Sheffield FC v Goole AFC
Coach & Horses Stadium / Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division South / 8th April 2015
Yes, the title may be slightly confusing, but Sheffield FC are actually located in the small Derbyshire town of Dronfield, which you’ll find plumped somewhere between and Sheffield and Chesterfield. For those unaware, Sheffield FC are considered the oldest football club in the world, so a visit to their home ground had been a very long time – especially as I’d visited the oldest ground in world football at Hallam FC last year (also Sheffield-based). I had been told beforehand that there isn’t too much in Dronfield, so I thought I’d make a day of it in Sheffield, before making the 10 minute train journey south from the Steel City to Dronfield. Then a better idea hit me.
I’m a big lover of the Peak District, yet I’ve hardly really explored it. So with Sheffield/Dronfield residing on the other side of the area to my Manchester base, I decided I would attempt some sort of pub crawl through it, alighting from the train at various places in the area to sample their pubs. A sort of train/pub crawl. Plus, the weather was still beautiful, so this plan seemed immense. Admittedly, I pulled the plan off to mixed success.
I was at my second home of Manchester Piccadilly station shortly after midday ready for the trip across the Peak District. Kick-off at Sheffield FC wasn’t until 19:45 so I had plenty of time to do whatever the hell I wanted today. You’ve got to love the Easter Holidays! I should also add here that I had literally not planned anything for today – apart from the fact that I wanted to get into Dronfield for about an hour or so before kick-off. The lack of planning was purposely done as part of the adventure, but it did sort of backfire a bit.
As the train rolled south of Manchester and towards the scenic Peak District, I decided I’d just pick a random stop to get off at. I thought I’d rely on whether I liked the name of the station to decide where I’d get off the train and 15 minutes into I made my first step off the train: Marple – as I thought to myself at the time, “How can I Miss Marple?”…do you see what I did there? Well, I made myself chuckle anyway, but that’s the sort of crappy joke I enjoy.
Marple was bloody lovely though as I walked along its canal and locks until I arrived into the main centre of the town. I popped into the Bull Inn for a pint and I must of been the youngest person in there by about 40 years. Then I was a bit beumused by the man raging whilst slamming his ale on the table as he shouted for all to hear, “So, yes, if I get my hands on that fella who tried to encourage my daughter to be a porn star, I’m going to smash him to pieces!” Where the hell was I? Equally as random was that it seemed that the elder gentleman of Marple are big fans of Italian football with them all watching the Fiorentina v Juventues game on the TV. Marple’s OAP Football hipsters. I’ll be honest and say that the pub seemed nice enough, but I didn’t hang around.
I still had 45 minutes for the next train out of Marple. This is where my plan was failing as trains seemed to be remarkably sparse in this part of the world. So, I headed to the Navigation pub by one of the canal locks. This place was much nicer and had a host real ales on tap, as well as signs declaring their reputation as a good ale pub. This led me to try a pint of Robinson’s brewery Mojo – a lovely creamy delight. The guy next to me by the bar was buying the slightly more exotic drink of dandelion and burdock and whisky, but was complaining about the £5+ price tag. Or as he eloquently out it, “You can get a good prostitute in a brothel in Rochdale for cheaper than a fiver and still get change!” If you say so mate. Funny place Marple.
After heading back down the hill past the canal and locks, I was back at the station pondering where to go next. I looked up at where the train was stopping and Chinley caught my eye for some reason. Chinley it was to be.
Big mistake. Never go to Chinley. Never. Immediately after getting off the train I had a feeling I’d made a bad move. The place seemed jolly pleasant and quaint, but it was just too quiet – and I am not a big fan of ‘too quiet’. Admittedly, I probably shouldn’t have to come to the Peak District if I didn’t like quiet though. I wandered the streets of Chinley and there was no sign of any pub – or people in general for that matter. Plus, there was no chance of any signal/internet here, so I couldn’t even rely on Google to find me a pub and save me. So, in a Lost Boyos first, I resorted to the unimaginable: I ended up in drinking in a tea room next to the village green. However unlike the rock’n’roll antics of Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy, I had ‘milkshake in a jamjar’ instead of ‘Whisky in a Jar’. I wasn’t exactly living up to my reputation as a ‘Rock’n’Roll Groundhopper’ as one person once dubbed me. I lasted an hour in Chinley before I was on the next train out of there.
All of a sudden, the time was gone 4pm and I realised that I better start getting nearer to Sheffield soon. In fact, I decided to just head to Sheffield; Chinley’s emptiness had thrown me off delving into any more Peak District outposts for today. I’ll actually plan such a venture properly next time!
I absolutely love Sheffield as a city, but I didn’t really have time to go wandering it today, so I opted to go in the very student-y and very cheap pub just opposite Sheffield station, which I can’t remember the name of for the life of me. I had beer to recover from my cripplingly dull experience of Chinley, before opting to move onwards to Dronfield on the 18:05 out of Sheffield.
I arrived into Dronfield and there didn’t seem to be much to the place, although I admittedly didn’t really have a proper explore of the place. It seemed alright I suppose. It was on stepping off at Dronfield that another Welshman who lived up north – specifically Wakefield – tweeted me to say that he was in Dronfield and heading to the match too. Always good to have another Lost Boyo in town! However, when I said I was heading to the Coach and Horses pub adjacent to Sheffield’s ground, we soon sussed out that we were going to different games – instead my compatriot, Neil, was off to Dronfield Town v Knaresborough Town on the other side of town. I did find it a bit odd that two non-league clubs based in the same town were both playing on a Wednesday night.
Within ten minutes, I could spy Sheffield FC’s ground on the other side of a roundabout surrounded by trees. Despite being the oldest club in the world, the club has not always played here in Dronfield and originally they led a nomadic existence around Sheffield with them beginning life at Strawberry Hall Lane Park. The club would have a few years playing at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane home between 1862 and 1875. This really shows you how old the club actually are with them being formed in 1857 – 3 years before their rivals Hallam FC, who they still play in derbies to this day.
In the 20th century, the club moved to Abbeydale Park in Dore until 1988 and then onwards to Hillsborough Park, then the Owlerton Stadium and finally Don Valley Stadium. 2001 would see the club buy their current home, the Coach and Horses Stadium (love that name), the former home of Norton Woodseats FC who dissolved in 1999. As the name suggests, the ground is linked to the connected pub of the same name with records showing that sport was played in the enclosure behind the pub as far back as 1890. Norton Woodseats would not move in until 1912, forming a close relationship with Shefffield FC until their collapse as a club.
I arrived at the turnstiles and enquired could I sneak into the ground to take some photos before the game kicked off in an hour’s time. I assured the gentleman on the turnstiles that I was actually going to the game later and fairplay to him for kindly letting me in for a quick nose.
The club now play in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier First Division South (4th tier of non-league football) and for this level I thought the ground was very good. Down one side of the pitch is a small sheltered standing area with the back of the pub looking out on to the pitch. In the corner near the entrance of the ground is the club shop and a small two-storied building housing club offices and changing rooms. Behind the near goals is another small stand with a few seats and down the other side of the pitch is a strange banking covered in blue plastic sheeting, which leads down to a scoreboard in the corner. I should also note here that Sheffield FC are very, very proud of their reputation as the ‘Oldest Club in the World’, as recognised by FIFA, and this is brandished absolutely everywhere around the ground. Even the club’s Twitter is simply called ‘The World’s First’. I suppose they may as well play up to it as much as possible – I’m sure the advertising of the fact gets more through the turnstiles. Plus, here’s a good question for you: What do Sheffield FC and Real Madrid have in common? They are the only clubs in the world awarded with the ‘FIFA Order of Merit’ – a prize given to those who it is felt have given a significant contribution to football.
I headed back out of the gate and headed into the Coach and Horses pub, which essentially acts as the club’s clubhouse. If you look at it that way, I’d argue that not many club’s have better clubhouses. I loved the Coach and Horses pub. It was proper…well, pubby. Once again, real ale was the order of the day and despite usually being very hit and miss with my real ale choices, I’d struck gold again, this time with a Thornbridge Jaipur ale. It was also great to see so many people in the pub wearing the club colours, red and black, in some shape or form – especially young children. For some reason, I like a club and fanbase that shows off its colours well.
With the pub exit literally seconds away from the ground entrance, I left moments before kick-off; obviously, I loved the quick pub-to-ground turnover time.
I initially watched on from the part of the ground next to the pub wall (maybe I just wanted to smell the beer), as the game got underway. I have to say though that the game truly struggled to get underway properly with it being a quite drab affair. Instead I went in search of food, which I found at a food hatch behind the goal. I really wasn’t in my usual pie mood and so instead I opted for a ‘chip cob’ – or ‘chip butty’ as us South Walians would call it (but let’s not start off this whole ‘ what do you call a bread/roll?’ debate that constantly rages on). Chips were decent but nothing to write home about (he says as he writes about them). Sadly, after THE chips at Bradford Park Avenue a few weeks ago, I fear that no chip will really taste as good again.
I then began circling to the other side of the ground, where I got chatting to two Sheffield United fans who head down to watch Sheffield FC when they can. I avoided saying that I really don’t like the Blades (I’ve never really been sure why, but think it’s because they always seemed to kick lumps out of the Swans) and instead I turned the conversation towards thanking them for giving the Swans Leon Britton back after his 6 months up north.
The game on the pitch was still failing to capture the imagination with the home team being particularly bad. They would eventually concede in the 33rd minute with Goole’s Matt Semley comfortably finishing after some shocking defending from Sheffield.
3 minutes later it was 2-0 to Goole and this time the goal was a beauty. A shot from distance by Jack Portman rocketed past the goalie and may have gone in off the bar…if I remember rightly.
Goole were definitely on the ascendance, but chances started drying up and I’d imagine that Sheffield were happy to get in at half-time just down to two goals. They were rather woeful.
Half-time: Sheffield FC 0 – 2 Goole AFC.
I exited through the gate and was back in the pub within seconds, sipping on another quality ale. It certainly livened me up a bit after a dull first half.
With the game not exactly thrilling, I found myself in no rush to get back in for the start of the half, but then recalling how many goals I’ve missed in recent weeks, I forced myself to budge. I always worry that one day I’m going to miss the greatest goal ever scored by going to the toilet too early or staying in the bar for too long.
It seemed that the game was pretty much finished in the first half with it once again lacking any real spice. Admittedly, Sheffield FC had upped their game a little bit, but it was still not enough.
As you do, I coincidentally stumbled across two other groundhoppers from Manchester and so inevitably I spent much of the second half chatting away to them. Anyone who knows me will know that after I’ve had a few beers I can talk a hell of a lot. Incessantly at times. So I do worry that looking back now that I did just talk and talk at my two fellow hoppers, John and Eric, but they were very friendly and recommended I check out Llandyrnog and District Village Summer League in…well, the summer. I may well do that.
Sheffield did have the ball in the net, but it was chalked off for offside, wrongly from where I was standing. Sheffield were definitely improving though and Max Pemberton did force the Goole goalie (that sounded funny) to make a fine save.
Chances were increasing and the home team should have had a penalty in my eyes, but the ref was having none of it. After that, it seemed like there was no hope for Sheffield and it just wasn’t to be their day. A bad day at the office for them.
Full-time: Sheffield FC 0 – 2 Goole AFC.
My train back to Sheffield was at 22:08, so I had to dash a bit to make it back to the station for the train. Then, I received a heroic tweet from Welshman Neil, who was now heading to the station from Dronfield’s ground, saying he’d buy me beer for the train home. I had never met the guy before, but I’m all for random Welshmen buying me beer!
I found myself at the station with plenty of time and then heard a shout of “Lost Boyos!” with a gentleman walking towards me holding cans of beer and doing a double thumbs up. I suppose this must be Neil then. It was good to hear a fellow Welsh accent on the train home, although I did say how I was jealous that his was still perfectly intact and how lots of people are beginning to mock the ‘northern-ising’ of my accent. It also turned out that Sheffield Wednesday supporting Neil had lived up here longer than me too, as he had met his wife through supporting Wednesday and then moved up north. The power of football eh?
On arriving at Sheffield, we popped into the famous Sheffield Tap pub within the station itself, where I bought some sort of expensive German lager, which I can’t recall the name of now, to return the favour of the cans. I thought we had all the time in the world to enjoy this German draught, but it seemed I had completely misjudged the time and my train back to Manchester was arriving earlier than I had first thought; the pint was consumed quickly to say the least.
I headed off to Manchester and Neil went the other way back towards Wakefield – of course, after he had had a traditional double thumbs up photo. I’m sure our paths will cross again sometime.
So the expedition through the Peak District didn’t quite work out, I ended up in bloody Chinley and I watched a fairly crap game of football. However, I still loved the day. Marple was lovely and I always like to pop in to Sheffield, but I suppose Sheffield FC itself was the highlight of the day. Any ground named after a pub is always going to go down well with me and the pub and ground itself were great too. Oh yes, just in case I haven’t mentioned it yet or in case the club are too modest to mention it: Sheffield FC are the ‘Oldest Football Club in the World’. Ask FIFA.
Highlights: visiting Marple, Peak District looked wonderful today, good ground, brilliant pub next door, random Welshman Neil buying me beer for the train.
Low Points: Chinley…never again, ill-planned train/pub crawl, poor game.
See all my photos from travels through the Peak District and onwards to Sheffield FC here.