Saturday 6th October 2018 ko 17.00
Western League Premier Division
SHEPTON MALLET 3 (Willmott 45 Pollard 59 Morgan 77)
Given one or two groundhoppers’ predisposition for getting their geography in a twist I ought to make it clear that this in the Hallen, which is the other side of the M5 from Bristol and not the club playing at the World’s oldest football ground- that’s Hallam! And while we were never ever going to visit the Hallen Centre on the Northern Counties East Hop, we could have easily have visited back in the day on the Hellenic Hop, the club are based in, and affiliated to the Gloucestershire FA, and it took until 2000 to prise themselves away and into the more logical Western League. That isn’t the limit of the club’s adventures though!
For one thing the club weren’t originally based here, the club started life the other side of the M5 in the Lawrence Weston district of Bristol, and moved here in 1979, benefitting from the planning gain from the building of the Cribbs Causeway in the late 1990’s as the council-owned Hallen Centre was built. The relationship with the council though wasn’t straightforward.
In 2015 Almondsbury Council threatened to close the centre, in effect making the club homeless. The club came close to folding, but at the eleventh hour a document was found confirming that the club had given up its facilities and playing rights in order to get the centre built, but were given the right to use the facility in return.
But whatever the machinations were over the use of the ground Hallen were superb hosts. As organiser you love to see things happen that just look perfect. Neither Chris Berezai or I can claim any credit for a curry being on sale the moment the temperature started to drop, but the fact that it sold out just before half time showed just how well Hallen did!
The ground remains superb, the main stand a classic in it’s own right and I was mighty impressed at how well the ladies in the tea hut dealt with a crowd 4 times normal. It isn’t an easy task, so if they end up reading this, you have my thanks!
Of course if you read enough of these non-league epistles, you’ll know what happens. Hallen lost, and without being too harsh, Shepton Mallet won well. In every series of a league’s hops there always seems to be a side that becomes the hop specialists. Back in the day Maesglas were that in the Ceredigion Hops, and perhaps Mallet are the Western League equivalent.
But as I strolled back to the minibuses, my thoughts were with Hallen. They’d looked after us all wonderfully.