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I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Tuesday 25th March 2014 Welsh Premier League k.o.:- 7.30pm

Airbus UK Broughton                                                       1
Russell Courtney (og) 31,
Gap Connahs Quay                                                          2
James Owen (og) 56,
Michael Burns 70,
Referee:- Kevin Parry                                                   Attendance:- 175

It was a filthy evening and I was glad of the two new front tyres which had cost me a fortune this morning! Graeme and Chris and I made the journey to Wales and on the way up, we found out that Buckley Town had been called off due to the weather and we were considering our options in case Airbus followed suit! Even Rochdale Town came under consideration! Needless to say, both the traffic and the roadway played there parts. At the last turn off before Broughton on the dual carriageway A55, we found our exit barred and we had to carry on to the next exit! We made it in good time, found a fish and chip shop nearby and returned in the heavy rain to the Hollingsworth Group stadium.


The ground is an adjunct to the main Airbus Factory site. It lies just outside the main gates. It looks as if it was a football pitch onto which a couple of stands, one along the side and one behind the goal, were airlifted into position. The only seemingly permanent structure is the changing rooms and directors suite opposite the main stand. Surrounding the whole is a sturdy eight foot wire fence. The European Airbus project is a cooperative venture between France, Germany and The UK. Airbus UK make the wings and then fly them out to Toulouse to be attached to the main frame. Just before half time a huge aeroplane screamed down the runway in the dark, only visible by the spotlights on its wing tips and fuselage and took off on what seemed an impossibly short runway, climbed laboriously into the sky and gradually disappeared!


Broughton was opened in 1939, just in time to take part in the production of Wellington and Lancaster bombers for the WWII war effort. After the war it continued to produce Mosquitoes and later the Comet jet aircraft. The football club started as a works team and has metamorphosed through several name changes – Vickers-Armstrong, de Havilland, Hawker Siddeley, British Aerospace and eventually, Airbus UK. They came to prominence in the early nineties, but it was 2000/01 when they eventually reached The Welsh Premier League. In 2007/08 they added “Broughton” to their name.


Tonight’s fixture had second top facing second bottom (Gap Connahs Quay). The Welsh Premier League season usually sees teams playing each other twice and then the league splits into two halves, where the top sides play each other twice for the championship and the bottom sides play each other to avoid relegation! The season was now well into its second phase, but this match was held over from the first phase, although the points would still count towards the final table positions.

On a dreadful evening, the heavy conditions were a great leveller. The home side were in front at the interval, courtesy of an own goal from the Gap Connahs Quay central defender, Russell Courtney. The away team drew level, also courtesy of an own goal, just before the hour and despite their lowly position, deservedly snatched the points with a goal twenty minutes from time. ‘The Planemakers’ or ‘The Wingmen’ as Airbus are generally known, had slipped to an unlikely defeat!


We made good progress on the way home. Thankfully, no-one had seen fit to close any of the motorways or main arterial routes and the heavy rain had subsided.

Wednesday 26th March 2014  Thurlow-Nunn Eastern Counties League  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Division 1

Debenham LC                                                                           0

Team Bury                                                                               1

Ashley Thompson 72,

Referee:- Mr. M Oakley                                             Attendance:- 63

This was a ground I’d long lusted after, even though I knew, by reputation, that there wasn’t much to see there! The journey was just over a hundred miles and when I got there, there was nothing but the ground in the middle of a sports complex. There was one stand, an imported, pre-fabricated, Meccano set, structure which might have seated around 100 spectators. Apart from that, there was no cover at all! I walked into the bar and there were Pete and Don, whom I’d last met at Newport County, a couple of weeks ago and Chris and Laurence were later in evidence as the occasion became almost a hoppers’ convention!


Debenham is a tiny Suffolk village of some 2,000 souls, but it does boast the longest ford in Britain as The River Deben flows through the village. The club was formed in 1991 as Debenham Angels and progressed through the seven divisions of The Ipswich & Suffolk League before gaining admission to The Eastern Counties League in 2004/05. They were briefly in the Premier division, but slipped back in 2007/08. It was during this time that they recorded their best ever attendance of 1,026 against AFC Wimbledon in The FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round.


In one corner of the bar was a Chinese counter, where ethnic food was on offer, but I stuck to a hot dog and chocolate for my half-time fare.


The game was pretty poor. Both sides are marooned in the lower reaches of the division with the home side one place ahead of their opponents. It was the opponents who won a rather drab encounter with the only goal three-quarters of the way through the match.


You can see the red-lit mast behind the goal 

I had a long discussion with Don before the match about the visit to Scotland – Glasgow – at the weekend. Don lives in Cardiff and was coming up part-way by train. It was just a question of the most convenient place for him to join the car-party. We arranged a pick up point at Horwich Parkway station just off the M61.


The club-house and stand  










Peter consults the oracle                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                      Don, relaxed and anticipatory          

I drove home very gingerly. I was short of diesel, but I didn’t want to pay motorway prices to fill up. When I finally reached home, the onboard computer told me I had nine miles of fuel left!

On Thursday evening, I decided to go local and rang up Northampton Spencer, just to make sure that their game would be on. They told me that they had no plans for an inspection and the game would go ahead. Half an hour from the ground, the heavens opened and a veritable torrent of rain descended in stair rods. When I got to the ground, I had to wait ten minutes before I dared to get out and grab a rain coat. Needless to say, with large areas of the pitch covered in lying water, the match was called off. I drove at some speed to Irchester, about ten miles away, but I needn’t have bothered, as that game too, was postponed. I drove home somewhat dejectedly, reflecting on the abysmal weather we’ve had this season.

Saturday 29th March 2014   Glasgow Colleges FA    k.o.:- 10.00am

Premier Division

AFC Hampden                                                       1

Stephen Currie 32,

St David’s AFC                                                       5

Hugh Hill 16,45

Steven Cunningham 61,

Nicky Taylor 63,

Mark Campbell 75,

Referee:- Mark Daly                                      Attendance:- 20


This was a real treat. It wasn’t until Wednesday that it was confirmed that a match would be played on this hallowed piece of turf. I can remember when Third Lanark went bust in 1967, more with a whimper than an explosion. In 1961, they were third behind Rangers and Kilmarnock in The Scottish 1st Division (but one place ahead of Celtic!). In 1964/65, they finished bottom of Division 1 with a record of three wins, one draw and thirty defeats! Two seasons later, after a catalogue of mismanagement and maybe some downright fraud, they finished in mid-table in Division 2, but resigned at the end of the season. Administration and Third Lanark, former champions and cup winners dwindled into extinction and the stadium fell into disrepair. The ground is now owned by Glasgow City Council and large parts of the terracing are still maintained, whilst substantial copses of mature trees cover the remaining areas. There is no sign of the stands, but there is enough to envisage former glories.


It had been an early start. Jack had driven over from Lowestoft, the previous evening, and taken in Yaxley’s dramatic defeat at the hands of Peterborough Northern Star, at Leading Drove, before staying the night at Thrapston Services. Craig (from Bedford) and I met him there at just before 4.00am for the long journey north. We collected Don from Horwich Parkway exit on the M61 as arranged and we arrived at Cathkin Park with an hour to spare to breathe in the atmosphere and to record on film all that we could see!


The surface, especially the surrounds of the pitch, was fairly waterlogged, which may explain why the ground markings were so narrow. Indeed, there was less than six feet between the edge of the penalty area and the touch line! The match to be played there was a Glasgow Colleges FA fixture which had a few rules that may not have been in the FA handbook! There were no corner flags, or half-way flags, there were no linesmen, just the referee. Four substitutes were allowed (although, having said that, the home side, AFC Hampden, brought no substitutes at all!).


Some of the remaining terracing at Cathkin Park

The match was hardly a classic and whilst temperatures flourished in the late teens, down south, it was bitterly cold with a sharp wind in Glasgow! The result of the match was pretty clear cut, right from the start and it was made even more so when AFC Hampden lost a defender after only ten minutes and had no substitute to replace him!


Jack, Don and Craig at Cathkin Park

The home side with their ten men went a goal behind after a quarter of an hour, but then, in the thirty second minute, they drew level. Five minutes later, they should have taken the lead. A shot from the edge of the area, crossed the line, but then carried on through a hole in the net close to the far post. Don caught the dramatic incident on film, but, sadly, in this particular match, there was to be no video review, despite the strong protests of the home team, and a goal-kick was awarded.

The second half was pretty one-sided stuff as the home side tired and St David’s were able to use all four of their substitutes. There was hardly a crowd to watch the match and at least half of those who were there, were visiting ‘hoppers’. Perhaps, one day, Third Lanark will return. They certainly have every intention of doing so, but it will be a long time before we see them back in The Scottish League!


Cathkin Park was pretty waterlogged in parts, but mainly off the pitch

Saturday 29th March 2014   Stagecoach West of Scotland League  k.o.:- 2.00pm

Division 1 Central

Benburb                                                                      2

Scott Hendry 37,

Shane Jackson 53,

Johnstone Burgh                                                      1

Steve Fitzpatrick 67,

Referee:-                                                          Attendance:- 232


“Nothing without Work” 

Today was the end of an era for Benburb FC. This would be the last match played at Tinto Park before demolition and a span of eighty-two years of continuous football at the ground would come to an end! I could see no sign, when I got there, of the “Glasgow City Cleansing Destructor”, beside which, the ground was purported to have been constructed! Inside however, there was the magnificent covered terrace which spanned the length of the ground on the far side.


In truth, the ground was a mess. I doubt if Health & Safety regulations south of the border would have allowed its continued use. The terraces were crumbling, the only toilet had no roof and was ankle deep in leaf mould, floodlights were hanging crazily from the stand roof and strong growths of briars and other vegetation lay in wait for the unwary. Circumnavigation of the ground was a hazardous undertaking!

For all the air of genteel decrepitude, the stadium had a lot of charm. Much of the attraction lay in trying to picture the ground in its heyday. It must have been a pretty impressive edifice. There were plenty of photographs of former glories in the club house and a narrow staircase led up to the directors box, where team information was made available. They told me that there had once been a crowd of 10,000 on the ground and I could believe it. This was the team which had twice won the Scottish Junior Cup (1934/35 and 35/36) and The West of Scotland Cup in 1940/41 and 41/42 then again in 1982/83 and finally in 2001/02. That was their last piece of silverware following on The Central League Championship in 1999/2000. Since then, they have struggled somewhat.


No-one really knows where the name “Benburb” comes from, but it is reliably rumoured that there is a small town in Northern Ireland called Benburb and that the club was formed by Northern Irish immigrants.


Johnstone Burgh, today’s opponents, are struggling in the league this season and are in one of the relegation places. They looked a lot better than their league placing in this match! If the key match statistics were available, I have no doubt that they would show that the visitors had the more shots and the more shots on target and that they were a tad unfortunate to go down by the slimmest of margins.


 Notice the crumbling terracing


Tinto Park is within sight of Ibrox Park, home of Rangers FC

Being within sight of Ibrox Park must make it very difficult to attract support. The locals whom we spoke to said that there would be around fifty spectators at a normal match. “What are you lot all doing here?” one said. “Surely you haven’t come all the way from England for this match?’ We assured him that we had!


The drive back to England was unremarkable. Jack has a very relaxed approach to driving, almost the counterpoint to my own frenetic manoeuvrings, so much so that Craig enjoyed a substantial early evening siesta before we got to Rivington Services on The M61. Shortly afterwards, we decanted Don at his hotel and by ten o’clock we were back in Thrapston at the end of an eighteen hour day that had flashed past in the twinkling of an eye! It will live a long time in the memory, though!

Matches this season:-  176  New grounds:-  121

Matches this year:- 59  New grounds:- 35


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