|Ground||Coppice Colliery Ground|
|Date||Tuesday 1st January 2008|
|League||Midland Combination Premier|
|Haycock 1, Eatley 8, Haysley 44,84, Meakin 74|
|Entrance £3 Programme £1.00 Coffee: 50p|
is always a bonus when a ‘hop’ has that extra bit of uniqueness.
Brocton, from just south of Stafford, have been sharing with Heath Hayes for four years.
They moved here in order to make the jump to the Midland Combination, which comprises several divisions starting at step six with the Premier division of which today’s sides are members. The Midland Combination is very Birmingham and West Midland centred, with the odd tentacle extending out to Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire.
To me the league seems to have rarer sounding teams than other step six leagues (such as the North West Counties League). Most of them sound like Sunday League sides – Brereton Social, Continental Star, Loughborough University, Massey Ferguson, Cadbury Athletic!
Brocton hope to be moving back to nearer home for next season as they recently took lease of the derelict Old Police Sports Ground in Stafford, and having secured substantial funding, are in the process of refurbishing it and installing floodlights for next season. So that’s a new venue for hoppers to look out for next year.
Brocton FC were founded in 1937 and have had success in many minor leagues but where they are now is the highest level they have played at. The village of Brocton is tiny with a population of just 1,052 according to the 2001 census. Their landlords and today’s opponents Heath Hayes were founded in 1965 and moved in 2006 from the West Midlands Regional League Premier division.
The ground is down Newlands Lane in Heath Hayes, just east of Cannock. One enters through a proper non-league car park – mud, gravel and grass with the odd tree for good measure. It was surprisingly full when I arrived at 2.35 and even had a man directing parking.
Next to the welcome sign (see pic above)was a locked agricultural looking gate, with a small opening to the side to walk through, where you are greeted by a very pleasant man sat outside a little structure, taking gate money and issuing programmes. Entry was very cheap at £3, with the programme making it £4. Momentarily distracted, the man gave me the wrong change, but was so pleasant and English about it that it was apparent he would have given me £9 back if I’d asked for it, purely in the name of politeness and etiquette. Good to see these old fashioned values haven’t completely disappeared from the money-ravaged game.
The agricultural gate certainly seemed apt when seeing the pitch, which looked more like a ploughed field, or at best a school pitch after sports day. It was cut up to a wonderful degree bringing back memories of old FA Cup matches such as Hereford V Newcastle, with Ronnie Radford’s shirt riding halfway up his back whilst celebrating and kids with Parka jackets running on the pitch.
Whilst marvelling at the pitch I walked up the urbanised side of the ground to find a coffee. There wasn’t a snack bar in the traditional sense open today, but taking a left after going through the tunnel inside the small main stand brings you to a room where a lovely lady made me a coffee in a proper mug, even asking me how strong I liked it, before spooning the coffee in.
When she and this other bloke wheedled out the fact that I was a groundhopper they said it was on the house! Hospitality indeed – it was like going to your Nan’s house; although I smirked afterwards at getting it free on account of being a groundhopper; that I was somehow to be taken pity on! Poor groundhopper – what they have to go through! They even ‘fixed me up’ with another groundhopper they said they’d met, by calling him back to meet me. I gave them £1 at half time for the second cup which they protested at but I insisted. It was the friendliest and cheapest club I have been to.
There were quite a few in as you’d expect from this fixture. The crowd should have been guessable by adding together both teams’ average crowds and adding on an extra 2 groundhoppers, attracted by the derby atmosphere!
The main side had two covered stands, the first long and narrow housing about 50 seats in two rows,(see above) and the second, the main stand, was a squat affair with 38 seats one side and 18 the other (which would have been 24 but one row was missing). In the middle of this was a tunnel leading off to the tea room and the hospitality room, which was definitely standing room only at half time.
The building in the middle of the picture was the changing rooms, where I incidentally wandered into looking for a coffee. My transgression was met only with amusement at a couple of officials exiting the building.
The rest of the ground, like so many at this level was just one level standing behind the perimeter bar. Surrounding two thirds of the ground were trees and woodland with the side opposite the main stand having a very attractive row of trees with varying heights to produce a curvature. I’m not sure if this is the Coppice spoken of in the grounds name.
Brocton were lying in fifth position before the game with ‘visitors’ Heath Hayes lying in fifteenth. However, the way Heath Hayes started would suggest that their manager sent them to bed before the chimes of Big Ben struck the night before. Anyone would have thought they were the home side as they scored in under a minute and made it two with an absolute belter on eight.
Home side and favourites Brocton were dumbstruck and lumbered around regretting that extra glass of champagne, after Jools Holland’s Hootenanny had finished. They did start getting into it and deservedly got one back. They missed quite a string of chances which would have got them right back in it before Heath Hayes struck again before half time.
They defended their lead very well in the second half in what was a very professional showing and made the most of an absent Brocton defence twice more, to produce the shock of the day in the Midland Combination Premier. The landlords whipped their tenants in a fashion that hasn’t been seen since the days of workhouses.
Behind the other goal.
Photo Album for Brocton here