Groundhopping in Lancashire: Gigg Lane, Bury

After my brother and I’s impromptu tour around Spotland, we headed down the road to Bury’s Gigg Lane.

The League Two match at home to Bristol Rovers had already been called off due to a waterlogged pitch when we go to the ground, and there was no one about.

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We parked up, then took what pictures we could of the outside of the ground.

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We went in the Club Shop afterwards so more badges could be purchased, but no stadium tour was offered this time.

Behind the scenes at Spotland Stadium, Rochdale AFC

My brother and I were lucky and privileged enough to be given an impromptu stadium tour around Rochdale AFC’s Spotland ground on Saturday. We were en route to Manchester to visit the National Football Museum and decided to stop off at Spotland and Bury’s Gigg Lane on the way, to take pictures and have a look round.

After we’d taken some shots of the ground from the outside, we went into the Club Shop so I could buy a badge. I’m trying to buy a badge from every ground I visit these days. If only I’d done that for every ground I’ve visited since I was a kid! I’d have around 40!

We got talking to Stuart (Ashworth – the Retail & Projects Manager) about why we were there and what we were planning for the rest of the day, and he very kindly offered to take us into the ground.

My brother and I thought that he was going to let us get pitchside so we could take some pictures then show us out, but he took us all round the ground then behind the scenes, giving us a commentary as we went.

These are the pictures:

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Big thanks again to everyone who took time out to speak to us whilst we were there, and especially to Stuart for giving us such an intimate look behind the scenes of a football club on the morning of a match.

Rochdale AFC play in League Two, and are a real family club. We hope to visit there again and take in a match.

The Rochdale AFC website – www.rochdaleafc.co.uk

Follow them on Twitter – @officiallydale

Yorkshire Groundhopping: Brighouse Town’s Dual Seal Stadium

Our kid invited me to go and watch Brighouse Town play Tadcaster Albion last Saturday in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division – a mere 5 minute walk away from his house. With my nephew in tow, and suitably wrapped-up against the strong and bitterly cold wind, I paid my £5 to get it at the turnstiles.

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The DualSeal Stadium has one main standing/seating area and a variety of huts, housing the toilets, changing rooms and club house.

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There is a very friendly club dog who has free rein to roam around the ground.

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The club house is warm inside, but the facilities aren’t on the same scale as BPA’s Horsfall Stadium:

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BPA’s game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch, so some familiar faces from the Horsfall were here for the Brighouse match.

The pitch is very exposed, and the recent bad weather had turned much of the playing area into a quagmire, but at least the game was on.

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The recent high winds had also demolished one of the dugouts, with the other one shored up with rope!

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The wind was blowing a gale, and wind-assistance played a big part in Town’s early goals.

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With Town 5-0 up at half time the game was over as a contest, and the Albion players were dejected and frustrated. They were reduced to abusing the officials and each other, and I have honestly never heard so much swearing from football players at any game I’ve been to. Not that I was offended, but it wasn’t too cracking in front of my 13-year old nephew who will have learnt a few new words!

One of the Albion players was booked for calling the lino a c**t, the last swear word in a long stream of invective.

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At the half time break, we left the touchline and made our way over to the Main Stand.

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The standing/seating area does provide some shelter from the wind and is warmer as a result, but when the rain comes in sideways, blown in on the wind, in the second half you still get wet.

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The view was decent, only obscured by the scaffolding poles keeping the stand up!

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Albion did manage to score a (scant) consolation goal, with Town ending up 8-1 winners.

Verdict:A friendly club with a decent little ground, but desperately in need of funds for much-needed improvements. Probably best to visit there in the Spring or Summer!

WHO ARE YA? Christopher Lash, rightbankwarsaw.com

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Christopher Lash, right bank warsaw

1) Who are ya?

Christopher Lash, owner and writer of the blog rightbankwarsaw.com which deals with Polish football,  mostly from a historical/societal angle but I also dabble in a bit of groundhopping.

2) Who do you support?

In England, I support Reading and in Poland, Polonia Warsaw (Warsaw’s second club).

3) What was your first game?

Good Question! I think it was probably a Burnley game in around 1988, I’m a Reading fan due to a good friend from there who moved to my hometown of Lancaster when I was a kid.  So I’m a Northern Reading fan living in Warsaw. Go figure.

4) What do you do for a job?

I lecture in history and international relations at a university in Warsaw but I also lecture in Kraków as well.  My focus is on Polish history and ethnic cleansing (fun eh?) but am thinking of designing a sports history module for next year so I can combine some of the stuff I do on the blog outside of the digital world.

5) Have you played/worked for any football clubs?

Not really unfortunately. My brother had trials at Lancaster City youth team but I just played for local (pretty bad) sides between the age of 11-16.  I suppose that was interesting but I encountered a lot of bad managers and muddy pitches.  Some friends and I aim to set up a club here in Warsaw but the planning for that is in its early stages.

6) How did you get into it?

I got into blogging as a result of Euro 2012 which was of course held here in Poland.  I’ve always been a football nut and spent too many hours on Championship/Football Manager and the Reading fans’ forum but the blog has really helped me spread my wings.  When the Euros came here I thought I’d contribute in some way to the discussion around the tournament and it’s just blossomed from there really.

I have pretty decent knowledge of Polish culture having lived here for a number of years, I can speak/read the language and know how to do historical research so I can traverse the world of football here pretty well.

7) What do you get out of it?

Lots.  I really enjoy writing and telling tales and for me it’s been another way of deepening my knowledge about Poland in general.  I also love the interaction that you get when you write a blog.  Via it and Twitter I have got in touch with some great people which really enriches the whole experience of being a fan and a writer.

8) What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your stud marks/footsteps?

I’d say just go wherever your interest takes you.  The early days of starting a blog can be daunting.  You feel you’re just writing for yourself, which in essence is true.  But keep going, it really is worth it.  Also I’d say enjoy the social experience around writing a blog, that’s the whole point.  I don’t understand the people who write online and don’t interact with others.  To me that defeats the purpose.

9) If you could do it all again what would you change?

Difficult question.  Not that much to be honest.  I’m happy doing what I am doing, although as most people who write blogs no doubt think, there’s always the question: what next?  I have lots of plans, hopefully some of them will come off.

10) Who’s your footballing hero?

There’s a whole host of players I’ve loved over the years.  Adrian Williams, Phil Parkinson, Steven Sidwell and Kevin Doyle.  I wouldn’t say I have one hero but the Reading sides of 1993-5 and 2005-7 were just brilliant.  It was a real pleasure to be a Reading fan during those years.

Read Chris’ blog at rightbankwarsaw.wordpress.com

Or follow him on Twitter – @rightbankwarsaw

Groundhopping: FC Halifax Town v Guiseley AFC

Distance traveled: 13 mile round trip (plus detours)

FC Halifax Town

Matt Glennon, Sam Patterson, Scott McManus, Simon Ainge, Matty Pearson, Archie Love, Joe Ironside, Adam Smith, Josh Wilson, Kevin Holsgrove & Lois Maynard

Substitutes: Kevin Holsgrove replaced by (Dan Gardner 45 minutes) Matty Pearson off (Jon Worthington 53 minutes) & Joe Ironside off (Paul Marshall  68 minutes)

Guiseley:

Steve Drench, Andy Holdsworth © Rhys Meynall, Jack Rea, Adam Lockwood, Danny Hall, Wayne Brooksby, Danny Boshell, Alex Johnson, Danny Forrest & Gavin Rothery

Substitutes: Alex Johnson (Craig Dobson 76 minutes)

Yellow cards:

FC Halifax Town: Archie Love 62 minutes

Guiseley: Rhys Meynall 28 minutes, Danny Boshell 39 minutes, Danny Hall 49 minutes

Red cards:

None.

Referee: Darren Handley

Attendance: 935 (98 Guiseley fans)

Read more at http://www.halifaxafc.co.uk/news/article/guiseley-report-1175344.aspx#FygWwStTk0wbP2WJ.99

As part of my new groundhopping quest to visit as many local grounds as I can, I made a short trip to Halifax to go to The Shay for FC Halifax Town versus local rivals Guiseley AFC in the FA Trophy.

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Halifax’s North Bridge and flyover

The afternoon didn’t get off to a cracking start, as I made several wrong turns in Halifax’s nightmare road system. I always seem to get lost when I drive in the town centre, despite doing and passing my driving test in Halifax’s Pellon district, due to the paucity of decent signage and confusing road layout – getting onto North Bridge in particular. I have a bit of an altercation with a bus as a result, and then manage to drive past the entrance to The Shay, necessitating another u-turn.

I get there just after 1pm, planning to take a leisurely look around the outside of the stadium, visit the club shop, and maybe get a coffee on the concourse before going up to the seating areas.

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Car Park Ticket

I know that its £3 to park in the car park, and I’m paying £13 to get in, so I go to pay the car park attendant. I’ve only got a £20 note, which would wipe out the lady’s float of pound coins, so I’m instructed to park up and go and pay to get in, get change, then come back and give her the £3. So, off I trot to the reception at The Shay, explain what’s happened, go into the fact that I’m neither a Halifax nor a Guiseley supporter, ascertain that I’m allowed in the home fans seating area, and hand over my £20. I get my change and I’m told to come back to reception and they’ll let me in.

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Welcome to FC Halifax Town

After duly paying the car park attendant, I take a few pictures of the outside of the ground then head back to reception.

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Shay Stadium Reception

The chap I talked to about 5 or so minutes earlier doesn’t recognise me at first, so I have to explain to him again that I’ve already paid my £13. Expecting a ticket or something, I don’t get one and I’m directed up to the third floor where I’m told I’ll be let out onto the seating area, but I’m not to sit anywhere in the last four rows at the back of the stand as these are “reserved for the sponsors”.

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Reserved seating

I see the steward at the door on the third floor, explain to him that I’m not Press and that I’ve paid to get in, and he lets me through. All a bit of a pallaver but at least I’ve got to see behind the scenes at the club, rather than just going through the turnstiles (which were shut when I got there anyway).

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A gentleman of The Press

The only problem is, I’m now the only person in the stand who isn’t Press, a sponsor, or a club official from either team, and I feel a bit of a tool to say the least. I now also can’t kill time in, and potentially buy something from, the club shop.

It’s an hour and a half until kickoff and I’m sat here on my todd, so I start walking round pitchside looking for things to take pictures of.

The Shay is a proper ground, and you can’t just walk round with access to everywhere. Areas are cordoned off by barriers and manned by stewards, used to dealing with big Rugby League crowds.

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The tunnel, and bin bag

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No Standing

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Yellow steps

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Floodlight and new stand construction

I take pictures of what I can, and a steward lets me get pitchside proper and escorts me there so that I can take a picture of the floodlight for Floodlight Fancy. I thank him and I’m on my way walking round taking pictures again.

I fill a decent amount of time doing this and the ground slowly starts to fill up. I feel less self-conscious, and more things start to happen.

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One life one town

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Fans take their seats

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Non-league chips

Photogenic people take their seats, club officials inspect the pitch, players come out to warm up, and a gaggle of massively hyper little girls start to run up and down the stand steps, screaming, and singing along very very loudly to the music on the PA which has burst into life.

It’s really sunny and warm sitting directly in it, but as kick off approaches the sun goes behind the gathering clouds coming in off the moor tops and the temperature drops.

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Town fans

Many of the Town fans are decked out in bright blue hats and blue and white scarves, and the Guiseley faithful start to sing and clap to warm up, in every sense of the word.

Local kids teams and the Halifax Town mascot, Freddy the Fox, escort the players and officials out and, after the customary handshakes, the game gets underway.

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The teams emerge

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Kick off

The first half sees both sides probing the other’s defences, but with little to test either ‘keeper.

The official FC Halifax Town website described the first half like so:

“With FC Halifax lacking zip in their offensive play, Guiseley probed the channels with Johnson gliding and hustling the make-shift centre-back pairing of Lois Maynard and Simon Ainge. With little leigh-way given by either side, the game’s best opening fell to Johnson who failed to plant a telling header at goal, as it trickled harmlessly to Matt Glennon following neat wing-play by Wayne Brooksby.

“Whilst Johnson was making a noteworthy impression on proceedings Kevin Holsgrove, a summer acquisition from Guiseley, was subjected to taunts by the contingent of away fans. As he twice shot in frustration dragging both attempts wide.

“Up the other end Johnson was becoming an increasing nuisance for Maynard and Ainge to thwart as his persistence drew a foul from Ainge. The resulting free-kick from Wayne Brooksby swirled just past Glennon’s near-post.

“Soon after Maynard tried to sheppard the ball out of play but to no avail as Johnson tenaciously nipped in and drilled a cross-cum-shot at goal.

“Josh Wilson another former Lion produced an intricate lofted through ball for Joe Ironside to latch onto, but custodian Steve Drench performed diligently as sweeper. Moments later and a ripple of applause turned to outrage from the Shaymen supporters as referee Darren Handley waved away claims for a Halifax penalty despite Holsgrove’s pass appearing to brush the arm of Adam Lockwood.”

With the first half drawing to a close, and an expected halftime score of 0-0, fans start to trickle down to the stand concourse for the toilets, food and drink. I head down to the toilet first, and hear cheering from the stands. Guiseley have scored. Typical.

“Just as the final stages of the first-half were meandering into a stalemate Johnson’s tireless application was rewarded with a goal, all be it a fortuitous one.

“Springing away from Ainge, Johnson spun and shot in one movement to see his deflected strike loop over the hapless Glennon and into to the left-hand corner.”

After buying a much-needed coffee to take the chill off, for a very reasonable £1 (I don’t sample the pies or the non-league chips), I head back up to take more pictures.
The kids from before the match are playing min five-a-side, and the fans watching cheer sportingly every time a goal is scored, but I’m slightly disappointed not to hear chants of “Sign him up”.
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Freddy the Fox walks the length of the touchline, handing out sweets to the kids on the other side of the barrier, before chucking the remaining contents of his sweet bucket up into the air and heading back into the changing room for his halftime orange segments (or sports drink, whatever the case may be).
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The teams come out for the second half and the match kicks off again.
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“At the turn of the interval the introduction of Dan Gardner appeared to gee up his below-par team-mates as his first early touches of the ball showed the finesse which was lacking in the first-half.

“Yet Guiseley continued to look menacing on the counter-attacks with Johnson leading the line superbly.

“However Halifax almost restored parity only for the under-worked Drench to acrobatically repel a powerful Ainge header from a delightful Gardner corner-kick. But the match continued to irritate Town as possession lacked incision with chances still at a premium.

“On the other hand Guiseley were churning out opportunities as Rhys Meynall coaxed his way past debutant Sam Patterson only for his curling shot to flash beyond the far-post. Nevertheless Craig Hobson a replacement for Johnson, cannoned the ball against the post with the rebound rolling gratefully into the hands of Glennon.

“The visitors soon gave Neil Aspin’s troops another reprieve as Lockwood could only glance his free header wide of goal much to his angst. As precious minutes were beginning to evaporate for FC Halifax Town.

“Adam Smith’s marauding run ended with a sliced effort on goal, Scott McManus then stroked a delicious low ball across the six-yard box with no colleague in support.

“As fourth official Adam Burgess signalled four minutes of stoppage time a Gardner cross was hacked away by Lockwood along with a dangerous Wilson nod down with John Worthington flinging himself at the loose ball.”

Read more at http://www.halifaxafc.co.uk/news/article/guiseley-report-1175344.aspx#FygWwStTk0wbP2WJ.99

With the home fans already starting to leave, to chants of “We can see you sneaking out” from the vocal Guiseley travelling support (who number 98, we are told when the attendance is announced), the players leave the pitch to sporadic and muted applause. Town fans are not happy, but Guiseley march on.
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I head for the exits, take one last photo of the floodlights in full glare, then head home, once again navigating the tortuous Halifax road system.
I’d like to visit The Shay again sometime, and go to the club shop and go in through the turnstiles, but there are plenty of other grounds to visit in the meantime, not least Brighouse Town’s St Giles’ Road (very appropriate).
See Saturday afternoon at The Shay for more pictures from the trip.

The Old Shay, with speedway track

The Beatles played here…