Cleethorpes Town v Westfields
The Bradley Football Development Centre / FA Vase / 31st October 2015
After our jolly experiencing the nightlife of Grimsby the previous night, we woke up the next morning slightly groggy, but in good spirits. By 10am I was raring to get back out on the streets of Grimsby and so I harried Gibbo along to get ready. Aaron and Joe were heading back to Tameside today to watch their beloved Curzon Ashton take on Gainsborough Trinity, so it was just me and Gibbo braving it out on the east coast again with a trip to Cleethorpes Town pencilled into our diary; the start of a new century of grounds for me after Grimsby Town’s Blundell Park became the 200th ground that I’ve watched football at the night before. More excitingly, Cleethorpes Town were hosting an FA Vase game as they took on Herefordshire-based club Westfields. I do love the Vase.
Having visited the Yarsbrough Hotel Wetherspoons – twice – the day before, our morning began at the town’s other Wetherspoons, the Ice Barque. I hadn’t had the heart to deflate our new inflatable mate from the night before, Harry the Haddock, so he came along with us too.
We’d seen some rather ‘interesting’ things in Grimsby on our night out, but as we sat and enjoyed our first drink of the day in Spoons, we were treated to the sight of a drunkard fighting several police officers as they tried to arrest him in the square outside. Fairplay to the guy, he put up one hell of a fight. The police eventually won out though and the streets of Grimsby were safe again…well, safer. This was an exciting scene, but then Gibbo’s face truly lit up as he spotted something which had clearly marvelled the lad on the condiments table; no, he had not found some sort of magic ketchup, instead he had found a ‘Wetherspoons directory’ –a leaflet containing a list of every Wetherspoons in the country with a tick box by the side to tick off the ones visited. As Gibbo put it at the time as we both revelled in this glorious leaflet: ‘This is a gamechanger’. I decided to save my ‘ticking off’ for the train home later.
Déjà vu kicked in as just like the previous afternoon I found myself pub crawling through Grimsby town centre, as we shuffled from Wetherspoons to a sort of Spoons-clone, the Friary. It was all a bit ‘meh’ in here, but, once again like yesterday, all very cheap. Harry was getting plenty of attention from the locals too, who all wanted to know the Grimsby Town score from the night before (I finished each declaration of the score with “But I’m not a Grimsby fan though” probably much to their bafflement).
I had spent the whole morning/early afternoon explaining to Gibbo how joyous I had found the Tivoli Tavern the day before and so I dragged him along to there.
On entering I declared, “Isn’t it magnificent?” This was supposed to be a rhetorical question, but Gibbo answered anyway and expressed his opinion that he didn’t find it that magnificent at all; but he’s more than use to my strange taste in pubs now and he just went along with my Tivoli Tavern love-in. As I said in my last blog though – the Tivoli Tavern is a beauty in my eyes.
I wanted to watch some of the Chelsea v Liverpool game, so next we found ourselves in a sports bar up the road, Pepys Bar. The bar was rather full with this seeming to be the local place of choice to watch BT Sports’ Premier League coverage. We stood at the back as the ‘Liverpool fans’ shouted on Jürgen Klopp’s team to get one over their Chelsea nemesis, but soon we were bored and thought we’d leave the armchair fans surrounding us and head to the taxi rank; Google Maps seemed to hint to us that walking to Cleethorpes Town’s home might be a bit ambitious.
We hopped in a taxi near the train station and made our request for ‘Cleethorpes Town’ before realising that the bemused looking taxi driver was probably going to take us to Grimsby Town in Cleethorpes itself. As mentioned in the last blog, confusingly Grimsby Town are located in Cleethorpes and Cleethorpes Town in Grimsby. We further emphasised to our taxi driver “Cleethorpes Town in the Bradley area of town” and our driver still stared at us as if we were speaking Martian. Instead I just got the post code up on my phone and our driver held up my phone through the drive, using Google Maps as his source of navigation.
Whereas the night before, the sight of Grimsby Town’s Blundell Park was a beautiful, floodlit sight as we approached it, the same cannot be said of Cleethorpes Town home – but we were prepared for this. The Bradley Football Development Centre, as the name suggests, is a council-owned sports facility outside the town of Grimsby. The facility, which opened in 2010, is a hub for the community and is also the home of Grimsby Borough FC too. It’s not the most inspiring place to watch football, but what I will say for the place is that we found joy within it. In fact, me and Gibbo both declared at the end of the evening that we had had as much fun here as we did at Blundell Park the night before.
The ground is fairly plush, yet basic, with just one small ‘flatpack stand’ on one side of the ground, where a ‘CTFC’ flag could be found today, and another small sheltered standing area behind the far goal. The rest of the ground was open to the Lincolnshire elements.
From the moment we entered the ground, every single person was friendly and I cannot ever remember speaking to or being greeted by so many people at a non-Swansea football match before; and coming from me, a person perhaps wrongly or rightly known for being a slight bit loquacious, that is saying something.
Gibbo had been caught up in some sort of non-league-related chat with the lads at the turnstiles and so I strolled ahead to the club bar – a fine facility. The rather fancy looking structure has a small sheltered corridor separating the changing room area and the entrance to the club bar. I strutted through the bar area and past the leather sofas and across the wooden floor towards the bar, where there seemed to be a whole host of barmaids ready to serve me…or were they:
“Have you got any ID love?” asked one of the younger barmaid. My reaction was obviously to fist pump in celebration of my youthful looks and just to double-check and ask again “Are you serious?” They were and I proudly pulled my ID out of my wallet with a photo of my 17-year-old self next to my date of birth confirming my 27 years. I would have been annoyed if they didn’t ask my junior Gibbo for ID, so I did tell them not to embarrass me when he entered the bar; they agreed he did look younger and subsequently IDed him, although more to his delight was the fact that one barmaid said he looked like the lead singer of Foals (cue Gibbo heading straight onto Google Images to check if the Foals singer was good looking – the general consensus was that he was). Despite the ID-ing, me and Gibbo dubbed the bar staff here at the Bradley Football Development Centre as our favourites of the season so far for their welcoming and jolly nature. Plus, they gave us advice on where to go partying in Grimsby if we ever wanted a night out there again after our previous night’s interesting escapades; in fact, everyone told us that we were lucky to still be alive to tell the tale (and write the blog) after braving ‘Top Town’ and ‘The Bank’ on a Friday night.
More so in town earlier, Harry the Haddock was getting a lot of attention in the club bar and everyone wanted to know our opinion of the Grimsby v Cheltenham game the previous night. I gave my opinion (“Shit game”) before once again emphasising the point that I wasn’t a Grimsby fan – which prompted the question of ‘Why on earth are you here then? and ‘why do you have a Harry the Haddock?’ And so more spreading of the Lost Boyos gospel was undertaken and various #NoFlatCapNoParty stickers were handed out to the interested parties.
It was lovely just chatting away to the locals in the club bar, but soon the teams were on the pitch and we exited and went pitchside for the afternoon’s FA Vase tie between ‘Clee Town (as they are known locally) and Westfields FC – Cleethorpes in Club Brugge-esque blue and black stripes (to my liking) and Westfields in burgundy and light blue.
Me and Gibbo were not really sure what to expect from the game, but we were treated to a fairly entertaining affair. There were good chances for both clubs early on as Cleethorpes had a good shot blocked and the away team tried to score with a clever chip only to be denied by the goalie.
We headed around to the stand behind the goal that the home team were attacking in the first half. The game had died down a bit and once again our attention seemed to be taken by characters in attendance chatting to us (Harry was still the most popular guy/fish in the ground).
There had been the odd half chance during the game, but despite some good football played in places and typically fierce non-league showings in the middle of the pitch, it was in the final third where the game was lacking. It was unsurprising to see the game remain 0-0 at half-time.
Half-time: Cleethorpes Town 0 – 0 Westfields.
I’d joked earlier about how there seemed to be too many members of bar staff for the amount of customers and they had assured me it would get busy at half-time. And it did. The queue for the bar headed out the door as we re-entered the club bar – and the bar area had got bigger! It seemed that the wall from earlier had disappeared and that bar had one of those swish retractable walls. Thrilling stuff!
Having surveyed the half-time scores from around the country on the big screen in the bar, we spotted the teams re-emerging outside. Gibbo headed out, but I still had a large portion of my pint left so I surveyed the opening exchanges through the large window looking out onto the pitch. When I did rejoin my pal we decided to complete a lap of the ground and see what joys we could find hidden away (we did find a large soil mound!)
Then, the game went up a notch as Cleethorpes launched attack after attack but to no avail. The home team even got around the keeper once only for the attacker to cock up his shot. Amazingly, Westfields countered quickly and were suddenly on the attack, before they were in front of goal where the away team forward sidefooted home. 1 – 0 to Westfields!
Behind the goals we met Eric – a loyal Westfields fan, complete in blazer and club tie – who had completed the long 4-5 hour journey up to the east of England. It was great speaking to Eric as he was a man who was clearly very passionate about his local non-league club and since posting a photo of the man performing the double thumbs up with me, a couple of people have recognised him and informed me that he is quite the legend. What a guy.
Sadly, for Eric, whilst we were with him Cleethorpes began barraging the Westfields’ goal and they soon grabbed a goal their attacking deserved. In the 66th minute a low shot slid past the away goalie and we were back on level terms. Then, undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve seen happen on a football pitch all season happened…
It looked like there was only going to be one winner now with the home team in the ascendancy. A second goal looked customary as the Cleethorpes forward circled the goalie and had the entirety of the goal to fire at. Yet as he shot goalwards, a defender came flying in from nowhere, got a toe onto the ball and sent the ball flying towards the bar and bouncing onto the goaline and back out again. Extraordinary! I wooped and cheered as if I had seen the goal of the season. I declared that Westfields were definitely going to hold on now after that miracle. I was wrong.
Moments after the Westfields’ defence heroics, calamity struck as they gave away a penalty. Up stepped Marc Cooper to coolly slot the spot kick home. The penalty came late in the game and me and Gibbo were happy with there being a winning goal within the 90, as the extra-time that would have followed a draw would have seen us tight pushed to catch our train out of Grimsby.
As the sunset over western Grimsby, the game came to an end and we completed our lap of the ground just as the final whistle was being blown.
Full-time: Cleethorpes Town 2 – 1 Westfields.
We’re not sure what caused the uproar, but some of the coaching staff were kicking off as the players headed down the tunnel back into the changing rooms (and yes, there was a proper pull out tunnel here). We let them be though and headed back to the bar for one last drink before exiting Grimsby.
Our barmaid pals wanted to make sure we had had a nice day and we informed them we had. They’d recommended that we went drinking on the bar on the barge in town next time we ventured that way. And with Grimsby nightlife tips passed on it was time for us to leave. We said goodbye to a few of the lads who had kept us company throughout the afternoon and obviously wished Eric well and then we were back in a taxi (with a more knowledgeable driver this time).
This week I’ve been teaching a class about cyclical structures in literature and my weekend in Grimsby what follow such a structure as I ended back where I start: for the third time this weekend I was back in Yarsbrough Hotel enjoying a bottle of beautiful Punk IPA.
Time in the last pub is always a pleasant time to reflect on the events beforehand and I think it was fair to say that our whole weekend in Grimsby had been a resounding success: the night before we’d experienced a superb football ground and a random night out which will live long in the memory, but the trip to Cleethorpes Town FC had been the real surprise package of the weekend. The ground may be a bit soulless, but the club clearly excels elsewhere with their welcoming fans and well-maintained facilities. Cheers CTFC.
(For anyone wondering, on ticking off my Wetherspoons in the directory it turns out I’ve been to 98 at the very least – there was some I was unsure about).
Highlights: another pub crawl through Grimsby (still loving Tivoli Tavern), a welcoming club, great facilities, friendly bar staff, entertaining second half, THAT tackle.
Low Points: a bland ground.
See all my photos from my day out at Cleethorpes Town here.