Manchopper in….Birkenhead (Cammell Laird 1907 FC)

Result: Cammell Laird 1907 1-2 West Didsbury & Chorlton (NWCFL Division One South)

Venue: Kirklands (Saturday 28th September 2019, 3pm)

Att: 107

With the weather deciding to be as much of a polar opposite to the previous week, I went from basking in the late summer heat around the dales of Derbyshire to sheltering away from heavy rain showers whilst looking for somewhere to go that was a fairly safe bet. Only in Britain, I swear. Anyway, as the minutes rolled on and the half-hours passed by, my laziness began to grow – even to a point where I was half-considering binning off football for the day and just going out drinking instead. One out of two ain’t bad, after all! However, through the bleak Saturday morning came a beacon from the Wirral peninsular. Cammell Laird was on. Confirmed. My destination was set. Confirmed. To Lairds I headed!

Boarding the train at a little before 11am, I rode straight through to Liverpool’s Lime Street station before making my way down into the depths of the Merseyrail system for the train ‘over the water’ (well, under to be more factually correct) along the Wirral line and towards Birkenhead. I had a ticket for Rock Ferry, the nearest station to Kirklands, but decided to hop off at Conway Park in the town centre instead, as that was the train that was coming in first. What I didn’t know, however, was the lovely surprise that awaited me on arrival. “99 steps to the street” declared the sign over the doors. I could make a 99 problems joke, but that’s surely dead by now, no?

Arriving in Birkenhead

Crown Inn

I survived my Everest climb and headed on out through the gates, despite their best efforts to deny me. Turning to the right over the left, I soon spotted the Crown Inn just across the forecourt of a Mecca Bingo and so reckoned I’d set-up stall in there for the moment and see what else was around. As I approached, I saw a side entrance, peeling paint from all sides and a black-board outside still advertising St. George’s Day deals. Many might be a bit put off, but not this madman, oh no! I headed in and….well, bloody hell. A lovely, traditional bar area immediately greets you and is rather grand in its ways. I was enamoured; a hidden gem, you might say. Yes, the beers weren’t quite wide-ranging, but I’m not one to overly complain – Stella at £3.10 was far from bad either!

Soon after a pair of ladies stated to a guy there that they would be “back for a quickie” (a drink, get your minds out of the gutter) after bingo, I figured I’d best head off too and made my way back past the station to the Stork Hotel, only to find this shut; as a result, I took a cut-through I remembered from my trip to Tranmere last season and was soon back on a route that would take me to what was my intended third-stop, this being the Firemans’ Arms. Again, this is probably a place that would see the exterior (and likely just the overall location) put people off, down a back road side-street and with shutters down on some windows. It did look shut from the angle I approached, but I soon spotted it was not the case and ventured in. A small bar stood across the way, along with a couple of TV’s that, like the Crown, were unsurprisingly showing Liverpool’s early kick-off. Again, not one that would strike someone who is not too used to the region as overly welcoming, but it was indeed, with guys moving out of the way of their own accord to allow me to get to the bar; not something that happens readily elsewhere, so something nice. The Coors was a nice pint here too, the price being a nice aside at £2.70.

Fireman’s Arms

George & Dragon

A soggy Wirral

Just around the corner was the George & Dragon and, out of the three I’d visited to that point, looked the least likely to be the vocal, sweary, crazy story place. However, this would be the jackpot for all three! It was pretty humorous as I sat in and caught the remainder of the first-half in a similar bar area set-up to the Crown, but a bit more open-plan overall, and I decided to go for a Strongbow (£3.10) in here as I wasn’t quite sure of my plans overall in heading over more towards Kirklands itself. What I did know, though, was that I was going to pay a quick visit to the Waterloo just across the road, prior to heading on past the Cammell Laird shipyard itself – which was, of course, complete with the newly-christened Sir David Attenborough (or ‘Boaty McBoatface’) in a case of a result that wasn’t upheld….but I’m not going there!

A swift Dark Fruits (£2.90) was had in good time, as I dodged another blustery shower that blew in prior to continuing on down the main road and retracing many of my steps to Prenton Park. On this occasion, I would make a divert off to a pub just off the side and alongside an old rail bridge by the name of the Lord Napier – a pub I’d missed out and so put in the memory bank, from my aforementioned visit last season. Inside, there was no football, shockingly, and instead they had a points thing going on which was completely over my head – though it looked to be fairly competitive between the two guys in and around the TV.

Whatever the case, I polished off my Amstel (£2.90) and continued on the short distance to Kirklands, where I arrived some ten minutes later. I arrived to find that the old, art-deco, lovely clubhouse had gone and was now a building site with horrendous new-builds popping up (yes, I don’t like change too much, can you tell?!) and if that wasn’t bad enough, NO PROGRAMMES!!!! Now, this wouldn’t usually be too much of an issue on a revisit, but with doing a write-up that includes rating one, and the fact that this is a ‘new’ Laird club, I did kind of want one.


Lord Napier

As it was, I paid my £5 entry and was pointed in the direction of Kate in the tea bar – who then passed me along to her dad, the Lairds secretary, who took my name and £1.50 for the issue to be sent on when picked up. Hopefully, this works out better than my £3 paid at South Shields which ended up being a digital issue instead. That all sorted, I reckoned I may as well get the food in now too, and so chips and gravy was had and polished off nicely – despite the dribble of gravy that found its way to my jeans. Ah well, they were already fairly wet anyway!

Cammell Laird shipyard came about after a merger of Laird Brothers of Birkenhead and Johnson Cammell of Sheffield, with the former having been started out in 1828 by William Laird, who’d also started the Birkenhead Iron Works, before passing onto his sons after his passing. The latter brought the rail side of things from Yorkshire and both ships, boats and rail stock began to be built by the new Cammell Laird company. These included London Underground trains (the 1920 stock being the first tube cars to run with compressed air doors, though these were being powered by 1906 vintage French motor cars), warships (including two HMS Ark Royal, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Rodney and, of course, HMS Liverpool and HMS Birkenhead, as well as a couple for the Confederate States of America), mail ships (such as the second RMS Mauretania) and passenger coaches for use in the Indian subcontinent.

The Sir David Attenborough at Lairds

In 1929, the rail stock part of the business was spun-off as an aside company whilst, ship-wise, the company totalled over 1,100 vessels launched by 1947 – including the first all-welded ship, Fullager, and the quickest-built significantly sized warship, HMS Caroline. The company was nationalised as with the rest of the country’s shipbuilding industry as part of British Shipbuilders in 1977, but returned to private sector ownership in 1986 as part of Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering of Barrow-in-Furness. The two yards were the only ones in the country capable of producing nuclear submarines and produced HMS Unicorn, now named HMCS Windsor, in 1993 before the yard was closed despite much opposition. Part of the Laird yard was purchased by Coastline as a repair facility, though they retained the traditional name and grew to take on other yards in Teesside, Tyneside and Gibraltar, though after a contract pull-out, the business entered receivership after financial issues and folded soon after – with A&P Shiprepair Group buying the Britain-based yards in 2001.


It was sold again in 2005 to another repair and building company – Northwestern – in 2005 and then to Peel Holdings in 2007 as part of the wider business – with Peel purchasing and re-using the Cammell Laird name for Northwestern from 2008. It then got contracts to build the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and car ferries for Western Ferries too, whilst then gaining the construction contract for the British Antarctic Survey’s new Royal Research Ship – the RRS Sir David Attenborough – which you can see below! Lairds also entered into an agreement with BAE Systems to construct frigates for the Royal Navy from 2017 and 2018 saw Red Funnel decide to give the shipyard the task of building its new cargo ferry, the MV Red Kestrel, whilst the MoD has awarded it a further contract for four new RFA tankers – in addition to maintaining the nine already in service.

Kirklands, much like Causeway Lane last week, hasn’t changed much, if at all, since my last visit, if you discount the clubhouse’s death, that is. An all-seater stand made up of four rows or so runs the majority of the near-side, and is flanked by open hard standing on both sides, whilst the turnstiles, and the hospitality area, tea bar and dressing rooms all lie in between it and the near end, which too is open, hard standing, much like its opposite end; though both have a large grass expanse behind. The far end houses a covered standing area and another seated stand that together, all but take-up the full run of this side and a Hurst Cross-style wall toilet is hidden away behind it and the neighbouring Stagecoach bus depot. Also, the old concrete pitch wall surrounds have gone, which I was pleased about, having seen a bad one avoided a number of years back now. Anyway, without going off on a tangent, that’s Kirklands in a nutshell, and this is Laird’s story….

History Lesson:

Cammell Laird Institute Association Football Club was founded in 1907 as, perhaps unsurprisingly, the works team of the shipbuilding yard of the same name. Their first game came against neighbours Tranmere Rovers, prior to the club joining the West Cheshire League Division One for their first season. They would finish that year in 10th, before the club finished bottom in 1910, though would avoid the drop to Division 2. Post-WWI, the club was taken back in-house as the works team of the shipbuilding yard of the same name and a company league was set-up, with a representative Wirral Football Association cup side also introduced to take part in outside cup competitions and they would win their first silverware in the form of the 1921 Shipley Cup. 

In 1922, they would enter the Birkenhead and Wirral League’s Division 2, and return to the wider football landscape as Kirklands Football Club. After adding a second honour to their list in the shape of the 1924 Wirral Minor ‘B’ Cup, Lairds would lift the Birkenhead & Wirral League’s Division 2 title in 1925 and remained in Division One (presumably) through to 1939, winning the 1927 Regents Cup whilst there, before they disbanded due to the outbreak of World War II. Post-war, the club returned as Cammell Laird A.F.C. and re-joined the Birkenhead & Wirral League for the first couple of post-war years before moving back up and into the West Cheshire League’s Division 2, where they were promoted to Division 1 from in 1951 after a fourth-placed finish. However, they would stay in the Division 1 for just the sole year before being relegated.

Cammell Laird 1907

They would then win the Division 2 title in 1958, though despite not being promoted on that occasion, they were the next season upon successfully defending their title win. Season 1968-’69 saw Cammell Laird win the First Division title without suffering a league defeat and after winning a second title in 1971, they then went on to dominate the latter half of the decade – winning five successive West Cheshire League titles between 1975 & 1979. A runners-up placing ended their dominance, but only briefly, as Lairds then proceeded to take the next four championships (1981-’84), another in 1987, and another four-in-a-row between 1989 & 1992. Their success through this period was also added to with eight WCL Pyke Challenge Cups between 1970 & 1994, six Cheshire Amateur Cups (1973-’94), the 1958 West Cheshire Bowl and nine Wirral Senior Cups (1972-’95).

Their West Cheshire League success continued rather unabated through into the mid-1990’s, as the Shipyarders won a further two titles in the decade – 1994 & 1999 – and started off the new millennium lifting the 2000-’01 championship. However, this would be their final league win in the West Cheshire League, as 2004’s runners-up placing saw them take promotion to the North West Counties League’s Division 2; however they did continue to add further cup successes to the above list, with an additional two Pyke Cups being won in 1999 & 2002, two Cheshire Amateur Cups in 2001 & 2003 and two more Wirral Senior Cups in 2000 & 2002. The Division 2 Counties title was immediately won at the first attempt as part of an immediate NWCFL treble, with the NWCFL Challenge Cup and Division 2 Cup joining the league in the trophy cabinet at Kirklands.

A few people have entered here with the hump

Lairds then proceeded to go straight through the Division One, winning that too, and achieving promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One, allying this with a run to the semi-finals of the FA Vase, where they eventually were convincingly knocked out by Nantwich Town, 5-0, over two-legs. Their first season there saw success continue, with a strong season ending in a runners-up finish and qualification for the play-offs, along with a first ever Cheshire Senior Cup triumph, but after winning their play-off semi-final against Colwyn Bay, they would be bested by Eastwood Town in the final.

League re-organisation for Season 2007-’08 saw Lairds placed in Division One South (as opposed to North) and they again finished as runners-up, this time achieving promotion to the NPL’s Premier Division on account of champions Retford United failing ground-grading, though this would come to bite at Lairds too at the end of the next season. Kirklands was found to not be up to Step 3 standard and so Lairds would be relegated on ground-grading. They returned to Division One South for a season, before being switched to the North Division for 2010-’11, where they went from one extreme to the other – finishing bottom but avoiding the drop in 2012, before making the play-offs the very next season. However, it would be the first of the two campaigns that would end in slightly more pleasure strangely, as the play-offs ended in heartbreak of the Wirral side as, having overcome Mossley in the semi-finals, they would lose out to Trafford on penalties following a goalless draw in the final – a game at which I was (at the time) a staunch supporter of the Manchester side.

The old-school toilets

After finishing 11th the next season, Cammell Laird A.F.C. was disbanded (due to, if I remember rightly, off-field issues) and replaced by the current 1907 outfit. The ‘new’ club began life back in the North West Counties and finished as runners-up, earning promotion to the Premier Division from Division 1. However, unlike their predecessor, 1907 would find life a little more tricky in the Counties’ top-tier and would be relegated back in 2017 having finished bottom of the table. 2018 saw Lairds make the Division 1 play-offs, where they defeated Sandbach United in the semis, but were defeated in the final, 2-1, by Whitchurch Alport. The next season saw the league enter a Division 1 regional split, North/South, with Cammell Laird 1907 placed in the Southern section. They finished last season there in 15th place.

The game got underway in a similar vein to that of last weekend’s game at Matlock, in that very little would happen in terms of goalmouth action early on. Both sides jabbed at each other, akin to an early boxing round, with no-one able to get in close enough to deliver a meaningful blow. However, from nowhere, Lairds would break the deadlock after the first quarter-hour had been played; a long ball over the top saw the onrushing West ‘keeper make an error of judgment on the flight, and the home striker wearing #9, Kyle Sambor, nipped in to finish off rather simply.

Match Action

Tipped over

View from the ‘Main Stand’

West, who have started the season strongly despite a couple of recent slip-ups, began to get back on terms with their hosts who had began slightly the brighter on their home turf, and after a looping header from Matt Eckersley had been well tipped over by Lairds ‘keeper Richard Cowderoy, he was powerless to deny the visitors an equaliser on 37 minutes, when a ball Ben Steer, ahem, steered the ball across goal, the ball just avoiding the grasp of Cowderoy and dropping over him and into the far corner. One-a-piece and that was pretty much that for the first-half action – a half which had only really seen two chances, and both of which ended up in the net. Not a bad conversion rate!

The second-half was far more watchable as a contest and both teams looked to stamp their authority upon the game from the outset. Lairds began by seeing some good play by Sambor allowed his strike-partner Luke Blondel a sight of goal, but his shot ended up being straight at West stopper Andy Jones. Meanwhile, down the other end, West’s Lee Grimshaw, who’d gone close right at the beginning of the half, made full amends when he received a fine through ball, got clear of the defence and slid past Cowderoy for 1-2.

From the seats

Match Action

Match Action

West’s James Cottee went close soon after this, as he showed good persistence to chase the ball down, keep it in, before cutting inside and getting a shot away that the ‘keeper could only parry; his defenders completing the clearance. Lairds Dominic Murphy spurned a presentable chance when being played in by #9, his shot seeing Jones allowed a pretty routine stop, before Grimshaw really should have added a third with around ten minutes left to play but, he too, would only fire straight at a grateful gloveman. A late bit of handbags threatened to ruin my avoidance of the horrific sin-bin, but the ref, who’d had a good game in my eyes, thankfully decided not to employ it. Full-time followed shortly afterwards, with West heading back to south Manchester with the points in the bag.

Post-match, I headed back past the overlooking church as the West choir continued singing and turned left on this occasion, crossing the bridge over the dual-carriageway and down what looked to be a kind of old hall approach road, before finally arriving waterside at the refreshment rooms. A restaurant/bar, (oh God, I’ve just remembered it’s split, isn’t it?), I headed in and got a San Miguel (£4.40), before sitting at the only table I’d spotted without a ‘reserved’ sign on it….only to be turfed out after about a minute as it turns out it was!! I was told the one that did say ‘reserved’ was actually ok for the moment and was given that. All this makes sense in hindsight – I was really in the wrong side I’d say. Anyhow, they only had to put up with my thickness for around 15 minutes, as I had my train to Lime Street to catch.

Late on

A low-key beach (and a bit dead boat)

Refreshment Rooms

No problem with that hop and I was back in Liverpool in good time for my train back home. This journey was also uneventful, apart from a couple of beer-fuelled guys trying to fight with another guy for no reason (they weren’t happy at being called ‘Mancs’; yes from their own mouths) and the driver coming out of the cab to object about the term ‘Scouse Bastard’ being thrown about. Ah, Northern….well, I’d say never change, but it’s probably best for everyone that you do. Anyway, some of the group went back to chatting up girls instead – though I’d say it seemed a little like a one-way situation!

As for me, I was soon off for a couple more back in my parents bar in Urmston (‘The Three Barrels’ it’s called, pay me for THAT ad) to round off a good day. The game was ok, the ground is nice in a rustic kind of way – it has its own look to it – and the food there was decent too; hopefully the same can be said for the programme when it’s in situ. Pubs also were better than expected, which was a nice bonus. Another week, another FA Cup round to come. Now, where to go….


Game: 6

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: Forthcoming

Value For Money: 7


Manchopper in….Hanley

Result: Hanley Town 0-4 Congleton Town (NWCFL Premier Division)

Venue: Potteries Park (Monday 22nd April 2019, 3pm)

Att: 117

I rounded off my trifector of Easter fun with a second visit to Stoke in just about as many weeks. Having visited City’s Britannia Stadium home the Saturday before the Easter weekend, I returned once more via the medium of the twittersphere, though not quite as clear cut as it ought to have been admittedly. The original winner, Market Drayton, was unreachable by any reasonable public transportation options and so the runner-up was promoted. Off to Hanley I was.

Grabbing the train from Manchester, I arrived into Stoke-on-Trent station at about 11am and set about on the short walk up to Hanley, passing the university buildings as I went. After paying a visit to Hanley Park for a bit of culture, I made haste for the more pleasurable part of the trip to date. Pubs. Did you expect any less?! Having been given some tips of where to try out from Stoke native Dave on twitter, I had some expectations of what was to come, though my first sighting was to be the Coachmakers Arms – and it was here that history was made….

Hanley Park

Coachmaker’s Arms

Down Piccadilly to the Bottle & Tap and Unicorn

ID?! I exclaimed incredulously and it was only my answer that prompted the question of my age. Yes, at 27, I had finally been ID’d for alcohol. Madness, but I’m not complaining, especially when you are feeling the aches and strains at this point! The guy was apologetic for some unknown reason and felt a bit embarrassed. I assured him he had no reason to be as he’d already made my day! A pint of Mango cider (£3.70) was had before I set off the short walk around the town hall towards Piccadilly – though this one was a fair bit more serene than its brethren in Manchester & London, that’s for sure.

Hanley is a constituent town in Stoke-on-Trent and was first incorporated as a municipal borough in 1857 and then became a county borough in 1888. In 1910, it merged together with another five towns:- Burslem, Longton, Tunstall, Fenton and Stoke-upon-Trent to be federated into the new county borough of Stoke-on-Trent (see here for a little more on that), and after a bit of a struggle, Stoke finally became a city in 1925 via royal intervention with the six towns continuing to make up the area. Hanley became the de facto city centre and is home to most of the retail and other commercial businesses and outlets. Piccadilly, here, hosts an annual Sanity Fair and a French market and the town is also home to Stoke’s LGBTQ pride events.

Hanley Town Hall


It derives its name from either “haer lea” (high meadow) or “heah lea” (rock meadow) and was once a large coal mining area, with the town’s deep pit being the deepest in North Staffordshire at a depth of around 1,500ft. It closed in 1962 with much of the pits left in situ before finally being cleared away in the 1980’s and being turned into Hanley Forest Park. The miners of Hanley and Longton became the focal point of the General Strike of 1842 and the Pottery Riots associated with the strike. The town is home to a main bus station and is connected elsewhere via the canal waterways of the Trent and Mersey Canal and the Cauldon Canal and in-keeping with the water-based theme, it was home to the RMS Titanic’s skipper Edward Smith whilst, away from that side of things, Sir Stanley Matthews is the town’s vaunted sporting son, a statue of Matthews stands in the town centre.

On my arrival at the Hanley version of Piccadilly, I set my sights on one of Dave’s recommendations, the Bottle & Tap – so named as it sells bottles and has taps, I assumed. What I hadn’t assumed was that the pint would cost me a cool £6.30, though on the basis I was asked, it wasn’t actually listed as a pint and the fact the Wylam & Deya Orange Wit was bloody gorgeous, I’ll let it slide. Great place too, and well worth a visit. Just choose smarter that me if you are tight on a budget!! After going on a fruitless foray to a closed up pub near a theatre, I returned to Piccadilly for the Unicorn where another surprise awaited.


Auctioneer (Market Tavern opposite)


I entered the old building and rounded the corner only to be met by a lady wielding a magazine around the doorway. “I almost got you then!” was her response to my appearance and after an apology and the fact that it was the flies she was after and not me (Father Ted-type reference there) I settled in over a pint of Heineken (£4) whilst keeping a close eye on the magazine rack.

I left the friendly pub and continued on the crawl over the way to the Auctioneer & Market Tavern which stand just across the way from each other. Both were alright but nothing much to shout about and after a couple of Dark Fruits, at £2.40 & £2.65 respectively (time was against me and I wanted to recoup some cash after my earlier minting), I paid a swift visit to the neighbouring Wetherspoons for a quick bottle of Hooch as I planned on grabbing a bus to the ground or, failing that, it wasn’t too far. Oh, how wrong I was. No bus, the walk was further than it looked and I eventually arrived around 7 minutes in and had missed a goal. Superb. I should also add that I had jogged to the ground from the centre too and I don’t recommend it! At least I’d saved a programme. Got to look at the positives, however little they are.

Potteries Park, Hanley’s home, is a tidy little ground, it’s turnstiles are located behind a pair of atcost style stands on the near side of the pitch, whilst an older covered standing area stands opposite. Both ends are open, though the clubhouse to the left side sits in the corner and has a few seats and tables around it. It also houses the bar, food hut and dressing rooms etc. That’s the ground in a nutshell and this is the tale of Hanley Town….

History Lesson:

The original Hanley Town Football Club was founded back around the early 1880’s with the club later going on to join the Combination in 1894 for a single season before leaving and subsequently folding in 1912. The name wouldn’t reappear until a Sunday pub side known as the Trumpet took on the town name in 1966 and switched to Saturday football, entering the local Longton League and winning the title at the first attempt. Playing on a pitch on Victoria Road he club moved up to the Staffordshire County League after this success and went on to achieve swift success there too, taking the Division 2 title, again at the first attempt, and being promoted to Division One which was also won first time around. A decent start to life for the new Hanley Town outfit.


In the Premier Division of the Staffs County League for 1969-’70, Hanley lifted the league’s Premier Cup that same year and went on to finish runners-up in the league too. They would finish second for a further two consecutive seasons before finally taking the title in 1973 and then again in 1976 this latter season leading the club to take the step into the Mid-Cheshire League’s Division 2 and also saw them move to their new Potteries Park home, after spells at Trentmill Road (with Eastwood Hanley) and Leek Town’s Harrison Park. Again they saw silverware arrive quickly, their first season seeing them win the 1977 Division 2 Cup with a win over Knutsford and a third-placed finish come the end of the following campaign saw Hanley promoted to Division One. They would win the title in 1983 but it was here they eventually hit a road-block – the North West Counties refusing entry due to ground-grading issues – and after a few years in mid-table, the club finished bottom of Division One in 1994 and dropped into junior football for a couple of years.

Returning to the Mid-Cheshire League in 1996 and again joining in Division 2, Hanley would this time spend just two seasons competing there before making a switch to the Midland League instead. They would win the Midland League title in 2005, becoming the league’s final ever champions after the league subsequently merged with the Staffs League to create the Staffordshire County Senior League from then on. Hanley also then claimed the honour of being the new league’s first champions, taking the Premier Division championship in 2006 before then just missing out on defending their crown the next season, ending as runners-up.


The club would go on to finish as runners-up once again in 2011 but would then take successive titles in both 2012 & 2013 which led them to take promotion to the North West Counties League for 2013-’14. The latter season was hugely successful for the side as they achieved a quadruple via also lifting the Staffs County Senior League Cup, Leek Cup and Staffordshire FA Vase. Joining the Counties’ Division One, the club finished fourth in 2015 and thus qualified for the First Division play-offs but after defeating Holker Old Boys in the semis, they lost out to AFC Darwen in the final. However they would go one better next time around, winning the Division One the next season and being promoted to the Premier Division, where they finished a highly creditable 8th last season, though have battled the drop this time out.

As I said earlier on, I’d arrived a little late and with the score already at one-nil there was little surprise that Congleton were on top. As it turned out, the away fans I spoke to during the first half informed me of the opener’s details and, of course, I’d missed the best goal of the lot. John Main was the man who grabbed it, apparently finding the net with a fine curling effort from just inside the area. I wouldn’t have to wait long to actually see a goal myself though, luckily and it was the Bears who would double their advantage as Tom Morris was played in and coolly finished past the Hanley ‘keeper Dane Jackson.

Match Action

Match Action


The visitors would add a third to all-but kill off the game within the first half-hour as tall frontman Saul Henderson fired a free-kick beyond the home stopper from around 20 yards. The Bears continued to be well on top through to half-time, with Hanley barely mustering an effort of note to work Craig Ellison in the away goal, whilst Congleton would go close on a couple more occasions and it could have easily have been five-nil at the break. Speaking of which, the whistle must have come as a welcome shrill sound to ears of those of a home-team persuasion. 3-0, half-time.

During the break and over a fine portion of pie, chips and gravy which really was some of the better food I’ve had the pleasure of feasting upon over the previous couple of months at least, I got talking to a Hanley committee member (whose name escapes me at this later date of writing, so I do apologise but it was great speaking to you)who’d offered me a seat at the table so I could get on with devouring the food in my grasp and speaking about the football scene here and there more than passed the time through to the second-half getting going once again. Back on with the show!

The beginning of the half saw a response of sorts from the hosts as they forced Ellison into action early on in proceedings but despite being on top for the first fifteen minutes or so they couldn’t find a goal to give them any kind of hope going forward. As such with around twenty minutes or so left on the clock, Congleton were awarded a corner and despite the delivery not being the best, the ball eventually fell to Billy Hasler-Cregg and the wide-man side-footed home off the inside of the post.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Despite this, Hanley didn’t give in and went about searching for any kind of consolation which may have turned out to be crucial in their battle with the drop as you just never know what might pop-up before the season’s end. Indeed, they really ought to have recorded at least one goal, with an Ellison double save and a fine defensive block in quick succession denying them first time around, Jake Alcock then firing over when well placed and Serkari Ahmadi striking across Ellison but also against the foot of the far post in the last real action of the game, as Congleton held on to the clean sheet by the slimmest of margins. Full-time, 0-4.

The post-match trip back to Hanley was a little more serene and after popping into the (Dave informed) newly reponed and rather impressive looking Woodsman’s Arms for a second Lilley’s Mango cider of the day (£3.60) I continued on to my final stop, the Albion back opposite the town hall for a Strongbow (£2.40) whilst a DJ did his thing to a small audience. The trip back was uneventful and I was home nice and swiftly. Thank God for that!

Woodsman’s Arms

The Albion

The day as a whole had been decent enough with Hanley proving decent enough on the pub front, whilst the ground and game were both on the positive side of things too, though the ground more so as the game was rather dead as a contest for the most part. Transport was easy, programme and food decent and excellent respectively and, all in all, it had been a good round off for the three games in four days extravaganza. Back to normality for a week and a trip to Sutton Coldfield for a play off vs relegation clash, before the May Day holiday provides more multiple options. Excitement doesn’t come close….


Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 8

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Keighley (Steeton AFC)

Result: Steeton 6-1 Daisy Hill (NWCFL Division 1 North)

Venue: Cougar Park (Saturday 6th April 2019, 3pm)

Att: 96

Another month, another attempt to make it to the fine old girl that is Cougar Park, however I’d not be going for its primary purpose. No, I’d instead be heading to the home of Keighley Cougars to watch football of the more circular variety, as groundsharers Steeton welcomed divisional strugglers Daisy Hill in the First Division North of the North West Counties. Incidentally, it had also been a year since I’d visited Steeton at their traditional, and ever so slightly less sizeable, Doris Wells Memorial Field home too, so quite a nice fit there.  Anyway, I set off bright and early during the morning to enable me to catch a quicker connection through to Leeds which all went smoothly and by the time I’d jumped on the carriage that would take me across to Keighley, the time had barely passed 10am.

40 minutes or so later, I was arriving into the station alongside the ever welcome sight of an old steam train on the local heritage line, its smoking, proud locomotive and plush carriages a far cry from the pacers and the like that are still running. Even the new ones won’t be as impressive, but technology beats all, I suppose. Shame. Anyway, I began my day in the station bar that is, somewhat cleverly, named Café Choux Choux where, upon entering, a lad at the bar proceeded to regale me about his trials and tribulations regarding his two-day hangover and bemoaning the passing of time. At the other end of the spectrum (for now at least) I began on a pint of Amstel (£3.90) and settled into one of the window-side sofas to plan out the rest of the day’s journey.

Arriving in Keighley

Café Choux Choux

Next up along the way would see me head right across to the far side of town before back-tracking steadily towards the ground. As such, my second stop was planned to be the Royal Oak but with its opening times not being all that obvious on the board outside, I chose to leave that for the one just around the corner by the, again smartly titled, Percy Vere – see what they did there?! In here I opted for a pint of the Saltaire Brewery’s Blonde Ale and also gave a bit of change to a fella that came around for donations for a charity walk across to Skipton. Fair enough, especially considering the pint here was only £2.70 too! Heading back towards the centre of Keighley once more, next up was the Albert Hotel, a large, old building with a horse-shoe style bar. A nice enough place for a quick pint of Carlsberg (the options weren’t all too exotic overall and £2.80 wasn’t bad) before continuing on around the corner to the interestingly named Red Pig. Why is it red? Nobody knows.

Anyway, this pub is the survivor of two neighbouring hostelries, with the adjoining Commercial being shut down at some point in the not too distant past it seemed and the pint of Staropramen in here was decent too, especially so when it set me back just the £3.50 and my next stop wasn’t too far away once again either. In fact, it was just across the road this time, situated alongside the imposing church it neighbours and seemed to be one of, if not the oldest pub still standing in the town. The Lord Rodney would be home to by far my dearest pint of the day, the Peroni setting me back £4.60, but it wasn’t as if it wasn’t a pleasant place and I certainly don’t mind that sort of price considering some of the trips I’ve been on have shown me the worst side of beer prices, here and there!

Percy Vear


Red Pig and the closed Commercial

Keighley is a town and civil parish within the City of Bradford in West Yorkshire at the confluence of the Rivers Aire and Worth. Historically in the West Riding of the county, Keighley is home to the terminus of the Keighley and Worth Valley Heritage Railway and itself dates from back before the Norman Invasion, its name meaning Cyahh’s farm or clearing, with it having gone through many different spellings throughout its years. It was granted a market charter in 1305 by King Edward I as he allowed Lancastrian knight Henry de Keighley the right to hold one in the town and it remained as a market town through to the industrial revolution when the market was joined by the advent of textile mills and the like. In the meantime, the Union stage coach departed from the town’s Devonshire Arms and which linked the area to surrounding towns. The textile industry was largely made up of wool and cotton and lasted through to 2008.

The town was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1882 and in 1938, its civil parish boundaries were expanded to take in the areas of Haworth, Oakworth, Oxenhope and Morton from the recently abolished Keighley Rural District and a small part of the Bingley urban district. In 1974, Keighley became a part of the City of Bradford Metropolitan District in the newly formed county of West Yorkshire, with this apparently causing disapproval with the Keighley residents who weren’t exactly keen on becoming part of the city. Civil Parish status was restored in 2002 with Keighley once again having its own town council in place. Despite losing many historic buildings over the years, a few Victorian and outlying manor houses do remain. There was also a case when the Hindenburg airship flew over the town, a package was dropped and two boys picked it up. It was a small cross and flowers for a German POW who’d died in the area and it still remains there to this day.


Keighley Church (and Lord Rodney)

Toby Carvery

After stopping off in Steeton sponsor the Boltmaker’s Arms for a quick half of Warsteiner (I’d visited there last year too) I decided it was high time I got near the ground a little more and so made a beeline for what seemed to be the only real pub in the area immediately around Cougar Park which was one of your generic-style Toby Carvery’s and you all know what comes with the scenery there. It was fine enough, the pint of Stella coming in at £3.70 and upon finishing up, it was finally time to go and get the elusive old ground ticked off. Arriving at the ground, I handed over my £5 entry fee and £2 for the programme before sorting out my pre-arranged and agreed pictorial tour of the ground, which pretty much meant a high-vis jacket was all that was required, though this wasn’t all that much for one security guy who still had to go check I was allowed to be doing this, as though I’d pre-planned all of this for some evil means, even going as far as to turn up in a ground-specific bloody high-vis. Sometimes.

Cougar Park is as great as it looks and it’s just a shame it was, as expected of course, rather devoid of numbers on the day. It’s large bench-seating stand dominates the ground it towers over and it’s traditional style is pleasing on the eye. On the opposite side of the pitch is the large, sprawling expanse of an open terrace that runs the length of the pitch, whilst a further, rather deep covered terrace is located behind the goal. The near end plays host to a similar sized terrace, but this one is open to the elements. The dressing rooms, tunnel and press box are all located within the Main Stand, the box right at the rear (which I visited to grab my aforementioned, not quite clear enough for some high-vis), with the clubhouse and other buildings located to the left of it and down off behind to the rear. That’s the ground in a nutshell and I won’t truly go into the history of Steeton here (having already done so last season) and so will just say they have made a good fist of things at their first season at NWCFL level after taking 3rd place in the WRCAFL last time out.

In the clubhouse

After I made a swift visit to the clubhouse for a steak slice (£2), the game got underway and it was a rather turgid start, especially so for the hosts and they were stunned after around 15 minutes when their lowly visitors took advantage and went ahead, Nick Hepple getting in and sliding beyond Steeton stopper Fletcher Paley. This did seem to awaken Steeton from their early match slumber and they quickly began to assert themselves upon the Cutters of Daisy Hill (great nickname, btw) and when Ben Clarkson had forced Joe Leather into a pair of fine stops – with the first being especially good – they drew level when centre-half Sam Rooke headed home from a fine delivery from a free-kick.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Daisy Hill almost responded immediately and a close-range chance was spurned, and this proved costly just a few moments later as the Chevrons would forge ahead. A ball through found forward Angus Maney, the #11 duly finishing with aplomb, and they then still had time to wrap up their final fifteen minute comeback by putting daylight between themselves and the blue-clad visitors when another fine ball from another free-kick was nodded in by Clarkson, showing that third-time lucky was alive and well within the open expanses of Cougar Park on this sunny, fresh West Yorkshire afternoon. Despite a couple of late chances for Daisy Hill, they couldn’t quite reduce the deficit before the break and so we reached half-time with the score-line of 3-1.

Following my swift shift as a ball boy as steward Bryn had to go off and retrieve one of the balls that flew off over the stands, the half-time break saw me relinquish my high-vis without any further questionings and I decided to camp out within the Main Stand for the second half and get a couple of different viewpoints of the action from up high above the field of play. Speaking of play, the sides were soon back out there and we were about to get started once again.

The second period began with a quick kill-off by Steeton as they swiftly added to their tally twice in the opening moments. Firstly, Clarkson ended a swift attack with number four as he duly added his second, before Jack Richardson then added number four, finishing off beyond the beleaguered Leather, who’d pulled off an initial stop from a close-range volley, after a spell of pinball within the box. This really did end the game as a contest, unsurprisingly, and there wasn’t a whole lot of action in the next half-hour or so.

Match Action

From the stand

Cougar Park

What action there was saw Clarkson denied his hat-trick by a fine goal-line clearance from Jordan Hussey, whilst the Cutters responded with Clarkson’s opposite number at #10 not quite connecting perfectly with his attempt and seeing it kept out by Paley. Then, with a few minutes left on the clock, Richmond would join Clarkson in recording a brace as he latched onto a long ball from the back to deliver an excellent finish, smashing beyond the unfortunate Leather, who I don’t think really deserved to have beaten six times.

Post-match, I headed back into Keighley and first paid a visit to the town’s Wetherspoon offering, the Livery Rooms, for a Punk IPA whilst Tiger Roll wrote himself into National history, before I continued on past the war memorial across the way and to the little and large neighbouring watering hole duo of the larger Cavendish for a second Carlsberg of the day (£2.80) whilst I opted for a Strongbow (~£3) in the smaller Volunteer before walking the short distance back to the station for the train back to Leeds and an easy journey back in the company of a few women and a dog. No, an actual canine – I’m not like that!


Heading to the final two….

So there ends an entertaining trip to Keighley and to the friendly Steeton. It’s always enjoyable to get in a “tick” at an unusual venue and especially so when it is as historic as Cougar Park. It is certainly a different proposition to Langtree Park in St. Helens that’s for sure! The town is decent and the beer is cheap, whilst the ground is superb and it’s good to see goals though it’s always a bit of a shame when it becomes an early dead rubber and the interest wains somewhat. Steak slice and programme was decent too, so really can have no complaints. Onto next week and to the city of five towns….




Game: 6

Ground: 9

Programme: 7

Food: 7

Value For Money: 9

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.



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


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….


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


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.


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.


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…..?


Game: 7

Ground: 5

Food: 8

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Wythenshawe (Wythenshawe Amateurs FC)


Result: Wythenshawe Amateurs 1-0 Wythenshawe Town (NWCFL Division 1 South)

Venue: Hollyhedge Park (Wednesday 26th December 2018, 3pm)

Att: 583

The second of a four-day Wythenshawe double saw me following up my Saturday visit to Town’s Ericstan Park with a first-ever trip the short distance across town to the home of Wythenshawe Amateurs, within the leafy surroundings of Hollyhedge Park. Of course, being Boxing Day and all, the transport around was even worse than usual and so after grabbing a bus and two trams, I was arriving into Wythenshawe at a little before 11.30am, though this wasn’t exactly unplanned as I wanted to have a peruse of the park and its inhabitant – Wythenshawe Hall. As such, I got off at the met stop named as such, though this ended up being a decent walk off from the park itself and after traversing a few muddy tracks and playing fields (a former home of the Ammies), I eventually found my way back to something more resembling of terra-firma.

After heading past the hall and a statue of Oliver Cromwell for some reason, which would have been far more fittingly placed in Banbury (where I was the previous week), I decided it was time to seek out some more of Wythenshawe’s drinking holes – starting with the Farmer’s Arms in the Northenden area where I began my pre-match tour with a pint of Peroni (£4.60). Watching the build-up and very early stages of the early kick-off in here, I was soon heading for a bus which would drop me at another of the area’s older buildings, this time Baguley Hall which is sadly boarded up and fairly forlorn at this point. To recover from such a sight I figured another pint was required and so I made my way over to the Blackboy, a real football-centric pub I figured from the City/United boards and other paraphernalia dotted around. Getting a welcome handshake from a guy at the bar, I settled in to watch the remainder of the first-half of the above game over a pint of Amstel (£3.40).

Wythenshawe Park

Wythenshawe Hall

Farmer’s Arms

I was soon on my way once again, though turning the wrong way (by some means or another) meant my lazy plan was foiled and I was left to walk over to my next waypoint en-route to the ground which came in the form of the Firbank. A sort of mix between one of the newer-breed of eatery pubs whilst retaining a traditional pub feel too, it’s a nice enough place and I opted for a pint of Heineken (£4.25) in here with me not feeling like trudging around to the other side of the bar to see the remaining offerings – the cold glass fridge was enough of a tempter on this occasion. I ended up being a little more rushed in the end than I planned as it turned out as I decided I’d play it safe and pop the ground first to secure a programme for this more momentous game and so I quickly returned from whence I came and grabbed the tram for the few stops onwards towards the ground.

Baguley Hall



Passing through the park, I soon came into view of the ground from a pathway outside where some youths were shouting proudly about their respective virginity losses. Scarred by this, I quickly escaped from earshot and grabbed a programme (£2) as I continued on my way to the couple of pubs that serve nearby Gatley, passing a “Welcome to Stockport” sign as I did so. You really do see the sights in this hobby, let me tell you! Anyway, I soon came upon the Horse & Farrier, a pub I’d already seen earlier this season when getting lost trying to get to Cheadle Town and put it in the memory bank and as such, I was happy to visit. An older pub, the walls bear the stories of a couple of sons of previous owners who went on to serve in the forces with one, Clifford Platt, earning the military cross for bravery at Passchendaele – in rallying a band of infantry together – whilst brother James sadly lost his life at a young age. I just happened to have settled into the seat next to these stories whilst supping at my second Amstel of the day, which came in at the unusual price of £3.78. A trip round the corner to another older pub, in the form of the Prince of Wales, ended up being rather brief with a Strongbow doing the job here though this also was tagged with a strange price – £3.48 – before I returned back to Hollyhedge Park, arriving within the first minute. Nice.


Horse & Farrier

Prince of Wales

Handing over my £3 entry (not bad that!) I continued on through the car-park to pitch-side. As it stands now, Hollyhedge Park is quite a simple ground that only opened up again around a year ago. As I said, it does have unobstructed views from the park that cheapskates may use if it’s their want to (though none really did today, bar a passing few) with the ground itself being open, hard standing all around with only a small covered stand with freshly-installed (judging by the timber smell that still hung in the area) benched seating within. A smart clubhouse is located in front of you as you enter from behind the near-end goal and houses the tunnel and food hut too whilst there is a little raised standing in the form of some small, grassy mounds that don’t really offer too much in the way of altitude. That’s Hollyhedge Park in a nutshell and this is the story of the Ammies….

History Lesson:

Wythenshawe Amateurs Football Club was founded in 1946 (as was Town, interestingly enough), and after initially beginning life as a youth outfit at the Cleveland Playing Fields, eventually progressed to having players old enough for an open-age side by 1949 and The Ammies – with their Sheffield Wednesday-inspired kit – joined the South Manchester & Wythenshawe League advancing through the lower divisions quickly prior to lifting the Division One title in 1953 and moving to the Altrincham & District League thereafter all whilst at their home in Wythenshawe Park (since the move to adult football). In 1956, the club entertained Manchester United in the Altrincham & District FA Whitaker Cup final, with the Ammies holding United, featuring the likes of Bobby Charlton in their line-up, to a 1-1 draw and therefore earning the cup via the “shared” method, with each club holding the silverware for 6 months respectively.

In the meantime, Wythenshawe continued to climb up the pyramid and the club was accepted to the Lancashire & Cheshire League after just the one season in the Alty & District League where they won a league and cup double in their first season – winning the 3rd Division ‘A’ and Hellawell Shield and went on to achieve a further two successive promotions (as 3rd Division runners-up in 1956 & 2nd Division champs the following year) before lifting the First Division championship in 1962, whilst adding further cups in the form of the Rhodes Cup on three occasions (1958, 1961 & 1972) before they departed for the Manchester League in the wake of their final Rhodes Cup success after spells at two further grounds – the Christie Playing Fields and the Federation of Lads’ Club ground – saw their somewhat nomadic existence continue.


In the Manchester League, the Ammies immediately won the 1st Division in their first season prior to going on to win the Premier Division on three occasions (1990, 1993 and 2003) alongside finishing as runners-up on a further ten occasions – including both of the club’s final two campaigns prior to this ongoing season. They also became the record winners of the league’s Gilgryst Cup, taking this honour on 7 occasions (1986, ’87, 1990, ’99, 2001, ’09 & 2018) whilst also lifting the Lancashire Amateur Cup on three occasions, these coming in 1976, 1990 and 1996, and were also beaten finalists on a further six occasions between 1982 & 1994, the 1990 season seeing a treble of the above secured. They also began to find more permanent homes during this period, spending a fair amount of time as tenants of Wythenshawe CC on Longley Lane prior to brief spells at the former home of Flixton FC, Valley Road, in 2015, St. Paul’s College for the next two years before finally finding what seems to be a permanent home in Hollyhedge Park from 2017 onwards. An interesting note is that the club’s first-team has never been relegated in its 72 years of existence, with 73 looking a fair bit likely (!) to be reached too, with the Ammies challenging for another swift promotion this season – their first in the North West Counties League Division 1 South.

The game got underway with the Ammies having the honour of the first kick of a semi-professional Wythenshawe Derby with several names with higher-level experience involved – the likes of Rory Fallon and Danny Egan especially so for the hosts. The latter was denied after around ten minutes by Ben Purdham who tipped an effort around the upright, with the resultant corner being headed goalwards by Joel Aikenhead and cleared off the line by Town’s Sam Heathcote (one of Town’s, number to have experience higher in the pyramid) only for the liner to flag and appear to indicate a goal. After consultation was carried out the goal was given and the Ammies were celebrating, much to Town’s chagrin.

Match Action

Match Action

Mix of viewpoints needed….

Unfortunately, the game began to settle down rather than pick up in terms of goalmouth action for the next twenty minutes, with little in the way of chances being created until, around the half-hour mark, Ammies’ Aikenhead fired narrowly over after fine work by Fallon before Egan spurned a one-on-one opportunity when he opted to chip rather than lace it and the ball, looped into the grateful hands of Purdham. The first half had been mostly the home side’s and especially so in chances created, but Town were still well in the game come the break and a trip to the food bar for some fine chips and a cheeseburger which cost just £3.50. Not at all shabby!

The second half began with me having a chat with the suspended Ammies midfield dynamo Will Ahern (which I know from Trafford is a huge shocker) and the usual response from the team behind that lasts around twenty minutes. However if you can get through that, I find you can be fairly confident of a result therein. Town saw Liam Crellin-Myers fire straight at Martin Blain early on before the hour mark featured their best chance when Adam Farrand broke clear of the Amateurs’ defence, only to be denied by a fine stop by Blain to keep his clean sheet intact as a sheet of mist began to descend from the hill beyond the far goal.

The mist rolls in

Match Action

Match Action (somewhere anyway)

As the hosts began to sit back on their lead in the final twenty, so Town continued to dominate the half in a similar fashion to the first, only for their opponents to have had the better of that one. Chris Middleton had a goal ruled out for an offside in the build-up before Sam Heathcote hot a few set-piece efforts from range off target prior to testing Blain’s concentration as the long-throws rained in upon the box at regular intervals, but the Ammies stopper was again equal to the task and ensured the points would remain at Hollyhedge Park and Wythenshawe Amateurs would take the spoils in the initial derby clash (if I hadn’t mentioned it before!).

Post-match I headed back towards the Park and a pub by the name of…. well, the Park which had limited choice on in all honesty and so I opted for a safe option of Carlsberg as I had a fair while to milk it, though it did only come in at £3.10, so no real complaints there. I watched the first bit of the evening game on TV before deciding it’d be rather rude not to make a revisit back to the tram stop neighbouring Gardener’s Arms for the second time in 4 days, though it was for research purposes I swear! I wanted to know how much a sole pint cost in here and soon found out – a Moretti set me back £4.20. I wasted away my remaining time in Wythenshawe in here before retiring back towards Chorlton and the bus home from there.

The Park (no, I didn’t realise how bad this pic is)

Gardener’s to round things off once again….

So the second journey to Wythy in a couple of days is done. Again it had been solid if unspectacular in the main, but on the whole I could have little complaint. Yes, the game could have had little more action for the neutral, but it was all played at a high tempo and give me a nervy one-nil over a boring 5-0 any day. Keep it alive! Pubs were all good in their own ways I suppose and the food and programme at the ground were good efforts as well. I need to become more critical on these pages, so someone give me a chance or anyone reading will begin to think I’m bullshitting somewhat! Anyway, onto the final Saturday of the year and just one game separates me from a calendar year with no 0-0. It think we can all guess what’s about to happen….

Manchopper in….Wythenshawe (Wythenshawe Town FC) (2)

Result: Wythenshawe Town 2-2 Stone Old Alleynians (NWCFL Division 1 South)

Venue: Ericstan Park (Saturday 22nd December 2018, 3pm)

Att: 54

As the run into the festive season begins, so the want to do a few closer games rises. Having not visited Wythenshawe Town since their “Invincibles” days whilst playing in the lower reaches of the Cheshire League, I reckoned a revisit was in order and in doing so, just happened to cement the plan of a Wythenshawe double in the span of a few days with my intended Boxing Day fixture seeing me head the short journey a little further on past the home of Town and to Hollyhedge Park, the home of Wythenshawe Amateurs – the first ever semi-pro clash between the two. When you consider the strength of talent that has derived from the area over the years, the fact it has taken this long for even one club to rise into the Counties ranks is pretty unbelievable. But they’re both there now and I was off to sample Ericstan Park under lights for the first time too.

The morning of the game provided me with a little bonus of sad proportions as I found out one of the more interesting Russian aircraft was in at Manchester and leaving early afternoon. As such, my starting point was pretty much set in stone and after grabbing both buses and Metrolink, I was disembarking in the Town Centre at a little after midday, though my journey en-route did throw up the fact I’d forgotten my camera and so my phone would be employed on this one. Anyway, a short walk later had me at the Portway which had seemingly had its supplies hit hard over the previous couple of days, judging by the amount of pint pots on taps. As such, I opted for a pint of Strongbow (£3) to begin with and had a bit of a chat with the guy I presume is one of the owners before I had to make haste and leave as the Airport was calling. I had to be quick too and a short jog later had me at the crossing towards the appropriately named Airport Pub, where I would get my viewing up close. Rather surprisingly, there weren’t more people out to see it and so I could sit outside in relative peace whilst enjoying a pint of the fine Big Wave. Lovely, even at the princely £4.95.


The Airport

Star of the early part of the trip

Spending a good half-hour here, it was soon time to drag myself away and head back towards Wythenshawe, with further planned stops in the nearby Red Beret and Cornishman hostelries. The Red Beret was by far the busier of the pair, with my comment about not wanting to get between a pair of “experienced” guys at the bar being met rather jovially. A pint of Boddington’s (£2.90) was the order of the day in here whilst watching the early part of the second-half of the Arsenal-Burnley game before seeing out the remainder in the aforementioned Cornishman over a pint of San Miguel for a pretty cheap £3.20.

Wythenshawe’s name seems to derive from the Old English words wiðign (“withy tree”) and sceaga (“wood” with the similar dialect word being “shaw”) and is made up from the ancient townships of Northenden, Baguley and Northern Etchells, who merged together in 1931 when the town was transferred from Cheshire to the City of Manchester. Until then, the name only referred to Wythenshawe Hall and the surrounding ground of Wythenshawe Park. For many centuries, much of this land was owned by the Tatton family and after being pressured by the Manchester Corporation – who were in desperate need for more land for housing – the Tatton’s parted with the land in 1926. The surrounding farmlands were subsequently transformed into one of the largest housing estates in Europe, with the hall itself victim of an arson attack in 2016 and it’s still undergoing restoration today.

Red Beret


Silver Birch

Wythenshawe is also home of Manchester Airport, the former RAF Ringway and before the airfield at Ringway was laid out in earnest, three farm fields in Northern Moor (now the north edge of the town) were used as Manchester Aerodrome. This was the UK’s first municipal airfield and operated for around a year between April of 1929 and early 1930. A barn was converted for use as a hangar and a farmhouse for admin purposes, with the last recorded flight departing from Wythenshawe’s Aerodrome in June of 1930. In other transportation affairs, the town’s railway station (Northenden for Wythenshawe) was closed in 1964, the nearest stations now being those on the Styal line and the Airport’s own. It has good links via buses and trams to the wider Manchester area with a new hub being completed in 2015 to take in the recently opened Airport Met line. The town now includes the areas of the aforementioned trio as well as Benchill, Peel Hall, Newall Green, Woodhouse Park, Moss Nook, Northern Moor and Sharston.

Upon the whistle it was back on the tram from the nearby stop and into the town centre once again for a visit to my final pre-match stop, the Silver Birch – not named after the Grand National winner from years back. Being a Holt’s pub, cheap-ish beer was always going to be likely and the Crystal Gold didn’t disappoint in that respect, setting me back at the usual random £2.90-odd price. Afterwards it was back on the tramways for the short hop to the ground-neighbouring Baguley stop from where it is about a five-minute walk to the gates of Ericstan Park, down a small back street behind the Tesco.



Paying my £5 entry, I met up with Dan once inside and was soon in receipt of the programme he’d kindly got me in upon his arrival and with just a few minutes to kick-off, I had little time to take in the improvements to the ground which included the small covered terrace right in front of where you enter having been extended quite a fair way and it has also had a fair amount of seating added. This is the case for the stand on the opposite side of the pitch too, which has more covered seating, whilst the far end is now open (though you may have to scale a bar to reach it) though isn’t paved as of yet. The majority of the far side is still to be paved too, with the bit nearest the clubhouse and car-park being the only bit to have received this upgrade to date. All facilities are located within the large, impressive club building including the food hut and dressing rooms. So that’s Ericstan Park and this is the story of Wythenshawe Town FC….

History Lesson:

Wythenshawe Town Football Club was founded in 1946 as North Withington Amateur F.C. and initially played in the local South Manchester and Wythenshawe League through to 1958 when they were switched into the Lancashire & Cheshire League, after winning the league’s Division 2 in 1950 and the Barker Cup the following year. They would go on to spend the next 14 years in the Lancs & Cheshire adding the Division ‘C’ to their accolades in 1959, before winning the Division 3 the next year and going on to have further success throughout the next decade, lifting the Division ‘B’ in 1964 and the Division 2 in 1965 prior to winning the Division 1 in five of the next six seasons thereafter, only missing out on the 1968 title during that period.

The club would have their application to join the Manchester League accepted in 1972 and two years after they joined, North Withington would move from the Hough End fields and into a new home on Timpson Road in Baguley which would later become known as Ericstan Park – named after two of the club’s hierarchy at the time in the form of Eric Renard and Stan Hahn. The club’s new badge incorporated a cockerel and a fox (with the former’s name deriving from the French for fox and the latter’s from the German “Hähnchen” for cockerel). During their spell in the Manchester League, the club won the 1974 Division 2 and won further silverware in the cups via the Manchester Challenge Trophy on five occasions (1977, ’78, ’80, ’93 & ’95), the 1980 Lancashire Amateur Cup, the 1985 Gilgryst Cup and the 2000 Murray Shield.

Arriving at Ericstan Park


Changing their name to Wythenshawe Town in the mid-’80’s, Town would remain in the Manchester League for the majority of their existence, only departing in 2014 when a disappointing season saw them relegated from the Manchester League’s Premier Division. A further drop in league was suffered as a result of the switch which led the club yo begin their tenure in the League 2, but this would only serve to hand Town perhaps their most famed year as Lee McGregor’s side went through the season unbeaten in the league and cups, winning all of their 39 competitive matches and being promoted to League 1, earning the moniker of ‘The Invincibles’. Their quadruple winning campaign saw Town secure the League 2 title, the J.A. Walton Challenge Cup, Manchester County FA Cup and the Altrincham & District Cup to round off the season. A second straight promotion was secured the following year and Wythenshawe began 2016-’17 campaign in the Cheshire League’s Premier Division. After two further mid-table seasons in the league’s top division, the club joined the expanded North West Counties League for this season under boss James Kinsey and were joined by local rivals Wythenshawe Amateurs in doing so, enabling a semi-pro rivalry in the town for the first time.

As I said a little earlier, the game was underway soon after my arrival and it was the visitors who looked the more comfortable in the early stages and duly took the lead on 12 minutes when they were awarded a free-kick just outside the area and Jake Vernon curled his effort beyond Town ‘keeper Ben Purdham, despite the stopper getting a hand to the ball. As we continued on round, Dan and I spotted Gillian, whom we knew from our days at Trafford when new Town centre-back Nia Bayunu was becoming a staple in the side before later becoming captain. We got clued up here and there and he’s back at it once more which is good to see. Anyway, speaking of new centre-backs in blue with a connection to Trafford, Bayunu’s partner at the back, Sam Heathcote, almost provided the assist to the equaliser when he played in Justin Pickering, but the winger placed his shot narrowly wide of the target.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

As the half wound its way towards its conclusion, I continued on my lap of the ground as Wythenshawe looked to draw themselves back level, though never truly threatened the Stone goal in any real way. Lee Gregory saw a shot not trouble Adam Alcock between the Stone sticks, whilst Pickering again fired off target to wind up the first half of a watchable, if not too exciting game up to that point. For half-time it was into the clubhouse for us as we both managed to secure a pie with Dan getting the last one much to his delight. The Steak and Kidney offering I opted for was really good too and definitely worked as an effective warm up!

After catching up with the half-time scores on the doors it was back into the ever darkening evening and the new Ericstan Park floodlights were now beginning to take full effect. Once again, the start of the half was pretty uneventful with Stone standing firm (sorry) and looking rather comfortable in doing so. Vernon went close to repeating the feat of grabbing an early-ish goal but this time Purdham pulled off a fine stop to deny the Alleynians front-man. Wythenshawe responded in kind and had an effort cleared off the line following a corner, but they would draw level shortly afterwards when Adam Farrand struck an effort at Alcock who replied to Purdham’s earlier stop with one of his own.

View from the small area behind the goal

View from the seated stand

Match Action

At this point the game was beginning to fire-up and the hosts drew level on the hour when Pickering received the ball just inside the area and clipped it across the six-yard line where Liam Crellin-Myers climbed to guide the ball into the net. However, parity would be short-lived as Stone immediately restored their lead, a through-ball played into the path of Sam Wilson and he managed to beat Purdham to the ball and it duly rolled into the net. But there was yet more action to come as Town would again claw themselves back to level-terms within around ten minutes when a long-throw wasn’t cleared and Brad Byrne happily took on the task of firing the loose ball home.

Both teams went on to try and grab all three points and both had chances to do so, Luke Askey firing over when well placed for Alleynians, whilst Crellin-Myers could only head straight at the grateful Alcock as the game came to a close with the draw being a fair result in both myself and Dan’s viewpoints. Post-match, it was off down the footpath which separates the two pitches at Wythenshawe Town’s home and to the somewhat hidden Jolly Butcher (which I think has a team named after it in the Altrincham League if my sources are correct) and after one in there (around £7.60 for a round before grabbing a bus to the far side of Wythenshawe Park and paying a visit to the Gardener’s Arms, where we just happened to time our visit perfectly around the singer’s break. The round in here came in at somewhere around the same (I had a Moretti, so wasn’t too bad) before we hopped on our penultimate bus on the day back towards Sale – helpfully from right outside the pub door – and then our final one back, my phone surviving a dive out of my pocket en route. Cock.

Jolly Butcher

Gardener’s Arms

So there ends my final pre-Christmas 2018 trip and there’s now only two left until a calendar year without a nil-nil is finally secured. As for this one, the game was decent when it eventually got going in earnest and the ground improvements have definitely made it a good venue for the level. The food was good and the programme ok and is one of your glossy £2 productions and you can’t really moan at it! The tour de Wythenshawe had also been better than I’d expected to be honest and the added Ilyushin bonus appealed to my sad side (as if these blogs don’t say it’s there already) and so, all in all, a good day was had. Anyway, onto the Boxing Day clash between the two Wythy sides and it’s “Shawe” to be a good one….


Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 8

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7