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Monday 30th September 2019 ko 20.00

Staffordshire County Senior League Division One

KEELE UNIVERSITY 1 (Gaisford 10)

CITY OF STOKE 4 (Sargeant 65 White 68 Johnson 71 79)

Att 8

Free Entry

When you see Keele what do you picture in your mind? I suspect most see the Services on the M6, and some would see the university. For me it’s definitely the latter.

It is a relatively new institution being founded in 1949, on the land and buildings formerly owned by the Sneyd family in Newcastle-under-Lyme. In fact if it wasn’t for Ralph Sneyd’s gambling debts and subsequent bankruptcy you could argue the university wouldn’t exist! Ironically the scythe on the Keele University logo is taken from the Sneyd family’s crest!

But my dealings with Keele go back 30-odd years ago at Sixth form. I had a good friend, Paul, in classes for both A-level history and A-level Economics, but it should have far more obvious to everyone, including myself that when it came to both talent and intelligence he was miles ahead of me. And that fact rather bit me when it came to applying to universities.

Paul ended up with an offer from Cambridge but applied to Keele and a few others as insurance. Keele offered him a close-to unconditional offer – get 3 grade “E’s” in his A-levels and he’d have a place. Now I thought I could see myself at Keele and 3 “E’s” were within even my limited talents. So like Paul I applied… and got turned down flat! This was the first time I actually visited the place, and for the record I ended up at the Polytechnic of North London, and gained an education that was about far more than the BA (hons) after my name. Paul ended up at Cambridge, married Louisa who was also in our classes, and lived happily every after. I’m still in touch with them.

So I had more reason to be there than most other hoppers, and let’s face it a 2 and a half hour drive in dreadful weather through mile after mile of M6 50 mph average speed checks was unlikely to attract more than the very or ought to be committed. In fact, I don’t think I’d have bothered if I hadn’t checked the game was on 3G beforehand.

That uni background always colours how I watch student football. I accept that as right-back for the 5th XI of PNL FC I was unlikely to ever to play somewhere like Loughborough University but even a floodlit cage with an Arena Stand is way beyond my experiences back then- My final 2 years worth of home games were played on Hackney Marshes! Times change, and probably for the better.

But one element hasn’t changed. I’ve no doubt that the PNL’s first XI could have easily coped, like Keele’s in an open-age adult male league. PNL’s 5ths couldn’t have, we finished bottom of the SEETECH League Division East (the lowest of 16 divisions!) for each of the 3 years I was playing for them! But there was a similarity from my experience, and that was the firsts having a smattering of players with experience at professional clubs who, when that career door was closed to them opted to return to education.

Being as the game was early in the season, and particularly for a student side, the match-up was fascinating. Virtually all the talent was with Keele but virtually all the organisation was with City of of Stoke. Keele took an early lead but slowly the visitors worked their way into the game and as they enforced their will, eventually the students’ game collapsed, with Johnson’s winner coming direct from a corner. I’d expect Keele’s organisation to improve as the season progresses, that was my experience anyway!

Perhaps it was no surprise that I was thew only person there with no connection to either club, and there was the irony of me stopping for a break at Hilton Park rather than Keele Services on the way home, but it was a far more interesting evening out than it had promised to be when I set out.

Dedicated to Paul and Louisa Killworth. Two lovelier people you could not meet. I would point out that I have never seen either of them at a football ground.