Manchopper in….Droylsden (2)


Result: Droylsden 1-1 Tadcaster Albion (FA Trophy Preliminary Round)

Venue: Butcher’s Arms (Saturday 13th October 2018, 3pm)

Att: 167

Non-League Day rolled around once again and with the seemingly never-ending train strikes continuing on unabated, another local revisit was on the cards for this week; the only question being “Where?”. Well, my regular accomplice on these pages, Dan, had already told me of his want to get to the Butcher’s Arms, home of Droylsden FC, the only “major” local ground he’d never made it to by this point. As such, the decision was a fairly simple one, made all the more attractive by the game in question being a tie in the FA Trophy. The visitors would be Tadcaster Albion, whom I’m sure had visions of less of a bloodbath at the Butcher’s than what happened just down the road from them at the Battle of Towton.

Setting off at just after half-ten, the easy bus journey into Manchester saw me able to grab an earlier than planned service into Droylsden. My original starting point was still shut up at this point, so I instead diverted back to the brilliantly named Lazy Toad, just on the edge of the town centre. It was here on New Year’s Day, that I had received the bad news of the late postponement of the Bloods’ game that day and I even repeated the trick almost as a whole, sitting in the same seat at the same table, though did mix things up beer-wise by opting for a pint of the Pravha, which came in at the quite astonishing price of £2.70. Considering I’ve seen how much it can cost whilst on my travels, this was a fine start! A nice welcome was had too as I got to the bar, which never goes unnoticed. Wasting away the extra-time I now had in here on account of my earlier than planned arrival, I planned out my itinerary for the day, which would see a slow and steady crawl along Market Street’s few offerings and up to the ground. Next up, the Silly Country. Some great pub names around here! (NB: This is apparently derived from a nickname given to the town by the Mancunians, relating to a legend that grew about the people of Droylsden putting a pig on a wall to watch the annual carnival and other festivities).

Arriving in Droylsden

Lazy Toad

Droylsden Square

Droylsden is a former mill town located between Manchester City Centre and Ashton-under-Lyne, just within the borough of Tameside. Originally settled in 900 AD, it would later grow in the mid-19th century to become a mill town, where the world’s first machine woven towel would be produced at Fairfield Mill under the name of W.M. Christy and Sons, with Queen Victoria being a regular user of their business and their newly created product, derived from the looped Turkish versions. Sadly, as with many places, the site is now a Tesco. Droylsden would latterly grow into an overflow housing area for the workers in and around Manchester around the 1930’s and was also the apparent host of Britain’s first ever Speedway meet in 1927, the sport then being termed simply as “dirt track racing”. More recently, during the mid-to-later-2000’s, the town became home a Marina just off the canal, which appears to be well used, though the predicted building and facilities don’t seem to have fully come to fruition.

The Silly Country is a recently opened ale/craft/bottle shop kind of place, and I arrived just prior to the place emptying out on account of the place having a tour of a brewery on the go. Regardless, I opted to be sensible(!) for now and went for a pint of the Brazilian lager beer, Cruzcampo which, at £4.40, would be by far my dearest choice of the day. Not that I minded whatsoever, as the Silly Country is definitely a nice place to enjoy a pint in if you’re into the above side of things. Anyway, after watching the world go by from its prime position at the corner of the town’s clock square and seeing a kid lose his hat on two very swift occasions by the hand of the apparent “Storm Callum”, I finished up and continued up the way, the Beehive Inn being just a few doors down. The Beehive is definitely my sort of place. A seemingly older pub than those around it, its interior is very timber-orientated and is nicely decorated with varied paraphernalia too – a real traditional kind of place. Split into two parts, it was still fairly quiet upon my arrival and I took up a spot in the corner whilst overhearing (unintentionally I can assure you) stories of drunken exploits from the night before, which were more than entertaining….especially when you can relate!

Trying to take up as much time as possible (the time hadn’t quite reached half-one by the time I was half-way through my pint) over the Boddington’s in front of me, I fell into the trap of clock-watching, a decision which never helps when you’re wishing the time away as I’m sure you are all well aware. Eventually, though, the clock did tick on round to ten-to-two and so I supped the final dregs and again headed on a few doors away, across the road from the large retail park and to the King’s Arms, complete with a large image of local hero Guardsman Tony Downes, the soldier from the town who was sadly killed in action whilst serving in Iraq. He also has an office building named after him too, which is a further nice touch of remembrance. I guess from the statement on said poster that he had links to the pub at the very least. Passing Tony with a nod, I headed in and was soon in possession of a pint of the fine Bootleg Brewery’s IPA at the ever interesting Holt’s price of £3.03. Dan arrived shortly afterwards to join me in taking up the remaining time leading up to kick-off, opting for a pint of Diamond Lager whilst bemoaning a lack of Carling – I don’t know what else I can do to solve this issue….

The Silly Country

The Beehive

King’s Arms

Eventually, it was finally time to head to the Butcher’s Arms and, after taking a pic of the ground’s perimeter from where the pub of the same name once stood up to its demolition almost a decade ago now (God, I feel old writing that) we headed for the turnstiles, paying our £8 entry, plus a further £2 for a programme, which I’d missed out on my other blog visit a few years back, when the Bloods took on the recently “Class of 92’d” Salford City in abhorrent weather conditions. A quick peruse of the teamsheet, which is helpfully on display as you enter, showed the likes of ex-Football League and Premier League academy players Liam Dickinson (ex-Leeds & Derby), Febian Brandy (ex-Manchester United & Wolves) and Javan Vidal (ex-Manchester City) lining up for the Bloods. Sadly, there’s no Jonathan Greening these days to compliment them from Taddy’s side. After heading around to pitchside, a twenty-minute wait faced up prior to kick-off, which allowed a look around the ground. The far end is open, hard standing, whilst the opposite end is host to a sizable, covered terrace. A small, older terrace is located on the far side, and has recently had a smarten up out front, with a big red sign proclaiming “Droylsden Football Club” across the field. The large “William Pace” all-seater Main Stand is right in front of you as you enter and offers decent views over the action, whilst a small amount of terracing is located out front. The clubhouse is right alongside to the left as you enter, with the usual food bar there too, though this was out of action today and replaced by a trailer. That’s the Butcher’s Arms in a quick summary, and this is the story of the Bloods….

History Lesson:

Droylsden Football Club was founded in 1892 at the invitation of the landlord of the Butcher’s Arms pub and thus played behind said establishment. After spending their first two decades going in and out of existence whilst playing in local league’s and playing friendly fixtures – including winning the Ashton & District League in 1914. Post-war, the club would emerge as the village’s sole surviving team and became members of the Manchester League, whilst also adopting their now familiar red and white strip. They won the 1923 Manchester Junior Cup, gaining revenge on local rivals Hyde United who beat the Bloods in the 1921 final, whilst the 1930’s saw club legend Ernest Gilibrand net an astonishing 275 goals over four seasons, helping Droylsden to the Manchester League title in both 1931 & 1933.

1936 saw Droylsden successfully apply to join the Lancashire Combination and the club became a “nursery” side for Manchester City’s surplus players, though this link ruled the club out of the FA Cup. They would remain in the Combination through to the outbreak of WWII, with the Bloods joining the wartime Cheshire League and finished runners-up in 1945-’46. However, things went downhill quickly and the club failed in their re-election bid just four years later and also lost the lease of the Butcher’s Arms to Belle Vue F.C. who then renamed themselves as Droylsden United. Common sense would prevail from prior experience, and the two clubs merged in 1952, after the Bloods played a short time at the Moorside Trotting Stadium, affectionately known as “Pork Park”.

The Butcher’s Arms, via the site of the pub

In 1952, the Bloods returned to the newly rotated ground at the Butcher’s and began to see silverware on a far more regular basis than before. During their stay in the Lancashire Combination through to 1968, they won four Manchester Premier Cups (1947,’52,’ 60,’65) prior to returning to the Cheshire League, after they’d lost sides due to the formation of the Northern Premier League. The club didn’t see too much in the way of success in the league, though would add a further Manchester Premier Cup (1970) & three Manchester Senior Cups to their honours board, these coming in 1973, ’76 &’ 79. They also managed to reach the FA Cup “proper” on two occasions, losing to Grimsby Town firstly in 1976, before defeating Rochdale in 1978 prior to bowing out to Altrincham.

After another Premier Cup win in 1981, fortunes would again take a turn for the worse in 1982, when Droylsden finished a distant bottom of the Cheshire League, though remained at the level after the merger with the Lancashire Combination to form the North West Counties League, with Droylsden placed in Division Two of three. They would win the Second Division in 1987, though would bypass Division One after successfully applying for the newly created NPL Division One, gaining an effective double promotion in the process. 1990 saw Droylsden finish as runners-up and achieve promotion to the NPL Premier Division. They would spend six seasons in the loser echelons of the division, winning another Manchester Premier Cup in 1993, prior to being relegated in 1996 and being on the wrong side of the fastest FA Cup hat-trick in history, when conceding three in 2 minutes 28 seconds against Nantwich Town.


After lifting the NPL’s Division One title and President’s Cup in 1999, an eighth Premier Cup in 2000 would follow. This time they were more competitive in the Premier Division and finished high enough in 2004 to receive an invite to take up a spot in the newly formed Conference North. They would also win that year’s NPL League Challenge Cup and the Manchester Premier Cup for a ninth time. Finishing the inaugural season in third, they narrowly missed out in the following season’s play-offs – losing in the final to Stafford Rangers on penalties. 2007 saw the Bloods notch their tenth Manchester Premier Cup with victory over the sadly departed Flixton, before defeating Harrogate Town three days later to win the Conference North and achieve promotion to the Conference National. However, they would be relegated after just the one season. The 2008-’09 season saw the Bloods reach the FA Cup Second Round after beating Darlington in the First Round. However, it would become somewhat farcical come the Second Round as it took three matches to overcome Chesterfield, after fog, floodlight failure and an eventual 2-1 win, with Sean Newton netting both Bloods goals. However, it was then discovered he was ineligible and Droylsden were duly expelled from the competition. Crazy.

They would share the Tony Downes Memorial Trophy with Chester City in 2008, and added two more Manchester Premier Cup titles in 2009 and 2010, and again reached the FA Cup Second Round in 2011, when they took Leyton Orient to a replay at Brisbane Road and led two-nil, only for Orient to storm back and avoid the upset, winning 8-2 after extra-time. After missing out in the play-offs to Fleetwood Town in 2010, things soon dipped for Droylsden and they were relegated back to the Northern Premier League in 2013 after finishing second-bottom, prior to suffering something of an annus horriblis the following year as they finished a distant bottom with just nine points and were duly relegated to the NPL Division 1 North, where they have spent the last four seasons, finishing up 13th on both of the last two occasions.

The game got underway and, unfortunately, it was very much a slow-burner. True action was at a real premium in the first half-hour, with only Taddy’s Casey Stewart looking a constant threat, though Febian Brandy would occasionally show glimpses of his talent here and there throughout those first thirty minutes too. Stewart had an iffy penalty shout waved away by the referee mid-way through this period, whilst Brandy saw his attempted cross become more of a threat to Taddy ‘keeper Michael Ingham’s goal than intended, the stopper having to tip the ball over the bar, whilst Domaine Rouse wastefully placed a free-header wide of the mark from the resultant corner.

Match Action

From the back of the terrace

The old & the new covered terraces

Brandy would again pose a threat on the right flank, forcing his way into the area before firing a low cross-cum-shot across the face of goal, the ball evading both a Droylsden foot and the far side-netting on its way wide, before Taddy again saw a stronger penalty shout turned down as Stewart was played in before being clipped from behind, though his attempts to stay up probably went against him. Eventually losing his footing and going down in the area, his pleas fell on deaf ears. However, the visitors really should have been one, if not two, up at the break, as they spurned two glorious chances in the lead up. First, Lamin Colley was played in by a nice through ball, but his shot from the angle was tipped onto the post by Bloods ‘keeper Chris Thompson, before Aiden Savory would put it on a plate (sorry!) for Stewart to run onto around thirty yards out. Beating the offside trap, he advanced to the edge of the box and, with only Thompson between him and the net, he curled the ball against the outside of the post. Goalless at half time, it was off to the food trailer for some cheesy chips (£1.50). Lovely.

The second half began with Tadcaster again being the more dangerous side overall. Billy Whitehouse saw his own low ball just evade Savory at the back-post, before they deservedly took the lead when Colley advanced into the area and saw his effort well kept out by Thompson, only for the ball to land at creator-in-chief Savory’s feet once again and this time his ball to Stewart resulted in the striker placing the ball into the rather unguarded net from six-yards. Droylsden responded by replacing the largely ineffective Dickinson with another ex-Manchester United youth player, Phil Marsh, whilst also replacing skipper Brewster and, latterly Brandy with his replacement being Brandon Zibaka, a player whom, on our arrival, I’d stated to Dan I’ve always rated….

Match Action

Match Action

Zibaka was introduced in the 81st minute and, just four minutes later, he’d drew his side level. A cross in from the left by Rouse found the tall target man Sefton Gonzales in the box and he manoeuvred himself well to chest the ball into the path of the newly arrived Zibaka who drilled his effort beyond Ingham and into the net. At that point, all the momentum looked to be with Droylsden and they appeared to be pressing on to get the win but there was little truly created towards the end of the game and the sides would have to do it all over again on Tuesday night in Yorkshire. As it was, Droylsden would go on to triumph 2-0 in the replay, taking them into the First Round where they will travel to another White Rose County side, Pickering Town.

Post-match, there was time to pop in to the Church Inn right next to the bus stop we’d need, which was quite the amusing experience. Again, made to feel welcome, it was good to spend the final twenty minutes or so of our day in here, though it did end up being third-time lucky on beer option, after my first two choices were off. Eventually settling on Heineken (£2.10), Dan was in his element, having seen Carling. I’ll never understand how he manages to get that excited. Anyway, we eventually finished up and headed out just as the bus was rolling into the bus stop a little early, meaning we could jump straight on and be on our way. 20 minutes later we were back in Piccadiily and another quick connection was made to take us homeward.

Church Hotel

So ends the day and it had been good to finally do Droylsden properly, especially when considering the forecast weather looked to be similar to my first blog visit! Game was decent enough and I always enjoy a visit to the Butcher’s Arms. Pubs and food were all good and the travel was no issue whatsoever. Onto next week and MY GOD, I CAN USE A TRAIN! WHAT IS A TRAIN?! I’VE NO IDEA!!!! The FA Cup is back on and it’s a return to a club who have a pretty new home on the Farm….


Game: 6

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper at the Cricket….(Friends United CC)

Result: Friends United CC 106 (26.4 overs) BEAT Droylsden CC 2nd XI 33 (21.1 overs) by 73 runs (GMCL Division 5 S&E)

Venue: Alexandra Park (Saturday 17th June 2017, 1.30pm)

Att: 45 (approx., mostly sunbathers!)

For my penultimate club cricket game of this summer, it was already pre-determined that a visit to Whalley Range was to be undertaken. With the temperatures reaching a balmy 25+ degrees, was there a case for the town to become the Costa Del Range (minus the sea, of course). Probably not but, regardless of this fact, I headed into Chorlton before undertaking the sweltering 20-minute walk down to the ground, which sits just past the football grounds of Whalley Range and Maine Road.

Now before we go any further, you may have looked back at the title, or result, and be thinking to yourself “What an idiot, he’s put the wrong blog up”. However, dear reader, this is definitively not the case. You see, I arrived at Range’s Kingsbrook Road ground to find it deserted bar a few tennis players on the neighbouring courts. This was looking a little bit awry.

After seeking some advice from one of the players, I headed through the main door to find the bar area devoid of souls and the only pairs of eyes being those peering down from the pictures adorning the walls. Outside stood a cricket field. But no players were to be seen. Anywhere. This didn’t look good and after a quick check of CricHQ, it was confirmed that there was no game here today, as the visitors from Wythenshawe CC (whom I’d visited the previous weekend) had conceded the game at some point in the lead up to the contest. Incidentally, their 2nd XI game was also called off so hopefully all is well there. Or maybe they were all sun-seeking (or beer-seeking) and taking advantage of a rare sun-baked day! NB: I’m sure this wasn’t actually the case.

All deserted here…

….so it’s off to my eventual venue

So, I was left to frantically search the fixture list for a nearby game I could get to in the best time to not miss too much play having, by this point, missed around fifteen minutes of the 1pm starts in the GMCL.  Thankfully, I discovered that a club by the name of Friends United CC were hosting Droylsden CC’s 2nd XI at nearby Alexandra Park which sits a short walk away and, even more positive news was the fact it was a 1.30 start and I had a good 15 minutes to undertake the trip.

Arriving at the public park at just before the scheduled start of play, I made my way around the avian-abound pair of ponds to the large pavilion building that sits within the two large, circular grassy areas that constitute the playing fields/sun-bathing areas here. Ignoring the unused football sticks for today, I was instead heading for the right-hand side field and to the six sticks of wood that sat at either end of the wicket.

Welcoming signs

Off to the pavilion

Bit of history about it.

Friends United found themselves batting first and got off to a fairly decent start, reaching fifteen without loss within the third over, before they lost opener and skipper Tan Mahmood, who fell caught & bowled to pacey Droylsden opening bowler Roche for just two.

A decent partnership followed, which saw opener Naveed Arshad and wicketkeeper-batsman Muhammad Faraz advance the score onto forty-two with watchful knocks, tied in with a bit of aggression here and there. Arshad (15) was next to go, the first of spinner Jamie Walker’s impressive haul as one looked to stay a little low and crept beyond the opener’s defences. 42-2 then became 42-4, Walker adding the scalps of Saqib Butt- bowled round his legs next ball- and Nasir Ali who was trapped LBW just three deliveries later. This all meant Walker had claimed three wickets during the twelfth over to seemingly put his side in the driving seat.

Match Action

Solid Block

This seemed all the more the case, as both Faraz (20) and Faizan Faizan (4) were dismissed with the score on 57, with Walker and Rob Tipping taking the respective wickets. Faraz fell first after advancing, but missing, and seeing his stumps rearranged and Faizan soon after, after being beaten all ends up. The collapse would continue with Shahid Nawaz’s (five) wicket going to Walker to secure him a five-fer (and another out bowled) and by the time Ali Asif (eight) was sent back to the pavilion (yes you guessed it, bowled) by Tipping, Friends United found themselves eight down with just seventy-four on the board.

A bit of late order hitting by numbers 9 & 10, Zeshan Arshad and Saeed Nazeer (11) saw the hosts on and into three-figures before Nazeer’s innings was ended by destroyer-in-chief Walker, who trapped him on the back-foot and was rewarded with his sixth wicket. And the Friends United innings was over in the next…well…over, when Hasan Raza was knocked over, bowled (surprisingly!) by Tipping to mean Arshad was left stranded on a decent 21 and Droylsden 2nd XI would be chasing what looked like a modest total.

Match Action

Got him!

A quick turnaround due to a lack of facilities meant we were back underway after a ten-minute break. Another quick start followed, with Droylsden seconds reaching eleven after 1.3 overs and there was no sign of what was to immediately follow.

First, B. Ahmed (nine) was dismissed LBW to quick bowler Arshad, much to his chagrin as we showed his bat to the umpire in frustration. He clearly thought he’d hit it, the umpire thought differently and his decision is, of course, final. Ahmed had to drag himself back to the pavilion, but he wouldn’t be alone in the dressing room for long as Sabir was dismissed for a second-ball duck to the same bowler after missing a clip to leg and being trapped in front for a much more straight-forward-looking decision.

From then on, it was the quintessential “dig-in” performance by the visiting batsmen, with only five runs added over the next five overs. Alas, this only staved off the wickets for the same period before Tipping fell for an eighteen-ball two, missing a drive against Arshad who rearranged his stumps and secure his third wicket. An over later and it was 18-4 as Nesbitt (one) found himself heading back after being rapped on the pads by Arshad’s new ball partner Saeed Nazeer.

Just Drive


The innings by this point, had slowed to hardly a snails-pace, with just about one an over being added as the hosts turned the screw. This led to frustration getting the better of Graham who cut to point where Shahid Nawaz took the catch off Ali Asif’s medium-pacers. Three overs later and Screen (two) fell to the spin of Saqib Butt, after missing a big swing and being another to fall the way of bowled.

After K. Ahmed’s 28-ball innings ended without him troubling the scorers, as he hit one down mid-off’s throat off Tan Mahmood’s mediums/spinners, Droylsden were seven down with just twenty-five scored. They didn’t last too much longer, as just over four overs of play saw Friends United take the final two wickets. Firstly Owens fell for yet another nought on the day, becoming Mahmood’s second victim, before the innings ended after Walker was castled by Butt and with only ten men batting, the nine taken were enough to secure the hosts an easy win in a quite remarkable match.

Late action

Teams head off

A quick journey back was undertaken to signal yet another early finish this year, where I’ve only seen three teams (in blogs anyway) pass one hundred in an innings. Madness. Anyway, next week sees a return into the Cheshire County League and a trip to Stockport to finish off the club cricketing summer prior to the return of football from July onwards. It’s going to be a long run!


Game: 4

Ground: 5

Food: N/A

Beer: N/A

Value For Money: 7



Manchopper in….Colne

Result: Colne 0-0 Droylsden (Northern Premier League Division One North)

Venue: Holt House (Saturday 22nd April 2017, 3pm)

Att: 568

With the season drawing to a close and the race for the play-offs reaching its critical point, the final weekend of the regular Northern Premier League season saw a number of games with something riding on them. As such, my final choice came down to one of Ossett Town vs Trafford or Colne vs Droylsden. Obviously, you should know which one I decided upon!

My final decision came on the back of two reasons. Firstly, I hadn’t been to Holt House for just over nine years and second, I reckoned the game would likely be an open one, what with Colne needing a result and visitors Droylsden playing for little more than pride. Alas, me reasoning was to be awry. By quite a way too!

Anyway, my day began with a trip up to Preston before grabbing the full, scenic stopper up into the Lancastrian countryside. After an hour or so of heading through the rolling hills and sheep-filled farmyards, the creaky pacer finally rolled into the old market and former mill town. Upon exiting the station, I immediately headed for the nearby Crown Hotel, where I plumped for a pint of the “Blonde Witch” ale, which wasn’t bad at all. Even more so when you take into account it’s less than £3 a pint.

The Crown Hotel

The Venue. Nice underpants clock too.

Of course, I couldn’t take too much advantage of this as there was still a fair bit more of Colne (and more importantly its pubs) to see. Second up was a bar named The Venue, which seemed to be a bar-cum-pub, in which it couldn’t truly decided what it wanted to be. Still, I wasn’t in any mood to complain as, once again, I went for a Coast-to-Coast APA, which was a decent enough pint too, though didn’t take me as much as the Witch did.

After watching Lincoln net their decisive, title-winning second goal, I headed back out into the Colne sunshine and came upon one of the Olympic gold postboxes from 2012. Upon reading the plaque, I learnt this was for Colne’s very own gold-medallist, Steve Burke, who won the top prize in the Men’s pursuit cycling. Of course, despite his success, Burke is still not the most famed son of Colne. That very man will be mentioned later, having had the honour of a ‘Spoons bestowed upon him. No, it’s not the creator of Postman Pat somehow.

The golden postbox. No, not a crap fairytale.

Sitting outside. That’s unexpected!

As I was heading there, I was stopped in my tracks by a small bar/restaurant by the name of the “Green Chimney”. Having been enticed by the large “ale” word in the window, I was somewhat disappointed, if not surprised, to find there was only bottles on offer. Having not seen anything too much to my fancy, I decided upon an Orange Bulmers to accompany me on a drink outside. Yes a drink outside. In Colne. In April. Sorcery.

Having been given my cider along with plastic cup to go with it, I headed out onto the small road-side seating area to while away some time. Whilst sitting here, I did notice another bar across the road which I hadn’t even seen whilst standing directly outside and mulling over the Green Chimney. Anyway, with me planning on having an hour or so back in the town after the game, I made a mental note of this small, unassuming place for later and moved on to my final pre-match stop the Wetherspoons by the name of “The Wallace Hartley”.

Now, as I alluded to earlier, Hartley is Colne’s most famed and celebrated son, though for pretty tragic reasons. It turns out that Hartley was the band leader on the doomed Titanic voyage. Bravely remaining on board the sinking vessel and continuing to play amongst the chaos, Hartley and his seven band mates would all go on to perish within the icy waters of the North Atlantic. His body would eventually be brought back to Colne, the route to his funeral was attended by thousands lining the streets.


The Wallace Hartley

On account of all this, I thought it would be rude not to visit the place bearing his name (not knowing about the memorial I’d just walked past being in existence) and headed in for the, now standard, swift Punk IPA before heading off down a steep hill before rising back upwards again upon approaching the ground. It’s only a couple of minutes at a steep incline, though, so nothing too major and certainly not as steep as the approach to Bacup’s ground!

Anyway, after crossing over the neighbouring pitches, I joined onto the queue for the turnstile, before handing over my £7 entrance, plus £2 for the decent programme. Not a bad deal for a big game in the club’s history, especially considering this is their first season back at NPL level.

It’s pretty steep that hill!

Queuing. Not often experienced!

Once inside, Holt House is a pleasant little ground, with that traditional yet quaint feel to it. It houses three stands, the “Main” stand straddles the slope and is located towards the far end of the touch-line on the side you enter from, with the near end having the clubhouse/dressing rooms. The opposite touch-line plays host to a very small covered terrace which is set back slightly from the pitch and doesn’t really offer great views of much. The near-end is where the popular covered terrace is located and this is where the vocal followers of Colne call home. The far end is open, hard standing and affords nice views down the valley to the town below. As for Colne FC’s story…

History Lesson:

Colne Football Club was formed in 1996, following the demise of the town’s previous club, Colne Dynamoes, who played at the same venue up until their closure. Dynamoes, themselves, were victims of their own visions of grandeur, with it eventually being their owner’s apparent overspending, to the point of the club going into bankruptcy, along with the refusal of promotion to the Conference (due to ground grading) that combined to sound the death knell for the Dynamoes.

Prior to this, Dynamoes had been a rather successful side, going from being a local school side, competing in the local Nelson & Colne League, right through to being NPL Champions in a spell covering just 27 years. Following them taking on the current site and building the subsequent stadium upon a former cricket field, the club joined the Lancashire Combination in 1975 (with a best of 2x runners-up), before becoming founder members of the NWCFL in 1982. After a swift rise through the divisions (winning Division 3 at the first attempt in ’83), the club benefited from 12 clubs moving to the new NPL Division 1, amongst restructuring, with Dynamoes taking a spot in Division 1 and won it immediately (’88), along with the FA Vase at Wembley.

As champions, Dynamoes went into the NPL Division 1 themselves and won it in 1989, with former Liverpool star Alan Kennedy at the side’s forefront. During the summer, the club turned full-time and some players were, reportedly, earning more cash than some in the football league at that point in time. They, again, immediately won a league, this time the NPL Premier Division, by a staggering 26 points, whilst averaging crowds over 1,300. However their story ended abruptly, with the refusal of new stadium, along with the reasons in paragraph one combining to see the Dynamoes consigned to the history books during pre-season.

Benches & tactics and stuff.

Six years later saw the current Colne F.C. come into being, the club joining the North West Counties Division 2, ending their first season bottom. After finishing in the bottom half every season up until 2002-’03, their fortunes took a massive turn for the better as they lifted the Division 2 title in 20o4 and were promoted to the Division 1. The season was made all the more successful with the triumph in the Division 2 cup being allied with a semi-final showing in the FA Vase.

Colne would go on to remain in the Division One (now NWCFL Premier Division) through to last season, when they were promoted to the NPL Division 1 as champions. Of course, this season has seen them (perhaps(!)) reach they play-offs at the end of their first season back at that level, with the club edging closer to emulating the feats of the former Colne club.

The fans were out in numbers at Holt House.

Quite a few away fans too.

Upon my arrival, my first thing to do was to take a pure airshot at a ball which came over into the stand. It was all going well as I lined up my kick back over the fence to the pitch, but I hadn’t taken the step into account and it just so happened to hit said step and bounce away from my outstretched leg, left there like a rejected handshake. After a bit of a joke about my terrible skills, I went for chips to help myself get over it.

The game got underway and…well, it never looked like it was going to be the open, flowing game I imagined/hoped it would. Both teams looked very evenly matched, with Droylsden’s position in the table somewhat false, considering the team they currently have to the results they were achieving early in the season. Their improvement has been a markedly good one and, if the team remains intact, they could be set for a good campaign next time out.

Match Action

Match Action

Anyway, this day was about Colne and whether their play-off dream would come true. They did start fairly brightly with Adam Morning being denied by Bloods ‘keeper James Coates. But, apart from a couple of blocks and a scramble, neither side really created much and the first half was, for a neutral, a bit boring. I’m guessing the Colne fans and management were at their wit’s end throughout it though!

With the second half not needing to do much to be an improvement on the first, it looked like Colne had got the all important goal they needed when, around five minutes in, Morning was again denied by Coates only for Spencer Jordan to fire the rebound home. Unfortunately for him and the home support, the assistant’s flag, rightfully, ruled out his strike and stunted the celebrations.

The second half was certainly more watchable, with the effervescent Morning again narrowly missing a chance before Droylsden were denied by an unbelievable save from Colne ‘keeper Gregory Hartley who sprung to his right to claw away, one-handed, Ciaran Kilheeney’s goal-bound header that was destined for the top corner. Hartley had no right to get there and it was this that was the most memorable action of the game. Brilliant stop!

Match Action

Match Action

View from the stand

Despite Colne applying late pressure onto the Bloods’ defence, they never truly looked like grabbing a late winner and, with a point being enough to secure them a place in the top five, the referee’s whistle arrived to great relief among the home fans. As I left, the singing resonated around Holt House, though I wasn’t as happy as those in there as, once again, bang went my nil-nil-less run. How people get to over 100 without one, I’ll never know!

Upon heading back down the valley, I decided to stop off at a trio of small micro-pubs that sit on the beginning of the hill leading downwards from the town. Strangely, all three of them stand side-by-side, yet don’t appear to be connected in any way. So I decided I’d have a half in each, though I did go for the weakest option that each one had an offer as I’m not a huge ale drinker anyway and so didn’t want to push it!

With the trio completed (with one barman feeling considerably sorry for me having travelled to Colne for a nil-nil), I headed for my penultimate planned stop, the Duke of Lancaster. This is your “proper” pub it seemed and the Strongbow for £2.20 seemed to ram that point home. It was pretty full in here, on account of most punters watching the Chelsea-Spurs FA Cup semi, so I couldn’t really be bothered hanging around and swiftly headed onwards back towards the station, with me having about twenty minutes left to the train back to Preston.

The three micropubs

The Duke of Lancaster

En route back, I came upon the small bar once more, only to find out it had shut up for the day, which was unfortunate. Unperturbed, I headed onwards to the station before I remembered I had spotted a small wine/tapas bar which was facing the Crown. I decided I’d try my luck and see if I could wrangle a beer out of it and was surprised to find bottles of Brewdog Lager in the fridges. For £3.50, I had one in my hand, though the woman working the bar/front of house in Esquire Lounge seemed confused to why I’d travelled up to watch football and found myself in there afterwards!

To be honest, by then I was at that point too though it seems a very nice little place. But, with no chance of tapas for me, I bid a swift goodbye and headed to the station where I boarded the train, swiftly fell asleep and ended up binning my lager after a third of the bottle. Ah, what a waste!

My unfortunate loss.

After missing my connection in Preston (don’t ask), I then had to get the stopper back to Manchester. Upon asking the staff guy on the platform where it would likely go from, he replied he didn’t know as it hadn’t been allocated a platform yet and so we stood there for a good two minutes looking at the display and waiting for it to change. Finally, up sprung a 2 and off I ran. Note to all: you don’t get much time, as I got to the platform as the train was pulling in!

Anyway, the train back was fairly uneventful, as long if you don’t count a girl having a nosebleed and her friends shouting about it as an event, and I was soon back at Manchester with a lovely 45 minute wait ahead, though this went by pretty quickly and did give me a much-needed opportunity to charge up my phone again. So there ends this trip as I enter the final few weeks of the football season. Cricket is coming, but there is the looming shadow of a big, big game to be sorted out first…



Game: 4

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 5

Manchopper in….Droylsden


Result: Droylsden 3-2 Salford City (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)

Venue: The Butcher’s Arms (Thursday 1st January 2015, 3.00pm)

Att: 208

New Year’s Day and, to be honest, last thing the night before I still had no real idea of where I was to be heading for my first venture in 2015. Wherever it was, it promised to be a rather wet one as the rain steadily fell throughout a dreary morning in Manchester. I decided at just before 11am that my destination would be the wonderfully named The Butcher’s Arms, home of Droylsden FC, “The Bloods”.

So, after checking for confirmation via twitter that the game was pretty much certain to go ahead, I was on the rattler into the City Centre. From here, I was to get a bus from Manchester Piccadilly Station towards Ashton-under-Lyne. Eventually, one turned up which enabled me to avoid any traffic heading to the Etihad on the afternoon.

It worked a treat as I rolled into Droylsden at just about 25 to 3. After quickly cutting up Ashton Hill Road, I was soon on Market Street and with the floodlights blazing through the rain right in front of me I arrived at the turnstiles at around about 10 minutes to kick-off. However, my day was to take a hit when I was struck with the setback of no programmes being left! Shocker! I like to collect one, especially for blog games so I wasn’t best pleased. But it’s happened before and will happen again and we all know why it happens so I won’t be too harsh.

After being relieved of my £8 entrance fee at the turnstiles, I took a place in the Main Stand for the first time in any of my previous three visits to the ground. This was, for the most part to escape both the, now heavy, driving rain and swirling wind surrounding the Tameside ground. The Main Stand is one of three in the ground, with the dressing rooms, hospitality, press box and seats all housed here. Opposite is an old covered standing area which looks a bit rickety and behind the near end goal is a new, smart looking covered terrace, with the clubhouse & food bar situated in between it and the Main Stand. The opposite, far end is open hard standing, and goes back a fair distance.

Heading to the Butchers

Heading to the Butcher’s

The old stand.

The old stand.

Before long though, the two sides made their way out onto the field for the customary obligatory handshake before the game got underway in earnest. Before that, however, we will delve into the annuls of history of Droylsden.

History Lesson:

Originally formed at the invitation of the landlord of the Butcher’s Arms Public House (no longer standing) in 1892, the club played in friendlies and local league football amidst a number of disbandment, reformations, the club began life after WWI in the Manchester League. It was at this time the club adopted their current colours and their nickname. They twice entertained Hyde United in 1921, attracting over 15,000 attendees. Their first silverware was the 1923 Manchester Junior Cup.

After winning two Manchester League titles in 1931 & ’33, the club joined the Lancashire Combination in 1936. They became a “nursery club” for Manchester City which allowed surplus City players to turn out for the club, but disqualified the Bloods from the FA Cup. With the beginning of WWI, the club joined the Cheshire League. The club were soon struggling though, and four years after finishing as Cheshire League runners-up were not re-elected and saw their ground lease sold on to Belle Vue FC who became Droylsden United.

The Bloods, therefore, moved to a nearby ground known locally as Pork Park. With the town being considered too small to support two clubs on unfriendly terms, a merger was negotiated, with Droylsden returning to the Butcher’s Arms in 1952.  The pitch had been turned round 180 degrees too and the ground newly renovated. They went on to compete in the Lancashire Combination for a further two decades, but returned to a depleted Cheshire League after the creation of the Northern Premier League.

League form never got going for the Bloods during their time in the Cheshire League, but they did win three Manchester Senior Cups in 1973, ’76 & ’79 and reached the FA Cup First Round twice (’76 & ’79) losing to Grimsby Town & defeating Rochdale before being defeated by Altrincham in the Second Round. However, this successful side soon broke apart and so did Droylsden’s fortunes as they finished bottom of the Cheshire League First Division in 1982. They were spared relegation, though, due to the merger of the league with the Lancashire Combination to create the North West Counties League, with Droylsden placed in Division 2 of 3. 2 seasons later, that league was won with the club skipping the Counties 1st Division due to the creation of the NPL’s 1st Division after a successful application.

In 1990, the club were promoted to the NPL Premier Division as runners-up and remained there until 1996 when they were relegated back to the Division 1. During this season, the club also conceded a 148 second hat-trick in the FA Cup at Nantwich Town, the fastest. For 1998-’99, after Dave Pace was installed as dual Chairman-manager, the club rebuilt and lifted the Division 1 title and achieved promotion pairing this with an NPL President’s Cup. They also won the NPL Challenge Cup in 2003. In 2004, the Bloods were invited to join the newly created Conference North. They achieved a play-off final in 2006, but lost out to Stafford Rangers on penalties. In 2007 the club won the Manchester Premier Cup (won 13x by the club), beating Flixton 3-0, and three days later beat Harrogate town and in doing so secured promotion to the Conference National as champions. However, the club lasted just a solitary season in the “Blue Square Premier”, being relegated at the first attempt.

The following season saw the Chesterfield FA Cup escapades with two abandonments before Droylsden shocked their Football League opposition 2-1, Sean Newton scoring both goals. But, it was then discovered Newton was ineligible for the competition & thus, the Bloods thrown out & Chesterfield re-instated. You couldn’t make it up. They did jointly win the Tony Downes Memorial Cup with Chester though, so it wasn’t all bad, I guess.

In 2010-’11, the Bloods again played League opposition, this time Leyton Orient. After leading 2-0 after about an hour at Brisbane Road, they capitulated to an 8-2 defeat. From here, it’s all gone downhill. Relegation from the Conference North at the end of 2012-’13 season saw Droylsden compete in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division, where they finished bottom, thus finding themselves in today’s division.

The open end

The open end.

I told you it goes deep.

I told you it goes deep.

Back to today then and the game got underway as the rain continued to make the pitch more treacherous by the minute. A minute was all it took for Salford to find the net through Gareth Seddon, but his sliding effort was ruled out for offside. They weren’t denied for long, though, as Danny Webber classily guided a volley into the bottom right hand corner of Russell Saunders’ goal.

20 minutes in and it was all square once again, though, as Ben Deegan (I knew it was him, not Ciaran Kilheeney) beat Salford custodian Daniel Lloyd-Weston to the ball to nod home. 1-1. Soon after, Salford were denied, what looked to most, a stonewall penalty when Seddon was brought down in the area by the onrushing Saunders. The referee waved away the protests confidently though, much to Seddon’s disbelief.

The Main Stand w/ match action.

The Main Stand w/ match action.

Match action

Match action

Blurred in the rain.

Blurred in the rain.

It was to be costly for Salford as Droylsden took the lead for the first time. A counter attack down the right ended with Kilheeney receiving the ball inside the area before coolly slotting past Lloyd-Weston. 2-1 it looked to remain until the break, but Seddon had other ideas. With the pitch now cutting up terribly in the awful conditions, he this time avoided Saunders’ onrushing frame before neatly finishing from a tight angle. A really good finish, and that signalled “chip muffin time”. The two people in front of me ordered one, so I figured “Why not?”. Turns out it’s a chip barm.

Refreshment bar.

Refreshment bar.

So, after returning to the shelter of the main stand, I quickly ate the barm/muffin and soon enough the second half was underway. The fifth goal arrived almost instantly, Kilheeney grabbing his second and the Bloods’ third, knocking home from inside the six-yard box following a bit of pinball.

The new terrace close up

The new terrace close up

And from further away

And from further away

With a brief respite from the weather, I set off on a lap of the ground for photograph purposes. One thing I’ve noticed is there are some flowers placed in a certain spot, just to the right of the home dugout. I don’t know why but it intrigues me. I’d only made it half way round when it began bucketing down again. The pitch really was sodden by now and was becoming pure mud in places and the game became scrappy and disjointed with players struggling to just keep their feet, never mind do anything meaningful with the ball. Salford were unfortunate to have a second ruled out for offside when Madeley finished smartly late on against his former club. He wheeled away in delight, only for his celebration to be cut short, to the delight of the rather noisy home fans. The visiting contingent also created some backing for their side, thus creating a decent enough atmosphere, as Phil Neville arrived early during the second period.

But that was that, and Droylsden held on for a big three points, which makes Salford’s title chances hang by a thread. Droylsden are right up there in the play-off mix too, and look a strong outfit. The game also ended up being Salford boss Phil Power’s last in charge, as he was dismissed a couple of days later.

I headed for the clubhouse after to shelter for a while until the bus was due. As soon as I had to leave, I did. Not anything to do with the clubhouse, which is lovely and welcoming and very nicely decorated, but more to do with the weather which seemed to be worsening. It may be a new year, but one thing remains the constant in Manchester. The weather!

The Butcher's Arms. Great Ground!

The Butcher’s Arms. Great Ground!

My Droylsden M.o.M.- Adam Morning
My Salford City M.o.M.- Martyn Andrews


Game: 7- Considering the conditions, it was a great game.
Ground: 7- A smart ground, with new and old intertwined nicely. One of my favourites.
Programme: N/A- (Ran out!)
Food: 6- It wasn’t bad, but it’s a barm.
Fans: 8- Make noise for their team, and it’s good to see fans return still after the struggles last season.
Value For Money: 7- Travel £6, Food £2, Admission £8. All in all, not too bad.