Result: Manchester Gregorians 2-0 Old Altrinchamians (Manchester League Premier Division)
Venue: Belle Vue Sports Village 4G (Saturday 7th March 2020, 2.30pm)
As the spectre of the coronavirus nears ever closer, the issue of finding a bit of light entertainment looks as though it will become ever more tricky in the coming weeks. Let’s hope its not too long. (NB: haha, oh hindsight is a wonderful thing). Anyway, that’s enough with the shitty virus chat; let’s get on with what this page is usually about – football and pubs. I’m going to struggle with this, aren’t I? Fill the fridges!!!!
This trip actually started out with the plan being to pay a visit to Breightmet Utd, only for them to call off whilst I was on the train into Manchester during the late morning. I couldn’t really be arsed with all the rigmarole regarding an alternative and with the planned trip to Forest Green (thanks CoVid) coming up the next weekend, I didn’t want to be travelling too far. As such, a visit to the 4G pitch stuck in between the two stadia at Belle Vue in East Manchester would suffice and after convincing Dan to make a second visit in as many weeks, that would be the destination.
I arrived into Belle Vue station for just after 11am and, having walked a short distance into Gorton, I found a pub open early doors. This was the Plough Hotel, a real old-school public house, and a pint of Coors (£3.30) was milked away in here whilst I awaited the stroke of midday and the majority of other nearby hostelries to open up their own doors. Eventually, the time passed said milestone and I headed off around the corner and towards three closely-grouped pubs, the first of these going by the name of the Gardener’s Arms. However, I first came upon the Angel – one I had no prior idea even existed. Inside, the walls were plastered with all sorts – a menagerie of sports, film and TV memorabilia – whilst also being fairly well-populated at this hour. I watched the early stages of the game at Anfield, as I supped at a bottle of the Polish beer Tyskie (£2.75), with the Cherries of AFC Bournemouth (there is already a Bournemouth playing, remember) taking a shock lead against the champions-elect (until this madness decided to intervene!), although did eventually succumb to a 2-1 defeat.
From there it was to the Gardener’s, which was totally dead, for a swift Boddington’s (£2.70) and across the road afterwards to the Vulcan for a pint of Stella (£2.80) Here, I was asked on my way out what brought me out this way, as they don’t get much in the way of passing trade in these parts! I informed them I was off to football at Belle Vue (cue the expected confused looks) before I explained it was on the 4G pitch and this seemed to be a bit more easy to entertain. Though I’m guessing they wondered quite what fool mixes both a tour of the backstreets of Gorton/Belle Vue with a game out in the elements. I’ve no idea myself, sometimes, though I imagine it will begin to seem like a Utopia in a few weeks time!
The Steelworks at the foot of the way to the ground was my final pre-match stop, a mini bottle of Tuborg setting me back just the £1.75, before I headed off down the road near the lovely Gorton Monastery and through a large, expansive car-park to be greeted by the Wimbledon-esque colours of the Belle Vue greyhound stadium. To the right stood the far shinier speedway stadium and indoor arena, with this too hosting occasional friendly matches, with the pitch in the midst of the track not quite being lengthy enough to host competitive football, unfortunately. However, I did get to meet up with Dan before the players had departed that pitch at the conclusion of their warm-ups, so can at least say I’ve seen a ball kicked on there….no? Well, I tried.
Belle Vue is an area to the east of Manchester’s city centre, a ward of Gorton North, bordered by both the Hope Valley and Glossop railway lines to the east and west, with Belle Vue station itself on the former line. It is famed for the former Belle Vue zoological gardens, as well as the current two stadia – housing the Aces speedway and greyhound tracks. The zoo opened in 1836 and attracted over 2 million people at its peak, ahead of its closure in 1982 after substantial mounting debts. The area was then used for professional wrestling. From 1897, the tool manufacturer Kendall and Gent opened the Victoria Works in the area, which lasted through to its closure in the late 1960’s.
I’ve seen Manchester Gregorians at a pair of Platt Lane – the former Manchester City and Manchester FA complex- pitches in the past, so this was just another one to add to the list. I’ve outlined their history on a previous write-up and, as a result of pure laziness, can’t be bothered to do so again. Here’s a link if you’re interested, though. Interestingly enough, the opposition for that game was the same as this one, just a fair few years apart. Nice. Anyhow, what with that being the case, let’s get straight on with the action at one of the more famous sporting areas in the city.
We got going with the visitors having the first sight of goal – a free-kick by the Old Alts #8 forcing an early stop out of the Gregs ‘keeper. The hosts responded, #2 seeing a drilled effort clip the bar on its way over, before #8, James Purfield, broke the deadlock, tucking a nice finish beyond the visiting ‘keeper. They swiftly doubled their advantage too, #11, Harry Kilbride, slotting home from close range as Gregs looked to have full control in this battle of the bottom two, as I headed off around the cage for a different viewpoint, whilst being asked by an Alts sub if I was “their (Gregs) camera guy”. With my awful equipment, I don’t know whether to be happy or offended on their behalf!!! I was also asked to retrieve a very dead ball by the linesman, for reasons only beknown to him, and throw it up and over the cage and to pitchside. Nope, me neither.
The home side continued to have the better of the game up until the break, #10 curling a shot just over the crossbar just before the whistle, before the players headed off to their respective touchlines for their half-time refreshments and team-talks. They were soon lining up in no time at all, though, which has to be one of the better things that happen down in these ranks of the game. You can’t beat a five/six/seven minute half-time now, can you?!
Back underway out on the pitch, the second half….well….it wasn’t great. It started off with some promise, Gregs’ #11 being denied a second, his free-kick stopped only by the upright, whilst #8 also spurned a chance to double his tally, although this one was totally on him, as he could only guide his header over at the back-post. The Old Alts #10 then went one better (or worse is more suitable), as he somehow contrived to head wide when free at the back-post.
The game then hit a downward spiral it would never really come out of, with only a couple of notable chances coming around in the last twenty minutes or so. These both went to the stronger-finishing Gregs, who never looked in any real trouble, though things may have been a bit different, had #10’s header found the net. #7 added himself to the list of poorly directed header’s, as he put his wide from close range when he really ought to have, at the very least, hit the target, before #17 fired wide late on with pretty much the last action of the game, as Gregs took the points (not that the FA would care a few weeks later) and a post-match skirmish began.
Post-match, Dan and I beat a hasty retreat to the bus stop, traversing the Caesar’s Palace-like apron of tarmac before getting there in time for one of the regular services towards the city centre. For now, though, we’d be heading just a few stops down – to the bus depot – where we disembarked and undertook the short ten minute walk or so around to the Gold Cup, which seemed to be very Irish, with Gaelic dotting around the roof beams and walls. The rugby being on added to the feel, although I’d imagine this might get a bit busier when it’s the boys in green on the box and not the English. I opted for a pint of Boddington’s again here, whilst Dan, in lieu of his old faithful Carling, chose a Foster’s before heading to the loo where he met someone he used to work with a few years back and hadn’t seen for some time. In a pub toilet. Isn’t life strange sometimes?!
Finishing up, we grabbed a bus from right outside and returned into Manchester for a quick one in the Piccadilly Gardens Wetherspoons, before Dan headed off to catch a bus from the circus (get it?) there, whilst I made my way down to Oxford Road station for the train home. No issues from there on in and it was nice to get an early return in for once. All in all, the day had been an alright one. The venue was a little different from the usual 4G fare (though more down to the respective back-drops than the “ground” itself) whilst the game wasn’t the greatest, in truth. The pubs had been cheap and the day the same so I couldn’t complain. The bite back would come around the following week with the cancellation of the FGR game and the resultant piss-poor reaction of most of the train services meaning I duly lost out on £59 through no real fault of my own. It’s just lucky I can cope with that kind of setback, many others may have to pick and choose those kind of days out at a premium.
Anyway, no more rants etc. after how we started on here and that’s that. One blog left until the seemingly inevitable lockdown eventually sets in. No complaints there, let’s nip this in the bud ASAP. During this off period, I’ll be trying to get the leagues and clubs visited updated (they’ve been neglected for some time now) and maybe try and group them together a bit more to cut down on the scrolling and make it easier to navigate through them. Any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear and, likely, implement. The same goes for any features anyone may want to see pop up, as I may need this to keep my sanity in check. Who knows? Right, to finish, let’s hope all (albeit unlikely) clubs get through this safely and are back ready to go come the end of this break….
Value For Money: 8