September 13th 2014, the day a new chapter in my life started. It was the morning that I moved to York to embark upon three years at University. I had been given a move in slot on the Saturday morning meaning I wouldn’t be able to make Atherton Collieries’ away match at Chadderton. I was disappointed to say the least; it looked like a weekend without football. That was until groundhopper Graeme told me he’d be going to watch Selby and offered me a lift there. Now, many of you will be thinking I am completely mad…. just like my parents were… but I just can’t turn down the opportunity to watch football, even if it is two hours after moving into a new flat!
The Gibbons family set off from Atherton at 10:00 with a car full of clothes, pillows and bedding amongst other rubbish which I insisted on taking with me to University. I’ve maintained over the years that my favourite band Two Door Cinema Club always come on the radio when something momentous or enjoyable occurs in my life. GCSE results day, in a nightclub in Barcelona on one of the best nights of my life, the day I received my University offer… and of course, they were played on Radio 1 as we drove up to York. It was “Come Back Home”, a song all about leaving where you’re from and setting up a new life. I began to fill up but I didn’t shed a tear because I’m dead tough like that.
I picked up my keys for my flat, dumped everything in there and said goodbye to my family. I’d barely put all of my clothes on hangers and introduced myself to my new flatmates (who I moved away from less a month later to a new flat) when I set off towards the city centre where Graeme would pick me up. We were running slightly late and missed the first five minutes by the time we reached the town of Selby.
Selby is a town found 12 miles south of York on the River Ouse. The most famous structure in the town is Selby Abbey which can be seen from most places in and around the area. Historically, the wealth of the town came from the shipbuilding industry due to the Selby Canal. The last vessel to be launched from Selby came in 1998 and the current Greenpeace vessel named Rainbow Warrior was constructed in the town in 1957. The town has also had a mining heritage (close to my heart) which holds a record the most amount of coal mined in one week – 200,743 tonnes. In fact, the Selby mining complex only shut in 2004 despite the rising demand for coal in the UK.
The football club were founded in 1919 and became founding members of the Yorkshire League a year later. The Robins competed in every single year of the Yorkshire League before it was broken up in 1982 and the club joined the NCEL. Selby won NCEL Division 1 in 1995 and remained there for seven seasons before being relegated into the league they currently ply their trade in.
After playing at The Bowling Green the football club moved to their current home of Flaxley Roadin 1951, playing their first match against Goole in front of 4,000 spectators. Flaxley Road was earmarked for redevelopment a few years ago as the club outlined plans to move to a purpose built sports complex at Selby College. It was said that the football club would receive £3 million for the land at Flaxley Road but negotiations stalled. In 2013, the local council approached the club with another offer to purchase the land that the ground is on but the club’s committee decided that the offer wasn’t good enough.
In July 1999, Manchester United Reserves travelled to Flaxley Road to take on Selby Town in a pre-season friendly to celebrate the club’s 80th birthday. Over 1,500 turned up at the match which a young United side won 6-1. In action that day were David Beckham and Paul Scholes who were both being eased back into action following injury. It was Beckham’s first match since winning the Champions League in Barcelona a couple of months previously.
I think it’s safe to say that the match against Manchester United was the club’s proudest moment and this is demonstrated with a wall display in the clubhouse which includes a pennant from United alongside photographs of Beckham and Scholes playing on the Flaxley Road pitch.
The opposition this afternoon weren’t quite Manchester United but they were Hall Road Rangers, a side from Dunswell near Hull. I missed the opening five minutes meaning I didn’t manage to pick up a matchday programme and I don’t think I missed much action either.
I decided to sit behind the goal at the Flaxley Road end of the ground to begin with. It is possibly one of my favourite stands in non-league football, constructed with three big rows of wooden blocks. The rear of the stand displays the words Selby Town FC and is surrounded by winding leaves and various shrubbery. I couldn’t decide whether the stand was really poor and falling into disrepair or whether it had matured like a fine wine. I suppose many who only watch the upper echelons of English football would be derogatory towards both the stand and the ground but I liked it.
The Richard Street side of the ground housed the clubhouse and refreshment facilities alongside the entrance. A small bench offered a nice view of the pitch for those either too old or too lazy to venture around to the other side of the pitch. The remainder of the shelter at Flaxley Road can be found in the Sports Centre Terrace which is a modern, metal shed which can be moved to a new ground if a move ever does go ahead.
It was quite an entertaining match, but Hall Road’s strikers looked more akin to rugby league players than footballers. Barging into Selby defenders and unable to pass a ball straight or shoot on target it really was baffling to watch at times. Selby on the other hand had a couple of decent wingers who commanded the match and single handedly gained them three points.
Jamie Forrester opened the scoring for the home side on 23 minutes before Dan Bunch doubled their advantage ten minutes before the interval. Leighton Matthewson grabbed a goal back for the home side and then it was an end-to-end affair.
Hall Road had a goal dubiously ruled out and then Jordan Cox saw his effort hit the bar meaning the home side held out for the win.
As the final whistle blew Graeme and I went back to the car which we had dumped on the road just outside the ground. It was straight back to York where I went back to my flat to find I had to go straight back out for a welcome meeting in the lecture theatre. It would have been great if I’d have missed my University welcome talk because I was too busy watching Selby Town.
In the evening I decided to venture into York city centre where I enjoyed a couple of pints of Tadcaster beer at the Kings Arms while catching up on the football results from back home. I was adapting to my new surroundings and throwing myself in at the deep end. I’ll definitely be back at Selby Town at some stage in the near future as I want to explore the town and take in a match without everything being so hectic and rushed.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 12 miles (from York)
- ADMISSION: £3 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: N/A