Pre season had been a blast so far. Having seen the likes of Club Brugge, Hearts, Dinamo Bucharest and Otelul Galati in the last few days, we had arrived back in normality. On Saturday we visited Abbey Hey as they welcomed Curzon Ashton to Gorton. Keen to carry on the Curzon Ashton theme, we were off to West Didsbury & Chorlton to see them take on the team from Tameside.
Joe, Aaron and I had agreed to evenly watch our respective teams during pre season. With a trip to Anglesey to watch my team (Atherton Collieries) on Saturday, it was only fair that I joined them at ANOTHER Curzon Ashton match.
I was still feeling rather down after events on the final day of last season. It was between Atherton Collieries and West Didsbury as to who claimed the final promotion place. If we managed to beat Ashton Town at home, and Irlam prevented West Didsbury from winning, then Colls would be promoted.
Colls were winning 4-0 and hoping that Irlam could do us a favour. Going into the final minute, Irlam were holding West Didsbury to a 2-2 draw. Colls were up. We were promoted. All of the hard work had paid off at last! Dare we dream? No. West Didsbury scored a goal in the last minute of extra time to hand them promotion. I was the one who had to break the news to the Colls players. A moment which I still haven’t recovered from. With all of this in mind, I didn’t know whether I could handle a trip to Chorlton just yet.
Nevertheless, Aaron picked me up from home at 18:00 and we slowly made our way to Chorlton. I wasn’t too sure where Chorlton was to be honest. I had guessed it was up past Sale Water Park, but that was as far as it went. As we neared the end of our journey we passed through Stretford. I know Stretford very well as my Dad was brought up on Kings Road. I reminisced about visits to my Nana’s and Grandad’s house on Kings Road when I was younger; playing football in the garden with metrolink trams rattling past was one of my favourites.
Believe it or not, my Dad and Grandad aren’t the most famous people to have lived on Kings Road. The king himself, Morrissey grew up just a few doors down from my Dad. Dennis Violet, Tommy Taylor and Duncan Edwards all lived in and around Kings Road.
So what did Chorlton have to offer in response to that? Not much. A small unknown band called The Bee Gees did live a couple of minutes away from the ground in Chorlton until they moved to Australia in 1958. Bit disappointing really.
Talking about music, “Rogue Traders – Voodoo Child” was now blasting through the car stereo system. I had turned from resident navigator to resident DJ, and it wasn’t long until we got lost. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign saying “Brookburn Road”. We didn’t want a repeat performance of the car nearly rolling over at Wilmslow on Thursday, so Aaron opted to carry on driving before executing a dodgy manoeuvre on somebodies driveway.
Moments passed, and we just couldn’t find the ground. We were on Brookburn Road, but it was nowhere to be seen. Had I foolishly programmed in the wrong place on the GPS? Had the football ground disappeared off the face of the Earth? This had to be the most tucked away ground I had visited.
At the very bottom of the road we saw a small sign perched on a neighbouring fence panel which pointed to the ground. Aaron didn’t know whether his car would make it back up the slight hill which leads down to the ground. Regardless we drove down this mysterious and magical pathway, to the deep abyss which is Brookburn Road.
As we turned the corner, the ground emerged right in front of us. Parking was available on the right; just behind the net. Joe had arrived with his friend Phil – who was far too Southern to be with us for the evening. He was from Bath, which ultimately resulted in us talking about our fascination with Larkhall Athletic.
The entrance to the ground itself is constructed out of a temporary mesh metal fence, with a garden shed used as a turnstile. Complete of course with a resident gate man. He was very welcoming and polite, but didn’t seem convinced when I told him I was given free admission for the evening. Rob, who helps out at the club had been to Atherton Collieries v AFC Liverpool with me the evening before. He had pleaded with me to visit West Didsbury for months, so when he offered me free admission I couldn’t say no. There was one condition though. I had to be photographer for the evening.
It felt a bit like trying to persuade my Mum that it wasn’t me who had left the bath mat in the shower. Eventually though he believed me and let me in. I bought a matchday programme for £2, which I thought was a bit steep. I won’t moan though, I did get in for free and I don’t want to create further animosity between myself and my good friend Rob. Did I mention they prevented us from being promoted?
First impressions of the ground? Very basic and very tidy. There has been substantial work at the club in recent years, with further work imminent as the club work towards their ground grading for the upcoming season. At the far end of the ground is the clubhouse and changing rooms. It looks a bit like a little cricket pavilion, with a couple of rows of covered seating. That’s basically it. The rest of the ground is made of hard standing.
The ground is neighboured by a large field on one side, and some large imposing houses on the other. I was told that the chairman lives in one of the houses and had built a little passageway from his back garden into the ground. It’s almost like having a huge back garden with a football pitch right at the bottom of it.
The club has emerged out of nowhere in recent years. Despite having a 105 year history, the club was only elected to the NWCFL Division One for the 2012/2013 season after successful campaigns in the Manchester League. The club is proud of its history, and this is confirmed when studying the large mural display found in the clubhouse.
Facilities in the clubhouse were superb. The place was clean and there was plenty of natural light coming through the windows. We chose to sit in the corner of the room; being the anti-social students that we are. A large box of matchday programmes tempted me, and I soon found myself rummaging through them. Club Secretary Rob Turley told us we could help ourselves as long as we put a donation into the Development Fund.
Kick off time was fast approaching. I left the clubhouse to find Curzon manager John Flanagan giving his side the Phil Brown treatment. Flanagan had opted to sit all of his players in a circle on the pitch as he ran through his final tactics. It all sounded rather boring and I’m sure I saw one player falling asleep towards the back of the group. There were some new faces in amongst the Curzon squad, with three lads who had caught our eye in particular. Curious as to who they were, we sent Aaron off on a fact finding mission.
Perching ourselves in front of the houses we had a good view of the pitch. I loved the laid back atmosphere at West Didsbury & Chorlton. We were sitting on the grass next to the pitch, enjoying a pint. We were having so much fun that we’d forgotten Aaron had gone missing. When he arrived back with a confident grin on his face we were rather confused.
“Three French lads! Going by the names of Onez, Steve and Marcos”
Well. It certainly made our knocked together team sheet look more exciting. Why had three French lads turned up to play for Curzon? It all seemed a bit odd. Perhaps they weren’t French? Aaron was adamant that they were French, so we began to rustle together some positive French comments that we could offer the trio.
Enough of our French friends for the moment. West Didsbury had emerged from the changing rooms in their white and black home kit. Notable players for them included former Atherton Collieries manager Dave Conlon and more importantly Stephen Brockley. Brock was John Flanagan’s assistant manager at Curzon last season, as well as being a tutor at my college. As I begin my second year of College in September, I sense I’ll have more dealings with Brock as the monster that is General Studies comes into fruition.
Both teams had played a number of fixtures in quick succession in the days leading up to the match, so we weren’t expecting a thriller. It turned out to be a very even game, with both sides having opportunities to score.
The match was ultimately decided with a penalty after what was apparently an iffy refereeing decision. I was too busy urinating over the brand new paint work in the toilets to see what had actually happened. That is a joke of course. I didn’t urinate over the walls. I only did it over the floor.
I was told that West Didsbury defender Stephen Brockley was penalised for handling the ball, before Simon Lakeland scored a great penalty to give Curzon a 1-0 lead. The fact I wasn’t there at the time means I can’t claim the penalty photographs as my own. So to avoid Aaron taking me to court, I must stress that the photographs are his. We did discuss the possibility of taking each other to court over the matter, but it all seemed a bit daft when I pointed out that Aaron would need to give me a lift in his car.
With 20 minutes of the match remaining, John Flanagan threw on his French trio. They began to run the West Didsbury defence ragged with their pace. “Allez Onez! Allez!” shouted some Curzon fans. It must have been a special moment for these players, being taken to the hearts of the British public almost instantaneously.
It was then that the bombshell was dropped. Onez, Steve and Marcos weren’t French. Aaron had well and truly cocked up. The three of them were actually from Ghana, Portugal and Gorton respectively. Even more disappointing was the fact the three of them were subsequently released after the match. Sacre bleu!
As the sun began to set over Chorlton, the match slowly petered out. To use the cliché “it was a typical pre season match” would be fitting. It won’t live long in the memory, but the ground and the hospitable people at the club certainly will do.
Leaving the ground we drove past Chorlton Green. Locals were sat outside, enjoying a drink in front of the green. I can guarantee that if this had been a Saturday 15:00 kick off we’d have got straight out of the car to have a drink – responsibly of course. The next time it is a sunny weekend and I’m at a loose end, I will definitely be going to Brookburn Road followed by a couple of pints in the local pubs which look fantastic.
Overall I enjoyed my evening at West Didsbury and Chorlton. The pain of losing out on promotion still continues, but it has been softened slightly after my visit to Chorlton. The club is run by nice, genuine people and a promotion in their inaugural NWCFL campaign is nothing less than they deserved. Who knows… we may be able to join them in the Premier Division for the 2014/2015 season!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 16.8 miles
- ADMISSION: Free as a photographer
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2
- PIE: N/A