Tuesday 22nd February 2022 ko 19.45
Hellenic League Division One
STUDLEY 3 (Brain 11 46 Donnelly 18)
FC STRATFORD 0
There were a couple of reasons why I was a little hesitant about attending this one. Firstly I’d visited Studley Sports & Social Club a number of times, and wasn’t aware they’d moved, albeit the shortest distance possible. Then there was the fact GroundhopUK are organising this year’s Easter Hop with Studley scheduled to host on Bank Holiday 11am. Robyn and I won’t be on the event, we’re finally going to have our honeymoon, just the two years after our wedding- and while we have had to wait, if Covid had arrived a few weeks earlier, we’d have had real problems! But Studley and I go back to 2002, and its all to do with a footballing friendship.
Back then Studley were Studley BKL, as the ground then was still owned by BKL fittings, who were to go bankrupt a year later. Ian Atkins was Oxford United manager, but still lived in Solihull, and his great friend was Nicky Cross, from both men’s time at Birmingham City. Cross was on the management team at Studley so twice in 2 seasons Oxford United sent a side to Studley purely due to the Atkins factor! I’m not sure why I returned in March 2011, probably keeping busy during a rough period back then, and its that visit that provided these photos.
You could argue that back then the Beehive was a fairly normal, if characterful Midland Alliance (now Midland League Premier) ground, and I’d argue that the most significant part of this story is that 87 people were watching a Hellenic League game here. Such is the general drift of Steps 5 and 6 northward in the Midlands but 20 years ago if you’ve told be I’d watch a Hellenic League game here, I’d have laughed at you.
Studley 1 Loughborough University March 2011
On that 2011 visit Studley had built a caged 3G pitch, undoubtedly as a community asset. What changed everything was Solihull Moors using here as a training ground starting in 2020. The pitches, once a works ground have been reconfigured to make the 3G pitch the show pitch with the old stand removed, a new club room built, and a walkway built at the back of what used to be the main pitch for access. The catch in the long term may be that the tunnel is used by both players and spectators.
Elsewhere the pitchside fence as was, has been moved back a few feet, so as to create access on all four sides of the 3G pitch, and a triple “Arena” stand installed. It creates the oddity that the grass pitch is in a cage but the 3G isn’t. The upshot is that most groundhoppers will regard Studley as moving ground, but as I am always tempted to comment, “Its your hobby, and your rules.” I have at least given all the evidence to allow folks to make an informed decision.
I do hope plenty will support the club on their hop day if for no other reason than they were an absolute joy to spend a couple of hours with. The team line-ups were found for those interested, and spare tea and sandwiches distributed to those who’d travelled. The spare food might point to FC Stratford’s slightly awkward existence. Here’s a maxim, reserve teams seldom bring club officials with them.
They were formed as Stratford Town’s “A” team in 2009 but were rebranded a year later to allow for full participation in the footballing pyramid. They currently use the Home Guard Club in Tiddington, former home to Midland Combination outfit Alveston but have a “Pathway agreement” in place to allow talented young players to move to play for Stratford Town. What that adds up to I’ll leave to your own opinion.
Here they had few answers to Studley’s slick passing, and their cause wasn’t helped by the loss of keeper Nathan Taylor in the first half. If Studley had been a little more ruthless it could be been an extremely painful night for the visitors.
But in the end, for me this evening was about two things. Firstly there were no end of hoppers here, almost exclusively those on very high ground counts and therefore unlikely to attend a hop at Step 5/6 as they’d ticket most of the grounds featured. Secondly rediscovering the kind of club that is part of the reason I watch endless non league games. As their official put it “We look after people at Studley,” amen to that….
I won’t be on the Easter Hop for the first time in many years, but if this article pushes a few more people in Studley’s way on Bank Holiday Monday then I’ll feel I’ll have made some contribution.