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With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell.

Tuesday 30th September 2008 ko 19.45

FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Replay

HAYES & YEADING UNITED 5 (Hendry 16 36 Ruby 28 Knight 99 James 119)

STAINES TOWN 3 (Butler 20 73 Onochie 73)

Att 348 at Church Road

Entry £10  +£1 stand transfer

Programme £2

When Yeading FC and Hayes FC merged in 2007 you could easily say that they picked the better ground to give up. The new club played temporarily at Hayes’ Church Road, while Yeading’s Warren was to be redeveloped to be a permanent home for the new club. Once the work was complete, the idea was to move back to the Warren and sell Church Road for housing.

Of course even though Church Road was clearly superior ground, it was also in a superior position if you are building houses. That is why Church Road is now a close of Barratt Homes, and I made a beeline to visit before it was demolished after the last game in April 2011.

Both halves of the the merger had interesting histories. Yeading are best known for 2 FA Cup runs. In 2005 one they drew Newcastle United at home in the 3rd Round with the tie switched to Loftus Road and held the Premier League club for an half before losing 2-0. They reached the 1st Round a year later, this time losing 5-0 at the City Ground to Nottingham Forest. The kudos of the cup runs saw striker Dudley “DJ” Campbell start a league career at the likes of Brentford, Leicester and Blackpool.

Hayes are famous for being the club where Les Ferdinand, Cyrille Regis and Jason Roberts started their careers, but before reading on take a look at the Church Road. Hayes never did play in the Football League, but the ground looks like plenty that did, with a minimum of adaptation. I suspect the club’s background in amateur football may be part of the reason.

I have to say I loved the ground, the pitched roof stand, the curves in the terraces, and the cornucopia of delights that was the club shop. There’s still a couple of books I bought here in my shelf.

I got my money’s worth here in something of a classic game, with Conference South Hayes & Yeading prevailing in extra time. That was of course until I got home to a rocket from the (now ex) wife. I promise it was worth it!

So what happened next? Well in simple terms the money ran out. Despite being promoted to the Conference Premier, rebuilding of the Warren took so long that with Church Road sold they had to vacate in 2011, with no home to go to. They spent the next 6 years groundsharing variously at Woking, Maidenhead United and Beaconsfield Town. The exile cost them 3 relegations before they finally moved back to the now-named Sky-Ex Stadium, whose footprint had moved slightly longitudinally. I’ll leave the pedants to argue as to whether it counts as a new ground.

My visit two-and-a-half years ago saw a ground still using the old Warren changing rooms on an umbilical players’ tunnel to a stand that lacked its internal fittings. Clearly Hayes & Yeading are improving the ground as and when the money allows. All the best to them in that as those years of exile were ruinous.

Thinkings are looking up for Hayes & Yeading, they’ve been promoted twice since my visit to the SkyEX, but I can’t help but look back to the glory that was Church Road; that was special.