Result: Wythenshawe Amateurs 1-0 Wythenshawe Town (NWCFL Division 1 South)
Venue: Hollyhedge Park (Wednesday 26th December 2018, 3pm)
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).
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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….