Saturday 13th February 2016 ko 15.00
North West Counties League Premier Division
SQUIRES GATE 0
You climb to get to Colne, right out of Mancunian suburbs into the mill towns of Lancashire, many still sporting the factory chimneys immortalised by Milton. You’re in the cradle of the game here too, passing the likes of Blackburn, Bolton, and Accrington on the way. As a southerner even after visiting all of those grounds, the names still resonate.
The current incarnation of the football club dates from 1996 after the demise of Colne Dynamoes 6 years earlier. That had been a classic case of largesse on the team by a local entrepreneur not being matched by investment in the Holt House Stadium, so a full-time club found themselves unable to take their place in the Conference so after playing one pre-season friendly folded.
The ground was used by West Lancs League outfit Colne RBL until their demise in 1995, but the new, current Colne club were elected directly into the NWCFL. The town’s chequered footballing past does seem to have rubbed off slightly on the Colne ultras who turned the “When we get promoted…” song into “When we get mid-table!”
But what Holt House comes with is a view, I’d seen pictures, but even with prior notice the place still blows you away. It’s almost as if the pitch slopes so as to give the casual visitor the best possible view. There have been moves to build a new ground, adjacent to the Holt House site, between here and the rugby club.
Since GroundhopUK and the NWCFL agreed to work together to provide a groundhop for the league I’d wanted to pay one of the clubs a visit. No fanfare or hoopla, just a visit to understand what it was all about, and how in the end I’ll be (hopefully) able to help. I know what Step 5 looks like, but every league has its own flavour, and what Colne do so well is provide a positive matchday experience, and the visitor a fulsome welcome.
It’s the little things that you remember. The cheery welcome at the turnstile, the secretary photocopying the line-ups for me, and the quite wonderful football rattle in club colours. Quite literally, I sat on the sofa in the clubhouse, read my programme and relaxed before the game.
The OCD wing of the groundhopping will wince at the nil nil draw, but the game was far from boring, just dogged defending, particularly from the Blackpool-based visitors who celebrated their point like a victory. That, I suppose if you’re Colne is the peril of having a famous name.
It was a hugely enjoyable visit, and while I do tend to joke that groundhops I organise tend to consist of taking people to grounds I’ve already been to, the great joy here is the knowledge that next time I’ll be at Holt House, I’ll bring a coachload with me.