1874, Bentley Pavilion, City Ground, Darlaston Town, Football, groundhopping, League, Paycare Ground, Walsall, West Midlands
Tuesday 12th November 2019 ko 19.45
West Midlands (Regional) League- Premier Division
DARLASTON TOWN (1874) FC 0
WOLVERHAMPTON CASUALS 0
K Miller sent off 49 (2nd Booking)
Back in the day I used to use the M6 as a kind of a footballing acid test. I’d ask the question,
“If you drive along the M6 around Birmingham heading north after Spaghetti Junction which club do you think of?”
I suspect many would say Aston Villa and Walsall whose grounds are both clearly visible from the motorway/ traffic jam, but I reckoned any groundhopper worth his salt would have said Darlaston Town.
While you couldn’t see The City Ground in Waverley Road from the M6 such was the reputation of the place that hoppers knew to priorise a visit there. I took 4 attempts to get there (2 waterlogged pitches and a set of vandalised floodlights) to make the ground my 600th tick.
Was it worth the effort? God yes, a pitch whose slope was Chard-esque, a wooden stand from 1900, and atmosphere by the bucketload, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only hopper saddened when Town folded on 2013 due in no small part to continued vandalism of the ground. Sadly the City Ground is now derelict, boarded up and awaiting demolition. These photos date from April 2009, sadly my camera back then didn’t cope with the dark very well back then.
A new Darlaston Town was quickly formed, using the year of the old club’s birth (1874) to delineate itself with the past. They were accepted in to the West Midlands League for the start of the 2014 season. A splinter club FC Darlaston broke away from the new club later on and they now groundshare at Bilston Town.
The great sadness was that 1874 weren’t based at the City Ground, the authorities had decided that the ground was beyond repair and I suspect that sloping pitch would have caused ground grading problems sooner or later. The club groundshared at Bentley Youth for one season before taking a 25 year lease on Bentley Pavilion, just over a mile from their old ground, moving in in January 2015.
The club have have had to to carry out massive improvements to what was once a works ground to give the club a ground fit for the Step 6 West Midlands League Premier. The final piece of that jigsaw was floodlights and following a grand switch-on ahead of a friendly against a Walsall XI this was to be the first floodlit competitive fixture here.
And it very nearly didn’t happen, heavy rain had left the pitch sodden to the extent that I was more than relieved to see the place open for business as I parked up.
But here’s my truth about Darlaston’s new home. I fully expected to find myself hankering after the old ground, and was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t. The people I found there helped, they were welcoming without exception but despite the kit stands there’s real character to be found here. Mostly that’s in the clubhouse that managed to retain much of the works feel but there’s also a feeling that this is club going places.
And despite a fairly drab goalless draw despite Kieron Miller’s red card, that still remains my feeling. It is a crying shame that the old ground is gone never to return, but like the new Darlaston, it is time to look forward.