Saturday 19th June 2021 ko 14:30
North Devon League Intermediate One
BARNSTAPLE FC (Shaddick 10 59 Burbidge 20 Box 36 Robinson 78)
APPLEDORE LIONS 1 (Kinder 30)
Att c20 at Queen Elizabeth II Playing Field, Tews Lane
Finally the end of the 2020/21 season was in sight. Robyn and I knew we’d be back in the South West, a combination of seeing family in Bristol and an invite to spend the evening with friends in Totnes saw me make a beeline for a league I’m close to regarding as an old friend.
So much so that as we made our way along the North Devon link road from Tiverton to Barnstaple I found myself passing by signs to places whose clubs I’d visited over the last few years. There was Landkey, North Molton, Combe Martin, and the ground that should be on everyone’s bucket list South Molton. Now having family in Bristol has no doubt been an influence, but that’s a lot for a league whose Premier Division feeds the Step 7 Devon County League, and as if to reinforce the point neither Robyn nor I have visited Southern League outfit Barnstaple Town yet!
But of all the games locally why this one? Well apart from why not, I did pick the game on the basis that it was likely to take place. Barnstaple had won the league’s third tier and the visitors were comfortably in third place, and my guess proved accurate. We parked up in Roundswell, and soon worked out we were the wrong end of Tews Lane, there’s a gate blocking one end from the football ground.
It was easy enough to walk the quarter mile extra, to watch this game in the North Devon’s third tier (Premier, Senior, Intermediate One) and to be honest I looked at this as another tick and expected little else. But for some reason I do try to engage with the clubs I visit, unlike at least one blogger I know who tends to type his content on his mobile while the game carries on in the background. Here while there was all of the feel of a final game of the season, there was plenty to enjoy.
The first was referee Tony Cloak, who other than quickly working out I was a groundhopper asked me to say hello to Phil Hiscox. The Secretary of the South West Peninsula League is both well known to groundhoppers as organiser of the highly successful hops in his area, and Devon is of course his home county and footballing hinterland. It didn’t take me long to pass on Tony’s regards! Tony is well known in Devon footballing circles as being full of character, and certainly managed to control this game with no little humour. It was also good to see him stay after the game for Barnstaple’s presentation.
Then there was the the tale of Kevin Shaddick’s mother. This is I expect the first time her son’s football match has clashed with her birthday and probably the last time too! So there she was, with her family staging a tongue-in-cheek protest complete with “Family Before Football” banner. It caught the end of season tone perfectly, and as Barnstaple cruised to an easy win and an unbeaten season I spotted a table being set up pitchside.
I knew that Barnstaple had won the title and been presented with the trophy the previous week but the league hadn’t supplied players’ medals to the club. Barnstaple decided to get a set made and staged another presentation after the game. It was an honour for Robyn and I to photograph the celebrations and all the best to them for next season, they gave us an afternoon that added up to far more than we’d expected.