The Friendly Bear

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Sunday 8th March 2020 ko 11.30

North West Counties League Premier Division

CONGLETON TOWN 2 (Jones 7 79)

NORTHWICH VICTORIA 4 (Barski 11 22 Lynch 52 65)

Att 495

Entry £5

Programme £2

It was all change at Crewe on the last day of the hop, and although we weren’t to know, the last day of organised groundhops this season. We’d spent the previous 5 games watching the North West Counties League Division One South and the previous 4 in Greater Manchester. Sat at the hotel in Crewe it was time to step up a division and aim for south of Manchester, and at least at our first destination, the foothills of the Peak District. Continue reading

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

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Saturday 7th March 2020 ko 19.30

North West Counties League Division One South

CHEADLE TOWN 2 (Davin 17 47)

MAINE ROAD 1 (Mooney 86)

Att 380

Entry £5

Programme £2

The coach pulled into Park Road, and we got precisely what we expected- chaos! One massive advantage of having the clubs’ meetings a month or two before the North West Counties Hop. We knew we’d be trying to get 300-plus supporters to a ground with a small car park at the end of a cul-de-sac. It meant anyone driving there would either park close by and risk being blocked in, or park further away and walk the last few hundred yards. We in the coach could drop the party off then driver Ian could park up elsewhere. Continue reading

A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours

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Saturday 7th March 2020 ko 16.20

North West Counties League Division One South

CHEADLE HEATH NOMADS 1 (Foley 58)

STOCKPORT TOWN 5 (Depieaza 2 20 70 Furguson 12 Middleton 19) 

Att 343

Entry £5

Programme £2

Teamsheet 20p

Saturday’s 3rd game on the North West Counties Hop saw a change of locale, from Wythenshawe to the leafy Manchester suburbia of Cheadle. Or if you’re the unfortunate type that thinks along the same lines as me, then the start of second pair of the day’s clubs. While I’d greatly enjoyed Wythenshawe Amateurs’ company, I’d found their rivals Wythenshawe Town’s attempts at one-upmanship grating and their staging frankly poor. That last fact had a massive impact on our next hosts. Continue reading

William, It Was Really Nothing

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Saturday 7th March 2020 ko 13.30

North West Counties League Division One South

WYTHENSHAWE TOWN 3 (Bryan 14 Byrne 49 Crellin-Myers 56)

ABBEY HEY 2 (Lazenbury 7 Spencer 23p)

Att 434

Entry £5 (concessions £3)

Programme £2

These days its not exactly surprising to hear that on a Saturday afternoon it was chaos at Tesco’s , but on this particular day the issue wasn’t folks trying to buy a year’s supply of loo roll in one hit, rather a larger than average crowd at Ericstan Park situated adjacent to the supermarket. Continue reading

The Pleasure Is Mine

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Saturday 7th March 2020 ko 11.00

North West Counties League- Division One South

WYTHENSHAWE AMATEURS 1 (Howard 4)

WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON 0

Att 546

Entry £4

Programme £2

It seemed to me that the Saturday schedule of the North West Counties League could be summed up as being 2 pairs. First up were the two Wythenshawes followed by the two Cheadles. What I didn’t foresee was how those two pairs of clubs would react to the other in their pair… Continue reading

Service

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Friday 6th March 2020 ko 19.45

North West Counties League- Division One South

SANDBACH UNITED 3 (Saxon 30 Schoesboe 69 Bartle 89)

Bartle missed penalty 89

ALSAGER TOWN 1 (Jones 20p)

Att 455

Entry £5

Programme £2

Sat hear as I am with all football in the UK cancelled due to Covid-19 it seems like a lifetime ago that we were all more concerned with the state of 7 football pitches in and around Cheshire. All the best to everyone affected by the crisis and let’s hope normality returns soon.

Last year’s North West Counties League Hop had a troubled inception but by the time we reached Rylands the problems had been smoothed over and save for the postponement at Irlam the feedback meeting talked of the future, and on a highly successful event. That was reinforced when the league sent us their choice of line-up for this year’s hop and that ended up being the line-up we went with with one enforced change to the running order.

We picked Crewe as hop base, with our hotel being a short walk from the station and so while we sold every single coach seat and hotel room available the car park at the Holiday Inn remained virtually empty! The week before had been spent keeping a close eye on the weather, and the clubs pulled out all the stops to get their pitches fit for play. That said, I’m certainly that the dry week before the hop saved the event.

One notable change from previous North West Counties Hops was that Chris Berezai managed to hold a meeting with all of our host clubs. It always helps in both the planning and the on-the-day execution of those plans. It proved to be a convivial affair too.

So the event started at Sandbach, the Cheshire town suffering with the likes of Charnock Richard, Tibshelf and Tebay as being far more famous for the motorway service stations bearing there name than the anything within the towns themselves! But like the Sandbach Services it is straightforward to visit the town’s football ground without actually visiting the town itself!

The Sandbach Community Centre lies off of the south-western edge of the town, you actually cross over the remnants of the “Salt” railway line that ran from Sandbach to Middlewich, via the Salt mine; the suffix “Wich” is old English for salt after all.

On arrival we set up the stall to distribute programme packs for the advance ticket holders, and even an hour or so before kick off it was lovely to observe all the usual rituals of the start of a hop. That should always include Terry and Tav holding court at their badge stall, its got to a point that I can’t imagine an event without those two.

We’d expected a crowd of 250-300 so the 455 that turned up was a massive boost. Thanks therefore to all at Alsager Town, you playing at an odd time helped Sandbach, and in due course we’ll look forward to visiting you. It did mean that the club was stretched, but somehow still found enough hot pot to feed the masses, and cope with both wit and style. The programmes sold out early, and that is a source of regret, I hate seeing a club lose out on revenue, and I’d like to see the local supporters get everything they need; the unusual kick-off times, and different pricing does inconvenience them.

In the end I know a hopper won’t return, we’re a one-off financial injection, but I’d like to think a local might. But if you are a hopper and you want a programme then that is why we sell advance tickets, even for individual games. So if you’re a hopper the message hasn’t changed, if you want to guarantee a programme buy an advanced ticket! Is that really too much to ask?

We were royally entertained even though the pitch had fairly obviously been in the wars. Both sides set out to play football and unlike many opening games of hops folk actually watched the game and didn’t use the time simply as an excuse to catch up! That was the case from kick-off right through to Daniel Bartle following up his missed penalty to knock in the winner.

On arrival back at the hotel I’d expected to feel relieved, the rain of the previous weeks had meant simply getting the game played was a win of sorts. But as I enjoyed a hideously overpriced Punk IPA I and others reflected on what a fantastic job Sandbach had done. A week or two later I’m both thankful and proud of them in equal measure; they were superb hosts.

Wonderland

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Saturday 22nd February 2020 ko 14.30

Duchy League Division Two

NANPEAN ROVERS 6 ( Brown 22 R Willmott 35p 66 J Willmott 37 45 L Truscott 81)

BOSCASTLE RESERVES 1 (Joliffe 30)

Att 32

Free Entry

I’m used to the type of groundhopper who’s closed their minds to any football below Step 6. I can understand why they feel that way, the sixth tier of non-league is the lowest where all grounds need to be (amongst other requirements) to be enclosed and have cover. The self-imposed rule acts as an emotional security blanket against the perceived horror of watching a game on a “Field!” What tends to be forgotten is that you can easily see both below Step 6, and sometimes the lack of ground grading requirements is actually a benefit. With that in mind, dear reader, please consider the glory that is Victoria Bottoms. Continue reading

Sanity

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Monday 10th February 2020 ko 19.45

Southend Charity Shield Section A Quarter-Final

WAKEBURY 3 (Little 59 81 89)

WAKERING SPORTS 0

Att 36  at Garon Park 3G, Southend-On-Sea

Free Entry

Programme £1

There are some games you know that the groundhoppers will travel to in their droves, there are others however, that are only ever going to attract the committed and then there are the few that only those with questionable sanity are going to head to. This is the story of one of those. Continue reading

Zero

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Saturday 8th February 2020 ko 16.00

Southern Counties East – Division One

MERIDIAN V.P. 0

GREENWAYS 8 (Cross 9 25 36 Lear 41 48 81 Akers 58 A Kleman 82)

Att 14

Entry £4

Programme £1

You couldn’t help but see the Meridian Sports and Social Club in Charlton as a converted works ground, it’s typical of so many you see in non league, Ashby Ivanhoe’s NFU Sports Ground being a good example. Here’s though, there is a twist. Continue reading

Superlatives

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Wednesday 5th February 2020 ko 19.45

FA Cup 4th Round Replay

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (Stephens 12og Lucas 78 Son 87p)

SOUTHAMPTON 2 (Long 34 Ings 72)

Att 56,046 (5,690 away)

Entry £25

Programme £3

I don’t think I could be the kind of hopper that couldn’t get interested in stadiums like this. The title of this blog is rather self-fulfilling I’ve found! Then there’s the question that only a groundhopper could ask, “Is it a new ground?” Well it has been built from scratch… Continue reading