Lost in…Chadderton

Chadderton v Hanley Town

Andrew Street / North West Counties Football League Division One / 4th March 2014

It’s not every Saturday afternoon you watch a game of football with the fabled ‘Class of 92’; well at least, 4/5ths of the ensemble who would go on to  become the fulcrum for a generation at Manchester United. That’s right, my Saturday afternoon was spent with the likes of Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Many would assume that such iconic company would be found in one of the pristine boxes found at Old Trafford, but in fact I encountered this gang of United legends on the touchline of my local club Salford City, who the foursome have all been linked with buying in near future to convert into a feeder club for United’s youth teams.

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Me and Nicky Butt at Salford City’s bar.

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Ryan Giggs, me and Gary Neville – they weren’t too keen on doing the double thumbs up pose at Moor Lane, Salford City FC.

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The best of the lot: Paul Scholes! And he even agreed to do the double thumbs up pose!

Was there any need to mention this afternoon, when I’m talking about an entirely different game 3 days later? Probably not, but I thought it would be nice to air out the photos above on the blog somewhere. However, if we are to search for a tenuous link to the game I attended on this chilly Tuesday night and my chance encounter with ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ then you can look no further than the small town within the borough of Oldham I was to visit this Tuesday evening. The Chaddeton Park Sports Club and their Over 35 League has become a YouTube sensation this year, thanks to the clips of Paul Scholes spectacularly scoring from his own half and directly from a corner for Chadderton Park Legends. Sadly, I was not here to watch Scholesy mock old footballers from the Oldham area, I was here to visit Andrew Street, the home of Chadderton FC, and to watch the home team take on Hanley Town in the NWCFL Division One.

Whilst we are talking about football in Chadderton, the small town can also lay claim to producing an England great in David Platt; although I’m sure some outside of footballing circles would argue that the town’s greatest product is Take That star Mark Owen, whilst the more academic might vouch for Professor Brian Cox as the greatest ever Chaddertonian. Maybe we should save such a debate for a rainy day and I’ll crack on with my day in the north of Greater Manchester.

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Welcome to Chadderton: apparently the home of the Lancaster Bomber.

I arrived into Mills Hill train station shortly before 6pm. This was the first time I had visited Chadderton since my first and, until this evening, my only time, back in March 2011. That was the day of my first teaching interview in the nearby Radclyffe School (a pretty immense school it seemed), but a day which was to ultimately prove disappointing as I came agonisingly close to claiming the post before just missing out. Hopefully Chadderton would be more kind to me this evening.

The first act of kindness that the town would perform for me would be placing a pub about 2 minutes up the road from Mills Hill station. As I left the station towards the pub, it became quite clear to me that Chadderton is almost in some sort of Greater Manchester limbo with one side of the road welcoming you to the Borough of Oldham, whilst literally a few metres away on the other side of the road was a sign welcoming visitors to the Borough of Rochdale. My confusion wasn’t helped either by the fact that the nearby pub was named the Rose of Lancaster, although I did interestingly learn from a nearby sign that the area was the home of the Lancaster Bomber with a large percentage of Britain’s fleet being built in Chadderton.

Soon enough, I found myself in warmth of the fairly pleasant Rose of Lancaster, where a scattering of young families had popped in for a pub meal on their way home from their workplaces. The food looked alright, but my eye was caught by the sight of something else – bottles of my favourite lager: Estrella Damm. Faultless stuff.

Two bottles of Estrella later, and I was ready to head back out into this increasingly chilly Chadderton evening. It turned out that the ground was a bit of a  trek away from my location, so I began making the walk down the Middleton Road towards A663, which I would have to cross to get to Chadderton FC’s Andrew Street home.

There was little to see on my stroll through Chadderton, although I did catch a glimpse of the Radclyffe school once again, but soon enough I found myself alongside the busy dual carriageway and there on the other side of the road was a fence of high trees protecting the corner of Chadderton FC’s Andrew Street ground.

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Chadderton FC’s ‘house’.

The turnstiles…well, the entrance.

On crossing the road, I found myself on Andrew Street itself and the sight of building that resembles a detached council house, adorned with the Chadderton FC sign, sitting in the corner of the ground. I thought the building from outside the ground would be a nice photo to take, before going into the ground, but as I stepped onto the grassy area around it, I soon found my red Adidas Sambas engulfed in mud; I did well to stay on my feet to be honest as the cold mud slipped under my feet.

I made my way through the small turnstile and entered the ground in the corner by the house having paid my £5 entry.

Chadderton began life as Milnrow FC in 1947, before becoming North Chadderton Amateurs and eventually Chadderton FC, the club’s current guise. Chaddy have spent their history playing firstly in the Oldham Amatuer League, then the Manchester League and the Lancashire Combination. In 1982, the club became founder members of the North West Counties League and it is Division One of this league that the club still play. The club did go through a bit of an uneasy spell off the field in recent years with the takeover by The HB Property Group Limited, which was originally endorsed by the fans, before the plug was pulled on the links with the company, leaving the club now as a members-owned club – which I always think is a nice thing to see in football.

“Taff!” I thought someone had recognised me as a lone Welshman, as I entered the ground, but it turned out it was just a Hanley Town fan shouting at his fellow Hanley fan who was also of Welsh heritage. The vocal Hanley fan then began to make semi-disparaging comments about my homeland, which I felt I had to pull him up on. However, when he informed me that the Welshman he was addressing was actually a North Walian and that the comments were directed at his strange North Walian hometown, I let him proceed with the insults (I’m only joking North Wales!)

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Me and some sort of giant World Cup model, which I spotted behind the bar.

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All alone in the club bar – even the barman left me.

As is compulsory on visiting such a ground, my first stop was the clubhouse, which was situated inside ‘the house’. The house really was a curious sight in a football ground with the bottom floor consisting of the food hatch, the changing rooms and toilets, whilst upstairs dwelled the bar and the VIP box (a small room connected to the bar). I made my way upstairs to the bar and found myself in an empty room apart from one soul working behind the bar watching Sky Sports News. The barman was very friendly, as he told me about the club and what to expect from tonight’s game, whilst I drank from my can of Carling as none of the beer pumps were on tonight. He also let me pose for a photo with the large World Cup trophy ornament from behind the bar, which, if I remember rightly, he told me the club had won in a raffle or something (disclaimer: this fact may be not be a fact at all and I may have this completely wrong). Suddenly, the Chadderton coat-clad barman informed me he that had things to do and headed off downstairs, leaving me all alone with Sky Sports News and a bar to myself. After 5 minutes, I realised he wasn’t coming back, but I fought the urge to ransack the bar or even place the World Cup in my bag. Clearly, they are very trusting folk up at Chadderton, leaving strangers all alone in their property. Lucky that I’m a good, honest guy really.

Having finished my drink (still no sign of the barman), I headed back downstairs ready for tonight’s NWCFL kick-off. The ground itself is rather basic, even for this level. Behind the one goal, where I had entered the ground, is ‘the house’ and a row of trees acting as a makeshift net to stop balls flying out of the ground; down the one side of the ground to the left is the only stand in the ground – a small sheltered area with space to stand, along with a few benches in the middle – which runs down the majority of the pitch; on the other side of the pitch are the dugouts and behind them a car park, but easily the most famous area of the ground is behind the other goal: The Wheelie Bin End! Yes, the most famous part of Andrew Street, at least in my eyes anyway, is the wheelie bin that lies dejectedly on the grass banking behind the goals. Every photo I’ve ever seen of the ground seems to capture the wheelie bin, so as the game took its time to really get going, I made my way to the far end of the pitch. And there it was: the wheelie bin! Lying there with its lid slightly ajar like the litter-containing poser that it clearly is.

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A decent pie – even came with a proper fork and little flowery serviette. Nice.

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The stand at Andrew Street.

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The trees looming over the goals.

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Match action.

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The Wheelie Bin End.

Also behind this goal is a small area covered in bushes and tress, so I decided to enter and get some Bear Grylls style photos of the game, before re-emerging probably much to the confusion of the nearby spectators (they probably thought I’d gone for a cheeky piss).

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A photo from the foliage that can be found at the back of the ground.

“Lost Boyos?” came a question from the lone fan standing at the corner of the Wheelie Bin End. When I replied in the affirmative, I then realised that I was talking to one of my Twitter followers and Stoke City and Hanley Town fan Dave Wallace. With a dull game going on in front of us, I regaled Dave with stories of my travels of my season so far, whilst he told me about his various away trips with Hanley throughout the season.

I completed my lap of the ground and arrived back at the clubhouse with moments left of the first half. The first half had been uneventful, so I thought I’d head to the toilet just before the whistle to summon the close of the half. Inevitably, as soon as I walked into the toilet, I heard a cheer from outside. I’d missed a goal. I headed up to the bar to learn that Hanley had taken the lead with practically the last kick of  the half.

Half-time: Chadderton 0 – 1 Hanley Town.

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‘The house’.

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The tunnel out of the building and onto the pitch.

I treated myself to a half-time can of Carling, but I was then informed by groundhooper Graeme Holmes, that they were selling off bottles of Budweiser for £1. Missed my chance there!

For the second half, I joined Graeme in the corner of the ground by the entrance and with the second half failing to really entertain, our talk turned to football trivia questions instead – a running theme on my travels this season it seems.

I’d like to say more about the game, but the second half was truly a borefest (or perhaps our footy trivia questions were just more entertaining) and unsurprisingly the second half was goalless, meaning Hanley secured the 3 points

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The view from the corner of the ground.

Full-time: Chadderton 0 -1 Hanley Town.

Overall, as with most clubs I visit at this level, the people I met at the club were all very friendly and welcoming, however the ground is not exactly the most interesting; although admittedly it does have its quirks with the clubhouse ‘house’ and the fabled wheelie bin.

Highlights: Friendly club, clubhouse, the iconic wheelie bin.

Low Points: not too much around the ground, very basic ground, dull game.

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