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Sunday 6th March 2022

North West Counties League- Division One North



Att 455

Entry £6

Programme £2


Wheear ‘ast tha bin sin’ ah saw thee, ah saw thee?

Tha’s been a cooartin’ Mary Jane

                                                      On Ilkla Mooar baht ‘at

I remember when GroundhopUK and the North West Counties League agreed the schedule for this years hop. I saw Ilkley Town and immediately thought, ” As in Ilkley Moor Baht’at?” I mentioned the song to my wife Robyn who, being younger than me hadn’t heard of it. But then, she isn’t old enough to have had John Noakes as a hero when she was growing up either.

Noakes of course was the Halifax-born daredevil who made 1970’s era Blue Peter required childrens’ television watching. In fact so iconic was the man that he, and dog Shep were given a spin-off show, “Go with Noakes, and the opening credits were set to a Brass Band playing “On Ilkley Moor Baht’at.” Forty years later no other arrangement every sounds quite right to me. In fact here’s some quite wonderful footage, and guess where he’s heading to? 

From Steeton it seemed to me that there were two routes to Ilkley, one over the moor, and one around it, then going through the town before getting to the Ben Rhydding Sports Club. As the advanced party we opted to go over the moor (without a hat mind!) but the coach took the other route, got caught in traffic in town and was tight for time.

We managed to park at the sports centre, but the issue was that the Ben Rydding Centre is more than just Ilkley Town. There’s hockey, tennis, and other sports, and as 400 or so football fans were arriving, parents were leaving with young hockey players. It caused chaos in the car park, through absolutely no fault of club, and I ended up asking the officials to delay kick off to make sure everyone made it into the ground on time.

And it was well worth people showing patience too. Now, I don’t think anyone would pick a caged 3G ground as their ideal place to watch a game, but Ilkley worked hard to make it work for them. Perhaps more than any other of the weekend’s hosts club I saw the tips GroundhopUK give acted on. I saw the advance ticket holders waved through, bottles of locally produced real ale on sale, handy to wash down the sausages and other delights from “The Commute.” As for those mugs with Baht’at on them, how could I refuse?

As tired as I was I found Joe Gibbons, who in so many ways is the genesis of the hop through his connections with Atherton Colleries and allowed the game to meander while we caught up. That was no bad thing either, Ilkley had most of the possession but weren’t able to force home their advantage.

Of course when the goal-less draw looks likely the fun is watching the nil-nil haters squirm. I’m not sure why they do, it is a perfectly legitimate result, and how do you fully appreciate a classic without having a poior game or two to add balance? Or maybe the haters would prefer to watch pinball?

This was an event that exceeded any expectations any of us could have had of it. Clubs worked their socks off, firstly to get pitches playable, then to cope with crowds far in excess of what would be normal. There were gremlins, we will have to look at parking arrangements, and future host clubs will have to take on board that you can’t operate just one turnstile for crowds this large.

These are all of course wonderful problems to have, and thanks should go to all at the league, but particularly Martin Fallon who managed to be at all the games, all who played, especially the visiting clubs and all who came and watched. But more than those, our thanks to all those club volunteers, you all were magnificent. See you next year!