In 2014, Channel 4 launched a groundbreaking television show that would change how we viewed the world around us forever. Shed of the Year followed ronseal loving lothario George Clarke, as he ventured around Great Britain aiming to “uncover a world of glorious eccentricity” when he presided over the much coveted Shed of the Year award.
Despite four thought provoking and gripping series, Channel 4 are yet to commission a fifth. This is undoubtedly a travesty. I personally feel the surface has barely been scratched when it comes to our nations sheds and there is at least one glaring omission missing from the list: The Famous Shed, home of Tempest United.
On the road that leads underneath the M61, in the shadow of Bolton Wanderers stadium, you will find a complicated hot bed of football that is rarely visited by the outsider. Within strolling distance of each other, you will find three football grounds which host clubs playing in leagues at the nether regions of the English football pyramid.
While Ladybridge FC undoubtedly have the best infrastructure, including an artificial pitch and floodlights they disbanded their men’s first team a couple of years ago to concentrate on junior football. I found this quite disappointing (and odd) as it was only three years ago that their chairman confidently told the Bolton News that they would be competing in the NWCFL before much longer.
Ladybridge have however allowed a brand new club, Bolton United of the Manchester League, to play at their ground. The other two clubs on this rural, winding road are CMB FC (Chew Moor Brook) and of course Tempest United who both play in the West Lancashire Premier Division. My only visit to the Famous Shed to date came back in July 2015 when Atherton Collieries made the short journey there for a Bolton Hospital Cup clash.
It was an experience that left a slightly bitter taste in the mouths of us at Colls. Despite winning this bruising encounter 10-0 and breezing past Ladybridge 4-0 in the next round, it soon became apparent that we had become an unwanted presence in the competition.
Our players hadn’t even got into the showers before some had been in the ear of the competition organisers, calling for Colls to be thrown out. The situation was laughed off but the we sensed the writing was on the wall. Even though we had regularly offered the use of our ground for semi-finals and had always donated kindly to the cause, we were banned from entering the following campaign.
Anyway, back to the whole purpose of this entry. After being nomadic and playing their matches on a variety of farmers fields the clubs present ground on Tempest Road was converted by Bolton Council from allotments in the late 1950’s.
At the time the players got changed in a blokes garage over the road. This wasn’t ideal and certainly wouldn’t be allowed these days, although it would make away days a bit more exciting. Soon an agreement was made with the local council for the lease of the land and this allowed improvements to facilities to be made.
It began in 1979 with the acquisition of a timber chicken shed. It was to be used as a new clubhouse and changing rooms and was purchased from a farmer up on the moors above Darwen. The shed was transported in it’s entirety back to Chew Moor and erected. Other notable transfers around this time included Steve Daley who Manchester City signed from Wolves for a record transfer fee of £1.4 million. Arguably it was Tempest who had done the better business.
The fact a club had managed to recycle a chicken shed and it still stands, serving the community to this day is just brilliant. It goes back to one of my previous points. Channel 4 really did miss a trick when they decided not to bring their cameras down to Tempest United for an episode of Shed of the Year.
When the profiteering farmer from Darwen transported the shed across the hills, I bet it took him far less time than it took me to get to this match. The traffic had been a nightmare along the short journey up the hill from Atherton, as the journey had to be made in the midst of rush hour. While 18:30 kick-offs on a Thursday are normally reserved for Manchester United matches, for this week at least it was all about Tempest v Colls.
The home side were managed by former Collieries player Ross McNair, who had only recently been appointed in the role. It was a tough result to take so early in pre-season but the man who was known for his tough tackling steadied the Tempest ship and they went on to gain promotion into the West Lancashire Premier Division following a second placed finish.
In the years since my visit, Tempest have performed consistently in the Premier Division. They adapted seamlessly and finished in 6th, 5th and 7th in their first three campaigns before finding themselves flying high in 2nd this season before it was brought to an abrupt end due to coronavirus.
United have found themselves in the strange position of being competitive at the right end of a table, where there isn’t necessarily promotion to play for. The next step up would be the big jump into the NWCFL Division One North and in order to do so, all of those large ground grading tasks would have to be completed. The move up from Step 7 to Step 6 is widely regarded as the toughest one to fulfil in the English league system as floodlights, turnstiles, stands, perimeter fencing, sufficient changing room sizes and hospitality areas are all required.
One thing remains certain, there’s a lot of activity happening down this narrow road in Bolton. Is there too much competition? Perhaps. After all, neighbours Ladybridge knocked it on the head. But Tempest have shown that you don’t have to be the most resourced or supported to be successful and I think they quite like it that way.