Brodsworth Welfare v Retford Town
Welfare Road / Central Midlands League North / 5th December 2015
“This should be good! This has spontaneity written all over it.” – Matt Harrison.
The Matt Harrison of 10.34am Saturday 5th December 2015 who texted those words couldn’t have been more right. Those words were sent to my groundhopping amigo after we’d finally decided where the hell we were going. Don’t be fooled by the title of this blog, as Brodsworth Welfare FC was definitely not the plan; in fact, I had never even heard of the club and I would only be introduced to its existence about 4 hours later that day.
The plan for a spot of Yorkshire groundhopping had only arisen at Anfield the week before, when I took my Crawley chum Craig along for a day with the Jack Army. Being a tax-dodging student in Huddersfield these days, I grilled Craig on as to why I had not been to the Yorkshire town for a night out yet, despite him now having lived there for 3 months. We decided we should remedy this on the following weekend – a night out in Huddersfield, plus some Yorkshire non-league football was on the cards. Now just where to go?
Ossett Town and Penistone Church had been the two frontrunners all week, but the persistent rain all week meant the option of committing to either was superfluous with games being called off because of the dread ‘waterlogged pitch’. So an array of backup games were found and even by the time I was walking to the bus stop on Saturday morning, we were still not 100% where we were actually going to go. Then, I stumbled upon Frickley’s confident tweet with no mention of pitch inspection or any postponement jeopardy. This tweet was followed by me scanning Google and realising that Frickley’s ground looked rather magnificent and so I was soon directing myself there, via Huddersfield where I had arranged to meet up with Craig.
The spontaneity of the day was heightened when Gibbo and Rob Clarke decided to join us, as they were having similar problems finding a game that they knew would definitely be on. Three’s a crowd, four is a Lost Boyos entourage.
Craig found me finishing off a lovely golden ale in the Head of Steam pub next to Huddersfield station, before we hopped on the train to Leeds (cue shouts of ‘LEEDS! LEEDS! LEEDS!), where we met up with Gibbo, ready to board the train heading slightly south to South Elmsall – the nearest station to Frickley Athletic’s home.
Rob had gone on ahead of us on a slightly earlier train and with Rob being a crazy soul, we began to speculate what carnage had unfolded in South Elmsall since we let Rob loose on the town alone. For those who know him, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that South Elmsall remained carnage-free on our arrival and instead we found Rob standing on the station by himself waiting to meet us. He hadn’t even bothered to go ahead and scout out a pub for us.
After having jolly good fun watching Gibbo on tiptoes paying for his bet in Betfred, we did go in search of a drinking establishment. I’d been informed by our Yorkshire Guru Tony Greenall on Twitter not to expect much in the form of pubs here, but to try the ‘blast from the past’ The Pretoria down the road from Frickley Atheltic’s ground. We always trust wise Tony’s words and soon we found ourselves outside the Pretoria, a sizable sports and social club.
Four young(ish in my case) entering the Pretoria must definitely be a novelty, as on entering we were greeted by a dozen eyes staring at us from across the bar. I’m sure they were more incredulous when they heard our mixture of Southern, Lancashire and Welsh accents. The local folk were certainly intrigued by us and seemed to think we were a bit mad. Nonetheless, they seemed friendly enough and we headed to a faraway corner to enjoy our drinks – drinks that cost £2.08 a pint – god bless Taddy Lager!
All seemed good in the world. We were all enjoying our drinks, having a good laugh and all safe in the knowledge that the football ground was a short walk away. We then spotted the Nantwich supporters bus head up the road towards the ground and we began to think about heading to the club bar to join them with there still being an hour to go until kick-off. As soon as we began discussing this thought, I looked over to see Gibbo ashen-faced. He took his time to get his words out, but eventually they were the most piercing of words:
“Game’s off lad…”
My reaction was to tell Gibbo to “Fuck off!” before quickly turning around to eye out the window. No rain at all, nor had there really been any since I’d left in the morning when the game was definitely on. I was now sure Gibbo was winding us up, but he was adamant. Twitter was not lying to us. Amazingly, the game had been called off because of ‘strong winds’. What a joke. And so ensued a frantic discussion between the others about where to go for our football fix: ‘Can we get to Halifax in less than hour?’ ‘Are Doncaster or Leeds at home?’ ‘How often are the trains out of South Elmsall?’ I, on the other hand, didn’t bother. I knew we were too late and that there was no hope of us catching any football today. Slowly and dejectedly I sipped away at my pint, before throwing my suggestion into the arena of suggestions: “Lets just go into Leeds and get drunk. I like Leeds.” It wasn’t my most persuasive speech ever, but as the others began checking trains out of South Elmsall and realising we were in an isolated town about 20 miles south of Leeds and trains were not exactly in abundance, I could see they were giving up too. We needed something fantastical to happen now. Cue that Yorkshire Guru again…
Tony Greenall. What. A. Man. Of course Tony would know somewhere nearby and he was soon tweeting us explaining of Brodsworth Miners Welfare v Retford in the Central Midlands League North. More importantly, it was being played a few miles south of our location, just outside of Doncaster town centre. So with literally no idea of where I was going, what sort of football I’d be watching or even what sort of ground I was going to (Gibbo was adamant it had a stand), we were soon in a taxi with 15 minutes to go until kick-off.
When our taxi eventually turned up, he expected us to know where we were going and we offered him little help by telling him “Brodsworth Welfare” – the club weren’t exactly renowned in Yorkshire taxiing circles it seemed. I eventually got the postcode off my phone and we were underway. On explaining how our day had unfolded to the driver and the 3pm kick-off we were attempting to make, he politely asked, “Do you want me to speed?” I’m not sure which one of us replied in the affirmative, but soon enough me, Craig and Rob were all shaking hands in the back seat saying it had been nice knowing each other, as we genuinely feared for our lives. This taxi driver meant business.
In a matter of minutes, we’d seen a lot of rural Yorkshire speed past our eyes, but fairplay to the guy, he got us there. We paid our fare and informed him that a career in F1 may be more appropriate for him. Now, to work out where the hell we were?
We seemed to be outside the gates of some sort of red-bricked bingo hall and there was no sign of any football ground. If it wasn’t for the sign on the gate which informed us that we were at ‘The Sporting Home of Brodsworth Welfare AFC, Brodsworth CC, Brodsworth Bowling Club’ then I’m not sure we’d have ventured in. Me and Craig scouted ahead and soon we found a banking heading towards a football ground and a small turnstile entrance. We’d found football and no ‘strong winds’ here in the 11th tier of English football to stop us either. £3 and I was in and, amazingly,only a few moments after kick-off too.
This was now going terrifically well, as the one thing I hadn’t expected to find on arriving was a decent ground. In fact, it was significantly more of a ground than I expected. This was quickly explained by the fact that the club had played in the NECL leagues fairly recently, before dropping to the lower echelons of non-league. So whilst Craig questioned what he was doing there, I lambasted him and told him to embrace his surroundings. The ground itself is very much open to the elements with a large open area looking out on to the adjacent Adwick Leisure Complex. In regards of stands, two can be found at Welfare Road with a small standing area behind the far goals and a bigger seating area on the halfway line, complete with wooden benches and a very autumnal-looking pile of leaves at the bottom of it. Also, behind the nearer goals you will find the small building housing the snack bar and it was my visit here that made the visit to Brodsworth so worth it.
Craig, embracing his adopted northernness, was to be found in here eating a slice of pie and by golly did it look like some mighty fine meat and potato pie. Of course I was getting some. “Chips and gravy too?” Aye, why not. The wait was a bit long, but I was in the warmth of the very pleasant clubhouse, I was able to watch the game unfold out the window and the wait was indeed worth it. Frankly, this may be one of the finest pies I’ve ever had at football. Seriously. There were proper chunks of meat, beautiful potatoes and the gravy was spot on too. I honestly considered buying another one at half-time.
My companions had abandoned me whilst I dived into this beautiful temple of pie and so I headed back out into the wind in search of them. When I was reunited with them – well, Craig and Rob at least, as Gibbo had gone walkies somewhere – it was time to actually watch some of the game. But there wasn’t much happening on the pitch and so we began dicking around taking photos and Craig decided to go for a roll in the long grass – as you do – before going to sit on the ground’s ‘naughty chair’.
Refuge was soon taken in the stand, as we watched the first half come to a rather dull end. It was scrappy to say the least. By now, Gibbo had had enough of me and Craig venerating Brodsworth’s pie effort and so he couldn’t resist heading to the snack bar himself to get a piece of the pie action. Craig’s burgeoning northernness came to fruition again as he went along with Gibbo seemingly to just watch him eat it.
Whilst Rob continued to take some photos from the stand, I figured I wanted to go look at the pie again too, so off I plodded towards the snack bar with just moments left of the first half. In that way that so often happens to me these days it seems, the moment I looked away from the pitch, Brodsworth scored. How did they score? Well, you’ll have to ask someone else in the abundant attendance of 20-30 people.
Half-time: Brodsworth Welfare 1 – 0 Retford Town.
Although the innards of the snack bar provided a cosy reprieve from the wind, I was feeling less cosy inside as I spent my half-time reading up on what the hell was happening to my beloved Swansea, who were losing 2-0 at home to Leicester and apparently being hammered. Sadly, there was no alcohol in the clubhouse either to help me drown my sorrows. At least to take my mind off Swansea I was treated to a far more entertaining second half at Welfare Road.
For the second 45, we positioned ourselves at the back of the stand and with no stewarding in place, I declared I was going to stand up at the back of the stand like a proper thug, undoubtedly disrupting the 4-5 people in the stand alongside us.
It wasn’t too long until it was 2-0 to the home team, but it was Brodsworth’s 3rd goal that was the most spectacular goal of the day and akin to something out of The Matrix. A ball into the box from out on the right eventually fell into the path of Welfare’s striker at the back post and about 8 yards from goal; he took aim and performed a karate kick volley which sent the ball floating up in the air and teasingly just above the keeper, where it seemed to stop for a few seconds, before the wind decided to drop it back over the keeper. We were all absolutely amazed when it actually went in. Make note spoilsport ref at Frickley: this is the sort of fun goal you tried to deny us.
By now, Retford’s manager was going absolutely ballistic on the touchline about his side’s lack of passion, but undoubtedly his show of emotion got his team fired up as they pulled a goal back to make it 3-1.
Excitement levels were further added to when Retford scored again to make it 3-2 and it all of a sudden appeared like we had an almighty comeback on our hands. This obviously led to tempers flaring up on the pitch and some of the tackles that began flying in were as tasty as the pie earlier. One of Brodsworth’s players played up to this and performed some exuberant theatrics following a tackle, much to the ire of the Retford manager again. In a humorous exchange the Brodsworth player got back to his feet unscathed having earned a freekick, before blowing a kiss towards the Retford manager – not nice to see play-acting at this level, but funny nonetheless.
The big comeback party for Retford was killed off it seemed by Brodsworth nabbing a 4th to make it 4-2, but there was still time for more drama (and more flying tackles). When Brodsworth’s keeper came charging out of his box, he mishit his clearance, which then fell to a Retford player who confidently hit the ball into the empty net from 35 yards out. 4-3.
The game blew up into another frenzy of tough tackling and typical non-league no-nonsense, but ultimately there was to be no further goalscoring and for the second Saturday in a row for me, I had witnessed a 4-3 full-time score to the home team.
Full-time: Brodsworth Welfare 4 – 3.
Time for that night out in Huddersfield…as long as we could work out where we actually were and how to get home. One of the locals at Brodsworth Welfare seemed to make out that walking from the ground to Adwick station was a perilous and epic journey similar to Frodo’s voyage to Mordor, before then ruining the effect by saying it would take 30 minutes; that would do us.
The wind was at its most liveliest now and we did well not to get blown into oncoming traffic as we bundled through the Yorkshire suburbian wilderness. Eventually we made it to the train station, but even there it felt like the small plastic shelter we housed ourselves in was going to blow away and whisk us off to Oz. Instead we survived and were soon being whisked away to another magical land: Leeds.
Our final moments as a foursome embraced the randomness of the day, as for no apparent reason I began humming the tune to New Order’s Blue Monday. No conversation had prompted what was to come next as me, Craig and Gibbo suddenly transformed into a sort of New Order-beat boxing tribute band. I felt compelled to film at least some of our attempt at the intro. Rob let down the impromptu acapella by not suddenly launching into the lyrics of Sumner. And that was his cue to leave the train and head back to Sheffield, whilst we ploughed on towards Leeds on the slowest train ever (clearly fearfully of blowing away too).
We made it to Leeds with the train remaining on the tracks and Gibbo headed back towards York and me and Craig veered towards Huddersfield. Incredibly, we had not visited a Wetherspoons all day and so that was fixed on arriving back in Hudders. Punk IPA was acquired in the Lord Wilson before back to Craig’s we went and onwards to a booze-fuelled night out in the town.
I think the night can best be summed up by the drunken smiles below and the fact that I carried on the randomness of the day by ordering a red VK in the final bar of the night. I still can’t picture the Matt Harrison I know saying at the bar: “Do you know what? I fancy a red VK,” so I’m assuming that it was a Craig purchase, although he’s yet to take responsibility for it. Anyway, Huddersfield was a fun, yet slightly hazy, night out. Hopefully I wasn’t too much of a drunken pain in the arse.
Dodgy local pubs, last-minute taxi dashes to make kick-off, discovering immense pie, a fiery non-league encounter in the wind with silly goals and tackles, New Order beat boxing and a night out in Huddersfield – I had called it so right at the start of the day. This did have spontaneity written all over it – and they are always the best days.
Highlights: Pretoria club, making it to a game against the odds (cheers Tony!), incredible pie, brilliant second half, crazy, karate kick/wind goal, fun night in Huddersfield.
Low Points: contending with the weather, Frickley game postponement, near fatal taxi ride.
Check out all my photos from our day at Brodsworht Welfare (via South Elmsall) here.