Despite having spent three years living in Liverpool I’d never made it over the water to watch the Wirrall-based Tranmere Rovers. Then, the opportunity arose at the weekend to visit Prenton Park for the first time. Not only did we have complimentary tickets in the Platinum Suite, but the game would also see the visit of Chester, fierce local rivals.
Salford City gained notoriety thanks to the BBC documentary “Out of their League” following the Class of ’92 takeover. Televised FA Cup ties against league opposition Notts County and Hartlepool garnered further press attention, meaning that Salford became one of the most talked-about non-league clubs in the country.
The mythical crown of the “hotbed of football” is often banded about and laid claim to by many. Depending on the success of the clubs at the time, or with whom you are talking, it could be Manchester, the North-East or London. And then there is Liverpool. The city on the banks of the Mersey dominated English football in the 1970s and 1980s, when between them Everton and Liverpool amassed thirteen league titles, six continental trophies and four FA Cups. Liverpool were the team to beat and it is also thought that if it wasn’t for the ban given to English clubs following the 1985 disaster at Heysel, Everton would have gone on to achieve greater things.
The two giants, separated by Stanley Park, may not currently be England’s dominant clubs, but their combined history speaks of a huge footballing pedigree in the city. It is therefore staggering to think that, Liverpool and Everton aside, there are no other teams from the city, in the professional or semi-professional game. Tranmere Rovers and a plethora of non-league clubs may circle Liverpool, but all of them fall outside of the city limits. Given the contribution that the city of Liverpool has made to English football, and the Scouse players and managers that can be found throughout the football pyramid, this is truly amazing. Last year, it was announced that there would be a new kid on the block, City of Liverpool FC. Playing in purple, the city’s civic colours and not just a convenient mix of Liverpool’s red and Everton’s blue, City of Liverpool aim to fill that void and provide affordable football for the city’s inhabitants, many of whom have been priced out of Premier League football.
A New Years resolution of mine was to try and visit a new football ground once a month over the course of the year. Given the plethora of non-league teams in Greater Manchester and the surrounding areas this shouldn’t be a problem. The first choice was Bower Fold, home of Stalybridge Celtic, about 30 minutes drive from door-to-door.
For somebody who has had the good fortune to support a team that has become one of the wealthiest and most entertaining on earth, it is occasionally easy to forget the roots of one’s own football support. When I was first going to games aged six or seven, my team (Manchester City) were a team in England’s third tier. Going to games for months and years after my first trip was to trudge to Maine Road via Claremont (still the best chips and gravy) and watch a performance full of guts, mud and chaos. At least, that is how my mind has reconstructed those past seasons. In the midst of the current joys of Aguero, Silva et al, my earliest footballing memories are increasingly reconstructed as a different game, a different life and a different world.
Following the success of local non-league sides Salford City and Altrincham in the FA Cup first round, it was hoped that FC United of Manchester could follow in their footsteps ahead of the visit of League One side Chesterfield. The match was overshadowed by a row between the club and the FA as the cup organisers moved the game to a Monday night, to be screened live on BT Sports. FC United declared that “football isn’t a tv show” and the FA basically replied “it’s our way or the highway”.
By Dan Williamson (@winkveron)
I don’t normally approve of the move from the traditional Saturday 3pm kick off, especially at non-league level, but I actually found it quite exciting to finish work on a Friday and head straight to the football. Apparently GMP moved the game so it didn’t clash with Man City’s game on Saturday. Yes, I have no idea either. Anyway, 3,600 other people agreed with me, going to Broadhurst Park to watch FC United of Manchester take on Worcester City under the floodlights. Former Premier League striker Lee Hughes took the limelight in the first half, showing his class with a nice finish from the edge of the box, before showing his darker side by getting himself sent off for grabbing Dean Stott around the throat. In the second half FC pressed for the equaliser but despite the efforts just couldn’t produce the quality required. Worcester brought on former Jamaica international Deon Burton as substitute and hit FC on the break towards the end to wrap up a good 2-0 win for them.