It was my third week as a University student in York and I was beginning to get more adventurous. I had struggled immersing myself in the local culture as I don’t have a TV license. As a result I have been deprived of popular shows such as ITV Calendar and BBC Look North, missing out on much needed local news stories… or national stories with a local slant. I could imagine back home for instance Roger Johnson is currently talking about how a dog owner in Knowsley once shook hands with an ebola sufferer whilst on holiday in Gambia. Enough about the local news and back to my current geographical location. I had visited Selby Town of the NCEL on my first day up here, but that was easy. It’s only down the road. I needed something more exciting and more risky. “How about a trip to Parkgate on the coach with Tadcaster Albion?” I was asked. Without a moments hesitation I signed up and was booked on the coach from York.
I was really looking forward to the evening because I spent two glorious seasons managing Parkgate on Football Manager before I resigned and ultimately sent the club into turmoil. I had the likes of Shelton Payne, Michael Oates and Michael Norton at Parkgate with me, but I soon switched to NWCFL side Colne and I didn’t look back… until I had to give up management to concentrate on my A-Levels. A tip for all A-Level students, do not take control of a non-league side on Football Manager… You WILL have to repeat your first year. I don’t care how much fun you have taking Parkgate to the First Round Proper of the FA Cup; it will get you nowhere in life.
I knew very little about Parkgate in real life. I guessed they played in red and I knew they were from Rotherham way after searching for them back in the day. Usually I’d do some homework on clubs that I’m visiting, but I had been that busy I didn’t bother so I was quite excited as to what lay in store for me. There was no need to be worried on the trip to South Yorkshire as we were in the capable hands of our coach driver who I think we’d all agree had a bit of a nightmare.
After my lecture in the afternoon I headed towards Acomb Green which is a bit of a walk from York city centre. It took me exactly an hour to reach the pick up point where a York Pullman coach was waiting for a handful of Tadcaster fans. I met up with Ben and Haydn and we boarded the coach. The driver’s first words were “Are you a football club then, yeah?”.
After explaining to him that we weren’t a group of netball enthusiasts we were soon on our way to the next stop which was Tadcaster’s ground. I had never seen the place before so was delighted to find out it is nestled in the middle of the famous John Smiths brewery. I can’t wait to watch a match at Taddy at some stage.
We had been told that we would be picking up “somebody dressed as a captain” when we arrived at Tadcaster, but I thought it was a joke of some sort. Captain Chickers soon boarded and gave the travelling army of Taddy fans a salute as we pressed on to Rotherham. It wasn’t long before the brand new Taddy songs were being played through the speakers and remarkably Chickers was the lead singer. The week previously, Chickers had gone into the recording studio with the players and recorded two Tadcaster Albion songs. The first (and my favourite) was a cover of “Glad All Over” with the words changed to “Tad All Over” and the other was a version of “Tom Hark” called “We All Love Tad”.
The songs were played on loop throughout the journey and they obviously disorientated the coach driver who managed to miss the exit for Parkgate by two junctions. There could be various explanations for this; either he didn’t know where he was going, he thought we were going to Rotherham United v Blackburn Rovers as we ended up at the New York Stadium OR he wanted to drive past one of Rotherham’s more popular attractions which claims to be “Europe’s Largest Sexy Superstore”.
With around 15 minutes to go before kick off we eventually arrived at the ground. Parkgate is a suburb of Rotherham; found to the north. The football club was formed in 1969 as BSC Parkgate (British Steels Corporation) by the Parkgate Steelworks Wire Department who were four times winners of the National Wire Drawers Cup; the World Cup of the wire world. The club changed their name to RES Parkgate (Rotherham Engineering Steels) in 1990, before a further change came four years later to the current title.
The coach driver dumped us at the top of a road which sloped down to the Roundwood Sports Complex. Racist graffiti littered the walls. Even worse; it was spelt incorrectly. Never mind, at least the coach driver was able to put his head down for a couple of hours before we embarked on a daft journey home.
The Sports Complex is home to a golf course which is said to be amongst the best in South Yorkshire. A local golfer in the clubhouse told me to say this in return for allowing me to charge my phone behind the bar; I kept my promise. If you fancy 18 holes of golf and don’t want “to pay loads like that other place up the road” then get down to Roundwood with your golf sticks and pyjama bottoms.
Rotherham United also use Roundwood as their training ground, with a small but well kept pitch sitting just beneath Parkgate’s surface which is hidden by a large hedge. The vegetation was lit up by the floodlights which were towering above the houses which back on the complex.
The entrance to the ground is at the near end and this is where a small seated area can be found. Other seating can be found on a brick wall at the other end of the ground, where you can watch the match leaning against somebodies garden fence. The only other part of the ground which is worth mentioning is a small shed which the Tadcaster fans made home for the evening.
Going into the match Worksop Town were at the top of the NCEL Premier with Tadcaster Albion hot on their heels just two points behind. Parkgate meanwhile were in 14th and it was clear to see why on this performance. They simply didn’t look good enough to get anything from this match. Having said that, Tadcaster were impressive and new recruit Jonathan Greening linked up well with his team mates.
In fact, the local ITV News crew had arrived at Parkgate to do a feature on Jonathan Greening who lined up alongside his younger brother for Taddy. It basically outlined how he has gone from playing for Manchester United to plying his trade in the NCEL. The story goes that the move was arranged over face time. Technology eh?
The first opportunity of the match came on ten minutes when Jonathan Greening crossed into Nick Thompson, but his effort fell just wide. Four minutes later and the Brewers did take the lead when Paddy Miller bulleted a header into the top left hand corner from a precise cross.
Parkgate found themselves two goals behind on 20 minutes when Thompson dispatched the ball into the bottom corner from ten yards out.
The home side were awarded a spot kick five minutes later when the attacker was brought down as he burst through on goal. There was a large stoppage for treatment, but the penalty was eventually taken and Ross Shelton sent Tom Morgan the wrong way.
With one minute of normal time left to play the referee awarded Tadcaster a penalty. The contact between the two players seemed minimal, with the official citing a shirt pull as the reason for awarding the spot kick. Callum Wood stepped up and easily beat Danny Morton.
A minute later and Tadcaster were awarded another penalty. This time there were no complaints… that was until the kick was taken. We had by this stage played well over the number of minutes initially signalled by the referee for added time; this was his reason for his next decision. Josh Barrett composed himself and saw his tame effort saved by the goalkeeper. As Barrett pounced on the rebound and put it in the back of the net the referee blew for full time. I am told it is the letter of the law, but to me it seems totally stupid. Only the assessor would have known this rule and it was done for his benefit.
The second half saw the visitors completely dominate. It could have been about 10-1 given the amount of crosses which only needed the faintest of touches to guide them into the back of the net. As it stood, Tadcaster had to wait until the 80th minute to further extend their lead. Thompson it was who rounded a static Parkgate defence to secure all three points.
At the end of the match the Captain was on hand to lead the travelling Taddy fans in a rendition of Tad All Over. This went down well with the Albion players who came over and applauded the core of fans who had got behind their side for the entire evening.
The result sent Tadcaster to the top of the Premier Division, so a good atmosphere was on show on the coach going back home. Ben, Haydn and I had the unpleasant task of waking the bus driver up from his sleep when we walked back up the hill. He was sprawled across two seats and all we could see was a foot. We weren’t sure whether we were in an opening scene of New Tricks. Thankfully we weren’t, but on a side note I’m sure Dennis Waterman would love to write a Tadcaster song with the captain.
We left Parkgate slightly later than planned. Not to worry, we could make up some time if the coach driver pulled his finger out. Unfortunately, he performed about as well as Bolton Wanderers under Dougie Freedman and we soon arrived at a low bridge that we couldn’t pass. Women were undertaking us on the pavements of Rotherham and a twelve point turn in a council estate was the outcome.
Arriving back at Acomb Green I was preparing myself for the hour walk back to York city centre. Thankfully one of the Tadcaster fans offered me a lift back to my flat; a lovely thing to do. I say he was a fan, he later revealed to me that he was the chairman so it’s a good job I was complimentary about the club or I may have been banned from Yorkshire football before I had even started!
Overall, it was a good night. The match was entertaining and it was nice to be able to visit a part of the world I wouldn’t usually venture to if following a NWCFL side. I’ve already had some abuse from the Atherton Collieries lot about leaving them behind; ditching them for Tadcaster. As much as I love the songs they sing and the fact they’re led by a captain I can ensure everybody that my blood still remains black and white. I will however be following Taddy whenever I have a free weekend and when there is an evening match that I can get to. They’re a great club who seem to have an ever growing fan base… a bit like my beloved Collieries. Since writing this I’ve also been to Heanor Town with them and can’t wait for the next opportunity to watch them!
It’s still a premature stage in my University life but I think I may have found my adopted Yorkshire team.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 51 miles (from York)
- ADMISSION: £3 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £1