Daisy Hill v Salford City
New Sirs / Friendly / 5th July 2014
The World Cup has been incredible. It is fair to say that Brazil 2014 is certainly the best World Cup of my lifetime so far. However, as much as I’ve loved getting home from work, collapsing on my sofa and absorbing a whole load of international football and some truly pulsating games, it still doesn’t quite have the same thrill as going to watch a live game. In fact, this World Cup has been so much fun that it has got me craving a slice of live football action more than I usually would over the barren, football-less month of June. So it was with warm arms that I embraced the eventual coming of Saturday 5th July and my first preseason fixture of the season.
There were a few options for this maiden voyage into the 2014/15 campaign, but my mind was made up very quickly by two key factors. I had bragged in the build up to the season that I had now visited practically every club in Greater Manchester (above Step 6 of non-league football). Within seconds of making such a statement on Twitter, someone, who has clearly been following my adventures closely, stated that they didn’t think I’d visited Daisy Hill yet – they were correct. So Daisy Hill seemed as good a place as any to start. The allure of their New Sirs home was strengthened by the fact that my adopted (sort of) non-league club of choice Salford City were starting their preseason there too. Plus, this would be the first game of Salford City’s new era under the control of the fabled ‘Class of 92’, who had bought the club towards the end of last season.
Daisy Hill v Salford City would be my first game of the season, yet my first ground visit had come the night before as we had had our school’s prom at Old Trafford. The same as last year, not wanting to be the first teacher there, I had headed to the Trafford pub pre-prom and for the second year running I had ended up drinking with THE Fred the Red (without his costume). You’ll honestly not meet a nicer guy, but he refused my invitation of coming to see The Class of 92’s project club as he was working at a children’s birthday party in Wythenshawe instead.
After my evening at Old Trafford, I found myself on the train to Daisy Hill shortly before midday the next day and by 12:20, after acquiring Gibbo at Atherton, we were rolling into Daisy Hill station. Daisy Hill is a small village that makes up part of the town of Westhoughton. The place is a fairly quiet commuter town for Manchester, which can be found just 14 miles away.
On arriving, we turned right of the station and towards a pub called the Rosehill Tavern. The large pub was eerily quiet as we entered and we were left untended to for a good while with the bar freely at our disposal. After a few minutes and having resisted the urge to indulge in a spot of self-service, a barmaid arrived. The only lager on tap was Joseph Holt’s Crystal lager and a stronger version named Diamond. Remembering that Crystal tastes a bit like a mix of vinegar and piss, I opted for the stronger Diamond – sadly, it wasn’t much better than the usual piss/vinegar taste of Crystal.
I slowly battled my way through my pint until it was all gone; I opted against another one of Holt’s lagers and instead we headed out into the Daisy Hill sunshine and in search of another drinking establishment. Gibbo had said there was an imaginatively named pub called ‘The Daisy Hill’ near the football ground, so we headed there next only to find it closed. We were not expecting to find another pub in such a sleepy village and we began to ponder what we could do for the 2 hours before kick-off. Fortunately, after walking a few yards around the corner, we found ourselves outside The Grey Man pub and so were saved from wandering the streets of Daisy Hill for an hour or so.
Gibbo was keen to watch some of the Tour de France, which was setting off from Yorkshire this year, so we watched some of that whilst enjoying our beer. The viewing experience was made slightly surreal though as we had to endure the sound of the F1 racing on the other screen making the cyclists sound like they were roaring through the country roads of Yorkshire.
After getting our fix of beer and Eurosport coverage of the Tour de France, we decided to head over to the ground with kick-off now just 45 minutes away. Outside the ground we met Ben, who is Daisy Hill’s media man, and it sounded like he was in for a busy day with cameras from ITV and BBC already being at the ground in anticipation of Salford’s famous owners showing up.
On arriving at Daisy Hill’s New Sirs home, it was exactly how I had imagined it: a small, rickety place and very basic. Yet I did find myself rather charmed by the place. Undoubtedly, my favourite feature of the ground is the overhanging entrance sign that leads into the clubhouse building. The clubhouse itself looks like it’s on its last legs with the roof overhanging a seating area in front of it. However, on the inside the bar area is decent enough and, more to my liking, spectators were allowed to take their beer outside for today’s game.
Daisy Hill usually get attendances that struggle to hit the 30 mark, yet today there was roughly around 150 spectators in attendance, which was clearly a great financial boost for a club like Daisy Hill. Undoubtedly, many were there to see the first steps of the Class of 92’s Salford City and to maybe even catch a glimpse of the club’s glamorous owners.
With my pint in hand, I headed out pitchside to bask in the glorious weather and to catch up with the likes of Rob Clarke and Zach Pierce who had also come along for today’s game. Also, standing behind the goals was a handful of Salford fans in their distinctive tangerine shirts, including the always vocal Richard. Once we were joined by Miss Salford City herself Laura Flint, talk obviously turned to the Untied legends’ takeover and the recent decision to change the club’s kits from orange to red and to redesign the badge. Laura gave a passionate speech about how the takeover could only be a good thing and that the changes made were nothing really to kick-off about. She had me convinced anyway. Obviously, I would have rather seen the team maintain their orange colours, but I have to say that the new kits are actually really nice. Regarding the badge, we were told that apparently the reason the lion now faces forward rather than to the side like on the previous design, is to represent the club looking forward with their ambitious plans and the diamond shape is copying the hull shape of the ships that used to arrive in Salford Quays docks.
As we talked away, the first of the owners arrived, with Paul Scholes walking around the ground to stand near the dugout. Moments later, Gary Neville arrived and then he was followed by a sunglasses-wearing Ryan Giggs. All three stood near the Salford dugout to get a good look at their investment, whilst a trail of children formed behind them asking for autographs.
As the TV cameras also went over to hound the United legends, the Daisy Hill and Salford teams emerged onto the pitch with Salford wearing their new white away shirts for today’s match. Only one player of Salford’s starting lineup had been at the club last season as the new-look Salford fielded a host of new signings with many having a lot of experience in much higher leagues. With this in my mind, and with Daisy Hill finishing in one of the relegation spots in the NWCFL Division One last season, it was expected that the Ammies would hand out a hammering to the NWCFL team. However, despite Salford having a lot of possession in the opening exchanges, Daisy Hill more than held their own. Surprisingly, Daisy Hill even took the lead as a clever ball saw the Daisy Hill striker through on goal and he dispatched his shot neatly past Andy Robertson in the Salford goal.
Two minutes later, Salford equalised as a high ball was flicked on by Sam Madeley to the onrushing Nicky Platt, who smashed the ball home to even things up. 1-1.
Another beer was purchased and I was even lucky enough to get the last pie in the ground, a fairly decent meat and potato pie. As I returned to my spot behind the goal, Salford made it 2-1 with Madeley being the goalscorer this time after a some good build-up play.
As the half drew to a close, me and Gibbo decided to complete a lap of the ground to get some photos. By now the crowd around Giggsy , Scholesy and G-Nev had grown as it appeared that they would only pose for photos once they had finished their more important task of watching the football.
Half-time: Daisy Hill 1 – 2 Salford City.
Half-time saw a small frenzy begin as spectators queued to have their photos with the famous faces. Having met and had my photos with the Class of 92 when they visited Salford’s Moor Lane a couple of months ago, I decided that I could go without a photo today, but I did head over with the rest of the lads who wanted a snap with them. Neville posed for a few photos, before hopping the fence and taking refuge in the dugout and to talk to Salford players and staff. It did occur to me that had things worked out differently for Neville and England in the World Cup, he could be sunning himself in Brazil, yet instead he found himself in the much more glamorous surroundings of Daisy Hill.
Scholesy opted to stay on the other side of the barrier and continued to chat to fans, pose for pictures and sign anything he was given by young children; he even asked one lad to take his empty can to the bin in exchange for a photo.
Whilst the crowd swelled, I noticed Giggsy slip off behind the small stand located on the halfway line and escape out of the ground relatively unnoticed.
For the second half, we stood behind the far goals, which Salford would be attacking for the second half, with Ammies fans Richard and Andrew. Most of the action did happen around the Daisy Hill goal with Salford failing to put away a series of half chances. The best chance would fall to Daisy Hill though, as their left back took the ball past the Salford keeper, before taking a lifetime to compose himself and ultimately get his goalbound effort blocked by a last ditch tackle.
Eventually Salford would get their third through the highly impressive Gareth Seddon, who had joined Salford from Conference side Chester. Seddon took the ball past the Daisy Hill goalie and then fired past the defenders trailing back to the goal line. 3-1 to Salford.
As the clock ticked down, I decided to head to the bar for one last drink. En route I found myself passing Paul Scholes. Initially, I decided to casually snub him, but all of a sudden the excitable football fan came out in me and I was soon taking a selfie with one of the greatest footballers I’ve seen in my lifetime as he tried to make a phonecall (he did consent to the photo by the way).
Full-time: Daisy Hill 1 – 3 Salford City.
As we got ready to leave New Sirs, some photographers asked for a photo of the Salford fans, which I was dragged into as an adopted Salfordian, which I’m told may feature in the programme for Salford’s upcoming friendly at the AJ Bell Stadium against ‘The Class of 92’ (the line-up has yet to be confirmed, but you can almost certainly expect to see Giggsy, Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville play).
We said our goodbyes and me, Gibbo, Ben, fellow groundhopper George Cheetham (who had arrived 15 minutes into the game after train issues), Rob and Zach headed to the now open Daisy Hill pub to watch the World Cup quarter final between Argentina and Belgium (with me rooting for the Argies as I had placed £10 on them to win the tournament before it had started).
A few pints coupled with an Argentinian victory was a thoroughly pleasant way to finish off what was a thoroughly pleasant day. They may not have the best facilities, but I found Daisy Hill’s New Sirs a humble and inviting ground to visit and it was good to meet up with everyone again after the weeks without live football.
I know its not everyone’s cup of tea, but preseason has become one of my favourite times of the season. You can watch football in the summer, entry is cheap, everything is generally more relaxed and you can see some good football played. I look forward to more summer adventures in the coming weeks. Football is back!
Highlights: FOOTBALL IS BACK! The Grey Man pub, drinking pitchside, nice weather, meeting up with people after weeks without football selfie with Scholesy.
Low Points: not much to Daisy Hill.