That picture, more than any other since July 4, tells you that normality is returning.
Having visited over 30 boozers/sports clubs so far since restrictions were eased it has still irked me that I couldn’t watch a non-league game of football.
(3-sided ground – model copied by Oxford)
You’re going to have to let me indulge myself a little on this post as I could hardly contain my excitement at being allowed to watch a football game once again.
I don’t mean a Conference game but the sort of Step 5 tier game that Duncan regularly posts about on his Twitter feed (along with beer, cricket and moths of course).
I’ve been thinking about why I was feeling a little grumpy during lockdown and whilst home schooling probably had a bearing the lack of pubs and live sport – England’s two finest exports – were the biggest factors.
Whilst pubs reopening has been magnificent the icing on the cake occurred today as I could finally watch some live football!
Excitement in the Beermat household had reached fever pitch and I persuaded my lad to come and watch a pre-season friendly between Gresley Rovers and Stafford Rangers.
I’d never been to the Moat Ground before although was aware that they had a magnificent Bass House, The Royal Oak, just a stone’s throw from their old school stadium – Read it here.
(lots of chimney pots)
It’s a ground tucked away between the backstreets of Church Gresley and a throwback to a different era.
Both teams have seen better days with Gresley reaching the final of the FA Vase at Wembley in 1991 before being denied promotion to the Conference in 1997 under Paul Futcher and Garry Birtles due to the stadium.
It’s all been downhill from there and they currently find themselves a fair distance away from the Football League (Northern Premier League Division One South) but they still pull in a fair few punters.
Stafford’s illustrious history, aside from my handful of appearances in 2003 at Marston Road has seen them win the FA Trophy, apply for the Football League, sell Stan Collymore to Crystal Palace and were founder members of the Conference.
They are now in step 4 (Betvictor Northern Premier League) and I now need to move on as this is a pub/club blog – not the Non-League Football Paper!
Suffice to say there was a crackle in the air and in excess of 100 punters (maximum allowed = 150) as we rocked up about 30 minutes prior to kick off.
Temperature check at the ‘turnstile’ and hand sanitiser everywhere as well as a strict in/out policy in the bar meant they were taking this all seriously.
ZZ Top on the PA system and some red and white Dr Who (Tom Baker era) style scarves along with some acerbic wit from the terraces (remember those) confirmed football exists outside of the Premier League.
Of course, when attending a sports fixture it is a pre-requisite to have at least one pint so I weaved my way towards 587 – Gresley Rovers FC /Harry’s Bar DE11 9RE.
A wooden building in the corner of the ground there were Perspex screens at the bar and queueing ‘feet’ and lots of shirts, memorabilia and pennants all over the wall.
(queuing for the Carling)
The Pedi was turned round and the barmaid said there was a queue for the Carling as they were changing the barrel so I plumped for the old favourite of Creamflow (Worthington).
Outside = plastic glass but it is hard to go wrong with one of Burton’s finest keg beers and it doesn’t have far to travel…
A humdinger of a friendly, which Stafford won 2-1 and Gresley, missed a penalty whilst the linesman
assistant referee on our side of the ground was an absolute delight with his razor sharp wit and self-deprecating approach to football.
This is the first live game I’ve watched since February or March and it was an absolute joy. I love football and one of the reasons why is that the eighth league can attract a crowd of over 100 (would have closer to 500 for a league game for these two clubs) and show some excellent skill and minimal
diving clever play simulation cheating.
Football and beer in Harry’s Bar that was buzzing with atmosphere – welcome home…it’s been far too long!