart clubhouse

Hartlepool did grow into the half as it went on and grabbed a goal back after around half an hour when striker Jamie Tumilty – last season’s Wearside League top scorer don’cha know – took a good touch, turned and swept the ball into the corner from twenty yards. However, they would soon find themselves two down again before the break when Webb added a third, his shot from the edge of the area finding its way underneath the Coils for 3-1. The ever busy Hartlepool ‘keeper did pull off a good save soon after but, just before the whistle, the fourth Cheadle goal arrived via Luke Cotton before the sides headed in. Meanwhile, I headed off to the BBQ out the front of the clubhouse for a burger. Really good too, so kudos to the chef(s)!

After Dan and I had watched the very early stages of England’s ill-fated 3rd-placed play-off against Belgium in the clubhouse, the teams were back out onto the field and were back playing once again. A few subs had been brought on here and there, but this did little to disrupt Cheadle’s flow and they swiftly added a fifth through the second trialist of the day. Through a bit of digging, I’ve found this may have been Jake Ambrose, but whatever the case may be, it was certainly another member of Mr. and Mrs. Trialist’s extended family.

Match Action

Webb (aka A. Trialist) secures his hat-trick

Late on….

Cheadle’s domination of the game continued unabated as it continued on past the hour mark and they added two more strikes before the end of the game, Webb converted a corner at the near post to secure his hat-trick (though it may have easily been the one before that he scored, I don’t know) before Tom Ratican rounded off the scoring, arriving at the back-post to finish a good ball across goal. So it was seven-one with a good ten to fifteen minutes to go, but that was to be that in terms of goals, though both sides did have late chances to add to the score-line. A very entertaining but, fairly obviously, not close game came to its conclusion with the hosts running out easy winners, but as we all know, it’s not about the result in pre-season….unless you win I guess! Fair play to Hartlepool though, who continued to play against what I assume is still a higher-ranked side, but just couldn’t fashion as many chances.

Post-game, Dan and I re-traced our steps back along Park Road itself, passing by the adjoining cemetery and the park at the end of the road once more prior to heading over the road and into the Red Lion for a bottle of Bud and a pint of San Miguel respectively. We took advantage of the long-term sunshine of the day and took a table out on the decked area to the rear before continuing on back the short distance to the centre of Cheadle and the George and Dragon, a pub that has one of the more impressive pub signs I’ve seen in a while! I’d scouted this out as the best place to watch the remainder of the England game and it definitely seemed to be the case, giving an opportunity of an easy journey back our respective ways afterwards. A round of Moretti and Foster’s came in at around the £6 mark, so not too bad at all to be fair.

Red Lion

George & Dragon w/ great sign.

As England well and truly saw their World Cup campaign come to an end, so did Dan’s first visit to Cheadle Town. He headed back for his bus back home, whilst I continued on up the road back towards East Didsbury station, via a stop off in a bar within an old station house by the name of the Cheshire Line Tavern, the name reflecting the long-gone line the building once served. This visit was slightly delayed, however, as I came across the Ashlea pub just underneath the railway bridge and I reckoned it’d be rude to miss it out. However, the £4 bottle of Corona made me think it may have been for the best after all.

The pub was decent though, so I wasn’t as aggrieved as I might have been, though my stay was a short one as I wanted to get up there in decent time to hopefully still catch the train at just after six. A fifteen minute walk later saw me descending the steps from the road down to the ex-station where I was soon handing over a cool £4.50 for a pint of Heineken (I was less bothered at this as it was at least an interesting place) prior to again taking the opportunity to sit out front on the large patioed area. An extra bonus came along soon after when, having resigned myself to missing the aforementioned train, a check on the lifeline that is Maps revealed that the walk was a fair bit shorter than I thought and so I swiftly finished up before making haste towards Parrs Wood to close off the day with the connections going oh so smoothly. I hope that’s a sign of things to come too!

The Ashlea….

….and the Cheshire Line Tavern to end with.

So there ends the first true game of the new season, and the last home Cheadle game with this badge (they have a shiny, new one with a bull on it and have gone all red). It had been a good one too, with a hatful of goals being seen and a nice day in Cheadle being enjoyed (bar the getting lost for a half-hour bit). All was priced ok I guess – helped out by knowing what to expect, whilst the ground and food were all good too as my last visit to Park Road had been before the upgrades to the clubhouse. They had a caravan instead (which you may have seen in the other blog linked to earlier on). So the pre-season period rolls on into another week, whereupon I’ll be enjoying a large Lancastrian windmill. No, not like that. Honestly…..!!!!

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 8

Programme: N/A (see other blog for (I assume) a fairly reflective rating)

Value For Money: 7

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….Cheadle

Cheadle_TownBarnton_FC
Result: Cheadle Town 0-3 Barnton (NWCFL Premier Division)

Venue: Park Road (Saturday 28th March 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 82

A wet, miserable week culminated on Saturday with a decimated fixture list and very little fixtures to choose from. Games fell left right and centre both before and after kick-off up to League 2 and my first choice for this Saturday,  Wythenshawe Town’s Cup Final with Failsworth Dynamoes was called off during the morning due to a severely waterlogged pitch at the Regional Athletics Stadium next to the Etihad. Needless to say, I doubt its more illustrious neighbour has similar drainage problems.

Still, this left me with something of a dilemma. Just where was I going to end up? As the games continued to fall, through the gloom there shone a beacon of hope. Cheadle Town confirmed that their game against Barnton in the North West Counties was all set to go and so off to Park Road I set.

Cheadle Town this way

Cheadle Town this way

Entrance to the Park Road Stadium

Entrance to the Park Road Stadium

After jumping on a bus to Parrs Wood and changing at the cinema complex onwards towards the small Cheshire township a couple of heavy downpours came upon that seriously made me consider that this may just have been a wasted journey. But I needn’t have feared as I walked up to the turnstiles at a damp, but ready ground. After paying my entry fee to the gateman and purchasing an issue of the club’s Talk of the Town programme, I headed inside but not before I heard the gateman exclaim to the guy behind me that he’d “…almost sold out of the programmes already”. Clearly, getting your game on can help boost the coffers on a day like this as the hardcore football fans stick it out.

A defender's favourite sign

A defender’s favourite sign

Cheadle Town FC

Cheadle Town FC

Programme

Programme

Park Road resembles something of a work in progress at the moment, but with little to no work actually going on. The lack of an actual clubhouse of note is a worry, but figuring that Irlam have lasted a few seasons in the Counties without one, this shouldn’t be a pressing issue (Irlam are building one as I type and there is one in the pipeline at Cheadle). The rest of Park Road is open standing, apart from the Main Stand, which is an old style structure which has been done up slightly recently, including a new hard standing area directly in front of the stand, around the tunnel that the players appear from underneath the stand. The refreshments bar is currently a mobile home with a club sign in a bathtub across from the kitchen and there is another caravan near the astroturf pitch to the right of the stand. Ah, non-league. The car park is situated to the left of the mobile, which is effectively in the car park itself.

Main Stand from another angle

Main Stand from another angle

Across the pitch

Across the pitch

Far end

Far end & caravan

The distinct lack of cover forced the ground to look quite unpopulated due to the steady rain that was hovering over the ground for the vast majority of the game, though the pitch did hold up quite well until the late deluge, but any pitch outside the top two tiers of English football would have struggled after that, as Bury found out! So, there is no better time to explore the short, but extremely colourful history of Cheadle Town FC then right now, I’d say. So, here goes….

History Lesson:

Cheadle Town were formed in 1961 under the name of Grasmere Rovers, originally playing Sunday League football as well as fielding a side in u-16’s in the Manchester & District Sunday League, winning a number of honours. They switched to Saturday football in 1972, joining the Manchester League. When Albert Pike took the reigns in 1978, the club won the First Division and Manchester Amateur Cup double in his first season in charge. In later years, they were to add the Manchester and Derbyshire FA Cups to their cabinet.

Grasmere Rovers moved in to Park Road in 1982, changing their name to Cheadle Town a year later. The name change co-incided with a move to the North West Counties League. They have remained in the old Second/ current First Division for the vast majority of their time here, bar a five season stay in the First (Premier) Division from 1996 to 2001 after promotion at the close of the ’95-’96 season.

Park Road itself has a strange history starting with featuring as Manchester City’s training ground for a period following the demise of the town’s original club, Cheadle Rovers, who used the ground prior to City’s incumbent-ship. Portugal, and the late, great Eusebio, used it as a training venue for the 1966 World Cup and Jairzinho ran a soccer school for Cheadle Town there in 1993. Cheadle beat a Manchester United Youth side in 1995 when inaugurating the new floodlights, but their more famed legacy is still to follow…

Cheadle, playing under their tour name of Manchester AFC, have played 96 games in 30 different countries, ranging from playing in front of 65,000 people in the Aztec Stadium, Mexico City to Dar-es-Salaam, Sudan. Within their travels, they have also taken in the sights of Rio de Janeiro, Acapulco, Cannes, Phuket, the Bahamas, Haiti and Guangzhou, China. They have scored 111 times in their 96 contests, including seven games against national sides and have come across figures such as the late Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano, Ronnie Biggs and Rajiv Gandhi. They have competed in front of over 312,000 people during their worldwide ventures. All this in just over 50 years of existence is quite incredible!

Take a breath from all that and bring yourself back to the damp, dreary UK, England, Manchester, Cheadle, Park Road. There? Ok. So, Barnton, now led by new manager, ex-Swansea City player Leon Knight and less new signing Lee Trundle accompanied the home side onto the pitch where a minutes silence was held in memory of the Holker Old Boys and North West Counties member who’d died since the sides had last played. The silence was observed impeccably by those watching the game, but not quite so well by the young lads who were too into their game to notice what was going on. I’m sure that in many ways it was fitting that football was the distraction…

Teams coming out

Teams coming out

Handshakes aplenty

Handshakes aplenty

In rememberance

In rememberance

We got underway with the heavy pitch not doing much to help either side but it was Barnton who looked the more likely to break the deadlock as they spurned a couple of good chances, before they did get the opener, when a quick breakaway led to a low cross being bundled in by Joe Jennings. 1-0. The two sides traded half chances throughout the remainder of the half, for little reward and they headed back inside with the score remaining 1-0.

With half time underway, I already had my pie in hand, which was really good I might add. This was how I saw the sign in a bath. I went inside the mobile home after seeing a small refreshments sign lodged up in a window and there found the cramped kitchen area being manned, or should I say womaned quite well in such a confined space! After paying £1.50 for my crusty offering, I headed back outside and into the cover of the Main Stand for the second period. After a chat with James Lobley who braved the weather in the quest for photos (madness!) we were back underway.

Is it a bird?...Is it a plane? Oh it's a plane.

Is it a bird?…Is it a plane? Oh it’s a plane.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The ground is directly on the flight path into Manchester Airport, which gave the Barnton cameraman something else to take pictures of when nothing much was being offered upon the pitch, though as the rain began to come down heavier, it began to obscure our view. I say our, as I do tend to have my eyes drawn skywards in these venues. I love a ground on an airport flightpath, so any recommendations, please do let me know! Anyway, Lloyd Dean who was a real danger throughout the game was finally rewarded with a goal his performance deserved. The well-built frontman showed his poachers instinct by slotting home a rebound after an initial shot had struck the post. 2-0 and it looked like game over.

Match Action

Match Action

Here cometh the rain

Here cometh the rain

Indeed, it was as the rain absolutely teemed down in torrential, monsoon like conditions that weren’t much removed from those seen in Malaysia during the F1 Qualifying. As such, the pitch began to waterlog, but the ref carried on and was correct to as the conditions were certainly fine for play. The aircraft were taken out of vision until they were overhead, but Anthony Wynne’s, the Barnton sub, vision wasn’t hindered as he swept home a late third to add gloss to the scoreline. The result was well deserved for Barnton, who look like strong candidates to go up as the play-off winners. Kudos to those who pushed for the play-offs in the Counties First, it’s kept the division alive.

I bid goodbye to James before quickly making my way out the ground to catch the bus back towards Manchester before I got any more wet than I needed to be. The journey back was largely uneventful, and I was soon back home and having a couple of beverages to end a good, yet wet day. Hopefully, the Easter weekend which beckons will offer up better weather for us all!

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My Cheadle Town M.o.M.- James Horan.

My Barnton M.o.M.- Lloyd Dean.

Ratings:

Game: 6- Hindered by the weather and conditions.
Ground: 5- Not much to it, work in progress. Nice stand.
Programme: 6- Light on content, normal for the level, but well presented.
Food: 7- Tasty pie.
Fans: 4- Not many supporting Cheadle as far as I could see or hear. Mostly away/neutral.
Value For Money: 7- Happy to get a game at all, cheap day out.