Dear reader, things are getting busy again at LCTV Towers. This is what football does, you see – and why we are so lost without it. It becomes all-consuming. I’m blogging (about football), writing a book (about football), studying Advanced Creative Writing with the Open University (to improve the quality of my writing about football) and co-hosting TV shows (about football) with Lee. We were going to skip the wacky midweeker this week to buy back some time but…well…that’s the bit with the ACTUAL football that we love the most, so where would be the sense in that? I scanned the fixture lists for the North West Counties League and Northern Premier League to see what leapt out at me.
I chose Glossop North End v Newcastle Town because (a) Glossop is stunning; and (b) I received a very warm welcome when I visited with Chase 18 months ago. Many non-league grounds are in picturesque settings and Glossop is definitely up there. On my previous visit – also a midweeker – I arrived early and spent the afternoon exploring Glossop. Here’s what happened that day…
Glossop North End v Chasetown
Football is a joy and I choose to make the best of it where possible. Amidst many grumblings about Chasetown’s fixture at Glossop being rescheduled for a Tuesday night, I set about booking the day off and planning a little adventure. The caves in the Peak District initially drew my attention (since reading ‘The Silence’ by Tim Lebbon, caves fascinate me more than ever); however they seemed a bit faffy to get to on public transport. Having checked out the route via Manchester, to discover the total cost to get to Glossop would be £7.90, my decision was made.
I rose early on Tuesday morning and headed into Birmingham to board the 0815 Megabus to Manchester (£2.70). I tucked into my breakfast of ham & egg roll, bananas, tomatoes, watermelon and mango before pulling out my laptop and getting down to work on my latest assignment for my Creative Writing course with the OU. I like to put travel time to productive use where possible and I enjoy writing on the move, as it makes journeys fly by (I’m writing this on a bus). By the time I looked up to see we were arriving into Manchester, I had edited my piece and drafted my commentary. Not a bad start to the day.
On alighting at Shudehill, I consulted Google Maps, which confirmed that the National Football Museum was just around the corner. The short walk was perilous in the driving rain as my inappropriate (but comfortable) footwear struggled to gain traction on the smooth paving stones. Feeling pleased with myself for remaining upright, I smiled at the man selling entrance tickets, who advised that my £8 (concession) ticket would grant me entrance to the museum for the next 12 months.
I really enjoyed the couple of hours spent here. After passing (and photographing) the Premier League Trophy and FA Cup, I lingered at Kosmo Vinyl: Is Saitch Yer Daddy, a display of interpretative collages of matches from West Ham’s final years at The Boleyn Ground. Heading up to the first floor, I stopped to listen to clips of football commentary, immediately selecting Ian Chisnall’s coverage of the 2010 Championship Play Off Final, when Blackpool won promotion to the Premier League. Dear reader, I broke into the widest, proudest grin and cried and I didn’t care who was looking. That was the happiest day of my life.
Now full of love for The Beautiful Game, I continued in to the main room on the first floor, which was packed with displays of football art and memorabilia. I was pleased to see more of Blackpool in here, with Sir Stanley Matthews having his own section in one cabinet, including a certificate from The Football League in recognition of his knighthood and the fact that he was never subject to any discipline of any kind (not even a booking) throughout his 33-year playing career. I smiled as I happened across a copy of AVFTT, the Blackpool fanzine I used to edit (although the issue in question pre-dated my editorship).
As I continued along, hardly knowing where to look, there was so much to see, my ears pricked up at the words ‘nineteen-fifty-three’ and, without being asked, my legs carried me to a nearby monitor, which was showing footage of ‘The Matthews Final’, the 1953 FA Cup Final, which Blackpool won, from being 3-1 down. I looked on with pride, even though I’d seen the footage many times before.
Heading up to the second floor, I found a Brett Ormerod display, which told the story of his release by Blackburn Rovers, going on to work in a factory whilst playing for Accrington Stanley before joining Blackpool, for whom he scored in every division, including that winner in the 2010 Play Off Final.
There were some wonderful quotes scattered throughout the museum, my favourite of which sums up the magic of being a football fan:
The third floor was closed, the museum being restructured, so I headed back down the stairs and out onto the streets of Manchester. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining brightly (of course it was) so I rummaged in my bag for my shades and set off across the city towards Piccadilly Station, where I boarded a train to Glossop (£5.20).
On the train I checked my email from the Glossop North End secretary, Dan, who had provided some recommendations for my pre-match entertainment. I cross-referenced these against the map of Glossop and was pleased to see everywhere was in relatively close proximity. I was hungry now – and determined to stick to my diet today – so also sought out a caff with a menu that wasn’t entirely unhealthy. Destinations suitably plotted in my head, by the time the train pulled into Glossop, I was ready to explore.
After almost getting run over in my attempt to take a photograph of the stunning Peak District scenery, my first stop was Glossop Cafeteria, where I took the last free table and ordered gammon and egg, with a jacket potato instead of chips, and a mug of tea. As I sat back and surveyed my surroundings, I noticed behind me a quite unusual selection of teas. Now I love a quirky tea at the best of times (my current favourite being Twinings Mango & Coconut, which is like a cocktail in a mug) – but these were really something else. There was Magic Herbs & Quince, Warming Beetroot and Golden Minty Saffron, amongst many other weird and wonderful flavours. These were made by a local company called Flory & Forest and, if you’re interested, they can be found at www.floryandforest.co.uk.
Now suitably sustained – and pleased to see it still wasn’t raining as forecast – I headed in the direction of Manor Park, which had been recommended as a nice scenic place for a stroll. On my way I stopped for a chat with a visiting Chase fan, who was midway through doing a tour of Glossop pubs. On arrival at the park, I studied the map and made my way to the lake, where I took a seat on a bench and observed the ducks and geese.
This was not as serene as I had come to expect, with the waterfowl flapping and scrapping and trying to impress potential mates. By the time one goose was practically on my lap (I didn’t want to get that close), and as the snow began to fall, I decided it was time to move on.
I walked back across town – sporting my shades to protect my eyes from the sun that was shining brightly in defiance against the snow – and my next port of call was Star Inn (shirt sponsors of Glossop North End) reviewed as an ‘old man’s pub’ which served great real ales. Whilst pubs like this aren’t to everyone’s taste, they are my absolute favourites, as I find the environment safe, relaxing and peaceful enough to read or write, as well as chatting with locals when the mood takes me (not being bothered by them when it doesn’t). Now I confess to having been a little afraid of the barkeep (who hadn’t uttered a word during our transaction, despite my best efforts), having already returned my Diet Coke because it had unrequested ice in it (why do they do that?). Hence I didn’t dare ask for permission to plug in my phone charger (I sat somewhere I could do this surreptitiously) and was grateful that the pub WiFi was set up such that I didn’t need to ask him for a password. Now I sat back and further edited my assignment, further reducing the word count on my piece and editing the commentary.
Soon it was time to head to the Arthur Goldthorpe Stadium, home of Glossop North End. After greetings at the gate, I took my customary stroll around the ground – and was almost immediately struck by the awesome view of the Peaks from the one side of the ground. As was the case at Mossley some months previously (and at Colne the previous Saturday), I found myself transfixed and unable to move my eyes or my body away from the view. My trance was broken by Dan, the GNE secretary, who had hurried over to introduce himself. Nice lad, Dan, and he looked after me very well all evening. After I’d familiarised myself with the layout of the ground – and decided where I was going to stand to watch the match (next to the away dugout) – I suddenly realised how cold it was and made my way to the clubhouse to hibernate for a while and begin preparing the Chasetown teamsheet. I introduced myself to the match officials, chatted with the arriving Chase fans, hunted down the gaffer so I could complete the teamsheet, did the pre-match handover (happy that the refs took my not-too-subtle hint about wanting to dip into their customary bag of sweets), helped Dan decipher my handwriting, raided the tea bar for a brew (to warm me up) and some more sweets (I had a taste for them now) and took a seat back in the clubhouse for a short while to warm up.
Glossop North End v Newcastle Town
Fast forward to tonight. Lee was stressing because he couldn’t find his cash card, sunglasses, etc. and his stress was contagious. I remained outwardly calm, took deep breaths and helped him search. Ten minutes later than advertised – items duly located – we were on our way. Five minutes down the road I realised Lee had forgotten his hat, but decided not to mention it, as we were already running late and I was trying to calm him down. I turned the radio on to distract from the stress but I had forgotten how stressful listening to the radio is in a car. We started off well enough, playing our usual game of ‘guess which artist is coming up next’. But soon the signal became patchy as we headed out of range and had to hunt for another frequency for Greatest Hits Radio. After doing this on two occasions, I tried to switch back to the music from my phone, but of course the car wasn’t having any of it. Grr.
We were no more relaxed on arrival in Glossop, as Lee scurried off to the shop for some food and I became wildly frustrated at recognising a tune that I couldn’t identify. The melody in this song is better known from a more famous song. Can you identify it, dear reader?
I played it for Lee when he returned to the car and he got it straight away. I was very grateful for that! The answer is at the bottom of this post if you don’t want to be driven mad with it as well!
We parked up outside the ground and were of course halfway down the road before we realised we had left something in the car and had to return for it. What was the matter with us today? I thought we had left these stresses behind six months ago. Is this a side-effect of getting too busy again? Do we need to strip things back a little and return to the relaxation of lockdown, taking strolls and looking up at the sky?
We received a warm welcome at the gate and were ushered into the ground, where Dan greeted us warmly.
‘I’ve just been making sure the toilets are in good order for you. We know what you’re like with your non league toilet reviews.’
Dear reader, he did a blinding job. Perhaps I ought to recruit some ‘mystery loo reviewers’ to keep other non league clubs on their toes!
We chatted with Dan awhile, then I left Lee to his filming as I set of on my customary stroll around the ground.
I just love the freedom of being at a non league ground. This time pre-match, before the fans have arrived, I am completely at peace. Occasionally I will encounter a volunteer – perhaps in the refreshment kiosk – and stop for a chat. But I enjoy this time on my own – just me and the football ground: no crowds, no officious stewards, no queues for pies, no chanting, no pyros, no hunting for my seat in a massive stand, no stressing about the teamsheet, no wondering if the players are going to turn up on time. Just me. At the football. At home.
I called into the clubhouse for a beer and was pleased to be greeted by Dave, the Chairman, who was helping out behind the bar. He remembered me from my Chasetown days.
‘What can I get you?’
‘Can I have a Shipyard please?’
‘Hmm… That’s low alcohol, that one.’
‘Oh blimey – I don’t want that then. Err…can I have a Spitfire please?’
I was delighted to see a couple of Non League Dogs at the match tonight.
When the refreshment kiosk opened I headed over there to see what they had to offer. I was thrilled to see a hot counter full of pastries. I asked what was on offer and the lady behind the counter reeled off a list of different pies, sausage rolls, traditional pasties…
‘Ooh can I have a pasty please?’
‘Do you want anything on it? Peas, gravy…’
‘Ooh gravy please!’
I did a little clap and practically danced back down the steps with my exciting food. I found a quiet place to sit alone with it and let out a contented sigh. Gosh I was so happy right now.
Then I set about the practicalities of eating the pasty. Covered in gravy, it was impractical to pick up. I set about carving away the nodules with my wooden fork and hollowing out the contents, leaving a little canoe into which the gravy gradually seeped.
I chuckled to myself as I ate. Gravy on a pasty! And it was delicious, too. I honestly couldn’t remember a time when I was as happy as I was right now. With Lee at non league football eating a pasty with gravy with a wooden fork. Life doesn’t get much better than that, does it?
The match itself reminded me of watching Blackpool – exactly the opposite of what I was here for. Newcastle Town parked the bus and were impossible to penetrate, much like Plymouth and Gillingham. The match ended 0-0.
This is one of those grounds that is difficult to leave. Lee and I were now 100% relaxed after our stressful start to the evening. Glossop does that to you. Lee finished up his post-match interviews and we were chatting away with the chairman until long after the floodlights had been switched off. He has so many stories to tell and we were eager listeners. He said we would be welcomed back any time we wanted – and we will be returning for sure. What a lovely club. And those pasties…
The Armfield Club
The end of the week saw the opening of the new Blackpool independent supporters club bar, The Armfield Club. Lee and I were invited along to a soft opening on Friday night and were blown away by what we found.
The club is amazing! It is all decked out in tangerine and white, the walls adorned with Blackpool artwork and memorabilia. A ton of hard work and love has gone into this place over the past few months and it cannot fail to be a massive success.
On arrival we were offered whisky or fizz. I declined both and headed straight in to sniff out the real ale offerings. There were three on offer, two pale and one dark. I went for the Lancaster Black. Apologies, I can’t remember the pales and, as it was table service only, I didn’t approach the bar to take photos of the pump clips.
I was delighted to be presented with a free portion of hotpot and red cabbage. This was a throwback to the old supporters club at the ground, where this was always gratefully received after a couple of hours out in the cold at the match. I’d already had my tea but this still got demolished!
Since table service was made compulsory at pubs, I have encountered problems with getting served on a couple of occasions. Recently I was practically standing on my seat waving both arms frantically in the direction of three staff standing at the bar talking amongst themselves and completely failing to notice me. I was therefore delighted to see that The Armfield has devised a clever way of managing the orders from the tables.
If you want to attract service to your table, you stand the little tangerine flag in the jar. Despite having only ‘popped in for one’ (like that ever happens), I had to order a second pint to properly test this out. And, sure enough, it works!
And check out this amazing work of art by Rob Purdon. Doesn’t this capture the essence of Billy Ayre perfectly? Rob is such an amazing talent and I am so pleased the Armfield have provided him with another outlet for his wonderful work.
The Armfield even has a jukebox, which makes me very happy. I love a good jukebox, me.
If you haven’t signed up for your membership yet, do it right now! Here’s the link.
Blackpool v Lincoln City
This isn’t a postscript by accident. When did I ever write at length about a match? And, when you are watching matches on iFollow, what else is there in terms of the matchday to enjoy? Setting up the Mac, is the discount code going to work, will there be any buffering this week?
I spent pre-match working on my book. That’s what I do on a Saturday morning now. I am pleased that it is coming on but I do need to find some more time during the week to devote to it. Hence just one blog a week from me now.
The match? Frustrating, lots of possession, passing much improved from last week, a bit more space than Plymouth and Gillingham allowed us, puzzling subs, stupid sending off for Husband, some great tackles, lost 3-2. Truth is, this is a lot easier on the eye than that garbage under Grayson (spit!) last season…but it is not proving effective…yet. Dear reader, you know I try to remain optimistic for as long as possible (before breaking down and crying when it hits me all at once, like at Lincoln earlier this year).
Anyway, here’s our reaction to what happened during the game today:
Dear reader, is it any wonder I am stressing over time? I meant to keep this blog short and it’s longer than ever! Back to the studying now, where I’m in the process of generating something a little bit different…