Saturday 7th March 2020 ko 11.00
North West Counties League- Division One South
WYTHENSHAWE AMATEURS 1 (Howard 4)
WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON 0
It seemed to me that the Saturday schedule of the North West Counties League could be summed up as being 2 pairs. First up were the two Wythenshawes followed by the two Cheadles. What I didn’t foresee was how those two pairs of clubs would react to the other in their pair…
The day was spent in circling Manchester Airport, it seemed that just about every shot I took has an aircraft in the background. With all the poor weather the country had absorbed over the preceeding weeks it was lovely to sit at breakfast, and look out to clear pavements and blue skies. Equally importantly it was good to take no worried phone calls from our clubs, and have a full coach.
It was good to see a throng already assembled at Hollyhedge Park, and the sense of unconscious competence of Ammies was both endearing and reassuring. The club were busy, but had separated out the catering from the merchandise and the drinks. Their success was even more remarkable when you looked at the crowd they were dealing with. In fact the only brief issue they had was with the security guard at the industrial estate. They’d contacted the site owner to arrange free parking for the masses, but the owner had forgotten to tell the guard. Having a 55-seater coach turning up spooked him completely and he was threatening to close the car park until he was convinced to phone his manager!
On the Saturday of any hop the biggest magnet drawing people away from the event is the 3pm kick-offs. So as you organise a 4 game line-up to make those thinking of heading “Off-piste” miss two games to gain one. It does work, but you still expect the two biggest attendances to be the first and last games.
But here there was the West Didsbury & Chorlton factor too. We’d enjoyed their company greatly on the inaugural NWCL Hop in 2017, and the club did what any hop organiser loves, they brought their fans along in numbers! They added vibrancy and colour to our morning and I’m grateful to them for putting themselves out for Amateurs and the hoppers.
There was one massive surprise for Robyn, I and I’m sure a few others. I walked into the bar and out of the corner of my eye there was a woolly hat and an impish grin. It was Swedish Hop organiser Kim Hedwall, able to be over here for only the first 3 games due to family and work commitments. It was wonderful to spend time with an old friend, particularly as I’ve no idea when I’ll next be able to visit Stockholm.
So good was Ammies’ staging I found myself relaxing, I normally only manage that during the final game of the day. In fact the only time my eyebrow raised was when it was time to do the crowd count. As we made to the entrance to make a start the Ammies secretary asked to join us. That was fine by us, we’ve got nothing to hide, although we did wonder why?
The answer was rivalry, no more and no less, and we were very gently told to check the two attendances in the two games between Amateurs and Town last season. I thought no more about it until when we’d returned to the hotel that evening. It was rather revealing.
Town hosted Amateur on 22nd April and the attendance was 584. The attendance at the preceding game at Hollyhedge? 583, so was that what we were walking into next up? And yes as soon as Chris got back on the coach he took a call from the Wythenshawe Town secretary what the attendance was here at Ammies? I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t have told him?
The records will show Ammies won the game, to the immense satisfaction of their playing staff and the obvious frustration of the visitors- they’ll play far worse than this elsewhere and win easily.
As for Wythenshawe Amateurs this was as complete a victory as you can imagine. On the field yes, but also off the field too. The catering was a win, the drinks were a win, the staging was a win, and the attendance was too.