AFC Alsager 3 Goldenhill Wanderers 2
Staffordshire County Senior League – Division Two
August 16th is a date that has stuck in my head since I was a seven year old child.
It would be the Summer of 1980, we were on holiday in Weymouth, and back then it was always a huge family holiday with Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cats, pot plants, the lot! I’m not sure exactly how it happened but I managed to get my hands on a Panini sticker book, Football 80 it was called, and over the space of a week I’d assembled quite a collection of stickers.
Upon returning from holiday more stickers arrived until a decision was reached to order the final few, or final 150 in my case, direct from Panini. You could only order 50 per household so we had to utilise the extended family to make such a purchase, but within the specified 28 days all packages had arrived and the sticker book was complete.
It didn’t end their though because the football fascination had started, players names, club nicknames, grounds and final league placings in 1979-80 (yes, I had memorised the order of the 22 clubs in the old First Division!)
One thing troubled me though, why was that team my Dad used to go and watch no longer in the First Division? My knowledge of league placings had ascertained that Derby County had finished second to bottom, with Bolton Wanderers below them and Bristol City above them. Five years after winning the league they were now in the Second Division, and had been replaced by Leicester City, Sunderland and Birmingham City. Something was clearly wrong in the World!
Derby’s relegation was something of a story given the clubs recent history, and the mantra coming out of the Baseball Ground was “We’ll be back in 81!”. T Shirts, scarves, flags, you name it, they all had the bold statement emblazoned across them, watch out Division Two, the Rams are going to tear you apart!
I couldn’t wait, plans were afoot for a birthday treat in the November to attend my first game, against QPR, but all eyes were on the opening day of the season, August 16th 1980, Cambridge United v Derby County
I can remember getting up that morning, beside myself with excitement. Breakfast was duly wolfed down and still in my pyjamas I ran along the lane to the Grandparents house.
“When will the football results be out?”
“The games don’t start until 3 o’clock Neil!”
So that was the first learning experience, I had no idea what time games kicked off, but from that moment it was embedded, 3pm on a Saturday.
The game came and went, I listened to second half commentary on Radio Derby, it had been a disaster, the Rams went down 3-0. The season was a failure, sixth place was the final outcome, promotion never ever a possibility, but my first game was a cracker, a 3-3 draw at the BBG with QPR. I was so upset when my Mum and Dad agreed to let me stay up to watch it on Match of the Day, only to fall asleep and miss it. No video recorders in those days! You can now watch it on You Tube though.....
So 16th August is the day when I truly discovered football, and every so often I go to a game that falls on that date, and when that happens it always feels special, and to me, no matter how many games I’ve been to previously in a season, and no matter what day of the week it is, it always feels like the opening day again.
|Alsager On Opening Day|
Tonight’s game, well it’s been on the radar for a little while but only provisionally due to some debate as to where it would take place.
I saw AFC Alsager last season when they played at the MMU complex on Hassall Road, but at the end of last season it was announced that MMU were shutting the site down. When the directories came out, AFC were still on Hassall Road, but at Alsager Leisure Centre which is directly opposite MMU.
|The Shadows Lengthen|
Local knowledge was contradictory, some suggested the new location was indeed totally different to MMU, while others suggested that the Leisure Centre had taken over the land that the MMU sports facilities were on. However, the club confirmed, it was a new location, so it was worthy of a visit.
The Leisure Centre is next to Alsager School and in fact it’s essentially the same place. I parked in the car park just off Hassall Road and ended up having to walk a fair way through the complex to the far end to find the football pitch. In hindsight I would have been better using the entrance on Lodge Road, which those with local knowledge had the foresight to do!
I wasn’t expecting much with it being a Leisure Centre but I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised. Because the pitches are a long way removed from the buildings and set into an enclave that is surrounded by trees, it felt more like a park. The pitch was roped, but the proximity of the large trees gave it more of an enclosed feel. No furniture to speak of, but the pitch was flat and in good condition.
|It'll Be Covered In Leaves By October.....|
The first half was very good indeed. Alsager took the lead early via a close range header, but a cheeky back heel and a fantastic 25 yard free kick saw visiting Goldenhill take the lead. A neat individual goal scored from a tight angle made the scores 2-2 by the half time interval. Alsager’s key threat was pace, they had a couple of players who could skip past opponents with ease, it was great to watch at times.
The second half was poor by comparison, Alsager took the lead but no further goals followed. Goldenhill piled on the pressure but a combination of solid defending and poor finishing saw the points stay in Alsager. It got a bit fractious in the second period, the game became punctuated with stoppages and free kicks, plus the obligatory substitutions.
Away by 8.20, home for 9.30, and no road issues tonight for a change. It appears that according to a great many, football was invented 25 years ago today when the Premier League started. How wrong can the blinkered masses be, everyone knows it started on 16th August 1980!
|White Lines (Don't Do It)|