Throughout my time on this planet, I have prided myself on financial management but on this cold Tuesday night in Glasshoughton I hit a new low as the value of my life hit £4.27. Unbeknownst to me, that was the only money I had in my bank account as I walked into York train station to purchase a return to Castleford.
Maybe my bank were trying to tell me something? Maybe they were trying to inform me that the match I was attempting to see would feature the worst side I have ever witnessed play in competitive football. The ground was basic, the football was awful but yet I still left Leeds Road holding a place for Glasshoughton in my heart. In the words of Blondie, soon turned out I had a heart of glass.
So, how and why had I decided that I would spend the evening in West Yorkshire? Basically, during our time at York v Tranmere over the weekend, Ben and Matt had both somehow mentioned that they both fancied going to Glasshoughton. I was a bit reluctant to travel far through Yorkshire on a Tuesday night, but on the Monday afternoon I buckled and declared that I would be joining this obscure expedition.
As I walked down to the train station in York, Ben texted me asking me of my whereabouts. I informed him that I was on Lendal Bridge; a short simple text which brought panic to the cobbled streets of the city.
Minding my own business, Ben came sprinting over the bridge seemingly in some sort of panic. I wondered whether the tone of my text suggested that I had chosen to jump off the bridge with a night in Glasshoughton in front of me, but he explained that he wouldn’t have saved me if this was the case. Apparently he was just bored.
We walked down to the station and entered the ticket hall which is where my problems for the day started. My card was declined three times while I tried to pay for my tickets meaning that Ben had to step in and lend me £10. I always ridicule my tall friend for bringing double the money he needs, but on this occasion it saved the entire evening. Knowing that I had no other funds on me resorted to asking him if he had enough to cover my admission and programme costs to which he confidently told me he did. It turns out he didn’t, but I’ll have an emotional rant about that later on.
Getting the train to Leeds was straight forward, taking only 20 minutes before a quick change. It would have been quicker if they hadn’t decided to put services to Knottingley and Nottingham on the same platform. There was pandemonium as Asian students rushed around weaving in and out of commuters trying to ascertain the difference between the two locations. Our train was the Knottingley one which stopped at both Castleford and Glasshoughton. Ben was adamant that we should disembark the cattle shed (northern rail train) at Castleford and walk, but I stood my ground and told him he was wrong.
In my large Bolton Wanderers bench coat I got off the train at Glasshoughton and crossed the road to the large Xscape retail centre, which really is quite incredible. It had an inside ski slope and a plethora of bars, clubs and restaurants. It was a bit like Trafford Park but not as good… but with the advantage of not being built next to a sewage works.
Matt and Tom were drinking in the Lloyds Bar next to the station, so we briefly met there before I and Ben went to watch some pre-match skiing. Disappointingly there was nobody on the slope at the time, just a large tractor moving snow around while the sounds of ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman’ from Frozen fittingly played in the bar which doubled as a viewing area.
Going back through the development we headed back past the various restaurants, where it appeared most of Castleford were enjoying a cheeky nandos. Although there was invariably nothing cheeky about the bunch of idiots who were forming a large queue outside, modern culture dictates it has to be labelled as cheeky. In honesty, our trip to the Glasshoughton WMC was cheekier as we looked completely out of place in the club.
To get to the WMC – which had been labelled unnerving by another groundhopper – we had to walk 15 minutes down the road. There wasn’t much of note, other than a multi coloured colliery wheel which sat handsomely on the roundabout at ASDA. It looked more like a float from Manchester Pride than a memorial to the pit entrance which once stood on that site.
As we edged into the WMC opposite the ground my feet stuck to the carpet. I managed to drag myself to the bar where I decided whether I could afford to purchase a Lucozade or not. At £1.50 I felt I could and I achieved this feat by collecting all the five pence pieces which were rolling around the bottom of my bag; I knew they would come in handy one day.
Ben, still insisting that he had enough money to get me into the match, headed over the road to the ground with me. His long legs were leading as I trailed behind wondering how much more this would put me in debt. We approached the turnstile and asked for two students and two programmes, which came to £8 altogether. Rather embarrassingly, Ben had overestimated how much money he had so we were £1 short.
I was turned away from Glasshoughton Welfare because I couldn’t afford it. My life had hit a low point. I came to the conclusion that I had more money to my name when I was aged seven, receiving £1 a week from my parents. As we traipsed back over the road to the WMC, I noticed that the wall behind the goal was quite small and by standing on my tip toes I could watch the whole match for free. My friends had to decide whether to lend me a pound, or whether to leave me outside having to fend for myself.
Doing the walk of shame, I trudged back into the open room where Matt and Tom were trying to drink some beer. The locals were having a snooker competition, in a dull grey back room, where the only colour on show was yellow beaming from the collection of Castleford Tigers shirts on the walls. My two companions looked at me wondering what on earth I was doing back in the establishment. I had to explain to them that I had no money and Tom came to the rescue, offering me a solitary coin out of his back pocket. It was certainly a long way away from Wembley where I had last watched a match with the Welsh duo.
I was now feeling slightly better about life and went back to the ground, declaring to the turnstile operator that I “now had enough money to watch Glasshoughton” to which he chuckled. I was tempted to try and blag admission as a Bolton Wanderers scout, afterall, I was in full attire. However, there were two slight problems. There were signs plastered everywhere stating that there are no complimentary admissions… but more importantly, what kind of scout would want to watch Glasshoughton Welfare? I know Bolton are desperate, but Neil Lennon still has a few contacts further up in the football pyramid.
Glasshoughton sat bottom of the pile in the NCEL Premier Division having conceded 107 goals so far in the campaign. Despite this they were just three points behind Nostell Miners Welfare and Retford United. A quick flick through Glasshoughton’s results and it made for dire reading. In November they lost consecutive league matches 12-0 and 10-0. This came after an 11-0 cup mauling to one of my favourite NWCFL sides in Runcorn Town .
It has been a torrid campaign for the Leeds Road side and I’m sorry to say it is the first time I have been to a club that reminds me of Ripping Yarns. The handful of hardy volunteers knew when they turned up that they would probably lose, but they still put in as much effort as they could regardless, for which they have to be saluted. I hate to sound patronising or condescending in my blogs, but the fact everybody is still trying when there looks to be no hope at all really is a testament to the club. Even the matchday programme is a well presented, glossy edition priced at just £1 which was superb.
The football club was founded in 1964 as Anson Sports, named after a local steel foundry. They originally competed on park pitches in the Castleford Sunday League. When the team moved to Saturday football, the policy of only fielding Anson employees was scrapped. Further progress was stunted until 1974 when Glasshoughton Colliery approached the club asking them to adopt their disbanded clubs name while also moving to Leeds Road. Having a permanent home allowed Welfare to play in the West Yorkshire League and Yorkshire League before joining the NCEL.
In 2007, the retirement of almost all of the club’s committee threatened the future of Welfare. However, former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar stepped in and helped raise vital funds for the struggling club. Grobbelaar lived just up the road from the ground and regularly played five-a-side football in the sports complex which joins on to the football pitch at Leeds Road. So, how did the African help out? He played a full match at home to Maltby Main in which Glass won 2-1 in front of a crowd of around 400.
As aforementioned there is a sports complex which joins on to the ground at Welfare and if it wasn’t for that then it would be a very, very basic ground. One shed sits, hiding in the dark behind the near goal while a seated stand straddles the halfway line on the far side, dwarfed by the numerous trees which catch and hold any balls which are pumped out of play.
Behind the other goal there are a number of houses, able to be accessed by a rotting wooden gate which was guarded by a plain clothes volunteer. The vacuous space between the ground and the residential area is separated by a metal mesh and pieces of wood, all tied together in an unkempt manner. Ropes and cable ties are dotted everywhere, resembling a scene from Fifty Shades of Grey.
As the two sides reluctantly emerged on to the pitch they outnumbered the spectators at an impressive ratio. I joked that there could be more goals than spectators this evening. We did a head count of 18, with five Barton fans and four of us, with the others being neutral of volunteers. Other people did trickle in throughout the match which is why the official attendance was in the 30’s.
The reverse fixture earlier in the season had seen the Lincolnshire side win 8-1 and it could and should have been that many (if not more) this evening, if it wasn’t for some good goalkeeping and awful finishing. On many occasions there were more people lining up to finish a cross than there are involved in the Lucy Beale murder saga. The only difference is that EastEnders actually found the conviction to put viewers out of their misery.
Barton, in orange, opened the scoring six minutes before the interval when Scott Phillips headed home at the back post. It was a nice finish following a precision cross from the left hand side and no more than the visitors deserved. The only shot the home team had in the first half came when a midfielder fired towards goal and it went out for a throw in.
Half time arrived and we went into the sports centre for some warmth and food. I, of course, had no money, so had to watch everybody else around me scoffing sausage rolls and other treats as I went around with a bucket collection for myself.
The second half started where the first had finished, with the Old Boys running riot. The pressure on the Welfare defence was even more sustained in the final 45 as the home side struggled to get out of their own half.
Scott Phillips doubled Barton’s lead on 60 minutes when he finished at the near post with another fine header. By this stage the Welfare players were all squabbling amongst themselves, with the goalkeeper being the main instigator, calling all of his defenders “thick as pig shit” despite them taking his goal kicks for him.
The barrage of abuse carried on from the goalkeeper and it wasn’t long before it was 3-0, with yet another headed goal, this time from Danny Chambers. The young shot stopper had run out of insults to fire at his backline, so instead opted to heckle the referee. The official, who had a good game, ignored it until the fluorescent clad youngster incessantly carried on moaning. The stopper was summoned to the referee before he petulantly walked off, prompting the man in black to shout “COME HERE SON! STAND YOUR GROUND! STAND YOUR GROUND! COME HERE!”
I thought it was fantastic to see a referee stand up against a gobby individual who thought he was above the beloved Respect Campaign.
While we did tease the goalkeeper and heckle him slightly (a lot) we did feel sorry for him. At one stage he even said to the Barton fans behind the goal “I’m never going to make it back into the professional game”. He continued to pull off some great saves and even had the help of the goalposts to keep the score down.
As the clock was ticking down the goal of the match arrived in the final minute. Having seen his team mates try, and in large fail, to get past the goalkeeper, Henry Gill tried his luck from 25 yards out. The result saw the ball fire into the top right hand corner and that signalled the end of the match.
Matt, Ben and I had been convinced by locally based Tom that Castleford and Glasshoughton train stations were equidistant from the football ground. Having already been to Glasshoughton and spotting that there were more trains from Castleford, we headed our separate ways and embarked on our hike up to the rugby league mad town.
Tom was exaggerating when he said the two stations were equidistant as we made the 22:05 train by a matter of seconds having also got lost in Iceland car park. Castleford resembled a desolate wasteland at that time of the evening which surprised me. I had always pictured Castleford to be like its other rugby league towns such as Wigan and Leigh where pubs are open every single night into the early hours of the morning. Perhaps the folk of Yorkshire just can’t hack it?
Ben and I were back in York for 23:00, passing the time on the train by setting up a repayment scheme for the money which I now owed him. It had been an eventful night and one that I will never forget.
It’s the kind of story that I think we will talk about for years. “Gibbo! Do you remember when you missed your flight back from Barcelona? Or what about that time you went to Glasshoughton and ran out of money, and laughed hysterically at the poor standard of football you watched?”. While it may not be everybodies cup of tea, we certainly enjoyed ourselves. Despite the football on show being poor for NCEL Premier standard, I would certainly recommend visiting Glasshoughton on a Saturday afternoon, as you can definitely make a full day of it if you head to Xscape.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 30 miles
- ADMISSION: £3 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £1