Saturday 9th November 2019 ko 15.00
Western League Premier Division
PLYMOUTH PARKWAY 5 (Calver 17 52 Krac 33 80 Williams 89)
Carter penalty saved 37
CHIPPING SODBURY TOWN 2 (Brown 47 72)
The coach had just left Wellington after the final Western Hop and someone commented, ” I suppose that’s the league completed for you Laurence?” I replied in the affirmative and it was only a few days later that I realised I’d missed out Plymouth Parkway. I could see why, Parkway featured on a Devon County Hop but I wasn’t there….
Now completing leagues isn’t my thing, it happens of course, often as an unintended consequence of my work with GroundhopUK but I do like the idea of having at least one ground in a league left open to me whenever I’m based somewhere for a weekend.
But somehow Parkway needed doing for no other reason than my own OCD and an invite to visit Mike and Vonnie Sampson who live close to Bolitho Park was enough excuse to set the satnav in their direction. The issue we had though became clear as I battled heavy rain on the M5. Robyn was keeping an eye for postponements on Twitter with a view to us switching somewhere else if necessary. As we headed south-west it seemed that just about every game near to Bolitho had fallen and by the time we parked up it felt as if we were at the only game locally still on!
The club are unusual in that they’ve only been around since 1988, and their suffix is due to their second home being the Parkway club. The club were evicted from there in 2000 and moved into the purpose-built Bolitho Park in 2003. The intervening years saw the club play all their games away one season and on temporary grounds for the others, and under those circumstances the club did well to stay in existence. All credit to the Peninsula League for supporting the club, I can think of other leagues that would not have been so charitable.
My regular reader may remember Robyn and I visiting Plymouth Marjon’s other pitch in 2016. We saw Parkway’s reserves there playing in Bar Sol Ona kit, just after the reverse takeover that saw Mark Russell take over as chairman of the new club. Certainly the merger has been a success, Parkway have been promoted twice since then, once from the South West Peninsula League and once from the lower division of the Western League.
Parkway’s progress has been meteoric and its put them in a position I recognised from football in my home town of Oxford. In any given place there is always a footballing pecking order. Here Plymouth Argyle hold that role, and watching the this game with someone as steeped in south-western football as former Sunday Independent writer Mike Sampson you see how Parkway are now the preferred destination for local players leaving Argyle.
I expected Parkway to win, the league table suggested nothing else but I had mixed feelings at that prospect. Chipping Sodbury were great friends and hosts of the Western Hop and I’ll always maintain a soft spot for the club. Sadly for them the game went precisely by the form book on a heavy surface that certainly didn’t act as a leveller.
It was a bittersweet Parkway win for me, but as Robyn and I left Bolitho bound for another wonderful evening with Mike and Vonnie I felt some regret at finally finishing off the Western League, it was the league of choice when I used to travel down to Bristol to see Robyn and I’d like to think GroundhopUK were good for the league. All the best to all involved.