The Manchopper Awards 2016-’17

Well, here we are again. Eventually. After a season consisting of 65 games (I know, a real cut-back this one), over 10 whole months, within three countries (nothing too exotic though!) and at levels from Premier League right down to the lower levels of amateur football on the public fields, it’s time to nominate and indeed award the good, the bad and the downright ugly of this last footballing year, as well as the stranger goings on that have cropped up here and there!

Whether it be attending the soon to be flattened White Hart Lane or standing on the touchline at Flixton Fields; from Ladybridge FC at the start of July through to Turton FC at the beginning of May, there have been things that have been seen and heard that deserve some recognition, not to mention some of the things overheard in the many “locals” I’ve popped into here and there!!

So, here you have it; Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, here’s the cream of the crop from Manchopper’s Ventures 2016-’17…

*All players/teams considered must have been seen by myself during this season*

Celebrity/Former Player Random Appearance of the Season:

Nominees: Paul Dickov (at Lostock Gralam vs AFC Macclesfield) Timmy Mallett (at Middlesbrough vs Oxford Utd), Alan Kennedy (at Huddersfield Town vs Preston North End)

Winner: Paul Dickov. As the only person at a game whilst not involved in a half-time on-pitch draw, Dickov gets the nod on this award, which is surely a bigger memorable moment than the play-off goal.

Meeting Paul Dickov. Top Guy!

Cuisine of the Season:

Nominees: Middlesbrough’s Parmo, Clitheroe’s Pie, Whalley Range’s chips with chilli sauce on, Gretna’s Scotch Pie.

Winner: Parmo. I’d heard good things. They were true. The parmo is superb.

Its Parmo-O’Clock!

Clubhouse of the Season:

Nominees: Penycae, Turton, Skelmersdale Utd, Farsley Celtic, Witton Albion.

Winner: Witton Albion. Top clubhouse here. Triples up as a shop and a DJ booth!

Witton’s Clubhouse

City/Town/Village/Hamlet/other place of the Season:

Nominees: Ramsbottom, Tadcaster, York, Boston, Edinburgh.

Winner: Edinburgh. What a place. Enjoyed all the above, but the Scottish Capital is a great city.

Edinburgh

Worst Weather Experience of the Season:

Nominees: Beechfield United

Winner: What a shock, it’s Beechfield United. The only really poor weather I’ve experienced this year left all there damp and cold.

Strangest Moment of the Season:

Nominees: Discovering & watching a game at Millmoor, Light knocked off stand at Gretna, The 90-minute nil-nil at Charnock Richard (how?).

Winner: Visiting Millmoor. It was all a bit eerie and, for sure, a strange experience.

Millmoor

Welcome of the Season:

Nominees: Heyside, Richmond

Winner: Has to be a tie! Can’t split them and wouldn’t wish to!

Dan enjoyed Heyside’s hospitality.

My hospitality at Richmond!

 

Individual Performance of the Season:

Nominees: Jake Pollard (PARTINGTON vs Sale Ams), Tom Heaton (BURNLEY vs Manchester Utd), Jordan Gidley (BARNOLDSWICK vs Charnock R), Rick Tindall (POYNTON vs Eagle Sports), Connor Ripley (OLDHAM vs Port Vale)

Winner: Tom Heaton. Included the ‘Match of the Day’ “save of the season” as Heaton denied Ibrahimovic. The ‘keeper faced a record amount of attempts against his former club and still came away with a point and a clean sheet.

Heaton during a game last season.

Team Performance of the Season:

Nominees: Partington Rovers (vs Sale Amateurs), Curzon Ashton (vs York City), Leicester City (vs Manchester City), Old Ashtonians (vs Whalley Range), Altrincham (vs Boston United), Mold Alexandra (vs Caernarfon Town)

Winner: Old Ashtonians. With only ten men for the full ninety against title chasers Whalley Range, Old Ashtonians pushed them close before falling narrowly short. Great effort.

Old Ashtonians trying to hold out

Fans of the Season:

Nominees: Curzon Ashton, Oxford United, Colne

Winner: Curzon Ashton. It’s a second straight win for the Nash boys from the Nash Bar.

Curzon fans after the equaliser at Westfields

Programme of the Season:

Nominees: Charnock Richard, Boston Utd, FC Halifax Town, Ramsbottom Utd, Winsford Utd

Winner: FC Halifax Town. Still holds up with some football league clubs, as it should. But it’s a good issue nonetheless and the best I came across this year.

The Shay

Ground of the Season:

Nominees: Leek Town’s Harrison Park, Witton Albion’s Wincham Park, Boston Utd’s York Street, Colne’s Holt House, Turton’s Thomason Fold.

Winner: Turton’s Thomason Fold. It’s fairly basic, but it’s a gem. Just remember to watch the grass around the pitch!

Goal of the Season:

Nominees: Alex Murphy (PADIHAM vs Team NorthumbriaJosh Wilson (Ramsbottom Utd vs AFC TELFORD UTD), Chris Thompson (RICHMOND vs Liobians), Joe Gaughan (Charnock R vs BARNOLDSWICK T), Mark Adams (CHARNOCK R vs Barnoldswick T), Wes Benjamin (WITTON ALBION vs Kettering Town), Nathan Craig (Mold Alex vs CAERNARFON TOWN).

Winner: Witton Albion’s Wes Benjamin. Benjamin’s strike just pips it on account of it being a last-kick winner. And what a winner too.

Witton celebrations after the late winner!

Match of the Season:

Nominees: Tadcaster Albion vs Scarborough Ath, Leek Town vs Kettering Town, Middlesbrough vs Oxford Utd, Huddersfield vs Preston NE, Farsley Celtic vs Ossett Town.

Winner: Huddersfield Town vs Preston NE. A pulsating game saw the hosts take the points in the last-minute and, of course, they would go on to secure a play-off spot before taking a place at English football’s top table for next season.

Quaner sends the home fans crazy (bar the guy nearest the camera)!

Team of the Season:

Nominees: Curzon Ashton, Charnock Richard, Witton Albion, Huddersfield Town, Windle Labour

Winner: Pro: Huddersfield Town Non-Lge: Windle Labour. Huddersfield’s season was brilliant, with them bouncing back from a lower-end finish to achieve promotion to the Premier League. Windle’s was, perhaps, less spectacular, but to join the Cheshire League for a first season at the level and win the League’s League 2 is no mean feat. Congrats to both.

Player of the Season:

Nominees: Tom Heaton (Burnley), Rick Tindall, Connor Ripley (Oldham (loan)), Danny Rowe (Fylde), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)

Winner: Connor Ripley (Oldham (loan)). Twice I saw him and twice he had great games. I also heard his double pen save from nearby Royton Town too, and played a huge part in keeping the Latics up. So he pips all the above to the honour. Big things lie ahead for him I’d say.

And that’s that for this season’s award. Congratulations to all those who have achieved one of these prestigious “Chopper” awards. Also, they’re very easy to accommodate on your mantelpiece as they take up exactly zero space! See you all again next year for the fourth “Chopper Awards” ceremony….

 

Manchopper in….Formby

Result: Richmond 2-1 Liobians (Liverpool Old Boys League Division 2)

Venue: Altcar Road (Saturday 15th April 2017, 2.30pm)

Att: 6 (hc)

The Easter weekend festival of football continued unabated (by this point) and it was one of the stranger trips I’ve probably ever done that featured during the Saturday.

It all began with me discovering an obscure league (obscure as I’d never heard of it) and a team in its second division by the name of Richmond. Now, it turned out that Richmond give the perfect opportunity if you’re like me and missed out on it during the Squirrels’ days there, to visit Formby’s old ground at Altcar Road. So, having been assured by Richmond’s twitter that I would have a reserved seat & cuppa awaiting in the Main Stand, I set off towards the coast.

Eventually arriving into the town at around midday, my first pit-stop was the Railway pub which is located, probably unsurprisingly, next to the railway. Here’s where the strangeness started. Upon arriving at the bar, I was asked “Are you from G4S?”. My reply being to the negative, I was then given a pint instead of cash and instead ended up lighter in the pocket rather than a lot more better off!! After a bit of a laugh with the barman, I opted for a Coors, with it being a cheaper option (circa-£3.50) than some of the ones in here.

Arriving in Formby

The Railway

Formby Town Centre

The Railway is a pleasant place, a free-house whose rooms were filled with a fine aroma emanating from the kitchen within. Alas, I had to soon move on, so headed onwards towards the centre of town and towards the Formby Wetherspoon’s, The Lifeboat, so named in homage to the area’s history with the craft.

After a ten minute walk along the main road, I arrived at the ‘Spoons only to discover that located next door was the Village Inn. The Village is decked out with a varied collection of scarves, ranging from Barcelona to AFC Darwen, and other varied football paraphernalia. I happened to time my arrival here well too, as I’d just got to the bar as the late equaliser went in at the Milan derby. It was pretty cheap too, with a pint of Strongbow costing just the £3.

Anyway, the tour de Formby must continue and I soon found myself in the aforementioned Lifeboat where I actually had something of a conversation with the girl working the bar there. In a ‘Spoons! Madness. Anyhow, with the Punk IPA issue from the previous day’s visit to Huddersfield not affecting supplies here. As per, there was little in here to keep me entertained and so it was swiftly downed and I then went back on myself to the final pre-game stop.

The Village Inn

‘Spoons

Why “The Lifeboat” is named as such.

The Cross House sits on the roundabout at the foot of the road to the station and is a pretty large building so you can’t really miss it. It’s quite traditional inside too, though my choice of beer was less so, as I plumped for a gluten-free Czech beer by the name of Celia. I’d never heard of it but nothing ventured as they say, so I forked out £3.80 for it and it was alright. Nothing too special though.

My time in here was spent watching some of the early kick-off on TV before I eventually had to set off for Altcar Road. After getting slightly stumped by my directional sense, a dog walker, who must have heard me muttering to myself and had that “Oh no, he wants to talk” thought, gave me some great instructions of how to get there though him saying “Which ground, the old Formby one?” showed no-one in the area knows the ground is still used. Anyway, just as he said, after a 15 minute walk, the Tesco clock tower signalled my arrival.

The Cross House

A bit of wisdom!

Despite expecting the crowd to be low, it’s always strange to turn up to a ground (one with actual stands and what have you) and find next to no-one about. There’s something a little saddening about it. But I was there, along with five other hardy souls (two were kids on the away touch-line) and that is still more than Northwich Villa got for a game a few years back while at Flixton, so there you go.

Anyway, no sooner had I entered than I was greeted by Richmond’s manager Alan, who I imagine runs the twitter so had expected me and, shortly afterwards, chairman Brian. Both stopped for a quick chat and seemed pretty confused to why I’d bothered to travel and warned me to not expect too much! Alan then pointed out a bag and a team sheet (home players only) at a chair in the stand and informed me that said bag contained some beers and food (sausage roll, crisps and an Aero), which had been readied for me and placed at my reserved spot! What a gesture that is and I really can’t say how much these gestures mean. Cheers guys.

As for Altcar Road, well, it’s definitely seen better days. Obviously, there’s little need at this level for most of the facilities to be in use, but there is a tea bar open for hot drinks and chocolate and the stands are still in decent nick, with the Main Stand housing seats rescued from Maine Road before its demolition. This stand sits alongside the “turnstile” and is a few rows deep. The opposite end is home to a covered standing area, with both sides offering open, hard standing, with the left hand touch-line also playing host to a grass mound, which provides a slightly raised view of the game. None of these were particularly going to be used today, what with the open nature of the ground and the bracing wind blowing across it.

Arriving at Altcar Rd

My hospitality!

With a slightly delayed kick-off due to traffic issues delaying a few of the travelling players, we soon had all competitors out on the field ahead of this lower end of the table clash. Richmond currently sat eighth and Liobians bottom in this ten-team division, with a win for the hosts probably ensuring their place in the division come the end of the season. Brian headed off to take a place in the dugout for the game and we were soon underway.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t keep too much of a close eye on the game as a whole and so can’t really remember anything past the goals! But to be honest, outside of them, I don’t think there was a whole lot more to shout about. It only took about five minutes for Richmond to break the deadlock the #23, Chris Thompson – whom I later learnt was playing upfront despite being a goalkeeper – knocking in a low ball from a few yards out.

Match Action

Match Action

Beer & Flag action

The outfield ‘keeper, Thompson, soon bettered this with a brilliant solo goal, as he picked up the ball around 30 yards out before taking it on slightly and lifting the ball high over the advancing opposition gloveman. The ball dropped perfectly under the crossbar and into the net and he clearly enjoyed it as he wheeled away in celebration! 2-0 and that was that for goals. After completing the essential lap of the ground, I made for the tea bar where I spent a good chunk of the second half.

The reason for this is I got talking to Tony who was manning the place. Tony gave me some good insight into what’s going on with the ground and what the future plans could hold. Eventually, I decided I should probably let him have some peace from my inane ramblings and headed back outside for what was left of the game. Again, I reckoned I might as well do another lap and end up back at the gate come the end of the game. This involved a toilet break…using the one within the dressing rooms!

The second half saw Liobians dominate, just as Richmond had for long periods in the first half. Whether that was largely down to the wind I don’t know. Anyway, they had all the possession and grabbed a goal back with around fifteen to play when #13 tapped in a low cross from around six yards after some pretty questionable defending in the lead up to the goal.

Match Action

Match Action

From the mound

Despite huffing and puffing for the rest of the game Liobians, in truth, never looked like getting the equaliser and so it proved with Richmond hanging on for the points. As the teams came off, I decided I should really wait and thank Alan and Brian once more for their gesture and welcome, and to also see whether the bottle opener was someone’s. As it turned out, it was Alan’s and with that safely returned I bid farewell to the guys and headed back off to the station.

After realising I’d probably miss the train after remembering it was a late kick-off, I had to break into a jog for the final stretch of the walk, arriving on the platform just as the train pulled in. Perfect timing you might say. A nice, simple journey back through Liverpool South Parkway (the former site of South Liverpool’s ground, of course) was undertaken to finish off the day which, to be honest, had been a far better one then I ever imagined it would be when I planned it!

Again, thanks to the guys at Richmond and I enjoyed getting to Altcar Road and visiting Formby itself. It’s a pleasant town and it was just a shame the weather wasn’t warmer. But that’s Britain I guess. Next up comes the finale of the Easter groundhopping adventures and another ground that has a questionable future not a million miles away from this very ground….

RATINGS:

Game: 4

Ground: 4 (in current condition)

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A (was given a teamsheet though).

Value For Money: 10