7/9/19 Stafford Rangers v Mickleover Sports, F.A.Cup 1st Qualifying Round, Aim Range.

I was disappointed with my personal performance last season in terms of games attended, something I was determined to put right this season. This game was the 15th game, 9th new ground. For me, the only redeeming feature, was the amount of F.A.Cup games I managed, this game would already be the 3rd of this season. The train I went for, was delayed, and when it did arrive, was to be split into two. Something that I only found out, once I’d boarded it, and the information was relayed to the passengers who, like me, had got on. Getting off, I got back on at the right bit, I wasn’t the only one. It was a relief that I finally made it to Stafford. When I was in my youth, I made do with watching Telford United, when, for whatever reason, I couldn’t get to Blues. There was a fair rivalry with Stafford, not just in football terms, but with the two towns. In non league football, both the Boxing Day and January 1st fixtures tend to be reversed against the geographical closest club. I watched a lot of Telford home games, but except for Derby in the F.A.Cup, I never went to away games, so I never travelled the short distance to Stafford for a game. Since then, both clubs have been through financial strife, but both are clubs capable of hosting league football, with Blues not having a game due to international weekend, and it being the F.A.Cup qualifying 1st round, this fixture caught my eye, I would finally be able to tick off Stafford, both as a ground, but as a town too. Hitting the itinerary, I’d drawn up, I was disappointed to find, that the kitchen at the Picture House Wetherspoons was closed for refurbishment, that’s where the disappointment finished though, as the place was stunning. I’ve been in a few spectacular Wetherspoons around the country, but this place takes your breath away.

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“Wow factor personified”

Although The Swan was open, the bar wasn’t, so I took a slow walk to Slater’s, the brewery tap, which is on the same street, by the time I got there, it had just opened. The place had that wine bar feel to it, but unsurprisingly, the beer was good. The barmaid had a wasp phobia, though as she’d been stung three times this summer, I could fully understand her fear of them, she’d got one of those tennis racquet contraptions, that omits a small electronic charge, enough to kill the blighters, amusingly, after she’d got rid of one, another seemed to come from nowhere to replace it. It was entertaining watching her ducking and diving whilst trying to do her job. Ye Olde Rose and Crown was next, a Joules pub, were they like buses? You go months without going in one, then two come along, within a week.

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“But not the Boldmere Tap”

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“My kind of Shakespeare”

I’d been led to believe that Joules had resisted takeover, I was wrong, they hadn’t, they’d been taken over by Bass, and then in turn, by Molson Coors, but the producers of that muck Carling, sold both the name, recipes and the pubs to someone who cared, who kept it the way it was supposed to be.

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“A remembrance of someone else who cared too”

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“They were also stocking this little beauty”

The next two places are both in the Black Country Ales portfolio, the first was The Shrewsbury Arms. It’s a chain of pubs, you can’t go wrong with, they know how to keep a traditional pub, a home from home. They’ve got their own individuality, but definitely within the chains ethos. Bird in Hand was the same but different.

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“Yep, it’s September”

I’d got enough time to do one more comfortably, or two if I Darryled it, I made do with just The Greyhound, a cracking little back street boozer, not far from Stafford nick.

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“This close”

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“Yuk”

Like I’ve already stated, Stafford Rangers is, despite the new looking clubhouse adorned with hideous advertising, a club that could easily host league football, for it to be as low as it is, is a travesty.

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“A proper ground, unlike the tin sheds of Salford United (Sorry, I mean City)

The game settled in to an even match up with chances at a premium, the best things to happen in a pretty stale first half, was a disallowed goal for Rangers, and an opportunity for Stafford, that should’ve been put away, other than that, the two sides were cancelling each other out, half time 0:0, and the second half carried on from where the first half left off. I’d seen a few goals in the last four matches, it looked like that run was going to come to an end. One goal was all it was going to take, I was to be nicely wrong, after all, it’s ultimately goals that you want to see when you’re ground hopping. The first, that broke the deadlock, was a good strike from the right hand apex of the penalty area, the goal lifted the home side, but didn’t knock the stuffing out of Mickleover, who tried to keep their shape, and get back on equal terms, Stafford were moving better, the confidence was coursing through them, a deserved second finally came, though in reality, it should’ve arrived earlier. As a happy crowd started to disappear, Rangers got the third that their second  half dominance was due, a break away, that was harder to miss than score. For Mickleover, it was all over, for Stafford, it’s a round closer to the 1st round proper.

The King’s Arms was spitting distance from the ground, and how a back street pub should be. It was busy as there was a game on, but it gave you the impression that it was like that every night, and a bigger game and attendance, would’ve been taken in its stride. With my appalling record with getting lost, and going the wrong way, I can’t claim that it was because I’d relaxed in the King’s Arms, and had left my bearings in there, but for whatever reason, I took a right at the end of the street, and not a left, well it wouldn’t be right, if I didn’t go wrong. Once rectified, I cursed myself for getting it wrong yet again, and walked back into the centre of town, once there, and with it becoming familiar, I headed to The Sun, a Titanic brewery house, they hadn’t got the Cappuccino that I’d had in the Jekyll and Hyde in Brum though, so, spotting one from the Great Heck stable, I had that instead.

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“Forget wasps, that’s a proper phobia”

I’m not convinced that the beer I had, had been badged up correctly, as although it was very nice, was imperial taste and strength. I was going to take in the Floodgate Ale House before I got the train back, but as there was one to Brum due, I went for that instead. Waiting for the bus in Brum, I was joined by Badger, who had been to Leicester, a place I never get to go to these days, as the club is raking the money in the Premier League.

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