Chapel Town v Walshaw Sports
Rowton Park / Manchester League / 16th May 2015
By mid-April, I had the closing weeks of my 2014/2015 Lost Boyos travels all mapped out, all the way to a bizarre final game on Sunday 31st May – I won’t reveal what that game is now, but it’ll be blogged about and it is fair to say that the fixture is…well, different. However, Saturday 16th May was still vacant and there seemed to be very little on. To Twitter! Of course, almost immediately I had a few replies recommending clubs right in the murky depths of the non-league pyramid, before fellow groundhopper George Cheetham really grabbed my attention with his suggestion.
Chapel Town. Not a clue. But it had my attention for some reason. It was when George elaborated on the geographical location of the place that I was truly won over. Don’t be deceived by the title ‘Lost in…Chapel-en-le-Frith’, Lost Boyos was not off to France. The French-sounding town of Chapel-en-le-Frith can actually be found hidden away in one of my favourite parts of the UK: the Peak District. I was a little confused as to why the local team were playing in the Manchester League, but I’m a big lover of that part of the world and any excuse to go back was fine with me. Not to sound overly-religious, but to Chapel we went!
I had an entourage joining me in Chapel today with Gibbo (strangely described by a colleague this week as ‘the Dave Kemp to my Tony Pulis’) and Rob joining me on the 9.49am train from Manchester Piccadilly to Chapel-en-le-Frith, as well as George and his mate Dan joining us later in the day.
After a 40 minute train journey, which relied on the Daily Star’s football crossword for entertainment (I was delighted that one of the answer’s was former Swansea Dutch midfielder Kemy Agustien), we arrived into Chapel.
‘Scenic’ would be the word I would use to describe our view as we alighted the train at the top of a hill looking over rustic Chapel. Although we began to question where the hell we had arrived at when we began walking down the country lane towards the town centre; there seemed to be no sign of any sort of ‘town centre’ as we would know one
We navigated our way through a quiet residential area, where everyone seemed to own a caravan, until eventually we spotted what looked like a main road ahead of us. And it was! There was even a six car traffic jam causing chaos in the small town centre. On arriving at the station, there was a large sign declaring Chapel-en-le-Frith ‘The Capital of the Peak’, but this was a long way from a thriving metropolis.
We had a wander of the market square, featuring a drinking trough and some stocks, before Rob and Gibbo made a sudden intervention – an intervention regarding me and drinking. They said I was doing myself no good drinking at 11am in the morning and so instead they steered me into the local tea room, where they enjoyed Coca-Cola and tea. However, they somehow thought I’d follow them obligingly and stay put. After 5 minutes in the tea room, and after spotting the pub across the road having a sign saying ‘OPEN ALL DAY’, I crept out and went for a pint without them.
The Roebuck was rather busy on this Saturday morning, with locals enjoying beer by the bar and many delving into their hearty breakfasts. My day would start with a pint of Coors and soon I was joined by Gibbo and Rob. Gibbo was less than impressed with the ales on offer (there were none) and so he refused to buy a drink. He was quite happy though playing with the little dog who came and joined us at our table. In fact, we were all loving the little guy, who apparently supported Manchester City according to his collar. Rob tried to steal him and take him to the football with us, but sadly the owner was having none of it.
As we exited, we bumped into George and Dan and so they headed across the road with us to the Royal Oak.
Football, beer, double thumbs up and flat caps – just some of the things my travels have become synonymous with. However, undoubtedly high up on that list is meeting what I would term ‘characters’ – essentially wackjobs. Well, in the Royal Oak we were to meet the King of the Wackjobs and possibly the greatest ‘character’ to ever grace my writing. So, in this quiet pub on Chapel’s main road, I introduce to you, Neville.
“BOO! I scared you!” stammered the long-haired, bearded man as he slowly made his way through the door with his walking stick. It was clear to us all immediately that this guy was a bit bonkers.
“I give the boyo 5 minutes before he’s best mates with him,” declared Rob. He was wrong. It took me just two minutes.
On learning I was from the Valleys, he began telling us about his travels around the country in his truck, before stating about the folk he had met in Merthyr Tydfil, “Met some right arrogant bastards down there – they’ll all be dead now though,” before smiling to himself.
In fact, the man was full of one-liners and so I made Gibbo start making a note of everything he said as he had us in tears laughing. He was relentless. Soon, he was telling us of his drinking habits and how he was off to buy a litre of brandy after the pub. He looked about 65, but he could well have been just a hardcore drinker and in his early 40s. He informed us that you have to drink brandy as otherwise “You don’t have a good piss if you don’t drink brandy. You can smell it splashing back.”
We thought half hour in Neville’s company was enough and so he wished us well for our day in Chapel.
“You’ve got all sorts around here – you’ve got women…” he struggled listing anything else, before finally declaring that his dad was the “fucking devil.” What a mentalist.
We rolled out of the pub in hysterics and talk all the way to the next pub, 5 minutes down the round, was of Neville. Even when we entered the New Inn, the barmaid replied straight away with, “Have you just met Neville?” A Chapel legend it seems.
The New Inn was probably the plushest of the 3 pubs we visited and there was much more real ale on offer here. I’m rubbish at remembering the name of ales, but I remember it was ‘golden’ and lovely. Also, there were actually people in here who knew that Chapel has a football club; Neville and the landlord in the previous establishment looked at us with utter bemusement when we said we were in town to watch football. “Do they play football up here?” queried crazy Neville. Yes, they do – the ground was literally 5 minutes around the corner from that pub too.
So after a 3 pub tour of Chapel, we decided to head towards the ground, after we had received some words of reassurance on social media that there was indeed a bar there.
Back through the residential area we headed, until we found a country lane leading past a cricket ground and pavilion, which was hosting a game on this fairly pleasant Saturday afternoon. It was at the bottom of this lane we discovered the home of Chapel Town FC.
There’s not too much to say about Rowton Park really. It’s certainly very humble – especially after my last two games had been at the more glittering arenas of Wembley and Old Trafford. On the halfway line there is a small, sheltered standing terrace, but that’s the only stand you’ll find in the ground. Fencing runs around the majority of the ground, but that’s it really. Undoubtedly the greatest aspect of the ground is the superb backdrop. Lush green hills stretch around and above the ground with the odd flash of purple from the Northern Rail trains meandering along the beautiful backdrop intermittently (not sure Northern Rail has ever been linked to anything to do with ‘beauty’ before).
No turnstiles here and so we walked through the car park and towards the end of the only building on the premises and it was here we found the bar. Despite the modest surroundings, the club bar is a good one and me and Gibbo even awarded the club bar the accolade of ‘Best Chairs in Non-League Football’. Prestigious stuff. They were really comfy though. More appealing to me though was the scattering of random signed shirts on the wall; on display was a 1990s Parma shirt with Juan Seba Veron on it; a late 90s Manchester United shirt signed by Beckham; a Rui Costa AC Milan kit; and there was also a team signed Benfica kit. Great stuff! Less great was the fact there were no beer taps here and so we had cans of Carling to keep us watered instead.
We had arrived shortly before kick-off, so we didn’t have too long to settle in the comfy chairs, before we had to head pitchside for the big kick-off between Walshaw Sports and today’s hosts, Chapel Town FC.
I could completely paraphrase the club’s history from their website, but then what’s the point and right now I really cannot be bothered, so I’m going to go make a coffee and let the voice of their club website take the reins here. So over to you club website to tell us about Chapel Town FC.
Club website: Cheers Matt. See you in a bit. Now for the history of CTFC…
‘A Chapel side was formed as early as 1921, playing in a competitive Manchester League .In 1958 Chapel United amalgamated with Chapel Celtic and became Chapel Town Athletic Football Club playing in the Manchester League for a further seven years. A spell in the Fairfield League followed before the Club joined the Hope Valley League some thirty years ago. In the early 1960’s Chapel Town moved from the Memorial Park to our own ground Rowton Park and now enjoy a superb playing surface maintained by the hardworking grounds men.’
Okay, back to Matt.
Me: Cheers club website. Very informative indeed.
The game in front of us slightly resembled Atherton’s ‘Flat Cap Derby’ with the home team in yellow and blue (à la Atherton LR) and Walshaw in black and white (à la Atherton Colls). Obviously, this made Gibbo sympathise more with the away team, although he was more busy talking to his hairdresser, who had turned up to say hello to him especially; apparently, she was visiting her boyfriend who lives in Chapel and she’d even dragged him along to meet Gibbo. I’m not sure what he said to hear during his hair trim, but he must now be the only groundhopper to have his own stylist travelling with him.
Two weeks before, Chapel Town had lost 15-0 to East Manchester, so we were hoping for goals today. It wouldn’t take long for them to come, but we were surprised that it was Chapel Town who took the lead. A committed run from the Chapel striker saw him block the goalie’s clearance and he simply tapped into an empty net. 1-0 to the home team.
I felt there wasn’t enough vocal support for the goal and so, from nowhere, I burst into a Matt Harrison original chant:
“I’d rather be a Chapel than a church! / I’d rather be a Chapel than a church! / I’d rather be a Chapel, I’d rather be a Chapel, I’d rather be a Chapel than a church! / Chapel Town!”
Chant writing is slowly become another fulcrum of a Lost Boyos matchday experience it seems.
Once again, I was trying to be scouted as I endeavoured to pursue every ball which flew over the barrier towards us. I even controlled one ball with a cheeky backheel volley, but still no contract was offered, although I did get my hopes up slightly when the manager came and chatted to us. When I asked the manager why he was on this side of the ground and not with the opposition manager in the makeshift dugout, he told us he likes to focus on the game and doesn’t really like being by the opposition. Well, stay focused then mate and don’t chat to us groundhoppers! I guess this game was not too much of a concern to him though, as after 8 years managing the mighty Chapel Town, today was his last game as manager. Rob managed to get some details off him and was hastily trying to arrange a preseason friendly between West Didsbury & Chorlton and Chapel.
Soon, it was 1-1 after Walshaw bundled in a scrappy equaliser, which was followed shortly after with a 2nd to make it 2-1 to the away team. A clever pass forward saw Walshaw’s number 9 beat the offside trap and stroll towards goal and score.
I feared it may be floodgates for Chapel Town now and as we tried to photograph a train heading along the hill in the distance, the away team made it 3-1. After early promise, Chapel completely capitulated and as the half-time whistle blew, I thought they were in for more of a pounding in the second half.
Half-time: Chapel Town 1 – 3 Walshaw Sports.
More beer was purchased at half-time and more comfy chair-sitting was participated in. It was also in the clubhouse that I noticed that there were a few other groundhoppers in attendance – probably trying to squeeze the final footballing juices out of the 2014/2015 fixture list.
Once again, we took our cans outside with us and this time we headed to the opposite side of the ground. We all felt a bit silly for having spent the first half on the car park side of the ground, as from this side the views of the surrounding hills was far more pleasing on the eye.
Also pleasing on the eye was the game in front of us. Both teams were going for it and some of the tackling was stepping up a notch now.
I was still ploughing on with my ‘Rather be a Chapel’ chant to get behind the home team, but they were failing to really test the Walshaw goal. However, eventually they made it 3-2 with a neat finish under the keeper and we had a game on.
Chapel were pushing for the winner, but the time was creeping very close to the 90th minute. We had given up on them and Rob had already gone to the bar to buy us post match beer. But then, a looping cross from the left from Chapel saw the ball dip towards the back post and the edge of the 6 yard box. Chapel Town’s number 9 composed himself and smashed a superb side-footed volley past the keeper to make it 3-3. We all celebrated joyously, apart from Gibbo who found it difficult cheering on a team in yellow and blue. A superb goal for Chapel to grab a late point.
Full-time: Chapel Town 3 – 3 Walshaw Sports.
A great game and a good advert for the Manchester League.
We finished off our cans of Carling and we switched from the football to cricket, as the other lads wanted to head next door to watch the cricket match going on. Me, being my cricket-hating self, was less keen on the idea. Although they did promise me there would be more beer there to drink.
We literally sat down on the bench, watched one bowl and the game stopped – this happens in cricket apparently. I think the lads said the innings had finished or something, but I was happy as it meant that we got to go inside the pavilion bar alongside all the players.
Bloody hell there was a spread and a half on for these players! I wondered how the hell they could continue running around in the heat after devouring such a feast of sandwiches, pasties and cakes. It all looked very appealing, but when I cheekily suggested we sneak a bite to eat, Rob noted that the barman was watching us eagle-eyed. No way were we getting our mits on any of the cricketers’ grub.
We enjoyed a pint together in the bar, but when talked turned to watching the next innings of cricket, I decided I was heading home. This was partly out of a dislike of the sport, but also because I was going out in Manchester in the night for a colleague’s birthday. Eventually, Gibbo said he’d join me and off we both went after saying goodbyes to Rob, George and Dan.
“We’re going to have to run to make this train,”
“No we won’t,” I reassured Gibbo. “Oh, actually, got my times wrong here – yes we are.” And so ensued a sprint through the streets of Chapel. Even Northern Rail were trying to smite us by actually being on time for a change according to my National Rail app. The last stretch uphill was a battle, but we made it to the platform as the familiar purple of Northern Rail rolled in.
Gibbo was out for the count by the time we were on the train, but I did convince him when he woke up for one more pint when we got into Manchester. I’d wanted to pay a visit to the recently opened Piccadilly Tap, next to Piccadilly station, for a few weeks and I talked Gibbo into heading there by stating that this was probably our last day together of the 2014/2015 season. The emotional blackmailing worked.
If you get the chance – go in the Piccadilly Tap. It is awesome. No regular beers here, just craft ales and lagers with some costing close to double figures a pint. We enjoyed the stuff we opted for (once again, forgotten the name) and it accompanied us upstairs where me and Gibbo did witness our final game of this season together. TABLE FOOTBALL! Our first game finished a draw, but Gibbo took the second game 7 – 3 much to my annoyance. I demanded a rematch, but neither of us had a 50p to get us back underway. I’ll have to wait for next season for my revenge.
We spent long enough in the Tap that Rob even caught up with us on his way back from Chapel. I’m not sure how, but we even ended up going for one final drink in Lloyds in the Printworks, before we called an end to the day.
Chapel had certainly been entertaining. The town was nice enough, but undoubtedly Neville stole the show there. As for the ground, it’s very basic, but if you like rural scenery then you’re onto a winner. Not one for the rainy season I imagine though. Overall, big up to Chapel-en-le-Frith and Chapel Town for an enjoyable outing.
Just two weekends to go and the 2014/2015 Lost Boyos travels come to an end for another season. Sad times.
Highlights: nice pubs, pleasant, rural town, Neville – what a legend, good club bar for such a small ground, good game, great goal for Chapel to equalise Piccadilly Tap.
Low Points: not too much to the town, basic ground, the sprint for the train.
See all my photos from my trip to Chapel-en-le-Frith and Chapel Town FC here.