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….Athersley

Result: Athersley Recreation 0-5 West Didsbury & Chorlton (FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round)

Venue: Sheerien Park (Saturday 5th August 2017, 3pm)

Att: 113

For the second straight year, my season would get underway on the way to Wembley. Yes the FA Cup was again getting a number of non-league sides’ campaigns underway and I would be watching one clash that pit the two old Roses together, namely Barnsley’s Athersley Recreation & Manchester’s West Didsbury & Chorlton, if you’re willing to put the current county boundaries aside!

Hitching a ride upon West’s coach (for a £10 charge), I was joined by Cappy who has featured a few times on these pages now – none-more-so than in the Berwick trip a couple of seasons back – and his son Oliver. Also present were a number of the travelling West supporters including one “Barca Jim”, an exiled Scotsman with Celtic tendencies. Under his guidance, we were dropped off by the coach within central Barnsley, not far from a fine row of outlets that offered Taco Bell and KFC alongside a British Heart Foundation charity shop. Ah, the subtle warnings.


Old No.7

As the team headed onwards to the ground, so we headed for the pub, with Barnsley native Josh being designated guide. First up was the Old No.7 and what a place this was! Unfortunately, I was still suffering some effects from the Test Match day out the day before (at least that’s what I’m putting it down to) and so decided to be somewhat sensible and have just the one Yorkshire Cider in here. Whilst in here, Cappy also got into an interesting conversation with a guy (whose name escapes me sadly), who regaled us with tales from the miners’ strikes, through his times watching Barnsley and playing, albeit briefly, for Emley. A real interesting fella to talk to and a fine way to pass the time here.

Upon the close of his story about the Dickie Bird statue and the numerous things presented upon his erected finger, it was time to head out and over to the Wetherspoons. The other members of the crew (bar Bolton fan Elliot, who remained behind with us) left just before us as Cappy finished up his 3 1/3rd pints, before we too joined them next door. It was a good job he had too as he was soon to be royally disappointed by the lack of real ale within the ‘Spoons, whilst I settled upon a Punk IPA (shocker), I know, courtesy of Elliot’s cash.


Myself, Oliver & Cappy with the Cup (not real)

After a short spell outside in the small beer garden, with West fan Matt trying desperately to frame Barca Jim with his tin-foil FA Cup, time was quickly approaching kick-off and so taxis were ordered to take us up. Three of them, no less. After finishing up (though Elliot was told he couldn’t drink outside as we waited, despite a table and chairs being readily available there) and getting in ours, it soon became apparent the driver had no idea what an Athersley was, nor where it is, despite driving a cab in Barnsley. Having pointed him in the right direction via the medium of technology, we were soon en route and arrived at the ground with minutes to spare. It’s not a cheap do at £9 for a fifteen minute journey though!


After heading down the sign-posted access lane towards Sheerien Park, we were greeted with a handshake by a Liverpudlian welcoming us to “The Rec”. Cappy commented how this was the first time he’d ever been welcomed to a ground in such a way and, after a quick check in my remaining memory, I concurred. A nice touch and it seems this happens for everyone, so god knows how he’d cope if Athersley ever get a fair way!

Anyway, after paying my £5 entrance fee, it was into Sheerien Park, though sadly programme-less at this point due to lack of numbers/too many in attendance (though we were given an e-mailed copy during the week). Programmes aren’t a huge be-all and end-all to me, but I do like to get one where possible and definitely at my opening game, so thanks to Athersley for doing this.

Arriving at the Rec

Aquaforce lives on!

Sheerien Park is a smart little ground, hosting three stands. The stand behind the goal is covered seating, with the near touch-line hosting a covered standing area (which I term the Ryan White stand due to the 1,000-game veteran having a nice “mural” at the rear, along with a small stand combining both seating and standing, which proudly states it houses the “Rec-in Crew”. By the way, they love that pun here. The rest of the ground is open, hard standing and there is affair amount of space at the far end for possible further extensions. There is also a further barred off pitch at the far side of the ground from which you enter, but I don’t know to which level it’s used. All facilities stand behind the near-end goal, alongside the seating stand, with the tea hut and bar located through a gate in the fence. There is also a press box, though this is a shed.

Not too long after our arrival, the players were making their way onto the field and we were all set to go in the 2017-’18 season and the FA Cup. But, before we get to the contest at hand, here’s a little back story about the Penguins of Athersley Recreation…

History Lesson:

Athersley Recreation FC was founded in 1979 as Athersley North Juniors, initially competing in the Barnsley Nelson League. After promotion in 1984 saw the club rise from Division 2 to Division 1, as runners-up placing in 1985 saw the club switch to the Barnsley Junior League for 1895-’86, finishing their first season here in Division 2 in third place and earning promotion to Division 1.

Ryan White. Longevity.

Renamed as Athersley Recreation in 1986, the club would go on to win the that season’s Barnsley Junior League Division 1 title and went on to join the Barnsley Association League’s Division 1, finishing runners-up and winning promotion at the close of their first season at that level. Back-to-back BAL Premier Division titles would follow in 1992 & ’93, followed by a further hat-trick of titles between ’95 &’97. After the latter of these title successes, the club would take a further step up to join the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League for the ’97-’98 season.

Winning the league’s Division 2 & League Cup in their first season, Athersley’s swift rise continued with a further promotion the next season as Division 1 runners-up and then a league title at the end of their first season in the Sheffield & Hallamshire’s Premier Division (2000). A second title would not arrive until 2004, but this would be a springboard for the Rec into more success, taking the title a further four times over the next eight seasons (’05, ’07, ’09, ’12), with the latter providing the club with a move into the pyramid system and the Northern Counties East League. They also added a further two League Cups during this period – these arriving in 2006 & 2009 respectively – and a Sheffield & Hallamshire Association Cup in 2008.


Playing in Division 1 of the NCEL, the Penguins had yet another successful first season, ending the season as runners-up and earning an immediate promotion to the Premier Division. This also gave the club more chances to compete in FA competitions, making their Vase bow in 2013-’14 and the FA Cup a year later. The club also lifted their first Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup silverware in 2014, defeating Frickley Athletic of the NPL Premier Division at Hillsborough. Last season saw Athersley end up in a solid 10th place in the NCEL Prem.

Teams are out

The game got underway with both sides looking to steal on early march on their opponents. However, West soon got into their stride and deservedly took the lead. After forcing a corner, the resultant ball was headed against the upright, the rebound seeing the Athersley ‘keeper pull off a fine save, only to end up luckless as the ball fell to Kev McGrath at the back post, the centre-half sliding the ball home.

Athersley, though, could have levelled almost immediately. A poor ball in the midfield saw the home side gain possession and release Jack Briscoe, but the striker could only find the woodwork with only the ‘keeper to beat, the ball eventually finding its way into the visiting gloveman’s grateful hands. You felt that was a chance to grab the initiative, and this was soon to be taken, unquestionably, by the hummous-promoting visitors.

Manager’s view

View from the ‘Ryan White’ Stand

Match Action

With twenty minutes played, the Penguins were the architects of their own downfall, as a mix-up at the back between ‘keeper and centre-half just outside the area allowed Tom Bailey to nip-in and lift the ball over the stranded home custodian and into the net for 0-2 and what looked to be game over, even at that early stage. West’s passage into the next round was almost sealed a few minutes later, but the impressive winger Carlos Mendes-Gomez was denied by a fine save by Ellis Halpine.

Athersley did begin to come into the game a little more as the half wore on, a couple of flash points seeming to serve to fire them up a bit. But, there was little to threaten the West goal and the half-time whistle went to signal a trip for some chips which, for £1.50, weren’t too bad. A further bonus was to actually be able to use the park benches flanking the bar, with the sun now shining unabated in this part of Yorkshire.

Halpine continued to keep his side in the contest at the start of the first half, pulling off another great stop to deny Nic Evangelinos, but the winger wouldn’t be denied his goal and curled a fine effort into the corner a couple of minutes later. A fourth followed just before the hour, newly introduced sub Joe Shaw drifting an effort across Halpine and into the far corner and that was that in terms of the result. But it certainly wasn’t in terms of the action.

Match Action

Match Action

Down the line

To their credit, Athersley didn’t quit and Jason Paling’s rocket effort brought the best out of West’s Aaron Ashley who tipped the ball onto the crossbar whilst completely airborne. Then came the controversial moment in the tie as West skipper Mark Rogers saw a needless red following a pretty poor challenge. I didn’t see the actual incident that led to the red (nice Wenger), though I did hear a “headbutt” was the reason and this, via the grapevine, was confirmed!

A couple of further home chances came and went but, with 10 minutes left, it would still be the visitors who would add further gloss to the score-line, Bailey taking advantage of the Athersley defender’s misjudgment of a header to acrobatically fire beyond Halpine and into the net for five. Cappy was very pleased with himself for getting this goal on camera, though the score was very harsh on the ‘keeper who’d had a fine game, underlined by his late save to deny Evangelinos when one-on-one. Any fire was now out of Athersley and the time wound down to signal West’s progression to the Preliminary Round in an impressive display.

West celebrate their fifth

The triumphant West support

A quick drink from ‘The Rec Inn’ was had after the game before it was back to the coach for the journey back to Manchester and onwards home. The journey was sound-tracked by numerous karaoke renditions from the back of the bus, with Aaron Ashley’s version of James Blunt’s “Wise Men” going down extremely well, despite initial reservations and insults from those in attendance. A good day for him!

All in all then, it was a pretty decent day, if I ignore the first hour. A good game, a nice ground and a good atmosphere within the visiting clan. Next up is the beginning of the quest to add to the ’92’ before my railcard gives up the ghost. The spectre of time is forever looming….



Game: 7

Ground: 6

Food: 5

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 7


Manchopper in….Silsden

Result: Silsden 2-0 West Didsbury & Chorlton (NWCFL Premier Division)

Venue: Angel Telecoms Stadium (Saturday 26th April 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 127

The final day of the NWCFL season presented me with a chance to visit the one Yorkshire club who play in the North West Counties. Silsden, who for some reason aren’t in the NCEL present many of the teams with a bit of a journey they otherwise don’t get in a league which is, in general, rather close-knit in geographical terms.

Silsden, as I’ve hinted is another new ground for me, and this time I was to take advantage of the club’s team coach, on which I was kindly offered a seat by the club, and more specifically Rob McKay, West’s press officer (and a few other posts I’m sure!). So, at the stroke of midday, I had taken a place on the coach, and with beer in hand, kindly supplied by Rob, we were rolling towards Yorkshire at a relatively good rate of knots. After a conversation, and teaser about a club’s name which I can’t quite remember what it was (it was quite stupid) we were soon pulling up on the road alongside a cricket pitch and just on the far side of the boundary a sign bore the words “Home of Silsden AFC” on the back of a stand. Entrance was gained via the turnstiles at the side of the ground, and a programme was purchased at the cost of £1.50. Now, I don’t wish to be too harsh on the people who do programmes, but having seen a few higher up this season, it was rather, bland shall we say.

The sun was beating down on the ground and its rustic style of clubhouse, which today was doubling up as a cricket pavilion, the border of which appeared to be designated by some tape hanging from chairs. There were no whites in sight however, as the cricketers had been kept inside by the wet outfield brought on by rain the night before,  though before long they were underway. The footballers were now on the field and warming up, as were the reserves on a pitch set behind the football ground and alongside the cricket pitch. The Silsden-West Reserve game had been rescheduled to be a double header, I guess to cut costs for West’s travel, so the coach was carrying two teams for the day. They were playing on a field which was pretty much designated by some farmer’s field walls, which created a strange sight.

I headed outside with kick-off now only a few minutes away, having watched the end of a Burnley game on the TV in the clubhouse. The sun was still out,  defying all forecasts for the day which predicted diabolical levels of rainfall and it was rather balmy. Silsden’s Angel Telecoms Stadium is a small quaint ground, featuring two stands, both of which stand on the near side touchline. One is an older all-seated covered stand and alongside it nearer the far end goal is a small covered terrace. In between the two is a small food hut, which was serving an array of hot foods on it’s menu. I made a mental note to sample something at the break. The other three sides are open standing with the clubhouse and dressing rooms standing behind the near side goal, and the dugouts standing on the far side. The sides were now making their way out onto the field of play, which was Silsden’s original home before they moved out and became something of a nomadic club. But they had now returned to their home, and after that intro, now seems a good time to delve into their history and see just where they have been housed and more.

History Lesson:

The first Silsden AFC was formed in 1904, and a field adjacent to the rugby pitch on Keighley Road (the current venue) was hired. Their first season saw the club win the Keighley Charity Cup and they went on to enter the Keighley & District League which was first won in 1909, before joining the Bradford & District League for a short time. The club won the Charity Cup for a second time in 1914, before the outbreak of WWI disrupted the next season, but not Silsden’s success as they won the Keighley League again.

In 1921, the club absorbed neighbours Silsden White Star, and a few other clubs and lifted a third Charity Cup that same season, and retained it the next. They then became founder members of the West Riding County Amateur League. After winning the Airedale & Craven League, a hat-trick of Charity Cup successes followed between 1934 and 1936, the former of those being joined in the trophy cabinet by the A&C League Cup and the Keighley & District FA Cup. At the end of that season, Silsden resigned from the A&C league to join the Bradford Amateur League and they won the K&D FA Cup for a second time in 1938, and another Charity Cup in 1940 after rejoining the Keighley League.

After WWII, the club joined the Craven League and soon stepped up to the Bradford Amateur League again before again switching leagues to the Wharfedale League in 1951. A further Keighley Cup was won in 1952, and a Wharfedale league and cup double arrived in 1954-55. 55-56 saw a treble, as the Wharfedale League and Cup were won as well as the Keighley Cup. In 1959, the club replaced their reserves in the Craven League and struggled for a while until 1964, when another League and Cup double arrived and the club were invited to join the West Riding Amateur League’s top division and celebrated this with another District Cup win in 1965.

The 1970’s proved highly successful. The club inherited the defunct Keighley Shamrock’s team and went on to lift seven Keighley Cups (70-71, 71-72, 73-74, 74-75, 75-76, 76-77, 77-78)  the Keighley Supplementary Cup (1974) West Riding Amateur League Division One Cup (1977) and both West Riding and West Yorkshire League Division One & Premier titles (1974, 75, 78) & (1976), before the club were forced to relinquish their ground and facilities after a third league expulsion in ix years for poor behaviour. Silsden United were installed as tenants, and took the name Silsden AFC. Reforming their Saturday team, Silsden went back to the Craven League for 80-81. and to the West Riding Amateur League in 1983, and within a year had won yet another Keighley Cup. In 1986 they won promotion to the WRAL Premier before in 1988, the club resigned and folded.

Reforming in 1996, the club rejoined the Craven& District League and were promoted from division 1 in 1998, they then won the Premier the first season and joined the WRAL, winning both the Division 2 and 1 titles in successive seasons (99-00 & 00-01) and county cups in both the latter of those and the season after.  They finished as runners-up in the Premier Division the next season, but lifted another County Cup, before lifting the Premier Division title & County cup in both 2003 & 2004 before joining the North West Counties and being promoted from Division 2 in 2005 before winning their last Keighley Cup in 2006. After returning to Keighley Road in 2010, last season the club just avoided relegation from the NWCFL Premier.

Today’s game was a real end of season affair with no real tempo to it. I had decided to join Rob and a couple of the West contingent in the small covered stand, which also gave a view of the reserve game going on behind. West had the better of the first half, going close on a number of occasions Richmond Botchey just unable to force the ball in after a low shot was parried and Rick Gleave poking over after a corner. It looked as though only one side were in it leading up to the break, with the home side not really in it, but the teams went in goalless at the break, and I went in, in search of food.

The food I decided on was a tray of chilli & chips priced at £2, and they were very, very good. A decent sized portion for the price and fresh, hot chips. You don’t get better than that really, and they were soon devoured within the clubhouse, as the scores around the country were summarised by Jeff Stelling and the Soccer Saturday Team, before the two sides were soon crossing the white lines to restart the game.

The second half was an almost polar opposite, with Silsden being on top for the vast majority of it, and the game always felt like it would only take one goal to win it. And as it was, it was the home side who got the breakthrough when the dangerous and wonderfully named Tom Sowerbutts seized on a poor error by West ‘keeper Conrad Betton to poke the ball away from him and finish into the empty net. Silsden made the result safe a few minutes later, when a poor error in midfield allowed the home side to break swiftly, and Josh McNulty coolly slotted past the stranded Betton to seal a relatively comfortable win. West then lost one of their main threats, the tight shorted Tre Baldwin-Willis to injury, and this only hindered them further in their quest to gain something from the game, which wasn’t to come and never looked like arriving as Silsden held out for a well earned three points to end their season on a high, although I’m sure West would have taken their mid-table position at the start of the season, no question.

After the game, it was back into the clubhouse to await the players and to catch the final few results coming through, as well as watching the opening stages of the Manchester United game, I think it was Ryan Giggs’ first in charge? Anyway, with cricket still going on,  we skirted around the edge of the boundary and onto the coach for the journey back home, with both sides in decent spirits, after the reserves had ended a long win drought by recording a 2-1 win in their game on the farmers field pitch. That also signalled the end of the life of the NWCFL Reserve Division, which will be disbanded. RIP. Despite waiting for some  trains to cross the road for what seemed like an eternity (it took 5 minutes from putting the barriers down to a train appearing) we were soon back in Manchester and the players could take a few weeks rest before it all starts again in June. Enjoy it fellas!

My Silsden M.o.M.- Tom Sowerbutts

My West M.o.M.- Scott Mason


Game: 6- usual end of season affair, not bad but quite bland

Ground: 7- Nice quaint ground, with quite a lot of character to it.

Programme: 4- There wasn’t anything to it other than the history and away club details.

Food: 8- It was top quality stuff, recommended!

Fans: 6- Was the final game, and they were quite becalmed.

Value For Money: 7- Not a dear day out at all.

Referee: 6- Think I remember him missing a couple of penalty shouts?


SILSDEN: 1.Edward Hall, 2.Matthew Moses, 3.Ben Crabtree, 4.Daniel Gleave, 5.Daniel Fagan, 6.Andrew Hall, 7.Tom Sowerbutts(1), 8.James Nettleton, 9.Nicholas McNally(1), 10.Zach Dale, 11.Dale Feather. SUBS: 12.Kristian Hargreaves(p), 14.Josh McNulty(p)(1), 15.Ben Geary(p) 16.-. 17.-.

WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON: 1.Conrad Betton, 2.Callum Jones, 3.Alex Baird, 4.Callum Schofield, 5.Mark Rogers, 6.Anthony Potts, 7.Danny Summers, 8.Scott Mason, 9.Tre Baldwin-Willis, 10.Rick Gleave, 11.Richmond Botchey. SUBS: 12.Steve Settle(p), 14.Tyler Ferguson(p), 15.Mark Woodcock(p) 16.-. 17.-.