Prescot Cables v Warrington Town
Hope Street / Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One North / 19th March 2016
It was the spring of 2011, Swansea were flying in the Championship and I had just completed the first placement of teacher training in a school in Everton Valley and been rated as ‘Outstanding’. I’d lived in Liverpool completing my PGCE for 6 months and life was good. Then, Prescot happened. Well, not so much Prescot itself, but the local high school. Fair to say, I didn’t enjoy my few months at Knowsley Centre for Learning and I was just happy to battle through it and come out the other side with Qualified Teacher Status. Those soul-destroying months teaching in Prescot is maybe what has repeatedly driven me away from going to Prescot Cables – a club and ground I had admired from my adopted abode at the other side of the East Lancs in Salford. Today it was time to get over my Prescot horrors and finally check out the home of ‘Cables’.
There were all sorts of other places attracting my attention on this particular Saturday afternoon, but the idea of visiting Prescot was irrevocably sold to me when fellow hopper George pointed out the fact that Cables would not only be hosting a football match between themselves and Warrington Town, but also their annual Prescot Cables Beer Festival. Beer + football = happy Matt and so a cathartic return to Prescot it was to be.
“I bloody hate Stoke,” has become one of my catchphrases over recent years (with a colleague even repeating the phrase in an over-exaggerated Welsh accent when performing impersonations of me). So it was nice to spend the train journey to Liverrpool from Manchester with a couple of like-minded Arsenal fans; the journey time was spent documenting reasons why we held such opprobrium for Stoke as I braced myself to head to the Britannia in 2 weeks time to watch the Swans.
Liverpool Lime Street has improved tenfold this year purely thanks to the rather bleak Head of Steam pub being converted into a lovely, shiny new Wetherspoons. There wasn’t much time to enjoy the place though and with a swift Punk IPA drunk, I was back on another train – this time heading to Prescot.
To elaborate more on where you’ll find Prescot, the small town can be found on the outskirts of Liverpool. I may be wrong, but Prescot seems to be the start of the territory leading out into Lancashire where true scousers would dub you a ‘wool’ – especially as Prescot used to be a part of Lancashire before seemingly being switched to Merseyside in the 70s. I became well acquainted with the term ‘wool’ during my time on Merseyside with it generally being used as a derogatory term for anyone from outside the city of Liverpool and usually from neighbouring towns; some scousers would accuse ‘wools’ of pretending to act as if they are true Liverpudlians. The use of the word ‘wool’ actually comes from the notion that people from Lancashire in the early 1900s wore sheepskin coats. Well I’m no scouser or ‘wool’ and apparently my accent has turned a tinge of Mancunian if anything (according to others).
On arriving into Prescot at 11am, I surveyed my surroundings and noted how nothing seemed to have changed too much in this northern suburbia. During my previous Prescot experiences, I hadn’t sampled the delights of the local Wetherspoons, so that’s what I made my first port of call.
I was a big fan of the Watch Maker: it was big, clean and had a gimmick – predictably based around time pieces. Quirky features such as time-faced lights hanging overhead were the order of the day, whilst I indulged in the fine ‘Icelandic Arctic Ale’ Einstok. I’d switched to this from my usual Brewdog standard purely because Swansea were playing later that evening and I felt the Icelandic ale may bring my beloved Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea’s supremo over recent months, some sort luck.
Before midday, I was joined by George and so I encouraged him to purchase some Einstok too; he happily obliged and agreed that it was a wonderful drink. I began to quiz George on pubs near Cables’ football ground, as he had visited Prescot a few times in his Trafford-supporting days. We decided that we wanted to be at the Beer Festival for 1pm and that meant we could make one more pub stop.
We ended up in the Hope and Anchor – a pub literally 2 minutes up the road from Prescot Cables’ Hope Street home. That bleachy smell I hold so much disdain for greeted us on entering the pub, but I was more happy to see that the pub was full of TV screens showing football, which meant I had a place to watch the Swans v Villa game later that evening. The game that was currently being shown was Everton v Arsenal. We got chatting to the friendly Everton-supporting owner, who witnessed Everton go 1-0 down before almost instantly declaring, “Right, I’m off to Dublin.” Before then grabbing a already packed bag and exiting. A rather exuberant reaction to watching your team go 1-0 down I felt.
1pm arrived and it was time to head to Hope Street and as we walked down the road towards it, I already realised we were in for a treat today. We were greeted at the ground’s impressive gate by someone working for the club who began to explain to us the arrangements and prices for the beer festival and game today. Essentially we paid £7 (standard rate for a game at this level) to enter both the game and the festival within the club bar. Not that we headed straight to the bar. First, we ogled the cool graffiti on entering the ground which declared the name of the home team alongside a large image of a tiger. The gentleman on the gate informed us that the guy who created the graffiti apparently also did something similar at Benfica’s Estadio de Luz. I wonder where he preferred working more? Prescot or Lisbon.
And so, it was onwards to the main attraction that swayed me into heading to Cables today: the Prescot Cables Beer Festival. Firstly, I should say that Cables’ club bar located under the incredible grandstand (more on that later) is mighty impressive and worked as a great venue to hold such a beer fest. For £5 we were entitled to 4 halves with a choice of 20 ale barrels. I was unsure where to begin, but then I spotted a familiar name on tap: Otley. Otley is brewed in Pontypridd just 10 minutes from my home in the South Wales valleys and so I decided I should open my ale-drinking with a half of ‘Croseo’; this also led me into a Welsh lesson with the gentleman serving as I explained that the word ‘Croeso’ means ‘Welcome’ in Welsh (“You can use that fact with the punters if you want to make yourself look that little bit more like a Welsh ale connoisseur,” I added).
Me and George were then joined by groundhopping royalty in the form of Russell Cox, the Wycombe Wanderer. Russ was here ticking the ground too and had also found the appeal of the beer festival alluring, although he was slightly inhibited in his cider-tasting with him having to drive back to Wycombe post match.
Also joining us briefly was Mark and Alfie Lund. Mark was noticeable as soon as we entered the ground as we could see him beginning the arduous task of putting up his flags around the ground – and there was a lot of flags! Let me explain.
Mark and Alfie have been travelling around the country watching football in support of the Alfie Lund Fund. 6-year-old Alfie has an extremely rare condition called MECP2 Duplication syndrome, meaning he cannot walk, talk or generally lead the regular life of a little boy. But Alfie smiles and laughs and is clearly an inspirational kid. I’m a big advocate of the awesomeness of the ‘football family’ and this can be seen through the generosity shown towards the fund by football fans donating shirts, scarves and flags to Mark and Alfie’s ‘football chain.’ In scarves alone, Mark informed us that they have at least 2.5 miles worth of scarves rolled up in their garage (rolled up into 5 tractor wheels worth too) and these chains are going to be unveiled at the end of the season and be hopefully be recognised as official world records. Sadly, I had no scarf today, but Russ had a Wycombe scarf which he kindly gave to the cause. I need to send over a Swansea one at some point as Mark and Alfie are clearly top lads. You can read more about the Alfie Lund Fund here on the charity’s website.
With another groundhopper joining our ranks, Liverpudlian Paul, we continued our way through the ales at a steady rate. I felt food was needed as the beautiful smell of the kitchen worked the room. I was unsurprised to find the club’s beef chilli absolutely delightful. Prescot Cables were putting on a hell of a show so far. It was time for some football.
Undoubtedly the main question you want to ask on hearing of Prescot Cables is ‘why Cables?’ (Well, I did anyway). That’s easily answered. Prescot FC were formed in 1884 and became Prescot Cables in 1928 when the directors of the local wire making company attended the opening ceremony of a redeveloped Hope Street; several visits from the same group later and the club agreed to change the club name in honour of the largest employer in the area. Even the club’s colours are inspired by wires with the first insulated cable drawn at the plant being covered with amber and black paper and thus leading to the club becoming the ‘Tigers’.
The Tigers’ home is quite simply a non-league beauty. Large areas of the ground are open, although there is a sheltered standing terrace behind one of the goals. However, it is the grandstand that steals the show. The stand looks slightly battered and weather worn, but it is magnificent. The seats are raised above pitch level and it takes a flight of steps to access the stand perched on top of the club bar. Weirdly, from certain positions of the elevated stand, you cannot even see the near touchline because of the angling of he stand. We opted to save exploring the stand until the second half.
Like most games I’ve attended in the past month or so, today was a slow starter on the pitch with the opening exchanges being scrappy. Instead we began our lap of Hope Street. I have to say, I began falling in love with the place more and more, especially that grandstand. It looked like something from yonder football times and so I couldn’t resist going all arty and taking a black and white photo of Prescot’s pis-de-resistance.
It seemed that Lost Boyos was well-recognised in Prescot too with several folk stopping to say hello to me, as well as one Twitter follower being too shy to approach and ‘intimidated by my infamy’ and instead opting to take paperazzi-esque photos of me from afar. It made me feel like sort of a big deal.
Someone who is clearly more photo-worthy than me and certainly a big deal is the Prescot’s one man band: Rod. Standing behind the goal, Rod could be founding adorned in the yellow of Cables whilst banging his drum and sporadically switching to trumpeting at times. I had to say hello to him and I’m glad I did as he was great character; more importantly, he was actually Welsh too with his roots spawning from Newtown in central Wales. However, Cables was his religion and he’d been coming here all of his life.
Cables had arguably had the better of the early stages, but top of the league Warrington soon found their feet and on the 26th minute took the lead. Ged Kinsella rose unmarked to place his header past the Cables keeper to get the scoring underway.
There wasn’t too much else to report on during the remainder of the first half and so I continued chatting away to Rod, who’s drums and trumpet combo interjected on the conversation throughout. However, our conversation, which seemed to largely focus on Welsh legend John Charles for some reason, was interrupted by a 2nd goal. Warrington doubled their lead when Ciaran Kilheeny played a lovely one-two before slotting past the keeper with the outside of his right foot.
Half-time: Prescot Cables 0 – 1 Warrington Town.
Most of half-time was spent pondering whether to throw another £5 at beer vouchers, but as I planned on heading off straight after the game, I swerved it and just bought myself a pint off the normal bar instead to keep me company for the second half.
For the second half, we headed up into the stand and we were suddenly in possession of an awesome view of the action – unless you wanted to see the action on the near touchline of course.
It seemed Russ had had the same idea as me, George and Paul and so he also joined us in the ‘heavens’ of Hope Street. With Russ now wearing a Prescot Cables scarf to replace the Wycombe one he had donated, we all found ourselves cheering on the home team. I even pulled out the Craig Bratt-penned and pre-prepared chant of “I’d rather be a Cable than a Wire,” in a defiant call to arms against Warrington (nicknamed ‘The Wire’ for those who don’t know).
However, my allegiances switched when me and George began describing our love for Warrington winger and non-league hero Scott Metcalfe and so we ended up just supporting him instead. Metcalfe is certainly a talented, yet rather fiery and unpredictable winger, but I had enjoyed watching him play for my local club Salford City when he was on their books.
The game was wrapped up in the 83rd when the Wire earned themselves a penalty – and rightfully given too. Kilheeny would step up to take it and comfortably wrong-footed the keeper to make it 3-0 and to secure all 3 points.
Full-time: Prescot Cables 0 – 3 Warrington Town.
With today’s non-league fix over, it was now time for me to turn into an armchair fan again and find a pub to watch the mighty Swans take on Villa. I’d pitched the question to Twitter: where’s the pub best to watch football in Prescot? I had a steady stream of answers and most seemed to be pointing towards the Royal Oak.
On arriving at the Royal Oak, I found the place a bit too quiet for my liking and it’s certainly not the sort of place I’m used to watching a Swansea game: usually inside a football ground itself or in one of Manchester’s busier, more raucous pubs. This proved an issue I realised within minutes of the game kicking off, that I was being rather loud and that my language wasn’t great either. Yes, I can be one of those irritating football fans who has convulsions to shout at the TV in the deluded hope that my team will hear me. I repeatedly told myself off for some of my language, but to no avail as Swansea were just infuriating to watch. Eventually though, I did ensure any expletives were left out of outbursts at Swansea’s dire showing. I won’t bore you with the details, but Swansea stumbled along to a 1-0 victory to virtually secure Premier League football for another season. I was content and so I stayed for a short while with Prescot local, Tom, one of the lads on Twitter who had actually recommended the place, before heading off into the Prescot night and back towards Manchester (strangely via Wigan this time).
Last week, I found myself rather enchanted with the small Lancashire town of Clitheroe; this week Prescot had not exactly dazzled me, but undoubtedly the football club had. Prescot Cables are a friendly club and have a magnificent stand. Plus, I’d highly recommend a visit to Hope Street if you can couple it with the excellent beer festival too.
Fond memories of Prescot this time around.
Highlights: good Wetherspoons, brilliant ground, great stand, beer festival, meet Mark and Alfie, good food, friendly club.
Low Points: average game.
See all my photos from my day out in Prescot here.