1st August 2012, an Olympic game between Spain and Morocco would be my 8th visit to Old Trafford, Bobby Charlton’s ‘Theatre of Dreams’. I go past this footballing coliseum almost daily, as the stadium towers over the railway track which takes me to work every morning. Until recently, I was unaware that my morning commute out to Irlam went past another football ground: to some (but very few) of the locals of the Urmston/Flixton area the real ‘Theatre of Dreams’ is Shawe view – the home of Trafford FC.
This would be my fifth visit to a non-league ground in 11 days following trips to Stalybridge Celtic, Salford City, Radcliffe Borough and Curzon Ashton, the latter four teams all playing in the same league as Trafford FC – the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One North – given that league a whole host of derbies once again next season. I’d thoroughly enjoyed my travels around the non-league grounds of Greater Manchester during preseason (and my 6 weeks off). One thing I’d certainly learned about visiting non-league grounds: you don’t just experience the ground, but the club itself, as everyone always makes you feel very welcome. My night at Trafford FC would prove no different.
My trip to Trafford would coincide with Trafford’s Tuesday evening preseason friendly against Cheshire club, Witton Albion. Witton had been promoted to the league above Trafford in the season just past, meaning that the friendly fixture would be a good test for Trafford.
I headed towards Deansgate station (where my journey to work begins most mornings) to begin my journey to Urmston. However, I could not resist a cheeky drink in The Knott, one of my favourite bars in Manchester, which sits across the road from the station. One bottle of Quilmes later (I’ve always loved the Argentinian lager, although it’s probably only because they used to sponsor Boca Juniors) and I boarded the train for Urmston. The ground is actually right next to Chassen Road station, but Urmston is just a short walk away and I’d always wanted to have a wander around the pleasant looking suburb of Manchester.
I dismounted at Urmston and for anyone that has read some of my other outings around the UK on this blog, you will know that I love a pub on a train station platform. The Steamhouse at Urmston train station was particularly appealing to me as I see it every morning en-route to work; myself and colleagues from work have planned post-work food and drinks there on a few occasions but never seen the plan through – today I was going in. It was much smaller than I thought inside, but it was very cosy and had a quite rustic look to it. Also, they sold Estrella Damm, perhaps my favourite continental lager (it’s from Barcelona for those interested) so the pub was instantly onto a winner.
With the Steamhouse ticked off my list, I made my way over the bridge to Flixton Road, where the heart of Urmston beats. For anyone who hasn’t been to Urmston, it is a small town that lies 0.6 miles west of Manchester’s city centre. Urmston has plenty of shops in it’s own shopping precinct, but many seemed to have closed down, probably thanks to the huge shopping fete of the Trafford Centre nearby. I made my way down Flixton Road (the ground was just over a ten minuite walk away according to my Google maps app) and called in a pub called The Chadwick, solely because I have a friend whose name is Chadwick. The Chadwick was a very nice, Wetherspoons-style pub, which also meant cheap prices – I took a step away from continental lager and purchased a standard £2.50 (bargain) pint of Fosters to accompany my money pursuit on the quiz machine (I won nothing by the way).
Next stop, Shawe View. I made my way down Flixton Road towards the general direction of Trafford FC. Eventually I came to what looked like a country lane winding down the side of a pub – ‘the Trafford FC’ signpost informed me that I would find the football club down said lane. With time to spare, I popped into the pub at the top of the lane called the ‘Bird in Hand’ (strange name). There were a few people in this large pub who were going to the game and when I ordered a drink I was immediately asked “Are you from Witton then?” – apparently the Witton accent sounds similar to a strong South Walian valleys one. This would not be the last time I was asked whether I was of Witton origin. After watching some Olympics highlights with my pint, I left and headed down the lane to Shawe View.
Compared to my visit to Curzon Ashton, where the ground was completely out in the open, Trafford FC is tucked snuggly away behind rows of houses with trees surrounding it on all four sides, giving it a quite charming look. I paid my £5 entry fee and was introduced to the ground properly. There is very little in regards to stands; down the side nearest the turnstile I came through was the clubhouse, food booth and the small main stand, which included a small press box and a littering of seats. Opposite, down the other side of the pitch, was another small sheltered stand with two rows of seats and a standing rail at the back. Behind one goal stood a mere shelter and behind the other goal nothing at all apart from a small banking.
As with any visit to this sort of ground it is compulsory to visit the clubhouse first. The clubhouse at Trafford FC was smaller than a lot I’d been in, but it certainly exudes the club’s character well with the walls plastered in pictures of the club amongst other pieces of Trafford memorabilia. After the prematch pint in the clubhouse I headed out into the main stand (via purchasing a very nice meat and potato pie from the food booth).
From the off both teams played some really nice passing football with Witton taking the game to Trafford in the early stages. There were some really good chances squandered by Witton, before Ashley Stott finished neatly to put the Cheshire side 1-0 up – this would remain the score at half-time. Depsite only 1 goal, the game had been thoroughly entertaining and both teams were playing some really slick football, even more impressive considering the wet, slippery surface.
Halfway through the first half, I decided to switch my position from the main stand area to the smaller, less congested stand opposite. Whilst working my way around the field, I spotted a familiar face. I’d briefly met Rhodri Giggs (yes, brother of Ryan before someone asks) whilst he was manager at Salford City; he has recently departed from Salford City and has signed on to play for his previous club, FC United of Manchester. Following a training session nearby Trafford’s ground, a lot of the FC United players decided to take in a game at Shawe View. I chatted with Rhodri for a bit (and had my photo with him) and headed around to the stand to enjoy the rest of the half. Fairplay to Rhodri, has come across as a good guy on the two occasions I’ve met him.
Surprisingly, half-time was spent in the clubhouse, where I was asked, firstly by a Trafford fan “how you think your lads are going to do this season?” (my lads being Witton Albion apparently) before the barman asked me “So you’re a Witton lad yeah?” Having informed him no, I wasn’t, he did apologise and was curious about my venture to the club. We had a long chat about my travels around non-league over the past week and how Trafford would do in the upcoming season (mid-table expectations apparently). The barman also told me that I had to come back to Shawe View again, as it is apparently far more picture-esque on a sunny day unlike the rain soaked evening that we were experiencing that night. Chatting away to the barman meant I’d hardly drunk my pint as the second half was kicking off. I watched the opening few minutes through a tiny window at the back of the clubhouse before heading out to watch what was a very entertaining half of football.
Trafford started the half the much better team and despite the constant rain through half-time making the playing surface even more slippery, Trafford continued to play very nice football. Their persistence with their on-the-floor passing paid off as a fine flowing passing move ended with Michael Oates firing home to make it 1-1. Trafford now wanted more and soon they almost had their second, but they were denied by an incredible goalmouth scramble with the Witton goalie making a great save and the follow up shot being cleared off the line by a defender. I really liked the Witton goalie, as like all real goalkeepers, he seemed to be a bit of a character. On several occasions he could be seen screaming at his defence and patrolling the box with a determined stance – he very much reminded me of ex-Swansea goalkeeper (and current Wolves bench warmer), the enigmatic Dorus De Vries.
The game carried on at a high speed and it was real end-to-end stuff. A quick breakaway down the left wing from Trafford’s Danny Shannon followed by a great ball into the box, led to the second goal, as Kamahl Whight controlled the cross brilliantly on his chest and then slotted inside the post. A great counterattacking goal! Shortly after, Kamahl Whight was on the scoresheet again after a ball over the top was controlled by the pacy forward, who when confronted one-on-one with the keeper took a neat touch around him; with no-one near him and an empty net in front of him, Whight put his foot on the ball a yard from the line before smashing the ball as hard as he could into the net – a great way to score when confronted with an empty net! With Trafford comfortable, Witton were thrown a lifeline when a trip in the box gave them a penalty which Simon Gardiner scored. Ten minutes left and the score was at 3-2 – it looked like we were in for an exciting climax, but almost immediately after Witton’s penalty, Trafford went and scored their fourth, this time with Shannon getting on the scoresheet.
Final score: 4-2 – a very enjoyable game indeed and perhaps better than the Spain 0-0 Morocco game I attended the next day (although I was very impressed with a Moroccan player called Nordin Amrabat – he was brilliant). Instead of plodding back down Flixton Road in the rain, I made the brief two minute walk to Chassen Road station and made my way back to Deansgate.
A great little ground, but I must come visit Trafford on a sunny day next time apparently.
Highlights: Clubhouse with character, ground has a nice setting, good football on show,pubs nearby, train station next to ground, best empty net finish I’ve ever seen
Low Points: The weather, some of facilities could do with improvement (although this also gave the ground some charm)