Saturday 8th May 2010 ko 15.00
Midland Combination Division One
MILE OAK ROVERS & YOUTH 0
LITTLETON 3 (Baird 57 McKeon 81 Harris 90)
When you delve into football’s lower reaches, and you take the time to understand a club and what it stands for, the vast majority of the time it boils down to local pride, often against all good logic. Sometimes you see a club on the up, some are on the way down, but only once have I ever seen a club playing its last ever game. That horrible experience I witnessed at Mile Oak Rovers and Youth.
Mile Oak is a suburb of Tamworth, the kind of place you tend to blast past on an arterial road. The football team were a typical Midland Combination outfit, with floodlights and a covered enclosure. Behind one goal was the changing rooms, and a social club. In the end, it was that social club that proved to be the death of the club.
The club’s halcyon days were the mid-eighties, they won the Midland Combination in 1985, and had a disastrous 4-year stint in the Southern League afterwards, their best finish being 15th from 21. Here’s some footage of their FA Cup First Qualifying Round tie against Corby Town in 1983, Corby won 1-0.
Mile Oak nurtured the talents of the likes of Kevin Francis (Birmingham, Stockport and Oxford), Tony Coton (Birmingham, Manchester City), Keith Downing (Wolves), and John Gayle (Birmingham, Northampton and Scunthorpe) but the production line dried up, and the inevitable relegation followed.
The club returned to the Midland Combination, but the football split from the Social Club, depriving the team of its main source of income. The team struggled on, dropping into the Birmingham AFA League at one point, but the final death throes of the club were being acted out when I visited at the end of the 2009/10 season.
A few weeks earlier Mile Oak’s management resigned, and the club were attempting see out the season run by one volunteer, Keith Lycett and the players. The problems were obvious, an attendance that I represented a quarter of, and Keith having to find £80 to £100 to pay a referee and two linesmen, Buying a raffle ticket or two felt like an act of mercy. The raffle was won by the Littleton chairman, who donated his £5 winnings back to the club to help pay for the officials. It meant that Mr Lycett was a little less out of pocket, but no more.
Littleton won the game with the minimum of fuss, they did have the luxury of substitutes after all. The final whistle went, and I shook Mr Lycett’s hand and wished him and his team all the best for their final game of the season, away at, yes, Littleton on the next Tuesday evening. But the look in his eye spoke far more than words ever could, so it was of no surprise when Mile Oak failed to fulfil the fixture, which eventually was awarded to the hosts by the league. Any further sanction would have been both pointless and cruel.
I kept an eye open for them, hoping they’d reform, perhaps in the Birmingham AFA League, but so far nothing. I hope I never have to experience anything like that again.