I had only been back at University for a week and already I was already reaping the benefits. No, seriously. A lot of the opening week, as always, had been brief introductions to modules that I will be ploughing through over my final few months in education. One such module centres around our own personal beliefs and encourages us to take a more conscientious view of our teaching philosophies that we then bring into the classroom. All very flowery.
In the opening lecture we were given an exhaustive list of words to help us compile and rank our beliefs and philosophies. Spontaneity, Happiness, Mindfulness and Patriotism were in there. The latter was thrown in to see the reactions of the girls in my group who are convinced I’m some sort of closet racist because I dare to turn up to lectures in my England shirt and often hum the national anthem to myself. Rumours that I was going to dress up as Winston Churchill for my 21st birthday party the following week were unsubstantiated. Anyway, another word that made my top five beliefs, or things that I think are important in life was ‘Adventure’.
Life is too short to sit around and do nothing. That’s one of the main philosophies I lead my existence by anyway. What other word, apart from ‘amphetamine’, would see you go from a tour around York Minster to performing an eclectic mix of Gwen Stefani and Girls Aloud on karaoke via Rossington Main in the space of 12 hours? Add into that a beer festival too. It was a pretty busy day and yet another that I’ll remember for years to come. It was all down to one word; adventure. Not just this week though, every single weekend is an adventure… discounting the previous weekend when I had a strop and said I didn’t want to watch football ever again and spent the day in bed reading a book drinking copious amounts of Yorkshire Tea.
I had originally done a Twitter poll to see which match I should attend this weekend. Options such as North Ferriby, Northallerton and Harrogate Railway Athletic were listed alongside Rossington. Admittedly, North Ferriby won but I changed my mind the evening before the game. My new housemate Isabella informed me that if I went to Rossington I would probably get killed because it’s regarded as a rough area; it was this comment that sold it to me there and then. I must add that Isabella’s review of the place is a disservice if ever there was one.
Heading to an old coal mining town I felt quite comfortable… so I needed to add something to the day to make me feel uncomfortable. I like feeling uncomfortable. What’s the fun in not stretching yourself? What’s the point in seeing the same things and same people every week? Why not turn up at York Minster dressed like a football hooligan at 09:00 in the morning and gate crash a guided tour full of pensioners from America? The big questions in life. To paraphrase a question that my mum has constantly posed to me over the past two years while I’ve been in York, “Why have you not been to the Minster yet? People travel from all over the world to go. You live five minutes walk away and have never bothered!” She had more than a point.
It’s not that I’ve not wanted to go… I’ve just always assumed I’ll get around to it at some stage. There was one night when I was struggling with an essay that was 4,000 words of complete and utter rubbish. I needed some inspiration. Throwing on my winter jacket and some shoes I marched down to York Minster and sat outside listening to Two Door Cinema Club. Had I lost the plot? Was I having a Britney Spears style breakdown? No, there was a simple explanation. If I made it to the end of my course and graduate the ceremony takes place in York Minster. By sitting outside I was able to see for myself the prize at the end of the three years of University. I went back to my student abode, reeled off some more rubbish and submitted it.
Not that I had been struggling but when I woke up early and had nothing to do I thought a tour around The Minster would prove fruitful for the coming months. I could see the end goal properly. Even better, I got free admission as a York St John student simply by showing my card. The bloke on the door immediately opened the barrier for me like I was some sort of Archbishop visiting for a service and I duly skipped past everybody else in the queue.
I’m not going to bore you with the history of York Minster. Onwards to Doncaster.
Over the years Matt and I have encountered many people on our travels of the country and we have met some fantastic people. One such person is Doncaster Rovers fan and non-league enthusiast Tony. Matt, now living in Slovakia, was extremely jealous when I informed him I would be spending the day with Tony and rightly so. Also joining us would be Rob, who like me, couldn’t quite be bothered heading over to Runcorn to watch Atherton Collieries take on the Linnets.
Tony dragged Matt and I around a host of decent pubs and bars when we went to Doncaster Rovers v Bristol City a couple of years ago. I maintain to this day that the town centre is amongst the best places there are to drink as you can literally bounce from pub to pub. There are enough dodgy looking places and even more edgy and upmarket bars providing revellers with a wide variety.
The first port of call was one of the town’s Wetherspoons joints. On our last visit to the town The Red Lion was being refurbished so we didn’t manage to ‘tick’ this one off in our directories that we picked up during our eventful weekend in Grimsby. Weaving through the town, I sensed an uneasy atmosphere filtering through the air. The locals seemed to be on edge; it was almost like something rather odd was about to happen at any second.
My tweet , which was rather bizarrely retweeted by the chief executive of Doncaster Council, went someway to explaining the sight which greeted us as we headed through the town centre.
Welcome to Doncaster where Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers are parading old men with flat caps through town pic.twitter.com/e03WYhIcfc
— Joseph Gibbons (@JoeBillGibbo) September 24, 2016
There appeared to be some sort of comic convention taking place and it had more or less taken over; things were so desperate you couldn’t even nip to Greggs without being dragged into the batmobile by some bloke who probably hadn’t been CRB checked.
I would like to say things became a bit more normal after our escapade to Wetherspoons but of course, they didn’t, as we opted to head to one of my favourite ever bars. Cask Corner was where Tony dragged Matt and I on our last visit and I was more than keen to visit once again. I don’t know many other bars where you can have a pint of Wainwright’s while standing in a coffin listening to reggae music.
Apparently there wasn’t much in the way of drinking around Rossington but we pressed on regardless, catching the number 55 bus from Doncaster bus station. We dipped in and out of the large shopping centre which obstructs any meaningful kind of through route in the town centre and caught the bus which operates a circular route. On our way we passed Belle Vue, the old site of Doncaster Rovers former ground and we were able to see some of the old terracing which remained as they built houses on the rest of the site.
It took around 20 minutes to reach the relatively quiet suburb of Rossington which once housed the largest Roman fort on the road between York and Lincoln. In more recent history the village was built up around mining and now has a population of just over 13,000. The original pit was sunk between 1912 and 1915 and finally closed in 2007, meaning it was one of the last ones in the country to remain operational.
The village also used to have its own railway station up until the 1960’s when it was shut due to cuts. On the face of it, this is a once proud and hard working village that like so many in the north of England has been suffocated of funding and interest from numerous governments. As a result there is now very little trade and business in the area and on this Saturday afternoon when we visited, it was eerily quiet.
The only pub we passed when we got off the bus near The Cenotaph was called The Styrrup so we called in there for a pint before pressing on towards the ground. A few locals were knocking around in this boozer that labels itself ‘the heart of Rossington’ which admittedly, it probably is. I was feeling a little delicate from the evening before so opted for a pint of cider, trying to encourage my body to absorb the sugar levels that lay within the never ending glass. I was defeated and we duly left and headed up Station Road over the East Coast mainline and on to West End Lane.
On the right hand side you soon come to Oxford Street where Rossington Main Football Club is situated right at the very end of a straight row of residential housing. As you enter through the green security fences that form the entrance to the club you are greeted with painting on the car park tarmac which says Rossington Main FC, just incase you had turned up at the wrong football club. It was a nice touch.
It was hard to believe that football had been played at this ground since 1921 as it appeared quite modern and well kept compared to many other venues at this level and indeed this area of the world. The club was originally named Rossington Colliery FC and it was this team that moved from behind the pit offices to this site almost 100 years ago. In 1998 the club merged with the latterly founded Rossington FC (formerly Station FC) and became known as Rossington Main FC as they are known at present.
I paid a minimal fee to watch this match and I really felt like Rossington were underselling themselves charging just £4 for adults and £2 for concessions. I am a tight arse and would often celebrate at only having to pay £2 to watch Bootle – now stern rivals of our at Atherton Collieries – but instead I found myself walking around in a proverbial cloak of guilt. After pondering what to do to rectify my mood I opted to plough my money into the club through the bar; probably the most beautiful way of doing so in non-league level. Up the ramp I headed, past a group of Rossington volunteers and committee members and turned left into the cabin that serves as their clubhouse.
A good few supporters had made their way over from Merseyside and had obviously been enjoying their day so far. It was only to get better as Joe Doran’s well drilled and organised team brushed aside a weak challenge from Main. In fact, The Bucks had made an impressive start to the league campaign and remained title challengers to Atherton Collieries pretty much until the final week or so of the season.
On this occasion back in September they managed to extend their winning streak to seven games with a comprehensive 4-0 win. The Bucks were without prolific front man Ste Jones – but despite Jones’ absence Doran’s side still made easy work of this FA Vase Second Qualifying round tie.
The game was only 12 minutes old when Bootle broke the deadlock. Josh Hamilton swung a corner in from the right which was headed home by Daniel Murphy. Four minutes later, and the Bucks doubled their lead. Hamilton once again swung in a corner from the right. The Rossington defence could only half clear with the ball falling perfectly to Carl Peers who rifled a shot into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box.
The Bucks all but sealed their passage into the next round a minute before the half time interval. Some neat play around the Main box eventually saw Kieran Haligan play in Ryan Cox who fired home from an acute angle. It had been a solid first half performance from Bootle and there were no doubts whatsoever that they were now practically into the hat for Monday’s draw.
At half time, Tony and myself opted to wander around the ground to see which other characters were in attendance. The crowd itself was quite sparse despite Doncaster Rovers, who undoubtedly share fluttering support from sides such as Rossington, being away at Luton Town in the league. Indeed, there were a few Donny fans in attendance but not many and I think that speaks volumes about non-league in the area, where teams are finding it increasingly difficult to attract supporters and even exist. I am no expert when it comes to the ‘ins and outs’ of football in and around Doncaster but having seen just how turbulent the histories of clubs such as Brodsworth Miners Welfare and Bentley Colliery have been it would appear the area as a whole is struggling. Even the areas highest ranked non-league side Armthorpe Welfare were lingering perilously in the NCEL Premier Division.
Being from a background in Manchester football, where you rarely pass through a town or even pocket of a town where there isn’t a football ground, I do find it difficult to understand and take that an area like Doncaster isn’t doing slightly better on the non-league stage. Perhaps the appetite and need just isn’t there?
Rossington were certainly trying to fix this though and had initiatives such as an enclosed childrens football pitch behind the goals on the left hand side. While the youngsters may not have been that interested in watching Bootle in the FA Vase, they were in attendance and were certainly aware that Rossington as a club existed. This will hopefully prove beneficial in years to come when these young lads become teenagers who are curious about that community football club at the bottom of their street.
I got myself another pint and started chatting to some of the Bootle fans who were congregated in a little beer garden area to the side of the pitch. I was in incognito mode, not letting them know my true identity as a Colls fan. It wouldn’t have turned sour but I wanted to see what their thoughts were for the rest of the campaign and whether they thought they were capable of maintaining a title challenge in the NWCFL. Admittedly, based on this performance at Rossington I had them as my favourites ahead of Colls which pained me quite a lot.
Ryan Cox turned provider for the Bucks fourth, seven minutes into the second half. The scorer of the Bucks third sent a fine cross to the unmarked Josh Hamilton who sided footed the ball home to complete a fine afternoon’s work for the Bucks.
We made our way back to Doncaster straight after the final whistle, catching the bus which had dropped us off in Rossington earlier in the day. It took us along the newly opened Great Yorkshire Way which is designed to be a link road to the nearby Robin Hood Airport. It was all very exciting. So much so, that the only way I could keep my levels of adrenaline up when we got back to Doncaster town centre was to attend the Doncaster Beer Festival. We started off in the Doncaster Brewery Tap which was full of locals who obviously knew where the fun was at this Saturday night; it was standing room only and even this was hard to come by. Balancing our pints of real ale on kegs, metres away from the room that they were actually brewed in was a great experience and made even better by the locally reared black pudding pork pie that I duly scoffed from the kitchen area.
From there, we headed on to the Marketplace Alehouse which ranks highly amongst my favourite bars in Doncaster. The weather was still fairly inclement so we opted to sit outside with our steins of continental beer, watching the vibrant and interesting Doncaster nightlife begin to come to life around us. If you are still reading this blog, you may be wondering if I am on commission from the local tourism board and I would be too. People often laugh at me when I say Doncaster is one of my favourite places; but it is and I urge you to go for a day drinking there sometime soon.
Unfortunately my time in the town was coming to an end so I wandered off to the train station and boarded the next service back up to York. It didn’t take long and I was soon pondering what to do with my evening. I couldn’t make a decision, so in an attempt to get the creative juices flowing I had another pint in the York Tap which is found within the station building; it always has a large selection of obscure local beers on draft and is a must visit for any beer aficionados who happen to be passing through.
It was at this stage I received a message on the group chat which told me to head to the Students Union for the infamous ‘Pound a Pint’ evening. By the end of the night I had been unwillingly volunteered to perform a solo on the karaoke to Girls Aloud and Gwen Stefani; both songs were mastered and I left the building with a host of admiring fans in the early hours of the morning.
So, as I said at the beginning of this blog. I started off the day gatecrashing a tour around York Minster with a group of pensioners from America and ended up on a stage by myself, in my football attire singing along to Gwen Stefani, via Rossington and the Doncaster Beer Festival. All in all, it was a successful day out.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 44 miles from York
- ADMISSION: £2
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £1.50