Tag Archives: away days

Away games: ‘We’ll Look After Your Car’ – When Taking The Car Isn’t Always a Good Idea

Winning at an away ground is a great feeling. The form book has invariably been upset, you’re waving at the home crowd leaving in droves and all there is left to do is applaud your team off the pitch and declare to any home supporters left in the stadium that your team is the best in the league and you would like to play them every week. All that remains is to get back to the car, tune in to 5 live and enjoy the possible misfortunes of your nearest rivals.

It is usually at this point that a nagging reminder of where you left your car starts to interfere with your natural desire to be joyful and untroubled. Memories of that unlit back street where you hurriedly parked it flood back, along with the sight of those unkempt youths eyeing your pride and joy with murderous intent.

You recall stories of exorbitant fees charged by garages to respray ‘keyed’ cars or worse, still, you could find your only option of getting home propped up on bricks with the wheels missing.

There are certain grounds where groups of youths exercise an entrepreneurial scheme, where they take money off you in return for not damaging your car. I met such a bunch of young tycoons at Gigg Lane last Saturday.

I’m not doing such a great job of describing them as ‘youths’, they were considerably younger and seemingly new at their chosen venture. After stowing anything that looked vaguely saleable in the boot, I locked the car and was met with the sight of a handful of beaming young faces. “We’ll look after your car for £5, er £3,” said one of them offering me a reduced rate whilst hardly pausing for a breath.

Why would I want to pay you that? I replied knowing the answer before it came. “It might get damaged“. I had two choices here, tell them to take a running jump (or words to that effect) or cough up. I chose something between the two. “Tell you what, I’ll give you 50p now and when I get back I’ll give you the rest if my car is ok” I offer, with no intention of keeping my part of the deal.

I was amazed that they accepted this impasse so readily, their budding scheme seemingly faltering on the first rung of the ladder.

The game held my attention for the next three hours and I didn’t even think about the car, given that Oldham had put in another highly questionable performance and scuppered their chances of getting anything out of this season.

However, as I approached the car I was pleased to see that it was untouched and still had four wheels. As I was about to get in I noticed the kid who I had given the 50p to sat in the bay window of the nearest house. Surely he hadn’t stuck to his side of the agreement and been watching my car for over three hours?

I was immediately stricken with guilt at my intention to drive off, so I knocked on the door intending to make his takings up to a pound. The door was answered by a woman who was singularly unimpressed by my explanation of her son’s financial dealings. “Get here you!” she shouted. “Have you taken money off this man?”. He nodded”. “Give it him back and say sorry“. He returned my 50p and I was left on the doorstep facing their closed door.

Get here you!” she shouted. “Have you taken money off this man?”. He nodded”. “Give it him back and say sorry“. He returned my 50p and I was left on the doorstep facing their closed door.

He may have been taught a valuable lesson but I was taught several. Don’t succumb to extortion. Don’t assume you’re doing the right thing when you know it’s wrong and last but not least – stop being so tight and pay the £5 to park your car!

4 Fixture Focus: Crunch Time For FC United

In FC United’s history of almost 14 years, they have had 4 promotions to get them into the National League North.

Although, this could all change this season after only winning 6 matches throughout the length of the season. With only one of those wins coming at home against local rivals Curzon Ashton, which saw the Reds come away with 3 points in a comfortable 2-0 win.

Five wins of United’s this season have come away from home after going against the odds by beating potential playoff contenders Bradford Park Avenue, Altrincham, Kidderminster Harriers and Blyth Spartans. However, with time running out Reynolds will be hoping to scrape out as many points as possible over the coming months in order to secure their position.

After a season that has seen United have 3 managers at the club, they have failed to stay out of the relegation places on a regular basis and the last few weeks results have conspired to find them set adrift from the safety of 19th place with teams above them also having games in hand.

This could potentially see the Reds set an unwanted milestone as they have never suffered relegation in their short history. The next four matches will prove crucial to FC United’s season-long battle. The men in red will be going into every one of their remaining matches as if it is a cup final, in order to secure themselves a place in the National League North next season and, with the reds 6 points from safety with 13 matches left of the 2018/19 season, it is all to play for!

Altrincham

This Saturday sees the red rebels play against local rivals Altrincham at Broadhurst Park. FC United’s first win of the season came at Moss Lane on August 14th, in a 2-1 win that saw United secure all three points after Kurt Willoughby scored the winner in the 80th minute with a wonderful curling effort.

The Robins currently sit in 7th place however with only 2 wins out of 5 in the calendar year, this weekend’s match is set up to be an absolute cracker with both teams fighting for the points at either end of the table.

Guiseley

The Reds face back to back home matches over the next couple of weeks as Guiseley AFC are the next team to visit Broadhurst Park after Altrincham. The reverse fixture saw The Lions take all three points at Nethermoor Park after a comfortable 3-0 win against FC United.

Guiseley sits just 6 points above United and have only one win in 2019 which came against fellow Yorkshiremen Bradford Park Avenue. With both teams being around the relegation places and both having a bad form, this match sets up to be a real six-pointer as the two teams will have to go out fighting for all three points in order to avoid the dreaded drop.

Southport

The first away match FC United face in this run of four fixtures will take place at Haig Avenue, as the reds take a trip to the seaside to play former league club Southport FC. The sandgrounders currently sit 13th in the league and will be looking to take all three points from the red rebels, after the points were shared in the reverse fixture at Broadhurst park in the less than enthralling 1-1 draw.

Liam Watson former Stalybridge Celtic manager will be hoping that former red rebel Jason Gilchrist will be able to remind his old club of his goal-scoring prowess, while the Moston Outfit will be aiming to keep him and his striking partners at bay.

Hereford

The final match the team from Broadhurst Park will play over these next four fixtures will be current Southern Premier League Champions Hereford FC. November saw the Red Rebels travel the 284-mile round trip twice in both the league and the FA Trophy. In the league fixture, it was the men in red who came out on top after a 3-1 win against The Bulls in their 4th away win of the season.

Two weeks later saw the same scoreline however for the other team as Hereford knocked United out of the FA Trophy in the Third Qualifying Round. Hereford are currently sat in 16th place, 7 points ahead of the drop zone. The Whites will be hoping to secure more points in the upcoming months in hope, of securing themselves a place for a second season in the National League North.

Athleticos: How Oldham’s Away Support Is Gaining a Noisy Reputation

Oldham’s official attendance for the home win against Notts County on New Year’s Day was 4336. Five days later, in the FA Cup played in the capital on a Sunday with a 2pm kickoff, Oldham fans numbered just over 4000 having sold out the allocation given them by Fulham.

Of course, playing a Premier League side cannot be compared to playing a struggling League Two side but the logistics of getting to London from Oldham on a Sunday were pretty tough. Nevertheless, it was a game that Oldham’s ever-increasing away support were not going to miss and they received numerous messages of support from Fulham fans for their good-natured but noisy presence. Videoed from the stand housing the home fans, the ‘Athleticos’ made their presence felt which obviously spurred on the Oldham players.

Early in the campaign, it was obvious that Oldham supporters were going to put the disappointment of last season’s relegation to one side and take the opportunity to visit several grounds in League Two that they hadn’t had the opportunity to in the past. Forest Green Rovers, Macclesfield, Morecambe, Grimsby and Newport are all clubs we’ve avoided in our lengthy stay in League One and I first witnessed Athletic’s ‘12th man‘ out in force at Grimsby back in September.

Despite a first half that was dour, to say the least, the Oldham fans provided everybody with a steady supply of songs favouring their own version of Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough‘. It was certainly enough to rally the Oldham players who knocked in three second-half goals for a deserved victory.

Oldham haven’t always had such a large away support except when playing local rivals Bury, Rochdale, Bolton and Blackburn but it has definitely increased in recent years and Latics fans were a credible 31st with an average of 936 in the table of away support for all football league teams in 2016/17.

Much of the praise for this welcome increase in support must go to the predominantly young, noisy, drum beating tribe who call themselves ‘Athleticos‘. Undeterred by being led by these youngsters, the rest of the visiting supporters join in with the singing and I felt drawn into the community spirit at Doncaster despite my long-held belief that any song by Depeche Mode was truly awful on the ears.

On numerous occasions, the players and manager have pointed out the value of the vocal support from the terraces and how much it has contributed to important victories. Although we are now out of the FA Cup and attendances may suffer as a consequence, there are still vital ‘away days’ for the Athleticos at Bury, Cambridge and Lincoln to look forward to and if the level of support from the terraces is matched by performances on the pitch then the club has a future we can all look forward to.

The Tales Of Being a Ground-Hopper

I was bought up a dyed in the wool Manchester City fan, through thick and thin, from relegations to centurions, however, I also consider myself a Curzon Ashton fan, and have family ties to Sunderland AFC and Scunthorpe United. I have had a lot of ELF and non-league away days.

The main joys of the leagues are the eccentricities of the places and the grounds you visit. Luton, walking through a terraced house to get to the away end. Yorks bathroom facilities overlooking peoples gardens, the Stadium of light and its sweetshop-cum-nightclub as you walk from town to the ground, and so many more.

I have lost so many hours to researching the likes of North Ferriby, Grimsby and Morecambe. I have got inordinately lost trying to find Bower Fold. “I know all of Tameside like the back of my hand” I once proudly proclaimed. It turned out I do not.

I’ve said it before and I will reiterate, you will go to so many more interesting places once you drop out of the Premier League. I don’t want to spend £60 on a Pendolino to go to watch Chelsea. I will however happily wonder “where on earth is this place” looking at a teams name, and waste close to an entire weekend traipsing over there, probably with a slight existential crisis stuck in motorway traffic along the way. Don’t add up how much you spend on petrol and trains on these excursions. You could probably book yourself an all-inclusive break somewhere significantly more desirable than Nottingham.

You can have some great days out without leaving the home comforts of the Greater Manchester area too. Broadhurst park has a remarkable atmosphere for football of that level, attracting thousands to every game, and singing the whole game through. Stockport County, as you would expect from a team with their history, have a huge ground, tucked away down a terraced street, and adverts in the toilets stating if you buy a funeral with a local provider you get a free county shirt.

Salford City, perched on the top of a hill in Kersal with its sloping pitch and rapid development is worth going to now before they inevitably need to relocate. Oldham’s ground remains quite literally the coldest place I have ever been to, and Macclesfield’s ground (stretching the boundaries of Greater Manchester here, but it’s about a tenner on the train) is as old as time and utter beauty.

Sure you don’t have Aguero playing for Bury and Rashford kicking about for Altrincham, but there is a charm of following your team away in the leagues and National League, you might find yourself wondering if you will die of exposure stuck in stationary traffic on the A1 but also you will see the same die-hard faces every week, you’ll go to some hilariously cheap pubs, you’ll get unforgivably lost in Middlesborough, and go to a lot of seaside towns.

Make a resolution to go to a game or two away this season, you won’t regret it.

A Stag Doo in Pink Hats, Win a Shed & Cheap Beer – My Best Away Day

I love away days. I love away days all the more when you drop down the leagues.

Go to a Premier League game and you are going to major cities in the main, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff. Slip down a bit and it’s got to be a bit more of an adventure.

I have largely misspent my youth traipsing around grounds to watch teams. I have a passing interest in and have many fond memories of weird and wonderful locations, getting overly familiar with the likes of Scunthorpe, Southend and Sunderland, amongst other British locations that don’t begin with S.

As a brief bit of context, house keeping, while counting myself as a Manchester City and Curzon Ashton fan, I went to university down in Devon, and lived behind St James Park in Exeter. Cheap tickets for students and a bit of a babyface meaning we could get the odd childs ticket led to me and a handful of friends watching the Grecians quite often, and usually lose.

I hadn’t ever watched Exeter play away while I was at University, the prohibitive cost of travelling to grounds, other teams not honouring cheap ticket offers to students and generally being far too lazy to organise anything of the sort prevented us from ever getting round to it. However a decade after leaving our flat behind the ground, myself and an old friend were both at a loose end on a Saturday, and Exeter was playing at Morecambe.

A fairly short hop from Manchester this seemed too good an opportunity to turn down. So off we headed to the Great British seaside on a sunny August afternoon, and it was wonderful.

By some sort of strange coincidence, we managed to turn up on the same day as an airshow of sorts, a military flyover does add to a sense of occasion. Finding several cheap pubs where the rounds will remind you that you aren’t in the Northern Quarter any more, in the very best of ways, with a few local characters, and an inordinate amount of bikers.

The most important part of any away day, or indeed a day for myself, is sniffing out a decent amount of carbohydrates, and the perk of a seaside away day is more chip shops than even I can sample in 5 hour period.

Morecambe’s ground is a short walk from town and there is a pub in the carpark, which doesn’t have a “no away fans” rule.

Exeter fans themselves travel, and travel well. Exeter is ages away from everywhere, there are no near away games so there is a bit of a “may as well” attitude. If it’s going to take you three hours to get to Birmingham, what’s another couple to Lancashire. The turnout was huge, with nearly as many away fans as home fans and the away end in fantastic voice the whole way through with the added bonus of a stag doo (more on them later).

The Grecians utterly outplayed Morecambe, and a few basic errors by the home side, including a goal kick that instead of going upfield was just booted sideways into the stands further added to the atmosphere. Early season optimism, winning, and beautiful weather are an excellent combination for a good day away.

The half time entertainment at this level is always bizarre too and involves the mass embarrassment of school-aged children. Not quite as good as the half time entertainment I once saw where the aim was genuinely to kick a ball into a shed to win a shed, but enough mockery to keep it entertaining, and a pretty reasonably priced bar too.

Then in the second half, with Exeter winning and the game starting to wind down, the ball was kicked out of play and landed at the feet of the stag do (remember them…) and they refused to give the ball back to the players. Cue something I’d never seen before, in both sets of players and a lot of Exeter fans kicking off at some men in pink fluffy cowboy hats to the extent the stewards got involved.

Never change, League Two, never change.

If the list of away grounds you have visited extends to Stamford Bridge, Anfield and Old Trafford then I insist you head off to a ground in the football leagues, you’ll leave with a few stories to tell, and maybe a shed.