Cammell Laird v Ramsbottom United
Kirklands / Northern Premier League Division One North / 1st February 2014
“Who the hell are they!?” exclaimed a drunken me on the train back to Manchester from Blackpool having made a trip to Bloomfield Road to watch the Tangerines smash Bristol City 5-0. The question arose when a middle-aged gentleman with a badge unbeknownst to me sat next to me on the train..
“Cammell Laird,” he replied in a thick scouse accent. I looked at him blankly unsure at what words he had actually said and even let out a slight giggle as I was sure I had heard the word ‘camel’ somewhere in his reply. Eventually I deciphered what he had said, as he told me about the club behind the badge. I was still relatively new to the North West at the time and I had yet to truly the discover joys of non-league football, but more out of politeness than actual intent I said that perhaps I’d go watch this strange-sounding club one day. However, if there was no intent at the time, 3 and a half years later I would find myself rolling into Merseyside en route to Cammell Laird’s Kirklands home.
My decision to visit Cammell Laird had been largely down to the fact that I was in Liverpool that weekend anyway. Friday night had seen me appear on Liverpool fan YouTube channel, Redmen TV to talk about Swansea and deadline day in general as part of their 8 hour Deadline Day show. The show was touted as an alternative, more fun version of Sky Sports News ‘ deadline day – or as it was advertised on Twitter #FuckJimWhite. Safe to say, I had great fun and by the end of the night, the beer had got to me and my corner of the room was branded ‘Drunk Welsh Corner’ by my hosts. You can see my appearance on the show by clicking the link here (my section begins at 4:17.00 until around the 5:00.00 mark).
After arriving back out our hotel shortly after 4am after hitting Liverpool following recording the show, I was quite impressed to find myself feeling not the slightest bit rough the next morning. Having made the coffees for myself and fellow room-dwellers Harry and Dan of The Bib Theorists fame, I left our Travelodge and headed towards Liverpool city centre to board the train across the River Mersey towards Birkenhead.
I rolled into Rock Ferry, located in the north east of the Wirral peninsula, around 12,30pm and I was delighted to encounter a pub directly opposite the station. My spirits were further raised when I spotted football on the TV through the window and I hoped that I’d be able to watch the early kick-off between West Ham and my beloved Swans. Sadly, I was landed with the Tyne-Wear derby instead (although it seems a good thing that I missed Swansea’s game), whilst I enjoyed my first pint of the day in the Rock Station.
I had heard good things about The Refreshment Rooms located near the river side, so I made that my next port of call. What I was quite surprised to find on arriving outside the pub was that it is pretty much on the banks of the Mersey with the water crashing against the small wall just before the pub’s entrance. The Refreshment Rooms is only made up of two small-ish rooms, but I have to say that the pub is one of my favourites that I’ve visited this year, thanks to its very neat and tidy interior, friendly staff and it’s rather quirky positioning practically on the river bank of the Mersey. There was one moment of worry though, as I witnessed a car head straight down the ramp and straight towards the water on what appeared first of all to be a suicide mission; fortunately the driver evetnaully stopped at the end of the ramp, but I never worked out what exactly he was doing.
It had now gone 2pm, so I decided to work my way through the streets towards Cammell Laird’s Kirklands home. The ground was not helping itself be found, as I scanned the skies around the residential area I had stumbled upon for any signs of floodlights, but to no avail. Then all of a sudden as I walked down a quiet street, the ground suddenly appeared and it was easy to see why I had not spotted it earlier – it was far from imposing.
I didn’t head straight into the ground having been forewarned beforehand that the club bar is in fact located across the road from the ground. So having spotted the ‘Laird Sports Club’ sign adorned on a grey looking building I decided to enter. To my annoyance, the club bar had the West Ham v Swansea game on the TV and I regretted not arriving earlier. Instead I was left with watching the last 10 minutes of Swansea’s heartless 2-0 loss to the Hammers.
There had been talk of a massive amount of rain due to hit the UK, but so far it had been a fairly pleasant, yet slightly grey, day. Predictably, right on cue, on exiting the bar the heavens opened and it began to rain an unholy amount. Like proper torrential stuff. I quickly handed over my £6 entry fee and made a dash to the nearest stand for shelter.
Cammell Laird FC came to fruition in 1907 and started life playing at the old Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers, in the West Cheshire League with the club’s roots spawning from the local shipbuilding company of the same name. The club would not move to Kirklands until 1922 with the club also rebranded as Kirklands FC.
The outbreak of World War II would see the disbanding of Kirklands FC and the ground was heavily damaged by enemy bombing, thanks to its vicinity to the Cammell Laird shipyard where many Royal Navy warships were being built.
1944 saw the reestablishing of the new club under another new guise, Cammell Lairds Association Football Club. The club would play in several leagues on the lower rungs of the non-league ladder, before opting to make the step up to the North West Counties League, where the club would go on to make history by becoming the first team to win the second and first divisions of the North West Counties League in successive seasons between 2004/05 and 2005/06. This led to the team rising up to the Northern Premier League Division One, the league in which they were playing in today. However, undoubtedly, the greatest part of the club’s history has to be the fact that Swansea legend Andy Robinson’s career began with the Lairds with Robbo being a native of Birkenhead.
Today’s opponents at Kirklands were Ramsbottom United – a team I have a bit of a soft spot for having visited their excellent home in September. My mad dash to the nearest stand led to me finding the Ramsbottom fans huddled in the three row deep stand down the one side of the pitch. I also bumped into a familiar face in Ramsbottom fan, Andy, who I had met on my visit to their ground and who also runs the club’s Twitter account. The Ramsbottom contingent had taken up the back row of the stand, which meant that I had to huddle in the middle of the stand. The sheltered stand was not doing enough to protect me from the elements, as the rain came pelting into stand from the side. I couldn’t stick the quite vicious horizontal rain much longer and opted to make a move to the opposite side of the pitch.
En route I went to the food hutch titled Kirklands Kitchen and ordered myself a meat and potato pie and a hot chocolate to keep me warm. Huge thumbs up to Cammell Laird here – a beautiful pie, which I delved into on arriving at the other side of the ground. I positioned myself in the sheltered standing area for most of the first half instead of taking a seat in the adjacent sheltered seating stand, which like the stand opposite is also three seats deep.
Whilst I was jumping from stand to stand, a game of football was going on on the pitch, but with little action in the opening half. Rammy were doing well to repel not only Lairds’ hardworking style, but also the elements as they played into the driving wind and rain. They looked to have survived a tough first half, in which Lee Gaskell had had a couple of chances to score for the away team, but in the 44th minute the home team took the lead through Craig Cairns, who lobbed the ball over the Rammy keeper after a long punt upfield.
Half Time: Cammell Laird 1 – 0 Ramsbottom.
As the half was finishing I was finishing my lap of the ground to take some photos, so with me suitably soggy, I made a sprint back across the road to the bar to dry out a bit. The game hadn’t exactly been a thriller so I was in no real rush to make it back over the road for the first half, but when I eventually did, 5 minutes into the second half, I learnt that I had missed two goals! Typical!
Apparently Ramsbottom equalised just 2 minutes into the second half with Gary Stropforth scoring, before Lairds restored their lead 3 minutes later through Cairns again (I heard the cheers for that goal as I exited the clubhouse).
Perhaps the biggest surprise on getting back pitchside was the fact that it had suddenly stopped raining. I found Andy standing behind the away dugout, no longer needing the shelter of a stand to protect from the rain, and so I joined him and a few other Rammy fans there to watch the second half. Similarly to the first half, chances were few and far between as Rammy pushed for an equaliser against a resolute home defence.
The game had not been a dirty one at all, but the referee had seemed determined throughout the second half to dish out the cards and it was unsurprising to eventually see a red card come out, as Lairds went down to ten men as their number 6 (not sure of his name) received his second yellow.
Despite the numerical advantage, the home team held out to secure the three points.
Full Time: Cammell Laird 2 – 1 Ramsbottom United.
Not the most fun surroundings to watch football in thanks to the crazy weather in the first half. As well as that, I did not find Kirklands the most interesting of grounds – it’s as basic as it comes at this level without any really interesting or discerning features. Great pie though.
After saying my goodbyes to Andy, I headed for the exit and back out towards Rock Ferry station. Of course, I couldn’t resist one last call in the Rock Station after enjoying my first visit earlier in the day, before heading back over the water to Liverpool.
Today was a perfect opportunity to meet up with some of my pals from my year living in Liverpool, so before heading back home to Manchester, I made a visit to the Hope and Anchor – my favourite haunt from my Liverpool-dwelling days. After an evening catching up with my pals Jamie, Rachel and Ged, having a few more beers and (attempting) to play table tennis, I hopped onto the 8.30pm train back home to Manchester. That was at least the plan anyway.
A mixture of the alcohol I had been consuming throughout the day (and last night), plus the mere 4 hours of sleep I had had, inevitably saw me falling asleep on the train. However, this was where my weekend was take a strange turn. For those unaware, the train from Liverpool to Manchester usually takes an hour, so I was surprised to find myself waking up at 11pm and to find myself still on the train. Immediately, I went about trying to fix the time on my phone, which I was sure was lying to me, but I stopped my phone time altering task when I looked out the window and saw the time on the train platform outside. It was the same as the one on my phone. The real shock came when I read the name on the train platform: Alfreton. I was not 100% sure, but I was fairly sure that Alfreton was located near Nottingham and Derby, something I corroborated by using Google Maps.
“The next stop will be…Nottingham” then came the voice over the tannoy. Shit. It seemed that my train had passed through Manchester whilst I was happily asleep and continued on its journey to Nottingham where I now found myself at 11.30pm and with no trains back to Manchester until 9am the next morning. Shit again. There was nothing else to do: so I headed to the nearest pub to devise a plan.
I’d only been to Nottingham once before and that was 4 years ago, but I had completely forgot how nice a city it is. As I strolled the streets of Nottingham, past the drunken revellers, in search of a cheap hotel, I began to like the idea of being stranded in Nottingham (I usually try to see the positives in most crappy of situations). Eventually I found myself in the Strathdon Hotel and I ended up spending the evening watching zombie apocalypse film 28 Weeks Later.
Overall, one of the strangest endings to a Lost Boyos day out ever, but it did lead to one of my all time favourite and most spontaneous football days out the next day. Quite fittingly, it turned out there was a game of football in Nottingham that Sunday afternoon.
Highlights: good pubs – the Rock Station and the Refreshment Rooms, good clubhouse, good pies.
Low Points: not a particularly interesting ground, the weather, waking up in the wrong city.