Saturday 8th September 2017, Western League First Division
[Disclaimer: Due to the sheer amount of football and beer Daz and myself consumed over the last 72 hours, I have a lot of posts to write and a lot of the finer details of the actual matches have sort of merged into one. As a result expect the following three posts to be shorter and crapper than you're used to.]
It's that time again ladies and gentlemen. After some very memorable trips together, including a weekend in the west midlands, the Ireland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales (kind of) extravaganza and last year's Bristol and Clevedon bank holiday bash among others, it was time for my friend and rival Daz Knapton and I to hit the road once more. This jaunt was to be our most voluminous yet as we would be joining the Grand Days Out Network's Western League groundhop and attending seven games in just three days. We'd be visiting a fair amount of old favorites as well as three new grounds for myself and five for Daz. As a warm-up on the Friday I returned to Ashton and Backwell to watch the Stags overcome Bishop Sutton 2-1, you can read Daz's report of that here. The next morning we got up bright and early and headed to Weston to grab the coach. While we were waiting we encountered one of Weston's many and varied drunken eccentrics, a chap named Wayne who had wandered into the hotel from the street and proceeded to spend five minutes forcing us to guess his name via the medium of charades. A hearty sigh of relief was sighed by both of us when we didn't get on the bus.
The second match of the trip was another familiar ground in the form of Welton Rovers, where the boys in green won a 3-1 victory over Keynsham Town in their bid to re-enter the Western League Premier. A quick minibus jaunt later and we were in the home of Welton's arch-rivals Radstock Town the Southfields Recreation Ground.
When we arrived the clubhouse was already a hive of groundhopping furor, with badge and programme swapping galore and reams of peculiar old gentlemen crowding the doorways to meticulously note down the line-ups. After grabbing a pint and a new Rovers badge off the venerable Terry's Badges, I meandered out into the bright autumn afternoon. Radstock, like their Coalfield Classico counterparts have been in the Western League since time immemorial but Welton get bragging rights for not falling into the Somerset County League for a decade like Radstock did in the 90s. However neither team have ventured any higher than the Western Premier in 130 years. Welton groundshared with Radstock for one season in 1961 while West Clewes was having it's pitch leveled.
Without diving into some very dusty, specialist Western League tomes I couldn't tell you how long The Miners have been at their current digs but by the look of the grand old wooden stand that makes up the only covered viewing area in the ground, I'd wager it's a pretty long time. The stand is made up of six large wooden steps that you can sit or stand on, enclosed by brick sides and a corrugated iron roof. The whole thing is held up by mighty metal girders painted bright red, the club colour. If old pictures are anything to go by then the stand has had a bit of an update in the last decade to make it less ramshackle but is still a lovely traditional centrepiece. I say centrepiece but the stand is really all there is to the ground, aside from a tiny bit of shelter overhanging the clubhouse exterior.
The ground was a picture of autumnal beauty in the early afternoon sun. The leaves that covered vast swathes of the pitch probably weren't conducive to a slick-passing playing surface but they certainly looked sweet. I was starting to get too pissed to care about the quality of football anyway. Much to the chagrin of our coach-mate Willie, who would tut patriarchally every time he clocked Daz and I staggering about with a fresh pint. In fairness to the chap I did manage to make a twat of myself early doors by sitting on the white wall by the pitch to get a side-on picture of the action, not realising it had been painted for the occasion and spending the rest of the day with an even whiter than usual arse. I'd like to give a shout out to the facilitator of this drunken horseplay, the lady on the bar who was working it on her 40th birthday. A true legend of the non-league.
Other than that, the only other recountable feature of the ground is the fact that if you want to stand behind the far goal, you have to in fact leave the ground and go behind the chain-link fence of the neighboring park. I discovered this when I struck up a conversation with a chap in a Rovers jacket from about 20 feet who I initially thought was just getting a sneaky free show. We mutually expressed doubt that Rovers' international duty back-up defenders would stand much chance away at Northampton that day. Jokes on us though because they won 6-0.
The main reason for this chat was probably the fact that the game unfolding before us wasn't exactly a classic. In fact the single goal of the 90 was an admittedly impressive own goal from Oldland, the result of an outfield player responding to a ball bouncing slowly into the 6 yard box by rushing back and panickedly lobbing it into the roof of his own net. Other than that the only other action was a Radstock player getting absolutely munched right in front of us in the second half with a turf-ruining slide tackle.
With nothing much else to say on this one, I'm going to dive right into the tomfoolery. During the first half, a lady came round with a bucket and asked Daz to draw the raffle. This was awkward as even with the much-inflated attendance of 213, it seemed a distinct possibility that he was going to draw himself and be forced to sheepishly carry a prize four pack of Thatchers back to his seat past the accusing eyes of everyone in the ground. Fortunately, he pulled out the ticket of the bloke sat directly behind us so instead we were momentarily very popular. Also the ref had bleached blond hair like he was in a 00's nu-metal band.
All-in-all another good addition to the old Western League tally and the mere tip of the iceberg for this long weekend of Somerset silliness.
|Because there is always a playground at a Western League ground.|