Garforth Town v Retford United
Cedar Ridge / NCEL Premier Division / 30th January 2016
Ant and Dec, Batman and Robin, Clough and Taylor, Starsky and Hutch and even Chip and Dale – Rescue Rangers: life is full of great duos, from sporting circles to the fictional literary greats, from comedy acts to film duos. Groundhopping has Joseph ‘Gibbo’ Gibbons and Matthew ‘Lost Boyo’ Harrison – me. Amazingly, as the opening month of 2016 was ebbing towards its conclusion, me and my groundhopping partner in crime had yet to meet up in 2016 for some random footballing frolics. This needed to be addressed, so with a free weekend in Janaury, young Gibbo presented me with the offer of a night out in York with his Bolton-supporting pals, coupled with an afternoon watching some obscure football somewhere nearby. This sounded like a good package that he was offering and a deal was struck.
So where to go?
After much deliberation (well, not that much as our first choice Pickering seemed a pain in the arse to get to) we opted for Garforth Town: the Brazilian capital of Yorkshire…at least it used to be.
I’d imagine like a lot of people not from the area, the first time Garforth Town crossed my radar came in 2004 when they signed a Brazilian footballer: Socrates – yes, THE actual Socrates. The very same Socrates who dazzled in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, won 60 caps for Seleção and generally became a Brazilian football icon. The very same Socrates who led a rather bohemian lifestyle with his love of alcohol and smoking. And, more bizarrely, the very same Socrates who became a doctor of medicine, a qualification he earned whilst still playing football at the very top level. Yes, this man ended up in Garforth in 2004 playing one game (for twelve minutes as a late sub) for the local club at the age of 50 – technically his last game as a footballer.
Oh, and Lee Sharpe played for them too at one point, but anyway…
The Samba link with Garforth – who wear yellow and blue too – came from their former owner Simon Clifford, who ran a host of Brazilian soccer schools and brought some Brazilian coaching methods to several places across these shores. Clifford is no longer linked to Garforth Town and the club seems to be moving away from the Brazilian gimmick of that regime. I can definitely say that the weather in Garforth isn’t exactly like that of the Copacabana either having endured what we endured on this Saturday afternoon…
Having met up with Gibbo and his Bolton-supporting pal Dan at York train station, we were soon aboard the train to Garforth and pulling into the town itself after a twenty train journey (largely soundtracked by a boisterous group of lads who shouted and cajoled each other between sipping at their cans of Strongbow).
We headed straight for Garforth’s main high street and soon me and Gibbo were lavishing far too much love on a traditional sign reading ‘Garforth Town FC’ while Dan looked on at us strangely; it really was ridiculous how much attention we paid the sign as we snapped away at it like papaerazzi chasing a prized sleazy celebrity shot. But soon we were on the main high street of Garforth and immediately I noticed a weird divide in the town.
“Has anyone else noticed that all the shops are a bit…girly?’ I asked. I wasn’t wrong. As we entered the town there were endless beauty shops, hair salons, dress shops and cutesy-looking cake shops. We wondered where we had arrived. Then ‘man town’ hit a little further done the street and we found ourselves next to takeaways, bookies, pasty shops and the Newmarket Inn. We conjured up the image of Garforth forming some sort of gender segregation in their town centre, but this scenario seemed improbable – even for Yorkshire.
With our football bets placed, we headed into Newmarket Inn and in the rather traditional surroundings one of my favourite things in life happened: I got IDed. Thank you barmaid. Undoubtedly the lack of beard in 2016 is taking years off me.
Also, joining us in the Newmarket was Lost Boyos blog regular George ‘The Manchopper’ Cheetham, who had decided that Garforth would be his destination today too after his original plan to go to Poynton FC (I have no idea where that is either) was ruined by the weather. This was to be George’s fourth visit to Garforth Town too -a fact I’m fairly sure he repeated a 100 times throughout the day. As, like me, George had come over from Manchester way, I commented on how much nicer the weather seemed to be over on the Yorkshire side of the Pennines. Oh, how I would regret saying that…
We’d scouted out the Miners’ Arms earlier (dubbing it the ‘upmarket looking pub of Garforth’) and here we headed into next. This pub actually played a large part in the formation of Garforth Town as the club began life as Miners’ Arms FC. The custom in the pub was sparse, but the beer was great – at least the aptly named Miners Brew that me and Gibbo were consuming was anyway. Good beer and football teasers based around my beloved Swansea City and Dan and Gibbo’s Bolton were indulged in, until our party swelled even further. My fellow Swans fan and now Yorkshire-dweller Tom and his colleague Dan (sadly a Leeds fan) joined us in the Miners’ Arms for some pre-GTFC drinks. Tom and Dan had both joined me in the Old Trafford away end at the start of January to watch the Swans and so this would be their second Lost Boyos excursion of 2016. Fair to say, the environs of Garforth’s Cedar Ridge and Manchester United’s ‘Theatre of Dreams’ could not be more contrasting.
The ‘oh, isn’t the weather quite nice in Yorkshire’ comment from earlier was soon coming back to haunt me as we looked out the window from the Lord Gascoyne pub adjacent to the Miners’ Arms. Sleet and snow. Great. We’d spotted the ground from the train earlier and we calculated that it wasn’t exactly the shortest of walks from Garforth station and so talk turned to getting a taxi as we chickened out of braving the harsh weather. However, it seemed that our phone calls to local taxi companies were being snubbed and so we forced ourselves to brave the walk down the road to find a taxi at the train station. And by golly was it cold.
“Is it always like this on these days out?” asked a shellshocked Dan (the Leeds one). Nobody had the energy to muster up a suitable answer and instead focussed on ploughing through the sleety wind to the station as quickly as our shivering legs would carry us. By the time we made it to the taxi office at the station, talk had genuinely turned to the dreaded “This game could be called off.” However, as you are reading this, you can probably guess that the game survived the weather; we barely did.
Not too long after 14:30 we found ourselves outside the rather odd-shaped Cedar Ridge – the home of Garforth Town. What makes it so odd? The stand. Definitely the stand. I’d not really seen anything like it at this level (this level being NCEL Premier by the way – Step 5 of non-league football). Garforth’s stand towers above the rest of the ground and has a rather peculiar raised roof, which doesn’t exactly offer spectators in the stand much protection from the wind sweeping in from the surrounding Yorkshire countryside. Today was a textbook example of how the stand is not exactly ‘protecting against the elements’ friendly. Towed onto the back of the stand and connected to it by a sort of indoor walkaway is the club bar – which seemed the best place to take refuge from the chill.
Not wanting to mess about, I headed straight to the bar for a pint, which then left me excluded from the rest of the group’s ‘5 bottles of Kronenbourg for £10’ syndicate. Whilst we sipped away at various lagers, our hopes were beginning to lift as the skies began to clear and we began to assume that the inclement weather had passed over us just in time for kick-off. We wouldn’t have wanted to be caught in a blizzard here would we? We definitely didn’t want that…
We definitely got that though.
After paying my £5, we rolled into the ground and it became clearer just how open a ground Cedar Ridge is. The only real structure in the ground is the rather gangly-looking main stand with the rest of the ground being virtually open, aside from the one shed-like shelter behind the far goals.
Gibbo’s eyes wee taken away from the ground itself to the players out on the pitch and more specifically to their shirts. As so often seems to happen on our excursions, one team was wearing black and white – today’s away team Retford United – and the other yellow and blue – Garforth Town. Instantly, Gibbo just saw the game as a mock Flat Cap Derby – his beloved black and white Atherton Collieries against the arch-nemesis, yellow and blue Atherton LR. This also meant that Gibbo found himself cheering on the away team on this basis and shouting out “COME ON COLLS!” at sporadic moments.
It took 5 minutes for Colls…I mean Retford United to seize the lead. A cross from the left rebounded into the path of Retford captain Adam Lee. 1-0.
By now we had done half a lap of the ground taking the usual photos, when suddenly the skies seemed to darken. We feared the worst. First the rain began and soon it turned to sleet and snow. We were holding out well and braving the elements, as were the young contingent of Garforth ‘Ultras’ behind the goals. As we completed our lap of the ground, we headed through the youths who seemed to want to ‘Ooooohhhhh!!!’ chant us as we strolled past them. Then one of them chirped up with a “Nice flat cap mate” comment. Being the pleasant citizen that I am, I thanked him for the compliment (I guessed it was probably meant sarcastically though) and handed them a #NoFlatCapNoParty sticker. And thus, as we walked away towards the stand, ensued the first ever Lost Boyos chant from a group of fans. To the football chant classic of White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army:
“NO FLAT CAAAAPPPP! NO PAAAAARTYYYY!”
Truly magical stuff as the handful of Garforth kids sung away.
We had timed our switch to the stand perfectly as suddenly the ground was hit by a Yorkshire blizzard. I once claimed on these pages that the coldest I’ve ever been at football was at Oldham’s Boundary Park on a cold February night, and that might well be the case for a whole 90 minutes, but in regards of a sheer battering of cold, the last 20 minutes or so of the first half at Cedar Ridge will live long in the memory. Undoubtedly this was the coldest I’ve ever been at football, as we hid from the wind down the one side of the stand. I even experimented with going up into the stand to see how I fared up there, but I lasted all of 20 seconds before I was running back down the steps and covered in flakes of snow. Kudos to the cameraman who was perched right at the top of the stand filming the game for Garforth’s YouTube channel. I promise you that the photos on this blog do not do justice to the wind and sleet that was hammering down on us.
We’d completely stopped focussing on the game as we huddled alongside the main stand, but the away team did make it 2-0 when a low cross was deflected into the far corner. Through the blizzard, Retford had clearly been the dominant team.
Then I went in search of a playing contract as a loose ball headed over the fencing not too far away from us. Earlier in the game, I had produced two deft chips over the barrier to players, but now I had the lads behind the goal once again producing a prolonged ‘Oooooooohhhhh!!’ and so I inevitably fluffed this 3rd chip over the barrier, sending the ball past Garforth’s keeper, down the touchline and back over the barrier at the far end.
“WHEY! SIGN HIM UP! SIGN HIM UP! SIGN HIM UP!” came the ironic chants from behind the goal.
It seemed I wouldn’t be needed in the Garforth ranks at least, as the home team pulled a goal back – not that we saw it, as the side of the stand we were hiding behind meant that we couldn’t see the end that Garforth were attacking. the Garforth match report described it as so though: “excellent work by Conway on the byeline on 38 mins saw him pick out Lund on the edge of the box who placed the ball into the bottom corner.”Cheers Garforth Town’s official website.
Half-time: Garforth Town 1 – 2 Retford United.
WARMTH! Thank god! The warmth of a clubhouse had never been so welcome after enduring something akin to a Ray Mears survival course at pitchside; in fact, Garforth Town’s Twitter account informed me two days later that Ray couldn’t actually hack the conditions at Cedar Ridge and even he had bottled it and headed home. My own survival techniques led me to the food vendor parked outside the clubhouse and opting for the Welsh classic of curry and chips – although the the cold clime quickly cooled down the curry sauce.
The prospect of another arctic blast was too much for Tom and Leeds Dan and so they decided that they’d spend the entirety of the second half cowering away with beer in the clubhouse. Poor show. The rest of us wrapped up and braced ourselves, now with another number to our party in the shape of our groundhopping pal Paul Brockett (who had spent the early afternoon at Aberford Albions’s 14:00 kick-off against Ripon City before joining us at Cedar Ridge for the second half – what a trooper!)
The wind and snow/sleet had stopped and we walked out fairly optimistic with the second half underway. There was no need for hiding away down the side of the stand this half and so we actually got to watch the game properly.
It would be Retford who would eventually pull further ahead. A flick on from a corner directed the ball into the net and after some confusion arising from the linesman raising his flag to give offside, the ref seemed to award the goal anyway.
Whilst I was greeted by more chants of ‘NO FLAT CAP! NO PARTY!’ as we headed round the ground and dealt with my new fanbase asking to wear my cap to pose for photos with, the game on the pitch was proving entertaining. There were chances falling to either side, but Retford always looked the more comfortable.
The day’s scoring was wrapped from the penalty spot, as Retford made their win look more emphatic. The skipper, Lee, stepped up again and made it 4-1 to the away team.
Full-time: Garforth Town 1 – 4 Retford United.
Back in the confines of the club bar, we found Tom and Dan sitting exactly where we had left them. It looked like they had done well to survive though, as just in front of them were two children playing a game of darts which involved spinning around on the spot before launching a dart at the dartboard; as dangerous as it sounds, their accuracy was quite astonishing. Instead of dodging darts in the club bar, we decided it was time to go and our gang veered off in different directions with me, Gibbo and Dan heading for York for our night out in that beautiful city.
The chill of Garforth was certainly one to remember – I’ve still got the scars from the frostbite.
Highlights: Miners’Arms, good club bar, decent game (eventually).
Low Points: the weather.
See all my photos from our wintry day at Garforth here.