Manchester City Ladies v Bristol Academy Women
Women’s Super League / Academy Stadium / 27th September 2015
During this summer, my Twitter feed was brimming with love for the Women’s World Cup that was taking place out in Canada. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t watch one minute of it. I’m not some sort of chauvinistic, misogynist who pours scorn on women’s football – I just struggled to muster the energy to watch it. If you read these pages regularly, you would have probably sussed by now that I like football; I like football a lot. Yet, I do not find myself rushing home to watch African Cup of Nations action during January, nor do I check Eurosport religiously to see when they are showing their next U-17 Oceanic Cup tournament or their Beach Football European Championships or whatever obscure footballing tournament takes their fancy at the time. In regards of watching on TV, I do find myself drawing the line at times – I do try to have a life outside of football too you see…I try anyway.
The opening of the last line is perhaps telling though: ‘in regards of watching on TV’. You see I have no excuse in to have snubbed live women’s football, as the realms of travelling to watch live football is where I’m in my element. However, somehow, I have never been to a women’s football match. Ever. Maybe deep in my psyche is buried a male chauvinistic pig after all. At least I’ve recognised this flaw in my football-viewing repertoire. Even during preseason, I wrote my very own Lost Boyos Bucket List for the upcoming season and featuring on that was ‘Attending a women’s football match’. Well, it’s time to tick that box off. I would not be venturing far for my female footballing fix either: I was heading back to the City Academy Stadium to watch Manchester City Ladies take on Bristol City Women.
“Where the fuck are you taking me?” queried Craig, as I led him through the housing estate in the shadows of the now enlarged Etihad Stadium. Now a Lost Boyos regular, Craig has recently moved to Huddersfield University to complete a degree in Sports Journalism and one of his first uni tasks was to come a week later, as he had sorted out a trip to the Academy Stadium pressbox for a City Ladies’ game. Today was a sort of journalistic scouting mission for him (plus an excuse to see his groundhopping Welsh pal). In regards of the ‘Where the fuck are you taking me?’ question which opened this paragraph, well that was in reference to the dingy pub entrance I was directing him towards on the aforementioned housing estate. This was the Corner Shop: the winner of Lost Boyos Pub of the Year 2014 (what an accolade).
Once we had settled in the modest and punter-light surroundings of the Corner Shop, I explained to Craig that everybody reacts the same way when I first take them to the Corner Shop, but everyone soon falls in love with the place; it has street lamps, old shop fronts and guitars on the wall all within its small walls. Clearly, Craig hadn’t adjusted to the north as he struggled to see the place’s clear charm, although we both found entertainment in the drunk who was having flirty exchanges with a foul-mouthed OAP, whilst also abusing me for wearing my cap back to front. Yes, controversy reigned today as I had opted to wear a back-to-front snapback over a flat cap to keep things spicy in the hat department.
After 3 pints and having had Alesha Dixon run down her top 20 Most Talented Brits on some sort of music channel (modestly, she put herself at number 1 ahead of Take That, Spice Girls and other more stellar names), we made our way out the door and towards the structure of the Academy Stadium, which we could see 5 minutes up the road.
We soon arrived at the small box office and Craig ordered his under-20 ticket, before the man behind the counter suddenly eyed me up and said “Two under-20s?”. I replied in the affirmative and walked away chuffed that I’d past for under-20. I’d not even shaved! This wasn’t a monetary victory by the way, as an adult ticket cost a mere £1 more, I was just chuffed at a reaffirming of my youth (especially after some students in school had guessed my age as far higher than it actually is in a recent game of ‘Guess how old sir is?”).
The Academy Stadium is not the most exciting of arenas, but it does its job in a very neat and tidy fashion with the stadium now housing the City EDS team and City Ladies (check out my blog about my 1st visit to learn more of its history). Sadly, unlike my evening at this ground back at the start of 2015 for New York City v St, Mirren, the standing terrace area was closed off. So, we headed off to the seats in the main stand, where we found Rob and his dad with two seats waiting for us.
Craig had tried to fit in today by wearing a Man City shirt from his extensive football shirt wardrobe; me and Rob on the other hand had gone into full-on hipster mode. Also, in a slight attempt to fit in slightly, I had worn my light blue Stuttgart Kickers shirt; since me and Rob attended New York City’s maiden game played in this very ground, Rob has become slightly enamoured with Man City’s American side project and so today we found him wearing the light blue of NYCFC rather than the usual white blue of MCFC.
Rob and his dad go along to watch a lot of the City Ladies games, so they are clearly fans of the team. Craig is also one of those people I mentioned earlier who fell in love with England’s Lionnesses in their brave attempt to win the Women’s World Cup and so he was very excited to see his first women’s game and to see some of the stars of that England team in the flesh. Sadly, things would quickly go awry for him…
The team’s lined up with City needing a win in this penultimate game of the season to still have a chance of winning the Super League, whereas a loss for Bristol would see them relegated.
Almost immediately it was evident to see why City are one of the frontrunners in the league and Bristol so lowly, as City dominated from the very first kick of the game. However, as City were dominating out on the pitch , Craig was beginning to panic in the stands as he couldn’t find his wallet. Off he went in search of it down at the food kiosk and the ticket office (the only two places we’d been en route to our seats) but he returned looking glum (to put it lightly). Every steward in the ground was now aware of a missing wallet and to keep an eye out for it. Craig was now struggling to concentrate on his enjoyment of his first women’s football match.
On the pitch, things were going much smoother for the City Ladies. It took just 9 minutes for City to open the scoring with Jill Scott finishing well into the bottom corner.
We had endured 30 minutes of agitated Craig (I’d have been the same in fairness) when City added a 2nd through Isobel Christansen, who directed a deflected shot in, after the Bristol keeper had already begun diving the other way.
With still no sign of the missing wallet, I was now starting to feel remarkably sorry for Craig as I had been sure that the wallet would eventually show up. He began to wonder whether it had been stolen, but I assured him that I was walking behind him as we walked into the ground and that no-one had gone near him. Plus, the family-orientated clientele around us hardly looked like accomplished larcenists. Craig slumped forward in his seat in sheer dismay, so I went to give him a consoling pat on the back only to notice something out of the corner of my eye: a student card shining out of a wallet – a wallet wedged between his seat and the seat next to his. I seized it and being a proper cock asked “Is this yours?” before collapsing in a fit of laughter. The stadium-wide hunt for the wallet was over – it was…on the seat next to his. Brilliant. Craig was happy anyway and declared he could now enjoy the game. The triumph of finding the wallet was reflected on the pitch as Man City Ladies made it 3-0 with Lucy Bronze driving an effort home after a spot of pin ball in the box.
Half-time: Manchester City Ladies 3 – 0 Bristol Academy Women.
I’m a big believer that Manchester football grounds always play the best music – probably because all the best bands come from Manchester – and so we stayed in our seats for half-time and revelled in the soundtracking of the Smiths, Stone Roses, Charlatans etc. Well, I tried to stay in my seat anyway. Craig had soon dragged me down the front to barge small girls out-of-the-way to have a photo with someone called Tony Duggan – he’s a big fan it seems; apparently, she is a big deal in women’s football so apologies for lack of knowledge here. Sadly, for Craig, Duggan had to head back in and the children had beaten him to the photo opportunities.
The second half was much the same as the first and within minutes Nikita Parris had made it 4 – 0.
To be honest, the game was getting a bit dull now and the atmosphere wasn’t exactly buoyant either. I will say though that it was brilliant to see so many young people in the stands and the fact that several had women’s footballers on the back of their shirts can only be a good sign that women’s football’s popularity is growing. But on a warm day like this and with the game wrapped up comfortably in the first half, the action wasn”t exactly getting my pulse racing, despite the efforts of the man banging the small drum behind us chanting ‘CITY!’
Despite the game slowing down, undoubtedly the football was technically very good and Man City were moving the ball about brilliantly at times. It was this technical superiority over Bristol that saw them be so utterly dominant and soon make it 5 – 1 – this time scoring from the spot.
In recent years, me and my football travel companions have begun throwing around the phrase ‘hipster footballer’ in regards to any particularly cool footballer we’ve witnessed (usually with the added criteria of being from overseas – the more obscure the country the better – being some sort of silky, slick playmaker or having a ridiculous haircut). Today would be my introduction to my first ever ‘hipster women’s footballer’; I introduce to you Daphne Corboz – City’s American playmaker joining the action from the bench as she made her comeback from a recent injury. Corboz looked a classy act as soon as she entered the fray. Bonus hipster points for Corboz too after Rob informed me that she had postponed her offer of going to medical school back in the States so she could play for City Ladies. What a gal!
The scoring would eventually be brought to an end when the home team made it 6 – 1. The final scorer of the day was Georgia Stanway, the substitute who had come off the bench to make it ‘six of the best’ for City.
Full-time: Manchester City Ladies 6 – 1 Bristol Academy Women.
Rob and his dad dashed off, as Rob wanted to make it over to Widnes for the other big Women’s Super League game of the day, Liverpool Ladies v Chelsea Ladies, which was kicking off at 6pm. The offer of a women’s football double-header was put to me and Craig but neither of us could really be bothered (Chelsea won though meaning that they are a point clear at the top of the table ahead of City with one game to go). Instead, I offered Craig a tour of some of Manchester’s finest pubs and bars.
There is a tram stop directly outside the Academy Stadium, but we both wanted to cross the new bridge from the Academy to the Etihad Stadium, so we opted to take that route and hop on the tram back at the Etihad Campus stop. Sadly for Craig, there was once again no opportunity for a photo with Tony Duggan as we walked past the small crowd of kids waiting for autographs and photos.
It was not long before we were back in Manchester city centre and I decided to take Craig on a whistle-stop tour of a couple of my favourite bars in the city before he headed back to Yorkshire. First stop was Corbieres, a bar located down a back alley and then down a hidden away narrow staircase. Easily one of Manchester’s finest and a bar that proudly claims to have the ‘best jukebox in Manchester’; fitting in with the Mancunian theme I threw on some Stone Roses and Smiths with Craig adding some Courteeners to the mix. Top bar and you should check it out.
We then headed through the Northern Quarter, stopped at a bar called Guilty (not as dodgy as it sounds) where I befriended a barman from Swansea, before we ended up at a bar which I’m sure many locals will agree is becoming a cult in Manchester: I give you, the Piccadilly Tap. The pub is located virtually next door to Piccadilly station and it is the perfect pre- or post-train drinking hole, so perfect for a pint before Craig hopped on his train back to Huddersfield. So what makes the Piccadilly a burgeoning legend in the Manchester pub scene since its opening earlier this year? Definitely the extensive, ever-changing menu of beers and ales. It is a real ale drinker’s paradise. The only reason it is not 100% perfect for me is due to my repeated defeats to Gibbo on the table football upstairs.
After saying goodbye to Craig, I decided to head back through the Northern Quarter en route to my bus home and found myself distracted by ‘From Dusk til Pawn’; I had heard about this bar where from the outside it looks like a pawn shop, but the exterior is a mere deception and within lives a rather stylish bar – and some amazing Hawaiian lager.
The supposedly ‘hidden bar’ had given me a taste for more of Manchester’s secretive ‘speakeasies’. Having recently read an article about Manchester’s ‘most secret bars’ I went in hunt of the mythical ‘Wash House’.
Now if I told you at the start, when I was claiming not to be a ‘chauvinistic pig’, that I’d finish by talking about a room full of washing machines, then you probably would have thought, ‘Yes, Harrison – you are a chauvinistic pig.’ You’d be wrong. I’d merely be referring to ‘Wash House’ – a launderette from the outside, but within lies Manchester’s most clandestine bar. Well, I found it, but I’ll keep in with the spirits of things and not reveal its location. I will say I turned up there and didn’t have a clue how to get in. Then, on spotting the old phone next to the large washing machine, I pressed dial and was soon on the phone to a woman asking had I booked in my ‘washing’; what ensued was a bizarre conversation about washing, but with obvious bar-related subtext. Ultimately, I was refused entry to the place as I hadn’t booked my ‘washing’ in advance and I wouldn’t be permitted entry unless I found ‘the number’ and ‘booked in my washing’. A quick peruse of the internet and I located the phone number and I was soon back on the phone booking in some ‘washing’ for one immediately. I now approached the large washing machine in the corner and soon it swung open revealing to me a dimly-lit, hidden away cocktail bar. I felt like I was going into a cocktail-lover’s version of Narnia.
When the barmaid came and chatted to me about what I would like, I realised I really didn’t want a cocktail and I asked for beer instead. I can’t even remember what it was, but it was beautiful and rightly so for £4.40. I was soon given the bar’s business card by the barmaid and I suddenly felt like the member of some sort of cocktail bar Illuminati. This was a school night for me, so I thought it best to turn down another drink, but I made it known that I’d be back to do some washing again.
I made sure that for my first women’s football game, I gave the occasion my usual Lost Boyos treatment and didn’t make a half-arsed day of it. I generally enjoyed the game I witnessed, although it wasn’t exactly the most high-octane game of football that I’ve watched. There were plenty of goals though so I can’t complain. Throw in the fact that I had saved the day by finding Craig’s wallet, I’d drunk in a few of my most-loved Mancunian pubs and then ended up in a secret bar hidden behind a washing machine and I would say that’s a good day in all.
Highlights: Corner Shop pub, lots of goals, Daphne Corboz – first hipster women’s footballer of my travels, Manchester pub tour, The Wash House.
Low Points:not much atmosphere, despite goals, game was a bit dull.
See all my photos from my first women’s game here.