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A Mixed Bag

Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

William Wordsworth (from “Lines composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey: 1803)

Wednesday 31st July 2013 Westerby Challenge Cup k.o.:- 7.30pm

Coalville Town          3                              Leicester City                  1
Mitch Piggon 25                                           Rob Paratore 52
Cameron Stuart 42
Jamie McAteer 48
referee:-                                                           attendance:- 372

This was not the match I had planned to go and see. For my tenth game of the season, I had chosen yet another new ground and a match between Clay Cross Town and Shirebrook Town. However, it was called off without any reason being given and the run of new grounds was broken!

Coalville was wet following some torrential rain. Car parking was on an adjacent field and I did wonder if I would be able to get my car clear at the end …… but I needn’t have worried. The ground hadn’t really changed since my last (and only visit) in April 2006, except that the bar inside the club-house was not available and a beer tent had been set up on the opposite side of the ground.

This was a glorified friendly match between the winners of two of The Leicestershire FA’s County Cups. Leicester City had sent a developmental team and Coalville in front of a much bigger crowd than was officially admitted, were much the more determined outfit!


I met up with Chris and we enjoyed a few chips with a hot chocolate and secured the team news from a friendly match broadcaster. Coalville triumphed with two first half goals and a third early in the second half before Leicester City pulled one back on 52 minutes. The rest of the match was a blur of substitutions and the game deteriorated into banality. The Ravens (so called because they initially hailed from a part of Coalville called Ravenstone), were well worth their emphatic victory.

Thursday 1st August 2013 EUFA Europa League  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Third Qualifying Round

Swansea City                              4                       Malmo FF                    0

Michu 37

Wilfreid Bony 55, 59

Alejandro Pozuelo 86

referee:- P. Mazzoleni (ITA)                           attendance:- 16,176


I had been to the Vetch Field (in 2003 for an FA Cup 1st Round tie:- Swansea City 3 Rushden & Diamonds 0, attendance:- 5,031), but never to The Liberty Stadium. Chris drove us both down there after I had decanted my precious motor in a lay-by off the M42! We had plenty of time when we got to Swansea and I really enjoyed the tour of The Vetch Field which has been turned into a rough sort of leisure park with many of the features of the old ground still outstanding. It had been tastefully done so that some of the atmosphere still remained and yet there was still room for a section of the park to be converted into allotments!


The site of The Vetch Field, former home of Swansea City

We also took in St Helens, where Swansea still play rugby and Glamorgan occasionally play cricket (I saw Northants beat Glamorgan there by 26 runs in The Nat-West Trophy on Wednesday 31st July 1991). Eventually, we enjoyed a very tasty and surprisingly reasonably priced corned beef pie with peas, chips and gravy at Chris’ old local, “The Plough & Harrow”.


Corned beef pie, chips, peas and gravy all for £5.50 and a fine pint of dark Welsh ale to wash it down!

Then it was off to the Liberty Stadium. Parking is at a premium, as we found to our cost at the end of the game, when it took the best part of an hour to get away!



The stadium, built by Swansea City Council is architecturally pleasant on the eye, yet surprisingly modest, holding a mere 20,000 seats which The Swans fill for every Premiership game! It was built for Swansea City  (and The Ospreys, who share the ground) when they were in League 1. There is the capability to increase the capacity and this may happen in the near future.


A small group of around 100 Malmo supporters made themselves heard loud and long behind the goal to our left. The team were fresh from their 7-0 embarrassment of Hibernian at Easter Road in the same tournament. There were to find that Swansea were made of sterner stuff! The rest of the ground was virtually sold out and the noise inside when the home fans put their hearts into it was pretty deafening! The ground generated a very friendly atmosphere none more so than when I had been searching for a team sheet outside the ground, without success, I was given one by a woman wheelchair-using supporter sitting behind me in the stand!

Swansea crushed the upstarts with consummate ease. They may have been slow getting into their rhythm, but once Michu opened the scoring, there was never any doubt about the outcome. Guemiand Wilfreid Bony, their new twelve million pound signing from Vitesse Arnhem had the predatory demeanour of a panzer brigade in action and brought back memories of Didier Drogba in full flow! 4-0 flattered the Swedish team!

Closures on the M5 and roadworks on The M50 did little to hinder our sedate and comfortable passage back to my untouched vehicle and I was back home in Northamptonshire by 2.00am after an exhilarating day.

Saturday 3rd August 2013  North-West Counties League  k.o.:- 3.00pm

Division I

Holker OB                          1                   Atherton LR                      1

Gareth Smith 30                                         Kristian Holt 89

                                                                     Luke Gibson – penalty saved 78

referee:- Roberet Denton (Lancaster)      attendance:- 60


Almost hidden in the tall bushes, the sign which announces your arrival at Holker Old Boys

At last, we get to the crux of the poetry as Saturday took me to Wordsworth’s beloved Lake District. There had been mountains overlooking the Liberty Stadium, but the trip to Barrow-in-Furness to see Holker Old Boys in action at their Rakesmoor Lane Ground, afforded a sweeping panorama of hills on three sides of the arena, albeit dotted with wind turbines and mobile telephone masts!


The fine stand to the left of the goal at the top end of the ground.

Once again, I parked my car in a lay-by, this time off the M6 at Stoke-on-Trent and Lee drove Chris and myself up the M6 to Kendal and then along the A590 through Newby Bridge and Ulverston and onwards and down to Barrow-in-Furness. Just before we reached Barrow, we turned off onto a very minor road and it was along this by-way that we found The Rakesmoor Lane Stadium!

Holker OB is a football team oft heard of but without really knowing where they were situated (you could have knocked me over with a feather when Chris told me that they were in Barrow-in-Furness!). The ground is pleasantly ramshackle with a seated stand behind one goal and some cover down one side. There is a bar in the clubhouse, but no food was on offer, so we nipped out to the local shopping centre for sandwiches and crisps.


It was a sedate opening to the season for both sides. Neither team deserved to win and thus a fair result was achieved. The Old Boys did  come close to throwing the points away when, first they had a penalty awarded against them, but the opposing centre half had the resultant spot-kick brilliantly saved, then, in the final minute Laburnum Road drew level and could easily have snatched it at the death. The home team had taken the lead on the half hour mark, but never stamped their authority on the game!


The club-house and, further down, the limited covered area.

I could see why Wordsworth would be inspired by “steep and lofty cliffs” (even though Tintern Abbey is nowhere near The Lake District!) and the backdrop did much to enhance the afternoon’s entertainment. However, I could also imagine the scene on a raw January night with a howling wind and lashing rain. It wouldn’t be quite so idyllic in those conditions!

Lee hurtled us efficiently back to Stoke in his Fiat Stilo in just two hours, which was pretty impressive and I, myself was home by nine o’clock after another exhilarating adventure!

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