Saturday 5th January 2019 ko 15.00
Northern Premier League- Premier Division
NORTH FERRIBY UNITED 0
MARINE AFC 2 (Doyle 46 Cummins 88)
In groundhopper parlance a “Vulture Job” is heading to a ground that is possibly not going to be there for much longer. Normally it’s because the club is moving to a new ground, and you could argue that this is the case with North Ferriby. However it isn’t certain that North Ferriby are on the move, and if they do move it will certainly be without the agreement of their supporters.
The key to all of this is at the end of the Humber Bridge, easily visible from one end of Grange Lane. You’re about 8 miles west of Hull here, although the well-to-do village seems out-of-step with the big city in its midst.
The football club play at Grange Lane, accessible only down the lane, on what must be one of the smallest ground footprints ever to stage 5th tier (National League Premier) football. Therein lays their problems.
As characterful as the ground is, it does seem barely credible that football one promotion from the Football League was played here, albeit for one season- 2016/17. The stand on the railway side of the ground covered the ground grading issues but the ground still looks like a graduate of the Northern Counties East League, a league the club won in 2000. This is the club that rehabilitated Dean Windass’ career after Brian Horton released him at the end of his YTS contract at Hull City in 1990. Famously new Tigers’ manager Terry Dolan saw Windass playing for North Ferriby and brought the Hull Legend back to Boothferry Park a year later. These days Dean’s son Jordan plays for North Ferriby, football does have a habit of going full circle.
On a purely business level you can see why owner Jamie Waltham wants to move the club to Dene Park, in Dunswell, to the east of Hull, which he owns. Now those with longer memories will remember that being the where Hall Road Rangers used to play before they moved to Haworth Park. These days NCEL outfit East Yorkshire Carnegie play there. Now if you’ve clicked the link you’ll know I haven’t been there for 6 years, but back then it certainly wasn’t better appointed than Grange Lane.
Perhaps at this point it’s worth commenting that Jamie Waltham was one of the movers behind Hull United whose stint on the Northern Counties East, based at Craven Park home to Hull Kingston Rovers RLFC lasted one chaotic season- 2015/16 when they ended up being docked 18 points.
What really sticks in the craw of the North Ferriby faithful is the change of name. East Hull is not North Ferriby, and however well you make the business case for the move football is about identity and place, not the convenience of the owner happening to own a property elsewhere.
An application to move and change the name has been registered with both the Northern Premier League and the FA. The former has been rejected, the FA have yet to respond. Hopefully they’ll read the file marked “Relocation of Wimbledon” before making a decision.
As ever, the uncertainty is the killer, and attendances and performances have suffered. This game saw Ferriby rock bottom of the table with just 10 points from 25 games, up against visitors Marine who were themselves in relegation trouble with 22 points from 24 games.
I must say I did enjoy Marine’s company, with Susan Nugent, chairman of their supporters club very much to the fore. Sometimes half the fun of long-distance football journeys is comparing notes from the road, and Crosby to North Ferriby is a beast of a journey! It put me in a slight quandary as to who to nominally cheer for, Marine are a fine club and all the very best to them, but North Ferriby have suffered enough even down to a broken floodlight in one corner which made photography in the last few minutes interesting!
Inevitably the game went the way of visitors, there wasn’t much in it, but when your bottom of the table, everything conspires against you. Still at least Susan and the Marine fans headed back to Merseyside happy.
I suspect in the end North Ferriby will end up staying put, I’d like to think the FA will take the lead of the Northern Premier League because when all that’s said and done, North Ferriby will eventually eventually find their level where they are and as they are, however painful that process may be.