Manchopper in….Manchester (Northwich Manchester Villa FC)

Northwich_Flixton_Villa_logoStockportTown

Result: Northwich Manchester Villa A-A Stockport Town (NWCFL Division 1)

Venue: Manchester Regional Arena, Etihad Campus (Wednesday 30th March, 7.45pm)

Att: Probably around 65-70.

A blog which should have happened the previous week for the visit of Bacup Borough to the Manchester Regional Arena was put off due to reasons beyond my control. With another game the following week, I reasoned “Ah, no bother there then”. Of course this was going to end up well, wasn’t it?

I set off into Manchester with time in hand and visited the Piccadilly Wetherspoon’s as to mirror my steps from the prior Wednesday. After a highly uneventful stay here, I decided it was best to head over to the Etihad Campus and to the stadium which stands in the shadow of its more illustrious neighbour, the City of Manchester Stadium. After a short 10 minute bus ride onwards, I arrived at Gate 11 of the Etihad and made my way along Citizens Lane to the next in a line of short term homes for the NM Villa.

I was so early, in fact, that I was the first paying customer through the gate (it actually is just a gate) and as such secured myself a programme which is much sought after, as this is the one and only season of the club under this name. I now have both a Northwich Flixton Villa and Northwich Manchester Villa programme in my possession, as well as a programme from a Northwich Villa/Woodley FC Cup Final appearance. The full quota!

Piccadilly Gardens' Spoons

Piccadilly Gardens’ Spoons

Arriving at the Campus

Arriving at the Campus

Cityzens Lane

Cityzens Lane

Wall of achievement from the Commonwealth Games

Achievements from the Commonwealth Games

So, after handing over £5 plus £2 for the full colour programme, bearing the club’s current name alongside the subtext of their next identity of Manchester Diamonds which is to bring the senior side in line with the junior section ahead of their next move into Tameside. I won’t say where though, under vow of silence….

The other two things of note in the programme where the bit where they apparently took over from Woodley Sports in 2005 (though I’m sure I went there in 2009 and then I’m sure it was Stockport Sports after that, prior to Town’s creation, which comes to the answer that Villa is actually spawned from Woodley FC and before that, Woodley Sports Reserves. Oh, there’s a JFK quote in there too, as we all know JFK loved his non-league football.

After a while and with kick-off approaching, I was joined by Gibbo and Ian from the Counties, who had travelled up together to clearly take in the hospitality and the strange sight of the officials getting themselves readied inside the tea bar. The Villa team eventually joined their counterparts from Stockport out on the field after a short time, but Gibbo was restless after his lap of photography and decided to go on a discovery mission. Invited along, it would be rude to decline.

This is where everything started to become even more surreal. In the process of looking for a toilet/bar, we ended up discovering, through a Narnia-like door, the expanse of the indoor athletics centre and the National Squash Centre further to the rear. This is certainly not something you find everyday when you head to watch football! After a lap around here and finding a tactics board in a meeting room, we re-joined the footballing folk who were completely unaware of our magical transportation.

The MRA's own Narnia

The MRA’s own Narnia

Novel.

Different

The hidden bar

The hidden bar, Starters Orders.

Gibbo was then put back somewhat by the sight of former Wigan player Jason Jarrett in his officials outfit heading out onto the field, and was quite amused when it came about that he was tonight’s official. It was certainly shaping up for one of those mad days where everything that was happening was trying to “one-up” the previous occurrence in terms of utter weirdness. Anyway, the sides were soon on the field, with Villa including Mohamud Ali and Socrates in their side, clearly harking back to the era in history of ’80’s heroes. Speaking of which…

History Lesson:

Founded in 2005 following the link up between Woodley FC and Northwich Victoria, Woodley FC/Northwich Villa took up a place in the Second Division of the Mid-Cheshire League an finished runners-up at the end of their first season at that level to be promoted to Division 1.

After winning the Cheshire League in 2009 and finishing as runners-up the following year, the people behind the club decided that it was best for them to begin to climb the pyramid, or at least to compete in it and as such successfully applied to join the North West Counties League for the season 2011-’12. Since their joining, Villa have been mostly strugglers and after a spell at Flixton along with apparent unofficial “parent club” Vics under the Northwich Flixton Villa banner, moved to their current abode for this season having again changed name, now to Northwich Manchester Villa. They managed a club-best finish of 11th last season.

As for the game, well, it was underwhelming and that’s being kind. I honestly can’t actually remember anything of note happening during the first half at all, and we were already confident that this was a stonewall 0-0. There was no way anyone was scoring tonight, though I can now claim to have made a successful pass to Socrates. It doesn’t matter if his surname is Martins, we can forget that bit can’t we?

Anyway, half-time thankfully arrived to break the monotony of the football and Gibbo and Ian headed for the hospitality area/tea hut/officials waiting area, while I headed for the back of the Main Stand and got talking to the West Didsbury/Alty supporting pair of Jonny and Danny. After a short talk about just what the fuck was going on at all around here and why there was a small buggy doing laps of the pitch for no apparent reason (despite Gibbo’s x-rated possible explanation). The guys on the gate where even trying to still charge full price at half-time to get in, apparently. This doesn’t exactly endear yourselves especially when, to use the eternal phrase “you’ve got no fans”.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision

Anyway, negativity out of the way, the second half began and I rejoined Gibbo and Ian for what was looking to be the next 45 minutes of action, until the unfortunate incident which caused the abandonment arrived around an hour into the action. It was nothing but a 50/50 challenge in the centre circle, but the unfortunate Stockport player Sam Scott came off much the worse and ended up with a broken leg. The stretcher was called for.

It the became apparent that there was no stretchers to be found. Nada. Zilch. Whether or not this would have aided him in his predicament is unclear, but it certainly isn’t a great showing when a game is going ahead short of usual medical equipment. So, the stricken Scott was left in the centre circle “chillin'” according to the quote from a Villa player (NB: this wasn’t meant in a nasty/mocking way whatsoever). Of course, after a half-hour delay and still waiting for the ambulance, the ref had no option but to abandon the game and we all emptied out into the darkness with the player still awaiting proper medical aid (which eventually arrived an hour after the injury occurred). This is what the cuts do, it seems.

Players start some tennis

Players start some tennis

The Etihad from its little sis

The Etihad from its little sis

More tunnel vision

More tunnel vision

So, that was that, and after a quick lap of the ground it was back out into the Manchester evening and onwards home on the bus routes. Best wishes to Sam on his recovery and hope all goes well and he’s back playing in the quickest time possible.

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RATINGS:

Game: 2- Poor, nothing happened.

Ground: 5- Nice ground, but the facilities are non existent (beyond club’s control for the most part).

Fans: 3- Well, it’s improved since the ‘5’ at Valley Road a few years ago!

Programme: 5- Basic, but randon JFK quote gets a point.

Food: N/A (though there are snacks).

Value For Money: 0- No value really was there!

 

Manchopper in….Stockport (Stockport Town FC)

StockportTownEccleshall_FC_logo

Result: Stockport Town 6-0 Eccleshall (NWCFL Division 1)

Venue: Stockport Sports Village, Lambeth Grove (Tuesday 2nd February 2016, 8pm)

Att: 44

In what was my first midweek game since…well I can’t remember, I decided to finally visit Stockport Town for a first competitive game. Granted, they haven’t been in existence all too long (since 2014) and I’ve been to the SSV on numerous occasions to watch it’s home teams in their various guises over the late ’00’s and early “teenies” is it? Dear me…

But for this evening it was off to Woodley for the Lions’ game against Eccleshall and the first time I’d visited since Town’s friendly contest last season against the touring Norwegian side Rolvsoy IF. On my previous visit, I found Town to be a friendly club, probably trying to put themselves out there as such and it definitely worked and tonight’s game only reinforced that opinion I hold.

I set off in a hail shower at around 5 o’clock and got the bus over to Stockport which, within the rush hour traffic, took over an hour. Eventually though, I did arrive at Stockport Bus Station and got my connection onwards to Woodley. The journey was lit up when a group of girls boarded. One was having a phone conversation, the highlight of which being “If he batters you, there’s a brick behind the fence.” Tremendous.

Happily for me, I was spared any more violent strategies and scenarios as they disembarked soon after, leaving me to go on to the stop outside the Woodley Arms pub which was to be my temporary home for the next 40 minutes or so as I wasted away the time leading up to kick-off. After nursing a single Desperados for the time I was in there, I was soon on my way over the railway bridge and into the streets surrounding the SSV.

The Woodley Arms

The Woodley Arms

Which way?

Which way?

Well signposted, you can’t fail to find you’re way to the complex and especially so in the night time, when the floodlights are quite clear to see. So around 10 minutes or so after departing the Woodley Arms, I was at the gate of Stockport Town’s ground. The strange thing about being in this queue is that not one of the couple of girls and few lads where going to watch tonight’s contest. No, they were gaining entry to one of the numerous surrounding pitches to the far side. Crazy!

Eventually it was my turn and I handed over my £5 and £1 further for a programme to the friendly gateman (£1, back to the glory days!), despite initially being told it was a fiver for both! I was quickly informed that the refreshments were upstairs in the “Saxon Suite” and as such that was where I headed. “The Hatch”, the former food hut at the ground is shut now as the council no longer supply the venue. Great stuff that.

Arriving at a dark SSV

Rain….or GHOSTS?!

Stockport Town FC

Stockport Town FC

Of course, this is no fault of the club and it is a real shame, but with no hot food on the go, I was left with the option of the usual cold snacks (crisps & chocs) though there was cider and Carling serving as the saving grace. After a brief chat with a guy from the club who was up in the Suite as “barman” and an elder statesman who questioned me about the geography of Eccleshall and the levels of football and if the Counties is age limited, it was time to head downstairs as the sides were coming out to the artificial pitch which ensured this game would be on, as other local ties fell by the wayside once more.

I exited the bar in a rush, determined to get a picture of the handshakes (because these things are important on occasion) before watching the game get underway from the smart Main Stand at the ground, which carries the name of the title sponsor of the Sports Village. I then spotted Dan and headed over to the small stand behind the “car park-end” goal, but not before I saw Dan’s iPhone fly and end up smashed! The phone could well be history and speaking of which…

History Lesson:

Stockport Town were only formed in 2014 following the fading and eventual demise of Stockport (formerly Woodley) Sports, though the latter hadn’t helped themselves with their strange International Academies and Peter Withe appointments. Anyway, enough about them…

The Lions were denied an immediate entry to the North West Counties and, as such, had to have a season of friendly matches which consisted of the club playing North West Counties teams and showing they could compete, along with the odd touring team. For 2015-’16, Town were accepted into the NWCFL Division 1 and are currently in the play-off places for the division under the stewardship of Calum Sykes.

Reflections

Reflections

Handshakes

Handshakes

The game got underway and Nathan Neequaye got the scoreboard rolling in under a minute. But don’t ask me how, as I missed it due to its swiftness! Though thanks to Stockport Town’s twitter feed, he “beat the offside trap before and calmly slots home”. So there you go, 1-0.

It got better for Town as they began to dominate the contest and Neequaye had an effort blocked on the line as he again sprung the trap and Ruben Abreu almost netted one of the best goals I’d have seen, as he beat three men before being spurned by the GK, but it was two soon after when Sam Scott nodded in at the back post. This was pretty much repeated as a carbon copy minutes later as Joe Armstrong stooped to do the same and make it 3-0 and it remained as such until the break and I headed for the bar (well, table).

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Back in the toasty “clubhouse” and out of the chilly Stockport evening, I went against all sense and everyone else in the ground with their Oxo’s and Hot Chocolates by plumping for a Magners, ’cause I’m so rebellious. The guy who I mentioned earlier who was manning the refreshments even offered to get me a glass from the bar at the far end of the room, which was politely refused, but appreciated.

The second half was pretty much getting underway as I sat down at the windows overlooking the pitch and was joined by Dan, the mature gentleman and latterly “Mark’s” girlfriend (I presume) since she said she was there to watch him and was quite relieved that he was now on the pitch for the second half, though she goes to most games now and if she didn’t turn up people would question why. Commitment!

However, I have a confession to make here; that’s three people I’d met now and I’d neglected to get the names of any. How rude and I can only apologize for that, it’s just something that happens with me!

Anyway back to on-field matters and after we’d wimped out and decided to watch the game from the clubhouse, Ruben Abreu capped a good performance with number 4, a calm finish, and number 5, a lovely curled effort, later in the game it was time to leave slightly early in order to catch the bus back to ensure I got home a full 40 minutes earlier than I would if I waited for the next plus it was much easier. So Dan and I missed goal #6, scored by Andy Graham, but it mattered little in the grander scheme of things.

Abreu celebrates #4 by merging with another player

Abreu celebrates by merging with another player!

Match Action

Match Action

So an uneventful journey home followed of which I will spare you the details of, only to say I dodged the rain once more which I seemed to have the knack of doing all night. Whenever the moisture began to fall, I was always in cover. Ah how different Garforth was…

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RATINGS:

Game: 7- Goals a plenty, but little to show from Eccleshall.

Ground: 6- Not much to it, nice stand and clubhouse thugh.

Fans: 5- It’s nice to see the club developing a following, it seems.

Programme: 7- A decent effort, with a few good articles. Added point for price!

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 8- Overall, spent about £16 which isn’t bad at all, with all the goals.

Food: N/A