They think It’s all over

The F A have confirmed that all step three and below league results for the 2019/20 season have been expunged.

This followed a lot of media quotes from league and club officials who could not see a way to finish the season within time and financial constraints and the ethical position of the need to put all resources and time in fighting the pandemic. This is sad for teams like South Liverpool, Vauxhall Motors, Jersey Bulls, South Shields and others but these are difficult times.

I feel that this week the National League will also take the lead and agree to end their hopes of finishing the season. Many League Chairman have expressed a need to do this and clubs have closed down their operations to preserve money, maintain their existence and direct effort elsewhere. There are those that have deeper pockets and wish to complete the season and gain promotion but that looks unlikely with the Government posturing that we are in for a long haul.

With one place available for promotion with Bury’s demise it feels appropriate that Barrow (League leaders) should take that place. Regional diversity would be enhanced and it would be a welcome return since they were voted out in 1972.

This will anger some clubs but this is where the English Football League should be bold and demote clubs who have failed to pay players, the tax man and ignore their fans. They could then elect a club(s) to replace them. 

The EFL and the Premier League will have to take a decision soon too and people such as Rio Ferdinand are suggesting that the season should be scrapped if there is a further delay.

It does the Premier League harm if in the public’s eyes it is seen as being all about their TV deals, surely if landlords can accept non payment of rent for an increase in the lease term then this type of compromise can be achieved with the broadcasters. They could also be brave and take up the innovative idea put forward by Karen Brady ( who I have rarely agreed with in the past) and suspend relegation but allow some clubs to be promoted from the Championship and have more teams relegated over the next few seasons until the current league number is again reached. Ideas like this will give a new dimension to a league that is becoming dull. Perhaps there are others that they could explore.

I think we have come to the point where ‘They think it’s all over’ will soon become ‘It is now’.

The Gerry Hitchens Story

‘From Mine to Milan’ – The Gerry Hitchens Story written by Simon Goodyear and published by The Breedon Publishing Company 2010.

20200326_171351

I found this book in a charity shop in Bridgnorth in the heart of the area where Gerry grew up and made his first steps in senior football with Kidderminster Harriers in 1953 after initially playing for the local village team.

The book is sympathetically written by Simon Goodyear who along with his Dad were lifelong Aston Villa fans. The book is a tribute to Gerry and his character shines through. He was a hard working, likeable, committed, unassuming, team player who was talented too and often found the back of the net.

His progress in football would be unusual today in that there was no academy development but an initial mining career and a progression through local to English League, Italian and International teams. Like John Charles he was a trailblazer for British players to go overseas to further their career which have not been a success for many, it is all too common for players from overseas to come to England and develop and delight our game.

Gerry played for Kidderminster Harriers, Cardiff City, Aston Villa, Inter Milan, Torino, Atlanta (Bergamo), Cagliari, Worcester City and Merthyr Tydfil before retiring in 1972.

His most successful time was at Villa where he scored 96 goals in four seasons, 42 in his last season. Of his 7 games for England he scored five goals.

The book shows the depth of good feeling to Gerry through quotes by fans and fellow professionals, Jimmy Greaves, Jimmy Armfield, Bobby Charlton and many more.

The book is very well written in that it gives you a real sense of how Gerry coped with moving to new clubs and cultures as well as being able to keep and enjoy a family life.

His death in 1983 on a football pitch cut short a magnificent life.

The end of the season?

With the pandemic Covid-19 shutting down much of the world I decided to take a trip to see Shirebrook Town. This was to give last years Chip League Winners a chance to defend their trophy (more of that later).

Arriving at the ground the car park was full and there was a large number of cars parked on the grass in front of the stadium. I thought that many of the local supporters who had been denied their EFL and Premier League games had gone to Shirebrook instead. I was wrong although the 178 who did turn up (a good proportion from Eastwood) was a great crowd and some needed revenue for the home club. One of the reasons for the cars and vans was that the field is used for whippet racing in the summer and the organisers had turned up to have a trials/practice/test before their next meeting on Mothers Day.

The game I went to see was Shirebrook Town V Eastwood Community in the East Midland Counties Football League. Eastwood third and hoping for promotion while Shirebrook sit second from bottom, having played more games than rivals, with the prospect of another demotion having been relegated from the Toolstation Northern Counties East League Division One last Year. Where either team ends up is open to conjecture with both the Northern Counties East league and the West Midlands League subject to major change at the end of the season.

I have written about Shirebrooks history before but Eastwoods is short only being in existence for six years. However they are developing a very good community club at their 3G stadium and their aspirations can be summed up by this quote from their Chairman – Jamie Bennett “We’re a club like any other that want to progress through the Leagues but we also pride ourselves on our rapidly expanding football development plan where we aim to bring the community together at all ages and abilities.We hope you will join us in our exciting football adventure.”

Shirebrook Town 1 Eastwood Community 3

The teams came on to “The boys are back in town” to a backdrop of grey skies and a biting wind. The grey was diminished by Eastwoods dayglow yellow kit and they chose to kick with the slope in the first half on the well worn pitch. They were competing with two other impromptu games of under tens at the back of a goal.

Both teams started competitively and it was Shirebrook who took the lead on 11 minutes when Kurtis Morley harried the Eastwood defence and controlled the ball to run past the goalkeepers right and squeeze the ball at an acute angle past two scrabbling defenders.

Eastwood came storming back and on 28 minutes Carl Westcarr was left on his own and he hit a ball from 10 yards that squirmed under the goalkeepers bending body.

So at half time at 1-1 honours were all square but within a minute of the restart  Eastwood were in front when Ben Gowring leapt above the defence at the far post following a curled corner.

Eastwoods dominance was rewarded when they doubled their lead on 57 minutes through Kieren Watson who ran on to a great through ball to sweep it in the net.

It should then have been all over but Shirebrook seemed to find their best play for the last third of the game and were denied by goalkeeper Jack Andrews who made two blank range saves in quick succession and at the death Shirebrooks man of the match number 2 hit the crossbar with a long range dipping shot.

An enjoyable game that belied the difference in league positions.

20200314_144403_resized

Finally the chips, they were served by a mother and daughter combo, with the mother having taken over the food hut at the ground, that also serves the Whippet Racing, after the death of her husband last year. I have to say they were as good, infact better than last year and their score was one point (86) better than last year and now top the league. They were hot, fresh, cooked right through, golden, crispy on the ends and delicious. The ladies even promised me home cooked chips from real potatoes for next season, I can’t wait. With all games now postponed until further notice and the chances of finishing the football season fading with every day it looks likely that Shirebrook will again be crowned champions.

 

Payonthegate 2019/20 Chip League
Teams Points
Shirebrook Town 86
Workington Town 85
Matlock Town 80
Clay Cross town 76
Staveley Miners Welfare 75
Ollerton Town 74
Cleethorpes Town 72
Aston Villa 68
Athersley Recreation 68
Gresley 68
Worksop Town 68
Worsborough Mill 62
South Normanton 60
Halifax Town 56
Handsworth 50
Bakewell 0
Darlington 0
Everton 0
Hellas Verona 0
Mickleover Sports 0
Northampton ON Chenecks 0
Scunthorpe United 0
Swallownest 0
Walthamstow 0

 

 

 

Wanderers near end of journey.

Saturday saw a trip to Burton Latimer to see Kettering v Gloucester City in the National League North. Both of theses teams have been on a long journey away from their old homes but are close to gaining a secure future at new venues.

Kettering Town had been at their old Rockingham Road ground since 1897 when they had to move in 2011, The old ground was demolished and 49 houses are being built there. They have played at the old Nene Park (Now an Aldi) and shared at Corby until finally moving in with Burton Park Wanderers in 2013.

The club moved to Latimer Park to share the ground but always with the aim to play home games in Kettering 5.2 miles by road away sometime in the future.

The club initially put in temporary facilities to maintain their football grading status but are now underway to develop the ground to hold 6500 fans, a 3G Pitch, community involvement and the further expansion of the Burton Latimer Amateur Boxing Club also located at the stadium. They are in this for the long haul and located just south of the junction of the main A6 and A14 roads are in a prime location. The locations road links have been key to Morrison’s running a major distribution depot almost next door.

Kettering have been going since 1872 and battled through  many leagues until reaching the higher echelons of the non league game where they have been for the last 50 years.

They have had a very colourful time being Ron Atkinsons first managerial post, the first club to introduce shirt sponsorship under Derek Dougan and even had Paul Gascoign as manager for 39 days. They were also unsuccessful in breaking into the football league when it was a closed shop and have been runners up in the Trophy twice. Their current focus is to grow new strong roots whilst developing the club and stadium.

Gloucester City  have a similar history as Kettering being formed in 1883 progressing to the Southern League and maintaining a high level in the Non-League game ever since. They too lost their ground but in very different circumstances. The floods of 2007 that considerably affected the West of England left their Meadow Park ground under 8 feet of water and the club have not played there since. They have been very successful to keep the team and support together having played at, Cirencester Town, Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers grounds before leaving the county to play at Evesham United.

The plans are now to return to the Meadow Park next season where work is underway to build a new stadium that is raised from the old playing level.

new-gloucester-city-stadium-meadow-park

Kettering Town 1 Gloucester City 1

The skies were a dense grey but no rain was forecast and the wind only gusted at times. The level pitch had bumpy areas and was heavily sanded in places.

The last time I was on this ground was a few years ago when my son was on the end of an 8-1 defeat to Burton in the County cup despite taking the lead early on.

 

One thing that this ground is famous for is the smell in the air that comes from the next door down wind Weetabix factory.

Players did not shake hands before the kick off and a good crowd of 642 had turned up for what would be the first home game in over a month.

After only 5 minutes Dan Nti swept past the visitors defence on the right to cross a low ball that was met by Tre Mitford who calmly guided it home

Another 5 minutes and Gloucester were level after some indecisive clearing gave Bernard Mensah the chance to race through and beat goalkeeper  Paul White.

The game was very sterile after this and the soaring buzzards kept me amused till half time.

Kettering looked the likeliest team to break the deadlock in the second half with numerous long throws and corners into the box. Despite their efforts Gloucester held on and both teams were happy with a point that keeps them just away from the relegation spots.

 

Unfortunately the chips were luke warm, too crispy on the ends but soggy in the middle. All in all tasteless and a disappointing score of 45.
The quantity at £2 Was good but some work is needed here.

 

 

 

United in eight goal thriller.

Another Saturday another storm, this one called Jorges.  The  game was on in Moston, F.C. United of Manchester v Warrington F.C in the Betvictor Northern Premier League.

It’s 15 years since the Glazers took over Manchester United with a great deal of borrowing to finance the deal and a group of disgruntled fans set up FC United of Manchester. Their nomadic days ended nearly 5 years ago when they moved into the Broadhurst Park Stadium in Moston.

The club is fan owned and reputed to be the largest in the UK by the number of members. The members all have one share and one vote in the clubs democratic constitution. They started off in the NorthWest Counties League Division 2 and rose dramatically to the National League North. A relegation has brought them to the Northern Premier League where they are well placed, in third slot, for a play off place this season.

Warrington Town just three places behind FC United have been going since 1949 when they were first called Stockton Heath changing to the current name in 1961. Playing in local leagues until promotion to the NorthWest Counties League in the 1980’s really moved the club forward. Although winners of the 2018/19 play offs they lost to Kings Lynn in a super play off and remained in the Northern Premier to welcome FC United after their relegation in the same season.

This ground is a credit to all that has been achieved at this fans owned club. The watching facilities are great with covered standing on three sides, one of which is a well tiered end where the home ‘Ultras’ stand and the fourth a very comfortable seated stand, in all a capacity of 4400. The crowd of 2088 was very good with the club being one of the best supported in Non League football.

Under the home end is a space which was packed with fans watching a four piece female band while they could drink, eat pies, chips from the chippy or even cupcakes.

Inside the entrance is a hut selling old programs and other ephemera and two tables selling bottles of pop and an array of sweets for the younger fans.

Although I didn’t look there must be a bar and food kiosk at the back of the main stand which was amazingly busy as people trooped passed the isle we sat next to all game, a little annoying during the match.

The teams did not warm up on the pitch prior to the game which was flat and green but heavily sanded in areas. High heavy clouds scurried from left to right with the sun breaking through on a cold day with blustery winds.

FC United of Manchester 4 Warrington Town 4

The game started with little pattern but in the 9th minute FC United were ahead when a curled free kick from the right by Morgan Homson-Smith was deflected off a defenders head over the goalkeeper into the far corner.

The game continued even and uneventful until 38 minutes when a mishit shot seemed to somehow find its way to the Leagues leading scorer Tundle Owalabi who swivelled and struck the ball under Bobby Jones in the centre of the goal.

It all seemed over but Warrington hit back with two goals before the teams went in at half time level at 2-2.

First a low ball across the goal mouth from the left was slid in by Buckley under pressure and Warrington’s second was scored by Buckley, again from the left when his high speculative cross semed caught in the wind hitting the crossbar and going into the net off the goalkeepers outstretched hand.

All was quiet in the second half until the 58th minute when Mackreths shot from range was cruelly deflected for Warrington to take the lead for the first time.

The excitement continued when 5 minutes later Adam Dodd was brought down in the penalty area and after a delay Paul Ennis calmly converted the spot kick. There was little time to take breath when on 73 minutes Warrington had a free kick, which was moved twice behind the referees back and then curled with the right foot to the goalkeepers left but his parried save was tapped home by Mark Roberts.

FC United were now roared  on by the noisy home crowd and near the end of the 5 minutes added time Curtis Jones headed home from Mike Potts’ cross to level the scores. No time for any further action and the crowd kept chanting and singing long after the final whistle for what seemed like a victory. The shared points mean that both clubs stay in their same position in the League.

What a breathtaking match that was a delight to the large fan turnout and Non League football at its best.

 

Even the Chips have been done large here, a kiosk just for Chips ‘good buy Mr Chips’.

They were good too, crisp, golden, hot, plenty and great value at £2. The over soft inside meant the score of 76 puts them in the top tree for the season.

This ground is a must for all football fans to see what can be achieved with enthusiasm and commitment and see a very dedicated team of helpers and supporters live the dream.

 

Chip League Update

With only a few months left till the end of the season I thought an overdue update on my chip league was appropriate. Workington Town are still leading the way and still in with a good chance of promotion.

Payonthegate 2019/20 Chip League
Teams Points
Workington Town 85
Matlock Town 80
Clay Cross town 76
Staveley Miners Welfare 75
Ollerton Town 74
Cleethorpes Town 72
Aston Villa 68
Athersley Recreation 68
Gresley 68
Worksop Town 68
Worsborough Mill 62
South Normanton 60
Halifax Town 56
Handsworth 50
Bakewell 0
Darlington 0
Everton 0
Hellas Verona 0
Mickleover Sports 0
Northampton ON Chenecks 0
Scunthorpe United 0
Swallownest 0
Walthamstow 0

20200225_162415_resized_1 Not real chips but a bit of fun sent to me by my daughter.

Worksop Town have bigger battles to win.

Having been beaten by storm Dennis last weekend I was set to see Mansfield Hosiery Mills FC play at Ashland Rovers FC but again heavy rain saw the game postponed after a Saturday morning pitch inspection. So the nearest game that I could guarantee being on was Worksop Town v Sutton Coldfield Town in the Bet Victor Northern Premier South East Division League.

20200222_143759_resized

Worksop Town 0 Sutton Coldfield 1

Dark Grey clouds kept skipping by on a cold windy day and the pitch looked good considering the recent terrible weather, perhaps the clue is in the address, sandy Lane.

Worksop lost the toss and played with the wind in the first half and immediately started to dominate the game forcing a string of corners. This didn’t stop Sutton from having goal scoring chances and their more physical play kept them equal to the task.

However it was Worksop who came nearest to scoring as from a breakaway the ball was smashed against the crossbar when a goal looked more likely. Both teams huffed and puffed but could not find the net and the half ended equal,

Sutton now had the wind advantage in the second half and their dominance lead to Edwin Ahenkorah floating a great cross over the advancing keeper to give Ben Usher-Shipway the chance to volley the ball into the net for a 1 nil lead.

On 59 minutes the game changed when James Mutton was sent off for a high tackle on Mathew Sykes. From the sending off Worksop pushed forward taking advantage of their extra man and Sutton appealed vigorously to the referee at every foul and tackle, Despite the onslaught Sutton held out for a deserved win but Worksop should have made more of their opportunities.

The bigger battle.

Worksop now have a bigger battle to win it having been revealed that the club has a £60000 debt to finance that needs finding by the end of February. The owner of the ground, Sandy Lane, Peter Whitehead has covered half of this but has asked the club and fans to find the other £30000. Peter Whitehead has promised to take over the club when the money is raised and he has assured everyone that he has plans and finances in place to secure the future. Peters undoubted business knowledge will be well used if the money can be found.

The players and other staff have taken pay cuts and by the start of Saturdays game £23707.81 had been raised. It does not help that Worksop now have a run of away games that means there will be no football at home for 6 weeks cutting off a vital income stream. The 5th biggest home crowd of the season of 377 seemed hopeful of success and contributed to a bucket collection as you entered the ground.

It would be sad to see Worksop Town reputed to be the 4th oldest club in the country go out of business. There is still time to contribute to the fund via their just giving site https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/worksoptown.

20200225_162157_resized

Good luck Worksop Town.

Chips

With regards my chip league I was unable to take a picture of them as a phone malfunction froze my camera.

The chips were plentiful, thin, hot, white rather than golden but a creditable score of 68.

 

N,B, With regards Worksop Town being the 4th oldest club in the country this is disputed by Martin Wesby in his excellent ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889’. A face off between Martin and Worksop’s club historian could be a match that fans would like to see and raise some much needed funds.

Extra.  Worksop Town announced on February 28th that they had reached their target. Amazing effort, another new dawn beckons.