Saturday 9th March 2019 ko 16.30
North-West Counties League Division One North
LOWER BRECK 6 (Milne 18 60 90 Moore 31 Colbeck 45 Henders 55)
ASHTON TOWN 1 (Johnson 84)
From Litherland the coach picked its way through surprisingly quiet Saturday afternoon traffic. We knew we were close to Goodison Park by the blue banners on every lamp-post until we actually passed by Everton’s famous ground. Then we skirted by Stanley Park until the huge new 20,500 Main Stand at Anfield dominated the view. From there those lamp-post banners changed to red as we travelled a few more hundred yards to the rather more humble Anfield Sports & Community Centre in Lower Breck Road. Liverpool FC may operate on altogether more rarified plane than our hosts, but they did have a massive influence on this hop!
So close do Lower Breck play to Anfield that the car park is used for patrons attending Liverpool games. Moreover, the thought of driving our coach past Anfield on a matchday wasn’t one that Chris and I at GroundhopUK wanted to even contemplate, and with Liverpool scheduled to play at home to Burnley, we were ready to reshedule Lower Breck’s game to fit round that game. It was no bad thing for us that Liverpool are doing well this season so TV opted to both televise their 4-2 win, and more significantly move it to the Sunday. It’s not often that modern football does you a favour, but this was certainly one of those occasions!
The Sports Centre isn’t, I suspect, anyone’s idea of an ideal football ground, being a community hall with a caged 3G pitch behind featuring 2 sides available for viewing, and a little 50-seat “Arena” stand in one corner. Like everyone else I’d heard the brickbats about the place, but other than the adage that every football ground deserves a visit, there was one massive reason why we were there. Lower Breck really really wanted us there!
There was more to it though than just attracting groundhoppers. The exchange of information that happens before every single successful groundhop made it clear that just like some of the other clubs in this hop this was to be an event that placed the club right in the centre of its community. Here the main beneficiaries were the local disadvantaged, a collection of groceries was being made for a local food bank- and judging by what I saw when the coach arrived, that was an incredibly successful appeal.
The club is new to the North West Counties League having won last season’s Liverpool County Premier League, and they took the view that it was an honour to be asked to host a hop game and so approached their day accordingly. There was someone though, utterly unconnected with the club who wanted to be at Lower Breck just as much as them.
Magician Brekk Sarney is well-known in groundhopping circles, and the chance for him to be seen at club with his unusual name was one he wasn’t going to miss out on. In fact I spotted him and was going to crack a joke but then he rather pre-empted me by producing his sign! Suffice it to say there’s a reason why he’s in showbiz and I’m not.
On a personal level I was pleased to see Ashton Town there too. I’d greatly enjoyed their company on the 2017 hop, and they charmed everyone despite being destined to finish bottom of division and be relegated. Fortunately their stint in the Cheshire League was for just last season, and they’ve returned to the NWCFL in far better playing health than when GroundhopUK saw them last.
That said, they took a real walloping here, although I’m bound to say that had more to do with Lower Breck’s excellence than any deficiency on the part of the visitors. Frankly it was clear why Lower Breck are going places. But Lower Breck had a quite wonderful coda planned.
The match finished and we all made to leave, but the was a club official to thank everyone for visiting and shake their hand. That put a smile on everyone’s face, but if you were on the hoppers’ coach there was more to come. As Chris was doing the manifest the official came out to once again thank us and to announce that he’d placed a box of Lower Breck/GroundhopUK mugs in the boot of the coach- enough for one each.
Now neither Chris nor I would recommend any host spending money on something so completely and irrevocably of the moment, but perhaps this wasn’t a time to worry about semantics. Because in the space of just shy of 3 hours Lower Breck managed to completely alter everyone’s view of them. Whenever I think of Liverpudlian football I’ll think about the gallant little club in the shadow of two huge clubs.
And with all due respect to my friend Brekk, that really is magic.