Buckley Town v Flint Town United
Globe Way / Cymru Alliance / 10th October 2015
Quite simply, 10th October 2015 was to be the biggest day in recent Welsh football history. Bosnia v Wales and one point for Wales, or Israel dropping points to Cyprus, would see Wales qualify for their first major tournament in the best part of 60 years. I’ve dreamed of Wales making it to a major tournament since I can remember and if I couldn’t be out in Bosnia for the big game, I felt the next best place to be was back in my homeland. Plus, if I was seeking another reason to escape my adopted home, Manchester was overflowing with rugby fans for the day; there was the Super League final at Old Trafford followed by the dead rubber Rugby World Cup group game between England and Uruguay at the Etihad later in the evening. It was definitely a sign that I needed to get over the border and back to the Land of my Fathers, but where to go?
Buckley. Surprisingly, that’s where all signs seemed to be pointing me towards. My criteria for today’s football adventure consisted of: 1) a place to watch a live game of football in the afternoon 2) preferably have an interesting football ground 3) the place needed to be somewhere where I could easily get back to Wrexham to watch the evening’s big Wales game (I figured as the birthplace of Welsh football, Wrexham would be the ideal place to watch such a significant game in Welsh football history). The only town and club resoundingly ticking all boxes was Buckley and Buckley Town FC. Throw in the fact that they had a local Flintshire derby v Flint Town United and Buckley seemed as fine a destination choice as any.
I’d spent the previous night out with colleagues in Manchester and not got home until 2am, so I was rather bleary-eyed as I made my way through Manchester city centre to my 8.50am train to Wrexham from Piccadilly (via a change in Chester).
On arriving in Wrexham, I had a bit of time to kill before the train to Buckley, so like all recent trips it seems, my first port of call for the day was Elihu Vale – Wrexham’s Wetherspoons. I was greeted by the delightful sight of an intoxicated elderly gentleman at the bar dripping snot all down himself, whilst the barmaid repeatedly gagged as she tried to pass him a tissue to clean himself up. She then refused to serve him anymore until he had comprehensively washed his hands in the toilet. I figured that Wrexham’s Spoons was weird and I didn’t hang about too long. Onwards to Buckley.
Buckley is a short 20 minute journey from Wrexham on the train and as midday approached I found myself pulling into the diminutive Buckley train station.
As heading to Buckley was a late decision the night before, I had done little research on my destination, but even without local geographical knowledge I could tell that the station was quite a bit away from the main hub of the town. So I was quite relieved to find a shuttle bus parked outside the station. Sadly, the bus driver was an absolute tosspot. He seemed fairly reluctant at first to finish his cigarette to hop in his bus to take me into town. When he did eventually drag himself to his driver’s seat, he told me that it would cost me a mere £1.20 to get to town to which I informed him that I only had a £10 note or £1 coin.
“Well I have no change,” he grumbled.
“OK…well do you just want the pound then?”
“But it’s £1.20.”
“Well there’s £1.20 within this £10 note mate, but it’s not my fault you have no change.”
“Fine. I’ll walk it mate, you clearly don’t want to be helpful.”
It was fairly evident from the off that this fella was one of the most miserable souls to ever grace the world and so with that I began the walk into town, telling myself that now at least I’d get to see some more of Buckley. There turned out to be not much to see though, apart from the famous Tivoli club, a club which in its more illustrious past hosted Oasis, Radiohead, Cast, Ocean Colour Scene, Ash and a whole host of other bands I adore.
The walk into town wasn’t quite as arduous as I initially feared and I even resisted the urge to go in the first two pubs that I encountered instead choosing to plow onwards to ‘the centre’. At the main precinct I also found very little, but did get quite excited when I spotted a pub sign with a black horse on it; however, my hopes were dashed moments later when I realised that the black horse pub was in fact a Lloyd’s Bank. Oops. Still, in a rather strange turn of events, I walked a couple more minutes up the road to find a pub called…yes, you guessed it, The Black Horse. I couldn’t help laughing. Directly across the road was another pub called the Black Lion and so with both looking suitably ‘interesting’ I decided I’d visit both, starting with the Lion.
As I predicted, beer was cheap and the clientele very ‘local’ as glances met me from every corner as my slightly Mancunian-tinged South Walian accent echoed around the stone walls. I realised I shouldn’t have ordered Fosters either since Wales were taking on Australia in the rugby World Cup later that day.
I queried some of the locals on how far away the ground was and the general consensus was that it was probably a bit too far to walk if I wanted a couple of pints and that’d I’d be better suited to getting a bus or taxi. Once I got chatting to the Black Lion dwellers, all were very friendly, although with a strong tendency to add the word ‘fucking’ at least 3 times to every sentence.
I left the Black Lion without informing the folk within that I was crossing the road to the Black Horse in case there was some sort of inter-city ‘Black animal-related’ pub war. Well, if I had to take sides, if such a conflict exists, I’d take the side of the Lion as there was a far more welcoming vibe in there.
On entering the Horse, I was once again greeted by stares, but this time they felt far more piercing. You may have gathered from previous blogs that I’m not too scared of going in any strange pub but I did sense a certain more intimidating vibe to this place. So after one swift pint and with kick-off not too far away anyway, I ordered myself a taxi and headed north towards the home of Buckley Town FC.
Buckley Town began life as Belmont Swifts Football Club, but the current club (technically not formed until a merger in 1960s) has come a long way since their early days in the 1860s. The start of the 1999/2000 season saw the club move to the Globe Way Stadium and it is undoubtedly a great facility for a club who play in the Cymru Alliance. Extensive work has gone into improving the ground year after year and on entering I immediately got the sense that this was one well looked after football ground. The past ten years has seen drainage systems fitted, floodlights added and two stands built, both offering seating and standing areas. The club already host Wrexham’s reserves regularly and they are now looking to develop the ground further so it has 500 seats and complies with UEFA ground grading.
Despite today being a Flintshire derby, 500 seats would definitely not be needed today and in fact I would’ve been content watching the full game from the raised platform area behind the goal where the food bar, committee room and changing rooms are housed. However, there was one feature to this ground that surpassed all else: a bar area at the top of a banking overlooking the pitch – it even had an outdoor drinking balcony. This bar was amazing, this bar was incredible, this bar was…closed. Yes, my heart shattered into pieces. It was half hour before kick-off, this ground had an amazing looking bar and yet I was going to be denied prematch beer. I was gutted. Instead I traipsed off back behind the goals for some food instead.
Joining me today would be Clint of the excellent Welsh groundhopping blog The 94th Minute (he had first joined me at Rhyl last season) and he was soon listening to my woes about the lack of open bar. The cheeseburgers looked and smelled immense and so to cheer myself up I bought one of them along with a coffee. The burger was top draw, but still wasn’t compensating for the lack of bar. By the time the burger was devoured, the teams were heading out onto the pitch – Buckley in red and white stripes and Flint in their light blue away shirt.
Flint Town started the game the far better team and repeatedly attacked the Buckley backline, eventually hitting the bottom of post with a low shot. This was a warning shot from Flint, as minutes later the away team took the lead. Flint had been playing some nice football and in the 22nd minute Kyle Smith finished off a nice passing move to give the Silkmen a deserved lead.
By now, me and Clint were well into our lap of the ground and Buckley were beginning to get into the game. I was impressed with the home team’s number 10 Phil Molyneux and he was beginning to create chances for his team.
Buckley’s growing confidence soon got them an equaliser. A great ball in from the left was met with a left-footed volley which deflected off a Flint defender and went in to make it 1-1.
Half-time: Buckley Town 1 – 1 Flint Town United.
My recent Lost Boyos mantra of #NoFlatCapNoParty was actually coined by Clint in a tweet (he’d not thought of anything similarly catchy for his own tagline yet) and so it was only right that he pose alongside a #NoFlatCapNoParty sticker.
It was then I spotted a lad wearing one of the new Swansea City tracksuits near the food hut and so, as is compulsory when any Swansea fan sees another fellow Swansea fan, I instantly and pointed at him and barked out, “YOU JACK BASTARD! YOU JACK BASTARD!” It dawned on me immediately that this guy was no true Jack, as he looked like he want to punch me for verbally abusing him rather than me venerating his Swans support. I was soon frantically explaining that ‘Jack Bastard’ is used as an affectionate term by Swansea fans (even though you are supposed to say it in an aggressive manner towards each other) and his face soon simmered down. It turned out that this gentleman had acquired the jacket from his mate next to him: the father of one of Swansea’s highly-touted youngsters, Ryan Hedges.
I soon found my escape from the awkward conversation with ‘Fake Jack Bastard man’ as my eyes laid themselves on something else and I instantaneously entered a sprint away from Clint with no explanation. What prompted such a reaction? I’d spotted lads drinking out on what I dubbed the ‘beer balcony’. “BAR’S OPEN!” I shouted back to Clint as I darted towards beer.
The bar itself is stored in a fairly small hut-like building halfway up a small banking, but despite its size, it is very nice inside with plenty of photos of Buckley’s past teams and a trophy cabinet. The bar was serving cans of beer for £2 and I enquired into why the bar wasn’t open earlier in the day. The lad behind the bar replied as if his answer was the most obvious answer there was:
“I was manning the turnstiles that’s why!” The most non-league and brilliant of answers you’ll get at a ground. With can in hand (once again, I’d stupidly opted for Fosters) I was happy and I could even watch the rest of the game from up on the ‘beer balcony’.
Once again, Flint Town started the half as the better team, although they were slightly less creative this half. However, they would retake the lead in the 49th minute. The goal was a strange one, as it appeared to come from a scuffed shot, only for the keeper to somehow fail to deal with it and let it slip past him after he had fumbled it.
The game looked well and truly over by the 66th minute as Flint then earned themselves a penalty (and rightly so from our view). Paul McManus stepped up and fired home calmly to make it 3-1 in this Flintshire derby.
In fairness, the rest of the game was a bit of a non-event and me and Clint’s conversation turned towards trying to identify the towns and cities in the distance from our vantage point on the hill where Globe Way is located. We reeled off every town and city in the north-west, but we’re still none the wiser to where we were pointing at. Anyway, whilst we reeled off our geography knowledge of North Wales/North-West England, the final whistle was blowing and putting an end to my time in Buckley.
Full-time: Buckley Town 1 – 3 Flint Town United.
As Clint had kindly agreed to drive me back to Buckley station, I decided to polish off one more beer before we hopped in The 94th Minute-mobile and headed back for my train.
The Flintshire Derby was behind me now and now the big one loomed ahead: Bosnia v Wales.
On arriving back into Wrexham, the place was fairly quiet and I assumed that this was because everyone was indoors watching the rugby. I was a big fan of the Horse and Jockey when I last visited Wrexham last December, so I headed there, only to find the innards of the snug bar devoid of customers too, apart from a small gathering watching the rugby in the corner. Where was everyone? This bar was rammed when I was last here too. I watched some of the rugby, drank some lovely ale and then went in search of where the party was at in Wrexham. I found it soon enough.
I was spoilt for choice. The main bar area around the corner from the Horse and Jockey was awash with three-feathers and Welsh dragons and so I opted for the first bar that took my fancy, which happened to be the labyrinth-esque Ironworks. There was a superb atmosphere in here as rugby fans cheered on the live game, whilst football fans sang songs about Gareth Bale, Hal Robson-Kanu and passports for France in the background.
Undoubtedly, my drinking of Fosters throughout the day caused Wales to sink to defeat in the rugby against Australia and at the final whistle of the rugby, I moved up the road to check out the Cross Foxes, which had been recommended to me. Another great move. Once again, this was another establishment which was choc-a-bloc, but the crowd was far more football-based now; however, I did note to myself how nice it was to see Welsh football and rugby fans mingling together so harmoniously and genuinely supporting both teams and having none of those ‘rugby is better than football’ or ‘football is better than rugby’ nonsensical arguments.
My attention soon turned to the lad next to me at the bar, who was wearing a particularly garish yellow and green retro Wales away shirt. I complimented his fine fashion choice and he returned the compliment about my 1992-93 Wales home shirt (no-one had noted how ominous it was that on such a night I was wearing the same shirt that Paul Bodin had infamously skied his decisive penalty in back in 1993 v Romania). Amazingly, it turned out that the yellow/green number worn by the lad was actually a matchworn Brian Flynn shirt! My conversation continued with my new Welsh football shirt-loving pal, Adam, and he even invited me to join him for a prematch calming cigarette outside in the smoking area.
Somehow, I ended up joining Adam and his mates down the road at Old No.7 Bar and admittedly here things get blurry. My Snapchat story was actually a useful resource of piecing the night together. I remember the passionate rendition of the Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and the bar suddenly becoming packed. I can actually recall the majority of the game too, although it was not exactly the most memorable game ever to grace world football. However, nerves were eased by Cyprus taking the lead out in Israel and Wales holding off Bosnia fairly comfortably. 0-0 would do the trick tonight and qualification would be ours.
With 20 minutes to go, the mood in the bar soured as firstly Wales conceded and then Israel pulled one back out in Tel Aviv to make it 1-1. Then Bosnia scored again and it looked like the Welsh qualification party would have to wait a few days until they took on Andorra in Cardiff on Tuesday night. But when this thought crossed our minds, something magical happened.
“CYPRUS HAVE SCORED!” came the cry from around the bar and everyone started crossing their fingers preying that Cyprus could hold their 2-1 lead out in Israel. They did. Cue pandemonium in the bar and Cyprus’ Jason Demetriou becoming a Welsh national hero.
As every Welsh football fan will know, the new unofficial anthem for the team and fans is Zombie Nation’s Kernkraft 4000, so almost immediately after the final whistle had gone out in Tel Aviv, the DJ in the bar declared loudly “WALES HAVE QUALIFIED FOR FRANCE 2016!” and then dropped Zombie Nation. Suddenly, a passionate rave of hugs, kisses and bad dance moves ensued between every Welsh man and woman in the bar. It was a bit crazy. I could have happily stayed in Wrexham all night partying in the various pubs and bars nearby, but sadly I had a 22:10 train to catch back to Manchester.
The streets of Wrexham were also a carnival of joy, as people were hugging each other in the street and dancing about as I made the short walk back to Wrexham General station. The celebrations even spilled over onto the train back over the border as me and fellow Welsh fans now sung the famous chant of this campaign, “We like to sing / we like to dance. / We’ve got our passports, we’re off to France.” Sadly, we were not off to France right then and instead I was on my way home from an epic evening out in Wrexham.
By the end of the night, when I arrived back in Manchester, my visit to Buckley Town seemed a long time ago. What I will say for Buckley is that they have lovely, tidy, little football ground hidden up the hill from Buckley and if you do find yourself bored in North Wales then it’s definitely worth a visit for a game. I feel bad though, as my day at Buckley will be forever overshadowed by the events of the evening. I had quite simply forgotten how much I love the town of Wrexham. It really was the perfect place to bask in Wales’ glory and just for it being the night Wales finally did it, it’s a day I will always remember, as it was a day I had waited all my life for: Wales qualifying for a major tournament.
“WAAAALLLEESSSS!!! WAAAALLLEESSSS!!! WAAAALLLEESSSS!!!”
Highlights: Black Lion was decent, nice ground at Buckley, good food, great club bar, good views of the valley below, decent game, night out in Werxham, oh…and WALES QUALIFIED FOR FRANCE 2016!
Low Points: bar clsoed for first half, not too much to Buckley.
See all my photos from my day out in Buckley (and some from the party in Wrexham) here.