West View is a football ground that can depict northern non-league football from just one photograph. A ramshackle venue, separated from neighbouring ginnels and fields by a dry stone wall. Bacup’s home is a must visit if you consider yourself to be a football purist. I had always maintained that I would only visit Bacup on a sunny day, so I had to wait for the morning of the match to see if I would be making the trip into the hills.
Bacup is a traditional town, hidden away in the borough of Rossendale in Lancashire. It sits just six miles north of Rochdale and is surrounded by open moor and grassland. Despite struggling to cope with de-industrialisation, Bacup has been labelled the best preserved cotton town in England.
Parts of The League of Gentlemen were filmed in and around the area. Despite actually being set in Hadfield, various places were used and considered for filming. Bacup was the furthest west that the comedy was filmed in, and Steve Pemberton once said “Bacup was our hot favourite destination, but it was too frightening – when we arrived there was this cartoon drunk with a bottle shaking his fist at us. Bacup in real life was worse than Royston Vasey.”
My original plan was to go to Colne v Salford City, but Joe refused to go to a Salford match as he “didn’t want to jump on the bandwaggon”. With this comment, it was down to me to find a new match to attend.
“How about Charnock Richard v Ashton Athletic?” – “Is that in Ireland?” – “Sort of, it’s near Chorley”
“How about Bootle v Southport? Sort of a local derby” – “No. That’s not appealing”
“Rhyl v Warrington? Or there’s Prestatyn v Hyde?” – “Let’s try and stay in this country shall we?”
“Ermmmm… Bacup v Ashton United?” – “I like the look of that. Looks like a stranger version of Mossley and the pie looks incredible. We’re going there!”
With that settled, I went on to explain to Joe that I wouldn’t be going if it was raining, he told me to “get a grip” and to “take some waterproofs and wellies and pretend it was Glastonbury”. He got a bit of a shock when he came to pick me up and I had a tent and large flagpole ready to take along to Bacup.
The tent actually seemed like quite a sensible idea. The weather changes so quickly up in Bacup that you could be watching the match, basking in sunshine one minute and then a snow drift will submerge the ground the next. I felt it would provide a bed for the evening in the event that we became stranded. I was then reminded that we’d have a car and that a tent wasn’t needed.
We picked Chris up and then set off for Bacup… or Rossendale. I couldn’t remember which town the ground was in. Fortunately the weather held out as we headed north. At one stage of the drive we passed Rawtenstall Cricket Club where there was a match taking place. I really wanted to stop there for the afternoon. I felt there was no better way to spend the day than watching a nice relaxing game of cricket with a pint of cider.
We arrived in Bacup at around 14:00 and parked in a neighbouring street as the area around the ground was already full. The purpose of arriving early was so we could enjoy a pint at a local pub before watching the football. Unfortunately, there were no pubs near the ground but there was however the local cricket club. Even better was the fact that Bacup were playing against Lowerhouse, a team from Padiham. We paid £2 admission and headed straight to the bar where we bought a pint of cider each.
Lowerhouse were fielding when we arrived, but their players seemed more interested in staying close to the clubhouse to keep up to date with the England v India score. Jimmy Anderson – who once plied his trade against both Bacup and Lowerhouse in the Lancashire League for Burnley – was in the process of breaking the record for the highest 11th wicket partnership in test history with Joe Root. Not only did he set that record, he smashed his previous best batting total of 49 (which came for Burnley against Todmorden), hitting an impressive 81.
There wasn’t much to report from the cricket that we saw before we headed off to the football, with just the one boundary in 40 minutes of play. The football ground was only a short walk from the cricket, that close in fact that we could keep up to date with wickets throughout the afternoon as we could hear the tannoy system.
The entrance to the football ground is found down a small ginnel which leads down an alleyway behind the back of a row of terraced houses. Turnstiles weren’t needed as the match was a donation based one, with quite a sizeable crowd turning out. I immediately loved the ground, even if parts of it literally were falling apart.
Founded in 1875 as Bacup FC, the club is one of the oldest in local non-league football. The first match played at West View came in 1889 when Accrington Stanley played in front of over 1,000 spectators. The club became Bacup Borough in 1920, before a further name change to Bacup & Rossendale Borough occurred in 2013 (BARB for short).
The latest name change aimed to widen the catchment area of the football club. Historically, Bacup Borough and Rossendale United existed within the same valley. However, Rossendale United were expelled from the NWCFL and later dissolved in 2011. There were plans to restart the team for the 2012/13 season, but fire broke out at the Dark Lane ground meaning there was no way back for the club. With no other club in the local area, Bacup incorporated Rossendale into their name. Originally, the name was set as Bacup of Rossendale Borough, but this was soon changed.
In the lead up to the match, I had joked on Twitter saying that I wanted a selfie with Bacup manager Brent Peters. The man quite literally is Bacup & Rossendale Borough. He took over as manager at West View in 1997 and has been at the club ever since. The vast majority of people in local non-league circles know of Brent, and rightly so. The man is a passionate ambassador for the game, and even though we may have a laugh about some of his long winded stories and analogies at times the NWCFL wouldn’t be the same without him.
Brent’s side had struggled last season, finishing second bottom which is a relegation place. However, due to other clubs folding both above them and below them in the pyramid they received a reprieve to remain in the NWCFL Premier for another season.
The visitors for the afternoon, Ashton United had made it into the Northern Premier League play-off final at the end of last season, only to be beaten by AFC Fylde on penalties.
It was Ashton who took the lead after just four minutes after a Bacup defender was adjudged to have handled in the area. Lee Rick stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
The next opportunity fell to Bacup after good play in midfield from Andrew Gamble. He spread the ball out well to Janaid who broke forward before acrobatically firing the ball over the goal into the neighbouring field. It was left to a group of equally acrobatic children to scale the dry stone wall to retrieve the ball; something which I could only dream of doing with my arthritic joints.
Minutes later and Bacup were level. The ball was pumped forward from the back and Adrian Bellamy flicked on for new signing Yves Zamma. The striker’s first touch saw the ball lobbed over the Ashton United goalkeeper from about 25 yards into the back of the net.
Both sides looked equal in the first half, so it seemed a bit unfair that Ashton went in a goal to the good after a mistake by Gamble. He passed a free kick across the width of the pitch, where it was intercepted by Ahmadi who broke free and passed the ball into the bottom right hand corner.
At half time we headed into the clubhouse, which from the outside doesn’t look too inviting. After performing the limbo under a washing line which is used to dry the kits we stepped into the bar area. On the door there was an advert advertising the Premiership Pie, as seen on Sky Sports News. You could smell the pie, and I was tempted but I’m doing football on a budget over the summer until I go to Belgium, so no pie on this occasion unfortunately. I am told that is fantastic and a must have when watching BARB.
The first room in the clubhouse was like a Bacup football museum. No wall space remained after a large collection of team photographs and other memorabilia had been put on display. It looked fantastic.
The second half started quite slowly with the only attempts on goal coming from distance. That was until the 64th minute when BARB equalised for the second time. Zamma set off down the wing and carried the ball into the area before squeezing the ball past Ashton’s goalkeeper at the near post. Quite how the goalkeeper let it in I will never know.
By this stage we were sat on the dry stone wall, enjoying both the views and the football that was on show. Ashton United won a free kick 25 yards out from goal and Tuaniebe curled it into the top right hand corner with his left foot. A great free kick and one which deserved to win the match.
With the football over, we headed back to the cricket ground to watch the remainder of the evening’s play. It had been a fantastic day in Bacup, made even better with the weather and the two sports we managed to squeeze in. I’ll definitely be back at West View at some stage, hopefully treating myself to a pie or two… or three…
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 28 miles
- ADMISSION: £2 + £2 for the cricket
- PROGRAMME PRICE: N/A