Sheffield: The Home of Football


“Developed by Sheffield Libraries and Archives, the walking app tells the story of football’s early days and guides you around the historic sites that played a role in shaping the world’s most popular game.”

Sheffield’s undoubted influence on the early days of world football is well proved and Sheffield Council have in conjunction with local historians developed an App that you can follow on a 4.7 mile mapped walk by listening or reading about the background of places and people who fashioned football in the early years.

You visit 10 stops and become engrossed in the period when between 1857 and 1889 Sheffield had 95 football clubs and an influence on the game that is still felt today.

There is other information and stops to visit if you wish and having done the walk I would suggest you research by listening or reading the vast information available before undertaking the walk.

It is an amazing resource and truly helps to put Sheffield where it should be at the peak of football history in the country. Hopefully Sheffield FC’s efforts to build a new ground near to where they once started will come to fruition in the next few years and provide a place for a living museum to celebrate the vision of our footballing ancestors.

Even if you don’t live anywhere near Sheffield you can download the app and get an immersive experience of the past.


N.B. the images and initial quote are taken from the web site I have linked above.



Nearing the end of my walk back to the start I was seduced by the sausage roll offer at Heeley Bank Antique Centre Tea Room, I was not disappointed.

Football is everywhere, again.

Over the road from Barrow in Furness railway station on Abbey Road is a statue of Emlyn Hughes who I didn’t know had been born in the town in 1947. The statue is in Bronze, sculpted by Chris Kelley and unveiled in mid April 2008.

Known as ‘Crazy Horse due to his on field exploits of being competitive all over the field he was adored by the football community and the public at large because of his big heart, infectious laugh, voice and an incredibly fun character.

He started his career at Blackpool (28 appearances) but played most of his games for Liverpool, 665 appearances  with an incredible record of winning four league trophies, 1 F.A,cup, two European Cups, two UEFA Cups with them and a League Cup trophy with Wolves (58) appearances. He finished his career at Rotherham, Hull, Mansfield and Swansea as player and Manager. Emlyn also played many times for England some as captain and was awarded the OBE in 1988.

On the way back from the Barrow area a quick visit to Bradford Cathedral I came across another memorial but this time to the 56 people who lost their lives in the Bradford City Fire Disaster of 1985. Such tragedy was met with world wide generosity of a donated £4.25 million for the bereaved and injured and new safety and building regulations for sports stadiums.




Non League Club Directory 2019/2020


Mike Williams publishing. Released on 14th August 2019.

This is an unashamed advertisement for The Non-League Club Directory 2019/2020 which I mentioned last year. Available now from bookshops and on line stores, the following link is to my favourite
This publication is in its 42nd year and has club, league, and team details of many levels of the Non-League game.
It however comes with a health and life warning:
It’s 880 pages make it heavy especially for reading in bed.
You will become delusional and obsessive to research the many unusually named teams.
You may lose a spouse, partner, friends and work colleagues who will become fed up with your incessant enthusiastic reference to facts that you will find utterly interesting and they may find weird.
Sleep deprivation could be caused by not wanting to put the book down.
Work could suffer as you lose motivation due to your brain being overtaken by a mine of detail.

Thank you Tony and Mike Williams for continuing to edit this amazing book.
As every year I have to wait till Christmas for Santa to bring mine.

Where am I ?

Coast to coast, this week in Cleethorpes, last week in Workington. It’s not the journey that confused me but the teams in North East Lincolnshire. It is a pub quiz question, which league football team never plays at home? – answer: Grimsby Town because they play all of their home games away in Cleethorpes, now I find that Cleethorpes Town play in Grimsby. I managed to get a shot of the Grimsby district sign as we sped to the game and this was just before the ground. To be sure I asked a friendly official at the ground and he confirmed we were just over 100 meters within Grimsby.


The facilities here at Clee Road are excellent. The clubhouse is shared with the cricket team and has a bar, food kiosk and an area as a club shop also selling the program. The club house was lively with away fans good humouredly singing and chanting whilst watching the early televised game.

The pitch is one of the finest I’ve seen for some time, flat with lush close cut grass. There has been a lot of money spent here on new railings, perimeter walkway and stands. There are also up to date advertising hoardings all around the ground. It seems like a club going somewhere.

After sailing to the match along the M180 the weather had broken to sunshine, blue skies, some billowing white clouds and a temperature of 16 degrees.

Cleethorpes Town and Frickley Athletic are both in the Betvictor Northern Premier League South East Division but today it’s the F A Trophy.

Frickley Athletic come from the former mining village of South Elmsall in Yorkshire where  the first mention of a football team was in 1905 with Frickley Colliery Athletic Club formed in 1908. The team played in Yorkshire and Midland Leagues until 1979/80 when they were promoted to the Alliance League (Now the National League) and had their best 7 years at this high level. They have since dropped down the pyramid system but are hoping this season to steady the ship.

Cleethorpes by contrast were only formed in 1998 and played initially under the name of  LSS (Lincolnshire Soccer School) Lucarly’s changing to their current name in 2008. They have risen quickly through the leagues from the Lincolnshire League to the Northern Premier South East Division in the 2016/17 season, a season in which they also reached Wembley for the final of the F A Vase when they lost 4 nil to South Shields.

Cleethorpes Town  1 Frickley Athletic  0

The crowd of 171 were expecting to discuss a somewhat dull first half when just before half time Cleethorpes scored after some neat interplay left  Scott Vernon alone and able to tap home.

Before that the game had been even with Frickley dominating midfield and Cleethorpes sending some accurate long balls  to the forwards along with some strong wing play down the left from their overlapping full back.

The second half again did not spark to life and each team continued to cancel one another out although Frickley became less and less effective upfront. However they nearly came away with a replay as with 5 minutes left Nathan Newell had a great shot across goal that seemed destined for the bottom corner until Theo Richardson managed a full length dive to finger tip the ball behind for a corner.

The final few minutes petered out and the Owls fly into the next round at home to Mossley.


Finally the chips, golden, hot, tasty, well priced, good portion a little greasy and a good overall score of 72.


N.B. There are teams e.g. Coventry who are also playing away every week due to ground disruptions.



Catch us if you can.

What an amazing late September day in Workington. On 21st September my weather app said a temperature of 23 degrees and it felt like higher as the sun shone in clear blue skies. The pitch was looking lush and well striped on a mainly flat pitch that slopes gently down to each end from a central peak.

I had come to see the Northern Premier League North West Division clash between League leaders Workington Town AFC and Widnes FC. This is the first time these two clubs have met in a league game whilst their Rugby League colleagues are no strangers to each other.

Widnes FC were only formed in 2003 as Dragons FC which was changed to Widnes Dragons and developed a community base for players and teams from 6 years upwards. By July 2012 the club had achieved the FA Charter Standard Community Club award. In the same year they became involved with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Club and gained new experiences of providing greater community involvement. This was not to last and in 2014 the club decided to forge its own identity and become Widnes Football Club. Along this road they have gained promotions to get them to their current level the same as Workington who have seen a double relegation.

Workington have a long and illustrious past, a team originally being started in 1888 and 30 years after their reforming they were elected to the Football league in 1951 replacing New Brighton. They managed 26 years and one promotion to the then Third Division before a poor run of results saw them being voted out of the league with Wimbledon replacing them. During the league years they had some illustrious managers, Bill Shankly and Ken Furphy to name but two. Their struggles saw them drop down to the North West Counties League and then rise again to the then Conference North. But recent years have seen a steady slide back down the pyramid.


On my way to the match I couldn’t believe that in a charity shop in Barnard Castle I found an old Workington Program from their League days for just £1, a coincidence and a bargain.

Workintons Borough Park Ground has seen better days but it is a credit to the officials and fans that it is clean, bright and has good facilities. The club house houses, bar/lounge, club shop and refreshment kiosk but it was once the base for a stand built in 1937. Please see the comparison with today and a page from ‘The History of Non-League Football Grounds’ by Kerry Miller published in 1996 by Polar Print Group. The images are from 1937, 1993 and 2019.

A proposal to build a new stadium to house both the Rugby League and Football teams has been put on hold by a newly elected council in May of this year. This would also have provided space for new offices for local businesses and a 3G pitch for community use.

Workington AFC, Workington Town Rugby League ground, proposed ground.

Workington AFC 2 Widnes 0

Workington controlled the first 15 minutes of this game but it was Widnes who came closest to scoring when on 20 minutes Michael Grogan hit the crossbar with a fierce shot which bounced down and was hooked away. Widnes continued to press but a mix up in the Widnes defence on 30 minutes allowed No.6 Brad Carroll the chance to outpace them and drift past Owen Wheeler to slam the ball home when only a touch would have done.

The rest of the half remained competitive but the home team went in ahead.

Workington upped their game to start the second half but were thankful for Dan Wordsworth’s scooped clearance off the line with everyone else beaten by Harry Brazel’s shot.

The sun was taking its toll of the players and the referee called a drinks break nearly 30 minutes into the second half. This seemed to to sap Widnes concentration and a well placed corner soon after from Conor Tinnion from the right of the goal was fumbled over the goal line by Owen Wheeler.

Workington saw out a dull period of the game to win and keep them on top of the league. Despite them having played more games that many of their rivals they have the points in the bag. Can they hold on and regain some league status, most of the 389 supporters in the ground hope so.


The Workington Club house was friendly and alive and the chips were what I have been waiting for all season. Hot, thick, tasty, golden and a good portion. Not much more to say but a highly recommended score of 85.


‘The Bottom Corner.’


‘The Bottom Corner – A Season with the Dreamers of Non-League Football.’ written by Nige Tassell.

First Published by Yellow Jersey Press in 2016  which is a part of the Penguin Random House Group of Companies,

Nige Tassell writes about a Season from August to May as a true football fan. He explores the teams, characters, venues and stories that make Non-League football fascinating and humbling.

From Bishop Sutton in August to Worthing in May he describes a journey amongst the football teams that hang on and thrive in this world so far away from the mega rich of the Premier League. It makes you think why is a pyramid system that is being administered and dominated by a few leagues the best way to run non-league football when the regional diversity is being ironed out. Why did the Northern League with their historic knowledge of North Eastern Football not be given the running of new League for 2020/21 in their area. Why has the West Midland league been cast aside. Why on FA Cup weekend England kicked off at a time that meant people had to choose between watching them on TV or going to a local game and putting some needed money through the turnstiles. The same weekend the media also concentrated on the first games in the WSL and ensured fantastic attendances at the Premier Clubs as opposed to local teams. The FA needs to really engage with localism, diversity and community football or else the vine will wither away. Sorry for the rant.

How did Nige find some of the characters in this book? His undoubted knowledge picked teams that are making their way or have challenges.

The continual return to Bishop Sutton sees a desperate but determined season end in hope when they are not relegated because of ground grading.

The book is written with such care that it was a joy to read.
































































Ravens leave it late to take off.

Having driven down the winding Lees Lane through the chicanes of parked cars you arrive in the South Normanton Athletic FC. Car park.

It’s FA Cup day and South Normanton AFC are at home to Coalville Town FC in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.

The first thing that hits you as you pass through the turnstile is the lush green pitch that slopes down from one end to the other. It’s warm in the sun but some dark clouds look ominous as they rush past.  The ground is on the edge of town, with open views from its hilltop position and breezy aspect.

South Normanton are nicknamed the Shiners and Coalville the Ravens. This dates back to the fact that Coalville were first formed in 1926 as Ravenstone Miners Athletic and played in the village successfully in local football. as their progress continued a dispute with the local Parish Council about the erection of floodlights meant a decision was made to move the whole team from the small village to nearby Coalville in 1995. The erection of the floodlights at their new ground meant that they could make further advances up the leagues and today play in the Premier Central Division of the Southern League at Step 3 level.

South Normanton AFC play in the Premier Division of the Midland Football League two levels lower than Coalville. Like Coalville South Normanton were formed in 1926 as South Normanton Miners Welfare which they changed in 1990 to South Normanton Athletic FC. Following a fire, lack of money and an ageing committee they were forced to fold but since a new start they have been able to steady the ship and have settled into their current level.

South Normanton Athletic FC  0 Coalville Town FC  1

The game took some time to establish a pattern where Coalville showed their higher status through some neat interpassing in midfield. Coalville didn’t cause any direct threats in open play but a series of corners caused problems for the home team with the visitors taller defensive players coming forward to attack outswinging balls. Jack Duggan (No5) should have done better when he headed over with a strong header. However he was my man of the match with a command of the defence and a near perfect game. South Normanton were pleased to go in at half time level having played against the wind in the first half.

The Shiners midfield gained the upper hand at the start of the second half but Coalville were still the most dangerous again from corners. With it looking like the tie would go to a replay some neat interpassing between substitute Leandro Browne and Tom McGlinchey in the penalty area gave McGlinchey the chance to roll the ball past Curtis Hall on 87 minutes.


Jubilation for the few travelling Coalville supporters but some consolation for the home team in that they had held their own against a higher placed club in the football pyramid system.

South Normantons food facilities were good with a friendly club house and a food stall that had outside tables and chairs . the kiosk was being run by one man who was doing a sterling job as his usual helper was working. As the queues lengthened some reinforcements arrived. The chips were deep fried but mine came from a tray in the oven which meant they could have been hotter. Great value and the best so far this season with a score of 60.


The nickname ‘Shiners’ derives from the mid-1750s when South Normanton was at the heart of the ribbed stocking industry. The people involved in this craft worked long hours sitting at their windows on wooden stools, so much so that the backsides of their trousers became very shiny making them instantly recognisable as coming from the South Normanton area; since then local people have been referred to as ‘Shiners’.    Taken from

South Normanton Athletic F.C. – Wikipedia › wiki › South_Normanton_Athletic_F.C.





Penalties prove the difference.

The mornings rain had stopped giving way to blue skies ,and billowing clouds with strong blustery winds that were made worse with the ground being on top of a hill.

The game I had come to see was an FA Vase First Round Qualifying game between Swallownest FC of the North East Counties league Division One and Vauxhall Motors FC from the North West Counties league Division One. An intriguing comparison between two similar level teams on opposite sides of the Pennines. A disappointing crowd of only 75 was in attendance.

Swallownest FC have only been going since 2006 when they started as Aston FC and in 2010 changed their name to Swallownest Miners Welfare a name previously used by a local team in the 1960,s. The club have come a long way in a short time and shortened their name in 2016. The ground is alongside the Swallownest Miners Sports and Social Club and is a credit to the local supporters with a friendly atmosphere, small covered areas, pitch side hard standing and a good refreshment kiosk. A very lush green pitch slopes slightly side to side and a few dotted sand patches are testament to the continual battle against some local rabbits.

Some history of Vauxhall Motors (Ellesmere Port) was posted last year when I attended one of their home games and they currently await what Brexit might do to the viability of the factory. By contrast in the distance of the Swallownest ground you can see the Advanced Manufacturing Centre on the Rotherham/Sheffield border that houses such names as Boeing, Rolls Royce and McLaren.20190831_155634

Swallownwest F.C, 0 Vauxhall Motors F.C. 2

Vauxhall were the quickest off the blocks and played some neat football but after a foul and fracas which brought home team trainers and subs onto the pitch Swallownest commanded the rest of the half. Oliver Grady should have done better when driving the ball wide from close range for Swallownest. Despite the advantage of the wind Vauxhall had not taken advantage and they must have been the happiest to go in all square at half time.

On a half time walk around the perimeter on this last day of meteorological summer I saw one House Martin in the sky and no Swallows. With autumn beckoning perhaps the flight south has already begun.

Swallownest again dominated the start of the second half and should have scored but  Michael Burkey replaced Karl Noon for Vauxhall and he went wide to the right and gave Aaron Statham at left back a torrid time with some neat footwork and direct runs.

One of these led to Statham bringing Noon down in the box on 76 minutes and Ben Holmes placed the ball along the ground to the left of Richard Watson,s dive to give Vauxhall the lead. Only minutes from the end Joe Brandon burst into the penalty area latching onto a long ball and was immediately brought down by Alfie Smith for penalty number 2. Holmes replayed his previous penalty, this time sending Watson the wrong way.

Vauxhall played out the game for their 2 nil win which was perhaps not to the liking of their manager, Mick McGraa, who had said at the start of the season that a run in the Vase competition can be a distraction from the main aim of promotion.


Up Pohnpei



This was another charity shop find at £2.50 and what appeared to be a frivolous book turned out to be another of those stories that just warm you to the football community that exists all over the world and the extraordinary lengths people go to achieve their dreams.

Up Pohnpei written by Paul Watson was first published by Profile Books Ltd in 2012.

Paul and his pall Matt Conrad discuss endless lists, ideas and dreams about football and one is which country in the world could they play for. Their footballing ability rules them out of playing for their home countries but there could be a possibility of playing for one of the smaller lower ranked nations.

In depth research leads them to Pohnpei a team that has never won a match. One problem is that Pohnpei is a Pacific island, one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia whose population is only 36000 people. Not only is this thousands of miles from home but football seems to have no current roots in the Island.

The friends manage to get funds and kit together and approval to go to the island to train the locals but have no salary to do this. They find challenging facilities and a casual approach to football and life in general that does not look good. They also find that they will not be able to qualify to play for the Island.

Determination and the help of some local people seem to keep them going but Matt’s chance of advancing his career in the USA leaves Paul the only one on the ground. Matt still helps from afar but it is Paul who goes through all the emotions possible to try to succeed in getting football established.

Shining through the book is friendship that football gives and receives and the joy of comradeship.

It would be wrong to say more and spoil the book but I can guarantee you won’t put it down.

The best way to sum up the book is by quoting a sentence from near the end “Not bad going for a couple of Sunday League nobodies”.

Sunshine all the way for Walthamstow F.C.

What a difference two weeks make, after the monsoon in Northampton to see an extra preliminary round of the F.A.Cup I found myself in Walthamstow for the next round on a glorious sunny day with the car registering 35 degrees as we drove away.

I had come to see Walthamstow F.C. of the Essex League take on Great Wakering Rovers of the one step higher Isthmian League North.

The ground is part of a bigger complex that has artificial pitches and is for use by the community  throughout Waltham Forest. That community spirit seems to be flourishing with deeds not words and youngsters from Ryan F.C. were in force to watch the team and come out onto the pitch with the players. The crowd was the most diverse I have seen at local football for a long time in sex, age and ethnicity.

Football has always been strong locally here and the famous old team of Walthamstow Avenue won the F.A. Amateur cup twice in their existence in 1952 and 1961 and Leyton FC in 1927 and 1928.

Walthamstow F.C. have a history which the program calls not straightforward and they claim to be the second oldest club in London.

  • As Leyton Fc (1868-1894)
  • As Matlock Swifts (1887-1895)
  • As Leyton FC (1876-1904)
  • As Leyton FC (Professional) (1904-1912)
  • As Leyton FC (1919-1976)
  • As Leyton-Wingate (1976-1992)
  • As Pennant FC and Walthamstow Pennant FC (1965-1995)
  • As Waltham Forest FC and Leyton Pennant FC (1995-2018)
  • As Walthamstow FC 2018

Definitely not straightforward and more complicated than Handsworth FC I visited on Tuesday.

Great Wakering Rovers by contrast were formed in 1919 and still bear that name. Their football was mainly locally based but since the turn of the century they have flirted with a higher status in the Isthmian set up.

Walthamstow F.C. 2 Great Wakering Rovers F.C. 0

The pitch was yellowing, hard and the surface slightly uneven as the teams kicked off. Long balls were the order of play and neither side made any inroads.

Then on 13 minutes Walthamstow’s captain Vinny Murphy clashed strongly with the tall Wakering striker Brandon Diau. They faced up to each other and the resulting physicality gave the referee no option but to send them both off.

Probing by both sides threatened but didn’t result in clear chances or goals and the teams remained level at half time. The referee stopped the game around 35 minutes for a well deserved drinks break, a good decision by the officials.

The second half saw Walthamstow’s  Mc Cullock and Gebrai continue to threaten with direct runs but on 51 minutes Bennett was brought down in the box and Dwade James casually converted the penalty to the goalkeepers left. Within 2 minutes Walthamstow had another penalty when Samarai Gebrai was fouled on one of his runs. Dwade James casual run up did not suffice this time as he blasted the penalty over via the crossbar.


Rovers kept pressuring for an equaliser but their strength was further sapped with Henry Fisher being sent off for a foul on Danny McCullock.

Tiredness soon told and and a through ball to Jack Folan was neatly collected and curled in past the keeper.

A great afternoon that I hope will encourage some of the junior fans to return. Good luck Walthamstow in the next round.


No chips here just a small refreshment offering.