I was giving the Blackpool game (away at Wycombe) a miss today. I have been struggling with Blackpool for many months now and so I decided it was time to return to Chase once again to see if they could work their magic and help me fall back in love with the game, as they had done during the boycott. I was buzzing all week in anticipation of this trip so knew in advance I’d made the right decision. I’d be seeing old friends on both sides today, as my old gaffer at Chase, Scott, was now at Kidsgrove, as were a few others from my Chase days. And of course there would be the many (mainly) friendly faces from Chase as well. It would be like going back home (but away).
I got to Blackpool North station super early (because I was so excited) and grabbed an Earl Grey (black, bag removed) from the stall on the concourse.
As I sat there drinking my brew and watching the world go by, I spotted a, er, Pilgrimage of Plymouth fans converging on the station. Ooh where were they playing today? Ah Preston! It’s nice to know that Blackpool benefits from away fans playing down the road. After all, who would want to overnight in Preston?
A young lad at the next table enquired if I had an iPhone charger and I duly obliged, loaning out my brick and lead. He enquired about the football shirt I was wearing (deliberately to confuse and encourage conversation).
Now I have found myself in this position before, trying to explain that FC Brickstand are my Lego team and they play on Twitter every Sunday night. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially to a non-football fan like this. It’s easier in this blog because I can just link you up here. Oh and I wrote this blog (with video) which also helps (hopefully).
I was relieved when my new friend asked for my hotspot, so he could amuse himself. Within seconds there was screaming emanating from his phone and I wondered what the hell he was doing on that phone. As we were boarding the same train, I offered the use of my charger for the rest of his journey to Preston.
You know when you’re on public transport and someone starts playing music through their phone
for the benefit to the annoyance of the rest of the carriage? Yeah that’s what my new friend started doing.
Hmm. What if…?
I turned off my hotspot…and the music stopped! I felt like God. What fucking POWER!
I then went to change my password so he couldn’t get back on. Cheeky fucker had already changed it himself to 123456 for quicker access. Which was quite clever really.
As he disembarked at Preston and returned my charger, he said ‘thanks for helping me – I appreciate it.’ I could hardly respond with ‘thanks for making me feel like a goddess’ but I thought it silently (well, tweeted about it, actually).
I was travelling light today so hadn’t brought a book. I’m refusing to read on the Kindle app on my phone because I’ve got that many library books to get through. And so I spent the rest of this journey in observation mode (making for a wordier blog – sorry, not sorry).
The woman sitting next to me was telling her friend that Joyce had said to her:
‘I don’t eat chips. Potatoes are best boiled.’
Get in the sea, Joyce!
I take this journey regularly and had never before noticed the poetry on Bolton station – I’m usually busy writing or have my head buried in a book, but today I was in full-on observation mode for you, dear reader. Not that I could read the poems from the train today but I have since found – and enjoyed them – here. There’s even one about the train to Blackpool.
Soon enough I landed at Manchester Piccadilly, where I was to make my connection. The station was largely out of order (toilet cubicle, hand drier, water fountain) or closed (Costa), which I thought was odd for a Saturday afternoon but hey ho. Perhaps they’d had a frantic Friday night.
On the train to Kidsgrove, I spotted a sign declaring NO TAMPING and was immediately confused. What is tamping? Google tells me it’s a Welsh term for being extremely angry but I guess it must have some sort of railway definition as well.
As the train pulled into Macclesfield, I observed some football fans disembarking. Ooh were Macc at home today? I was half tempted to jump off the train here. I hadn’t been to Macc for years. I checked Football Web Pages to find out who they were playing. Ooh Buxton in the FA Cup. That was even more tempting. But I remained rooted to my seat until the train reached my designated station.
I soon happened upon The Railway Inn, which was on my itinerary to visit today, because of this review:
However, I decided that I would leave this pub for after the match, as it was nice and close to the station (never happened, though, soz). I instead focussed on the sole Good Beer Guide entry for Kidsgrove, which also came recommended by a Twitter friend.
This was a tricky pub to find – and you’d never happen upon it by accident, largely because it’s down a private road.
As I was taking the photo of the pub, I caught the eye of a man sitting in the window (‘are you local?’) and he waved at me. As I stepped inside the pub, I waved back at him but he averted my gaze.
My eyes quickly wandered across the pump clips and I clapped my hands in glee when I saw what they had on.
You know full well I’m having the Chocolate Old Peculier, right? Now I know this stuff to be lush but lethal at 5.6% – and I hadn’t had any breakfast. They weren’t serving food here until later on, so I had to make do with these to soak up the alcohol.
I perused the menu anyway to see what I would have had.
Jacket Potato with Chicken Madras for me, please.
I earwigged on the conversation at the next table, which included opium tea, someone feigning diarrhoea to get out of a wedding, putting someone out of their misery and ‘I remember when crisps were tuppence’.
I somehow managed to stick to just a pint and a half of the Lush But Lethal before deciding it was time to head to the ground.
Kidsgrove Athletic v Chasetown
On arrival, the friendly stewards directed me to the turnstile. It was here I suddenly realised I didn’t have any cash.
‘Do you take cards?’ I enquired of the gateman.
‘We do…but there’s a £72 surcharge for card payments…’
I loved it here already.
I obtained detailed directions to the points of interest within the ground.
I popped into the clubhouse for a pint to wash down my pasty – which I planned to sup whilst watching the match, because that sort of thing is allowed at this level of football (Step 4). Sadly there was no ale, but I had been spoilt on that count already today, so I made do with a Sharps Atlantic (or two).
I took a seat in the stand on the near side, by the clubhouse, refreshment kiosk and dressing rooms. I got chatting to a woman who introduced herself as Lyn, who used to be on the committee here, and who remembered Scott from his playing days here 20 years ago. Apparently I was in someone’s seat (‘he usually sits there’) but I was encouraged to remain where I was, despite half-heartedly offering to move (it was a good seat).
Also here today with our hosts was Hammy, scout from my time at Chase, who used to bring me Staffordshire Oatcakes for me to scoff at the match.
I was delighted to see my old mentor at Chase, John Richards, and his wife, Edna, who always made me feel so welcome at The Scholars Ground.
Just Jack Langston and Oli Hayward remained on the playing side from my time at Chase. It was great to see them again – and I was also interested to see some new players who I had only read about anecdotally on Twitter (often confused by Yates popping up as a goalscorer on my feed after his namesake Jerry had left Blackpool). Today Chase had a tricky lad called Marvellous Onabirekhanlan who I thought looked decent, whilst at the same time being relieved that I wasn’t doing the teamsheet any more.
A bird of prey hovered over the pitch, which made for a nice change from the seagulls I’m used to at Bloomfield Road.
At half time I returned for more scrannage. As there was a queue this time, I had more time to study the menu – and was delighted to see oatcakes on there. Yep. Cheese and bacon on mine, please.
As the players trotted out for the second half, Langy taunted me as I was making a mess of trying to eat the oatcakes with my hands (note the lack of knives on the cutlery shelf above).
As the match wore on, I made my way round to find Paul behind the goal. I was to take away a draft copy of his book on the history of Chasetown to provide feedback. It took me a while to make my way around, as I stopped to chat with Mick and Fred and other friendly faces from Chase.
Anyway, here are the highlights of the match.
I left the ground with Mick, who had Paul’s book in the boot of his car. As well as being the Chairman of Chase during my time there, Mick Joiner is also the Chairman of the Midland Football League and he handed me a copy of the league’s new monthly magazine, which is a cracking little publication.
As I was already out of the ground, I decided not to head back in for drinks in the clubhouse and be sociable with my old friends, but instead head back for more of that Chocolate Old Pec in the Blue Bell. Mmm Chocolate Old Pec…
As I headed away from the ground to the sound of crows cawing above, I encountered a child on a bike wearing a Stranger Things t-shirt. I decided I had made the right decision heading away from the ground before it got dark. I always used to get a lift to and from Chasetown away games so I was hardly ever on my own in the eerie quiet of a non league football town. I was put in mind of my spooky trip to Alvechurch back in 2017.
I headed straight to the Ladies on arrival back at the pub…
…and promptly tripped over the step into the cubicle (failing to notice the hazard tape, indicating it was clearly a known problem). As I was clutching Paul’s (large) book to my chest with both hands, I was unable to break my fall – and clattered to the floor with an almighty bang. As I’d been drinking all day (which was, of course, nothing to do with my fall), I felt no pain – although was sporting a fetching bruise on my knee the following day.
After a short break for the woman in the next cubicle to vacate the room and spare my blushes, I returned to the bar for another pint of Chocolate Old Pec.
I took a seat at the table occupied by the wedding dodger’s party from earlier today. Occupying my table from this morning were a couple from Alsager, who were here today to meet up with friends this afternoon. I pulled out my phone to check on this afternoon’s football results.
‘Are you going to be rude and put music on now?’
I was now engaged in conversation with said couple from Alsager (which I was told I was pronouncing wrong – if I remember correctly it’s All-sager, as opposed to Oll-sager). I shared my memory of my visit to Alsager with Chase, when a random man at the bar in the clubhouse presented me with a bunch of bananas.
My new friends soon turned their attention to the bunch of young lads at the table next to mine, the woman telling them off for their language, having described one of their own party as a ‘fat c***’. Turning her attention back to me, she apologised:
‘Sorry – I might be fighting later. We don’t usually get people like that in here.’
The man then said I might be interested in the Trade Union Football and Alcohol Committee (TUFAC). I made a note to look them up.
The offensive party of lads headed out of the pub, much to the relief of all concerned. One returned for a late dig.
‘Lady, you are the f word.’
She turned to me and said: ‘Honestly, I could slap the shit out of that little bugger.’
I’d have loved to stay here longer but (a) I’d already fallen over before this latest pint of 5.6%; and (b) I was booked on a specific train home, which I now stumbled off to catch.
I spent the journey mainly listening to Måneskin on Apple Music.
I loaned my charger to an Irishwoman on the train and later dished out emergency tissues in the Ladies at Piccadilly. A woman (not me) was sick on the train to Blackpool, where I at last landed to the spectacular sight and sounds of the World Fireworks Championships. If you’re heading into Blackpool and are looking for things to do, head to Blackpool.com for inspiration.
What a fab day today had been. It was a great success in helping me to fall back in love with football. I love the freedom of choosing where I go (or don’t go) on Blackpool awayday weekends; I’ve never had this before. Even in my Chase days, it was the fixture list dictating where I went. I might go back to Kidsgrove, as I’d enjoyed today so much. I’ll definitely be watching more of Chase. I’d also love to travel and visit more friends (and make new ones) across the country – and perhaps beyond. Meanwhile I am pleased to report that I am also falling back in love with Blackpool (and Jordan Rhodes) since taking this step back. Football has been such a huge part of my life since I first fell in love with the game back in 1990. This is a relationship to be nurtured and I fully intend to focus more on what I love about the game. Which, from today’s adventure, appears to be pubs, food and people…
Next Up: Doncaster Pubs.