There lived an old man in the kingdom of Tess,
Who invented a purely original dress;
And when it was perfectly made and complete,
He opened the door, and walked into the street.
By way of a hat, he’d a loaf of Brown Bread,
In the middle of which he inserted his head;–
His Shirt was made up of no end of dead Mice,
The warmth of whose skins was quite fluffy and nice;–
from “The New Vestments” by Edward Lear (1812-1888)
Boxing Day: Friday 26th December 2014
Vanarama Conference North k.o.:- 3.00pm
Josh Hine 65, 77,
Bradford Park Avenue 1
Chib Chilaka 23,
Referee:- S. Copeland Attendance:- 1,207
This was my one hundred and sixty-sixth visit to Victory Park, the ground where I grew up. My first visit was for a county youth cup match where Lancashire demolished Manchester by 6-1 on 18th April 1963. That was one of eleven matches where I went to see a game at Victory Park which didn’t involve Chorley’s first team (a variety of Lancashire Junior Shield finals and a few Chorley Reserve team matches).
In the days of my youth, they were a top non-league side rubbing shoulders with Wigan Athletic, Morecambe, New Brighton and Netherfield (now Kendal Town). They had regular attendances in excess of 1,500, and they have survived where several other old and famous clubs have bit the dust (including New Brighton, a former league club!).
They have a quite magnificent ground (well, to my eyes, anyway!) and I was pretty proud to be attending this match with discerning fellow ‘hoppers’, Jack Warner and Graeme Askham. Indeed, Graeme is a supporter of the opposition in this match, Bradford Park Avenue, and whilst I was following Chorley, he was following Park Avenue, sadly, ………. out of the league! Both sides have endured pretty low points in the last twenty-five years or so, but both are now on an upward curve.
We dined in a Wetherspoons pub in the middle of the town (“The Sir Henry Tate” of Tate and Lyle sugar and The Tate Gallery, who was born in Chorley in 1819). A group of Blackburn Rovers fans on the way to their match against Bolton Wanderers sang lustily and disrespectfully of their intentions at The Macron Stadium and I was very glad to see later that they had lost!
At the ground, the local speciality is “The Butter Potato Pie” or just ‘butter pie’ and, as is my won’t on these rare occasions, nowadays, I enjoyed one from the newly refurbished tea hut and washed it down with a pint in the clubhouse. I even sat in the same spot in the stand which I have patronised in most of the matches I have viewed there, but on this occasion, there was no-one there that I knew.
The weather was distinctly unfriendly. It rained with increasing intensity as the match progressed and it was very cold. It was a pretty poor match, too. Chorley seemed determined to put the ball into orbit every time it came within kicking distance of one of their players. The only football was played by the visitors who took a deserved, if somewhat fortuitous, lead midway through the first half. Top scorer and club icon Chib Chilaka, deftly flicking the ball from beside the near post over the goalkeepers head and into the net at the far post!
Chorley won in the end, with two second half strikes, both of which had more than a touch of luck about them. They never impressed themselves on the game and Avenue will be rueing good chances in both halves to extend their lead. It felt like on of those games where the higher placed team had all the luck and the relegation threatened visitors failed despite the better spirit and the better play. Chorley were fourth in the league before the match and Park Avenue were fourth bottom. You couldn’t have told that from the action on the day!
The drive home was horrendous. The rain turned to sleet and then to snow as we left the M6 for the A500 at junction 16. On the A50 in Stoke, we were marooned for over half an hour in pretty stationary traffic. Even when it started moving again, it crawled for several miles. It was half past ten when I got home and Jack was travelling even further to Bury St Edmunds!
Saturday 27th December 2014 Ryman Isthmian League k.o.:- 3.00pm
Division 1 North
Kyle Asante 33,
Referee:- Peter Killip Attendance:- 47
This was a disastrous day in many ways, so much so that it was a relief to finally find a match that I could get to! I had arranged to meet up with Jack and Andy for a double header down in Hampshire, firstly at Alresford for their local clash with Winchester City and then onto Sholing. When I set out, sat-nav indicated that I should arrive with about thirty minutes to spare before the first match. I had driven less than twenty-five miles when I joined the dual carriage-way A45 at Northampton and immediately ran into stationary traffic. Nothing moved for over an hour save the police and emergency service vehicles which carved a path through the stationary traffic and disappeared into the far yonder.
Then, we were all turned round and slowly led off the motorway at the junction where I had gained access. This took another forty-five minutes and by the time I actually got round the sluggish centre of Northampton and back onto the A45, it was gone midday!
I decided to reset my target and seriously downgrade my ambitions. I hadn’t done Enfield Town at their new home at The Queen Elizabeth Stadium in North London and so, I pointed my rampant motor at the M1 and London. I had hardly entered the borough when Graeme, who had been keeping tabs on the football fixtures for the day, rang me to say that that match was off – as indeed were several other possibilities in the vicinity!
Thamesmead was on and this was a stadium I had not yet visited. I had often said that I would go there by train and underground, one day, but I’m very glad that I went by car in the end! Driving through Enfield town centre, I came to a halt at a pelican crossing and who should I espy there but none other than Simon! Said he was going to see Enfield Town and I told him it was off and suggested that he jump in with me. He had travelled to Victoria bus station in London by coach this morning and if he had got to The Queen Elizabeth Stadium to find the match off – as he would have done – he would have turned round and made his way back to Victoria for the coach ride home! He had done Thamesmead, he said, but a game there was preferable to going home empty handed.
Getting to Thamesmead meant a ride on The Woolwich Ferry. What excitement, you might think, but when the margin of clearance for arrival at the stadium and sat-nav’s estimated time of arrival was a scant ten minutes, queueing for a ferry which took twenty minutes each way across the Thames became a nail biting endurance. Once across, it was still four miles to Bayliss Avenue, home to Thamesmead Town and on the way, we passed the oft mentioned Belmarsh Prison where un-trialed terrorists reside at Her Majesty’s pleasure!
Once there (and in plenty of time despite all my petty worrying), I was impressed with the futuristic stand which dominated one side of the ground (see top photo). That stand had not been there when Simon made his first visit to the stadium! There was a seated stand behind one goal and a covered terrace behind the other. Behind the space-age stand there were large areas of community rooms – and the board room. There was a bar which also served food and Simon attacked a huge beef burger and I had a more sedate per-peri chicken and chips.
The game was nothing to write home about! Prior to the match, the hosts were thirteenth in the table , some nine points behind their visitors who were in eighth place. Not surprisingly, it was the visitors who took the lead just after the half-hour mark with a innocuous goal from striker Kyle Asante. The hosts huffed and puffed but could make no impression on the solid wall of the visitors defence. Maybe Aveley should have got a second, but it was a scrappy untidy affair in cold conditions and with a pitifully small crowd for an Isthmian league match. There were only thirty-eight paying spectators, the gate man told me and each of them had to wear a green wristband in case they got lost and wandered outside the arena and wished to regain access!
I drove Simon back across The Woolwich Ferry after the match and decanted him at Upton Park tube station from where he could take The District Line straight to Victoria, but it would be a long journey!
Briefly, on the following day, I had two matches lined up. Frampton United were playing Kings Stanley in The Stroud Charity Cup and after receiving encouraging reports initially by twitter I set out along the A14, M6, M42, and M5 and at a point on The M5 where the lanes had been artificially narrowed and veered to the left for bridge repairs, I suddenly found my outside lane being converged on by a lorry who was blocking my path forward. I had the choice of hitting him or taking avoiding action which involved colliding with the wall of cones on my right. The damage to my car felt a lot worse than it looked when I eventually gained the hard shoulder. However, I had lost my door mirror and the were dents and abrasions all along the side of the car. Needless to say, I never got the lorry’s number and all the other cars had long since disappeared. When I got to Frampton-on-Severn, the match had been postponed due to a frozen pitch and as I was wondering what to do, the news came through by twitter, that my evening match at Chinnor had also been called off. I repaired to The Bell in Frampton for a late lunch and a pint of real ale and drowned my sorrows!
The Bell Inn at Frampton-0n-Severn where I drowned my sorrows on the day after Boxing Day. You can just espy the football goalposts behind the tree on the left!
Matches this season:- 121 New grounds this season:- 78
Total Matches:- 3,091 Total New Grounds:- 1,031