Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

A Warm Welcome

Now a year into my job at Chasetown, I really have started to feel at home.  Indeed, within five minutes of entering the Scholars Ground last Saturday, I had received ribbings from three different people – a surefire sign that I have been accepted as part of the family.  All I had done was enter the ground (through the wrong entrance, apparently) and ordered my breakfast (why wasn’t I taste-testing the new burgers? – and shouldn’t I have had my breakfast before getting here?).  Of course it was all in jest and it was lovely to be back in the fold for an all-too-rare home match in recent weeks, thanks to the inclement weather.

At away matches I am very well looked after – nowhere more so this season than on our recent visit to Bedworth.  This was my second visit to The Oval – but last time it was dark (and I was new to the job and a bit scared – especially after walking through the surrounding pitch-black park pre-match in search of the entrance to the ground), so this was my first real opportunity to fully enjoy the experience.  I arrived nice and early as usual (except at Lincoln, but we won’t mention that) and took the opportunity to explore the ground and its facilities, which would not disappoint.  On my arrival there was another match being played on the plastic/3G/4G pitch (I need – and resolve – to brush up on my artificial pitches so I can understand what they are).  It was a very blustery and cold afternoon and the assistant referees for this match (the one preceding ours) were wrapped up like the Michelin man.  But how could we complain about the weather when we were just so happy to have a match going ahead?

I took a stroll around the ground to get my bearings and find the vital areas for my job – the dressing rooms and the boardroom – as well seeking out all things quirky (of which, it turned out, there were a lot at the home of the Greenbacks).  As I ambled round the pitch perimeter, I stopped to chat at length with an affable woman in a shed.  This was a refreshment kiosk / club shop and was selling, amongst other things, Bedworth United snow globes, French Fancies and a mystery ‘Bed’uth Broth’, the ingredients of which no-one quite knows…  I could have stopped here chatting all day but sensed there was more to discover at this quirky place.

I continued my walk during the warm-up (it certainly needed to warm up) and, as I stopped to read a sign: ‘BEWARE OF FOOTBALLS FROM BEHIND’, I was promptly clattered on the back of the head by a stray ball…

Now dazed, I continued my exploratory mission.  On the other side of the ground I saw ‘Kazza’s Baps’ – a refreshment kiosk selling hash browns and faggots and peas (I remember being excited about these last time), amongst other culinary delights.  And behind the other goal – now conscious of my recent blow to the head – was that a water slide?!  I rubbed my eyes in disbelief but apparently, yes, that was a water slide.  The ground is surrounded by a park and other sporting facilities.  Well, I certainly hadn’t seen that in the dark on my previous visit.

As kick-off loomed, the snow began to fall, blizzard-like.  I took shelter in the stand and was pleasantly surprised at how not cold (I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘warm’) it was up here.  Within minutes of kick-off, it was becoming difficult to see the lines on the pitch as a blanket of white covered the ground.  The officials and players had aged 50 years within minutes, their hair now completely white.  Perhaps it was the shock of having a match not subject to postponement?

Yet the snow flurry stopped as quickly as it had begun and the green of the pitch soon became visible again.  I had found myself sitting amongst the Bedworth officials and they were most warm and welcoming.  Indeed as I got up from my seat just before half time to commence the long wintry walk across to the hospitality suite for a warm and a cup of tea (vital today), I was told I didn’t need to bother going all that way and to just ask the woman underneath the stand we were in and she would sort me out with a brew.  This I did, and was invited to take a seat in a little room (by a heater – result!) and presented with a nice hot cup of tea.  This was service!  I was even told the quickest route to hospitality for after the match (clockwise was apparently six steps shorter – someone had measured – I love these people!).

Now I can’t tell you about the actual hospitality after the match because (if I’m allowed to tell you this) there is a sign in there saying something along the lines of ‘what happens in here stays in here’ (I’m paraphrasing because I don’t want to break their rules).  So I can’t tell you how good/bad the hospitality was – but now I have set the scene, I am sure you can imagine how much I enjoyed it.

And so, dear reader, I went from being treated like royalty at the home of our opponents to being greeted with a volley of taunts on my return to Chasetown.  But you know I love it at Chasetown and feel part of the family now – it really does feel like home.  And of course I am very well looked after at the Scholars Ground too really (as I think we all are).  And be assured I give as good as I get…

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