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….Glan Conwy

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Result: Glan Conwy 0-3 Eagle Sports/  Reserves: Glan Conwy Res. 2-3 Eagle Sports Res. (PSF)

Venue: Cae Ffwt (Saturday 26th July, 1.00pm & 3.15pm)

Att: About 15 hc, plus whichever team wasn’t playing.

The day started well enough, though it wasn’t to end in the best circumstances for myself. This involved some alcohol, a bag and some unsavoury scenes. Add all them together & you can probably work out what happened….

More on that later. I had originally got the train at just before 9am to Sankey for Penketh Station, just past Warrington. After arriving here, I then faced a 20-minute walk across Sankey to Thornton Road, where the Eagle Sports Club is based. After getting lost, as usual, near a Bridgfords estate agents, I eventually arrived at the ground at just before the declared set-off time of 10am, and collected my waiting Eagle Sports F.C. polo shirt, as earlier promised via the twitter account.

I boarded the bus and was immediately greeted from the back of it, which doesn’t usually happen when you go to a club who don’t really know you, and we set off through Runcorn and onto the slow moving motorways heading into North Wales at just past 10.15. After being part of the winning team on the Eagle quiz on the coach (and a nice windfall of £10 which covered the travel cost), we were soon arriving at just after 12.30 in the small village of Glan Conwy.

As the coach turned down the side road leading to it, it became obvious that the floodlights which looked like being part of the ground, were actually a part of the adjoining Garden centre. The ground/pitch was rather small and featureless in terms of structures. There was a smart brick building housing both a canteen/gym sort of area, and the changing rooms. Next to it was a stand/smoking shelter. In terms of buildings that was it, bar the dugouts on the far side of the pitch. A grassy mound ran the length of the ‘road end’ with the other ‘river end’ being hard standing, as was the full perimeter. The ‘river end’, which backs onto the River Conwy, and is overlooked with the scenic North Walian mountains as a backdrop, also has a railtrack running immediately behind it, and thus features netting to  save balls from flying into the trains or water beyond. There did appear o be a speedboat on standby, just in case of the latter coming into fruition!

With a number of the Glan Conwy Reserve side already out warming up, it was time for the Eagle boys to head off and get changed ASAP, and they did just that, and soon both sides were going through their warm up routines. Then, out came the ref. Well, he didn’t look too athletic, and this proved, as he hardly ventured outside the centre-circle. Fair play to him for reffing two games though, but as he resembled a tomato more and more as the day went on, you began to get slightly concerned for his wellbeing!

On arrival at Cae Ffwt

Preparations

The small village of Glan Conwy (or Llansanffraid Glan Conwy to give it its full title), is located in, unsurprisingly, Conwy borough. The name translates as “Church of St.Ffraid on the bank of the River Conwy”, (St.Ffraid, according to legend, sailed from Ireland on turf and landed at the Conwy. Of course, this is highly unlikely), and has been in existence since the fifth century, when it was a fishing/marine based location. Now, it’s roots have pretty much been eradicated, and it is a residential place. It faces, across the estuary the town and castle of Conwy itself.

History Lesson:

Glan Conwy F.C. was originally formed in 1922 and played in the Vale of Conwy League, as one of seven founder members. They competed in this league until 1939, when the outbreak of WWII ended football for a while in the village, at least there is no record of the club being restarted after the war, until 1979. They rejoined the Vale of Conwy League for the new season, and played at many different venues during a nomadic period (including the wonderfully named locations of Llandudno Oval, Hotpoint, Quinton Hazell and Junction Flyover, but have used their current Cae Ffwt home since 1998, when they adopted their current colours of green & white stripes/hoops). They remained in the VoC league for 18 further years, when they won the league and North Wales Coast FA Junior Cup in 1988 and were promoted to the Gwynedd League. They immediately won this league after one season and achieved promotion to the Welsh Alliance, where they still reside. In 2009, they won the FAW Trophy. The club is nicknamed the “Jolly Boys”. A full list of the club’s honours are:

1x Ron Jones Cup: (1990)

2x John Hughes Challenge Cup: (1992, 1998)

1x Frank Tyldesley Cup (1997)

1x Quinton Hazell Trophy (1997)

1x Eryri Shield (1999)

1x REM Jones Cup (2007)

1x NWCFA Junior Cup (1998)

1x FAW Trophy (2010)

1x Vale of Conwy League Title (1998)

1x Gwynedd League Title (1999)

With music blaring form an iphone speaker, the reserve game kicked off slightly late, with the miss of the century being committed by Glan Conwy’s #11 who got past the goalkeeper, and the ball was rolling in. But he took another touch, and  missed an  open net from 2 yards. Needless to say, the watching Eagle’s were in some stitches at that.

A goal came from Gary Moriarty was immediately cancelled out by the home side’s tall #7 as the sides headed in at 1-1.

The second half saw further chances and goals, with Eagle Reserves once again taking the lead through Rob Hall this time. But, again Glan Conwy hit back, with 14 scoring from close range. With around eight minutes to go, a penalty was awarded to the visitors for a handball, and Gareth Williams expertly placed the ball into the bottom right corner, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way. This signalled a 3-2 success for the Reserves side over their Welsh counterparts, now it was up to the first team to match them.

Dugout action

The firsts got underway a little late as well, with “Abdul” baring the brunt of his teammates banter, including “Oh bloody hell, Oh Goal-Kick” being the highlight as he ballooned a cross over the bar. But, it was more of a walk in the park for them, as they outclassed their hosts 3-0. Ben Stratulis got the ball rolling with a close range finish, (well, he got hit by a Stuart Bruce shot) and after the break, further goals from Matt Cook and Steve Robinson secured the easy pre-season triumph. Bruce had ran the show in the centre of midfield, including a Brazilian like turn in the centre circle, after which he acknowledged the hoots of laughter from the watching Ressies with a wave of the hand. The watching Ressies also got on the wrong side of the Glan Conwy #5 who for some reason took exception to them enjoying a tough, but fair challenge on a Conwy midfielder who’d given it out a little earlier. He came over, had a rant then tried to do it in a nicer, more Clarke Carlisle sort of way, but alas for him, it didn’t quite work.

Match Action

After the game, it was onto the pub, the only on in the village, the Cross Keys. This is where it began to get just a touch messy. After the team were joined by a Bangor City player, who’ll probably prefer to be anonymous (!) I was being beckoned in to the back room, and downing three Sambuca’s and a Stella, and after a few ‘shoes off’ songs, a worm and Bill Clinton joining the party, the team did the conga out of the boozer and down the road to the coach. Here, Bill ended up in a hedge before being rescued, and the “Eagle Bible” was on its way home.

Here is where it got very messy, if you remember the intro. After a Fosters, and some ouzo, I was at the back of the coach with Eagle shirt on engaging in some sing-songs and various other activities. Then I felt a touch* tired and needed to sit down and sleep. By now I was being serenaded with “Away In a Manger” This was, I maintain, due to not eating all day, which is a sin for myself. It never bodes well. And with alcohol on top, including some further “lemonade” which I was offered by Mr Bruce, it got worse and worse and then, shock horror, it happened. That’s as much detail as you need to know. By now, we were still in Wales, and we somehow got to Runcorn within about a minute (well, it was that quick to me!). I reckon it was after hearing my name being mentioned on the tannoy by James Maher, but who knows. Happily just after I got off, it turned out I wasn’t the only one feeling the effects as someone went flying down the coach steps!

Anyway, saying my goodbyes (well, it was probably some slurring), I was in a cab to the station at Sankey again for the train back. Here, it was RIP to my sunglasses, that as far as I know still remain on Platform 1 heading toward Warrington. If anyone knows of their whereabouts, let me know!

*Okay, maybe a bit more than a touch!

I somehow managed to avoid again going to sleep at Warrington Central, via either managing to text or talk to people on the phone, including arranging some rice for tea when I got back home (Thanks, Mum!). I was soon back into Urmston, a bit the worse for wear, but by now a fair amount better off than I had been an hour earlier i.e. I could walk. I  may have made a bit of an arse of myself, but it was a bit of fun, though the Eagle committee may not have me back anymore. Have you got a banning order yet?!

Eagle Sports are a great, welcoming club, and if you are in the area they are based, do not hesitate in giving them a visit. I’ll hopefully be watching them again soon, pending any restraining orders!

My Reserves M.o.M.- GC: #7 ES: Mark Boardman

MY Glan Conwy M.o.M.- The ‘keeper

My Eagle Sports M.o.M.- Stuart Bruce

RATINGS:

Game: 6- One sided, Eagle were so much better. Reserve game was closer and a decent game.

Ground: 5- Very basic, but nice views

Food: 6- They had some bread rolls etc with things on which a few guys had. In hindsight, I should’ve!

Programme: N/A

Fans: 5- Weren’t any to speak of really, but again is hard to gauge in a friendly.

Value For Money: 8- Free game, and a pound for a pepsi. £10 travel for a great day!

Referee: 4- Helped out as he did two games. Otherwise…..