ATT: circa 40
Additional: Entrance £2.00, Programme NONE
Birches Head Road in pictures
Abbey Hulton United is my nearest ground, and despite it not fitting in with my loosely laid down ‘rules’ of only visiting grounds with a stand and floodlights, I couldn’t resist popping along. It was my first ever English game at a venue without lights or stand. Maybe this signifies a worsening of my ground addiction – is this the scag cut with chalk and talcum powder?
I had driven past the ground on numerous occasions, but it was only recently that I’d thought about watching a game there – I did wonder about things like entrance price, programmes and refreshments at this level. So it was one Saturday when events conspired to give me a few spare hours in the afternoon that I dipped my head below the step six threshold of my own devising and popped it out at Birches Head Road. I could have cycled there, with the ground situated next to the Cauldon Canal which I can access at the bottom of the hill from my house. To make life easier I drove the short distance and parked in their ample car park.
A sandwich board on the path in announced the gate price of £2, answering one of my questions. I think that is the going rate for the Staffs County Senior League. One of the green huts next to the entrance was a bar of sorts, selling drinks and taking one’s entrance money. The other was the changing rooms. The refreshment bar, selling snacks and drinks, was a surprise – I had prepared a flask of coffee.
I don’t know a lot about the hosts, except that they were founded in 1947 – the same year as the visitors, Foley FC, also from Stoke-on-Trent. This was a Staffs County Senior League tie, a step seven league that feeds in to the North West Counties League, should a ground make the grade. In the league at present Hanley Town, Ball Haye Green and Foley have ideas to progress upwards in the near future.
The ground is framed on one side by the canal and on the other by Redhills Road, a tree lined country road that is an excellent shortcut to avoid Milton traffic lights in rush hour. The ground banks nicely at the canal side giving good views at the top. There are no stands, just the perimeter bar, but standing on the bank gave me a nice angle for a panorama shot.
Abbey Hulton were lying in about fifth before the game. I didn’t realise at the time but Foley had lost all their 14 league games. I’m guessing there may be problems at a club that is normally a good contender. They didn’t look 0 0 14 bad in the game and only narrowly lost in the end, grabbing a penalty back shortly into the secon half.
Some of the finishing was woeful, but it’s difficult to judge how good a step seven league this is with virtually no frame of reference. Both teams had their moments of skill but the football was oft-times fairly dire. For £2 however, it was good value for money and a reasonable crowd of 40ish as compared to step six crowds.