Bootle FC v St. Helens Town
Delta Taxis Stadium / Liverpool Senior Cup / 27th October 2015
Us teachers had made it. After the extortionate amount of time we get off over the summer months, we’d got through our first half-term back from our summer holidays and, with us being ‘holiday-philic’ teachers, we were entitled to another week off: please note the sarcasm – we definitely earn our time off. For most in the education sector, school holidays means more time for relaxing – but not me: holidays for me just mean more time to go watch football.
My holiday started with a trip to Villa Park to see Tim Sherwood’s last game as Aston Villa manager on Saturday afternoon, as my beloved Swans’ came from 1 – 0 down to win 2-1 with a late Andre Ayew goal. But where to go for my midweek football fix?
I’d actually spent Monday afternoon in South Liverpool as a guest on the superb football YouTube channel Ball Street; so if you want to see me talk about Swansea and a man stuck in a toilet in Barnsley, head there. So for Tuesday night, I figured that I would head back to Merseyside and this time head north of the city centre to an area near where the nation’s most famous horse race takes place: Aintree – the home of the Grand National. I wasn’t heading for a day at the races though; no, I was off for a night at Bootle FC.
Craig Charles, Keith Chegwin, Jamie Carragher, Steve McManaman, Roy Evans and even crazy TV Psychic Derek Acorah all hail from Bootle and so the area is synonymous with producing talent (and Derek Acorah). Undoubtedly, the area is most synonymous with the Grand National though.
Much to my surprise, Bootle actually once had a club in the Football League as the original club to play in the area were founder members of the new Second Division back in 1892 and in the same period they even reached an FA Cup quarter-final. However, the club dropped out of the division after one season and were replaced with a then up-and-coming local club named Liverpool FC – the same club we know today. Bootle FC seemed to disappear from existence suddenly.
A new club, Bootle Athletic, emerged in 1948 but they also disappeared 5 years later. The current Bootle FC we know today replaced them in 1953, then known as Langton, before becoming Bootle FC again. Stints in the local Liverpool leagues, Lancashire Combination and Cheshire League unfolded before they joined the newly formed North West Counties Football League (NWCFL) – and that’s where I found them on this evening, frequenting the Premier DIvision of the two-tiered league. Not that they were playing in the league tonight – tonight was all about the prestigious Liverpool Senior Cup First Round with the home team taking on St. Helens Town. It seemed appropriate that for my first ever game in the Liverpool Senior Cup I visit the home of the first winners of the trophy with the original Bootle club capturing the first trophy back in 1883.
During my year living in Liverpool back in the glory period of 2010/11 our usual taxi firm of choice was Delta Taxis – for half the year at least. One of my female flat mates then forbade us from using the firm after she almost got into a fight with one of their drivers before a night out and so we had to find new (more expensive) firms to use; even when I tried to sneak one Delta Taxi booking (they were really cheap) she spotted it pull up outside our flat and instantly bollocked me. So, it made me chuckle to learn that Bootle FC play at the ‘Delta Taxis Stadium’; I hope said flatmate doesn’t read this blog as she would indefinitely crucify me for visiting such an arena and advertising the sacrilegious name of Delta Taxis.
My trip to Bootle was to prove a risky one thanks to a ‘bag packing malfunction’. Being a good boy, I decided to head to the gym before heading over to Bootle, but stupidly I’d forgotten to pack a change of boxers. I was left with a ‘commando’ mission over to Bootle – one mishap with my fly at Bootle’s ground could potentially see me forbidden from attending NWCFL games ever again. Fortunately the fly held strong for the evening.
By 7pm, after changing in Liverpool Central, I was rolling into Aintree on one of Merseyrail’s finest. Finding the ground looked a simple enough task as the floodlights of the Delta Taxis Stadium lit up an area just minutes away from the station; however, the task of getting there proved harder than it should have been.
On leaving the station, I was confronted with the entrance to Aintree racecourse, with signs proudly boasting it to be the home of the Grand National. But tonight was about football and not horse racing. I just needed to get to the flood-lit, fulgent area in the middle of Bootle. I struggled here.
Bootle FC basically live within the confines of an industrial estate and my direct route towards the lights led me straight into a dead-end; then into a business’ car park where everyone seemed to be watching me as they exited the car park; it then occurred to me that I was pretty much dressed all in black with a rucksack and that these people probably mistook me for some sort of Liverpudlian industrial estate highwayman (to clear up: I’m not).
So, eventually I turned to Google Maps and that directed me through the labyrinth of the estate until the ground appeared dead ahead of me with the sign ‘DELTA TAXIS STADIUM – BOOTLE FC’ confirming that I had finally got it right. Lovely.
‘Location. Location. Location’ – it’s one of the key components for a great ground for me, so Bootle’s business park habitat hadn’t exactly got my hopes of finding an interesting ground at Bootle soaring. My expectations were almost right, but actually I found Bootle’s ground to be…okay I guess. On paying my £5 I entered from the side of the ground and was met with a row of sheltered stands – two snug, little seating areas and two standing areas. The rest of the ground is largely open apart from the brilliantly named ‘Dodge Kop’ behind the near goals. Don’t be fooled by the use of ‘Kop’ though – this stand merely consists of a couple of steps under a shelter and wouldn’t have really done much of a job as a viewing platform at the battle of Spion Kop (the term ‘Kop’ for football stands originates from the large hill at the aforementioned battle).
One place the ground definitely excels is in the club bar – a large bar at that, which looks out onto the pitch and has Sky Sports on a big TV in the corner. It was in here I really started to quite like Bootle FC, as it was nice to see a wide range of different punters in the ground today – male and female, young and old; plus, a few from St. Helens too.
It was soon 19:45 and the two teams were lining up on the pitch – Bootle in all blue and St. Helens in red and white stripes. It was one of those cold, wet nights when you think to yourself ‘What the hell am I doing in the middle of a business park in north Liverpool watching Liverpool Senior Cup football?’ so I hoped that I would get a good game to watch to relinquish such thoughts. And I did.
Both teams seemed fairly young and both looked to play the ball on the floor, despite the opening exchanges being fairly scrappy. However, having got myself some hot chocolate and found myself a perch on the Dodge Kop, the home team took the lead. A lovely little touch past the incoming goalie saw the Bootle attacker finish neatly from an acute angle to make it 1-0.
I did start my lap of the ground, but on seeing a lad with a big camera, I figured I should ask him to take my traditional double thumbs up photo. When I mentioned that I was groundhopping, he began to tell me how as well as being a Liverpool fan he does a spot of groundhopping too, having wandered into stadiums in Scotland, Spain and Portugal to take photos. As we continued chatting he told me how his son is the usual first choice goalie for Bootle, but was injured for tonight’s game.
When I explained that I live right by Manchester United’s famous old Cliff training ground, my new friend, Paul, said he’d played there for a Liverpool youth team when his dad worked for the club.
“What did your dad do for the club?” I queried.
“He was a player, coach, assistant manager, caretaker manager…”
“Woah! Who the hell is your dad?”
“Ronnie Moran. Do you know him?”
Now I’m a bit of a football geek, so this seemed a silly question to me, although admittedly he’s about 30 years before my time. For those who don’t know, Ronnie Moran played for Liverpool throughout the 60s and won the First Division with the club. Moran would then go on to be long serving coach at the club and be part of the legendary ‘Boot Room’ started under Shankly. Paul informed me that he still gets a brilliant welcome from people whenever he comes along with Paul to watch his grandson play in goals for Bootle, no matter what club they visit. I was tempted to try better him by saying that my dad is Tynte Rovers and several other Cynon Valleys’ clubs legend Bob Harrison, but I think he may have trumped me with Ronnie Moran.
Away from meeting the sons of Liverpool legends off the pitch, Bootle were desperately trying to score a 2nd on the pitch, but every effort of their’s seemed to drag just past the far left post. They’d be punished for their lack of clinical finishing as St. Helens equalised.
A long ball from the right wing was only palmed to the edge of the 6 yard box by the falling Bootle keeper and the St. Helens attacker darted in and scored from close range. 1-1
Half-time: Bootle 1 – 1 St. Helens Town.
I’d forgotten to bring my camera tonight, so I was relying on my camera phone; fair to say, it did a shitty job tonight, as you can probably tell from the photos. So, extra kudos points to Paul here for letting me use some of his photos. What a guy. Of course, he warranted a double thumbs up photo for such heroics.
Once more hot chocolate was acquired and having headed into the dry of the clubhouse to check the half-time scores, it was time for the second half to get underway.
Within minutes of the second half starting, St Helens took the lead. A ball over the top of the Bootle defence saw the St. Helens’ striker latch onto it, before he unleashed an unstoppable volley which flew into the net. The lads to my left were uproarious as they claimed the striker was offside (it was admittedly very close from my view) with one of the crowd taking his glasses off and screaming “do you want my glasses linesman?!” to the linesman stood in front of us.
The second half was an entertaining affair as Bootle battled back brilliantly. The home team put a whole host of good balls into the box, only for the Saints defence to repeatedly clear. Eventually one such cross was not dealt with by the defence and after a bit of a scramble Bootle equalised. 2-2
By the time I found myself by the dugouts, Bootle were taking the lead. A great ball to the back post was headed back across goal by ‘Jacko’ at the far post and despite there being a defender on the line and the ball hitting the post, the ball still landed in the net. This meant I had seen a goal from every side of the ground; I debated whether this had ever happened to me before, but I couldn’t provide myself with an answer.
The game once again became scrappy as I completed my lap of the ground and so I did something I rarely ever do: I left a few minutes from the end. This was mainly due to the fact that if I left there and then I’d be able to make it back to Manchester for 11pm rather than 12.30am; plus, I’d decided that Bootle had the game wrapped up. Obviously, the second I stepped outside the ground I heard the cheers signalling that Bootle had scored again to make it 4-2. This made me happy, as a St Helens goal would have meant a penalty shootout and I’m a bit of a sucker for a penalty shootout and would have probably headed back into the ground for it.
Full-time: Bootle 4 – 2 St. Helens Town.
Within minutes I was back at Aintree station and back at Liverpool city centre within 20 minutes, where I encountered a whole host of Everton fans who couldn’t be arsed with staying to watch their extra-time versus Norwich in the League Cup.
I’d witnessed a good game at Bootle and the club seem a good, solid community club. The ground hadn’t blown my mind, but it was decent enough. Despite witnessing an entertaining game, I can’t imagine I’ll be taking in too many other Liverpool Senior Cup games this season either, so on that note I’ll wish Bootle all the best and hope they go all the way.
And that’s officially the end of that blog…but did anyone notice anything missing? Anything slightly unusual for one of my Lost Boyos blogs? A distinct lack of something? Yes, I’m sure regular readers will have noticed that there was not one mention of beer or any alcohol whatsoever (until this sentence). Any reason? Well, believe it or not, I did not actually drink any that’s why *hears audible gasps* Any reason? Not really, I just thought I’d see what it was like experiencing football through the eyes of a stone cold sober football fan; it was a hell of a lot cheaper, but a bit bland for me to be honest, so don’t you worry – your usual pub-frequenting, beer-drinking Matt Harrison will resume be back for the next adventure at ground no.199 (and there’ll obviously be big celebrations to be had to commemorate my landmark 200th this upcoming weekend).
Highlights: good clubhouse, good game of football, meeting Paul, saving a lot of money not drinking.
Low Points: boring location, not too much around ground (unless you love business parks).