12/10/19 Stalybridge Celtic V Bamber Bridge, Northern Premier League Premier Division, Bridging The Gap.

One of my long suffering Sisters, has been keeping close tabs on me since my accident, and I’m sure that given the chance, she’d have me under some kind of house arrest, so I don’t go doing it again. In fairness to her, she’s susceptible to anxiety, always has been, if she had nothing to worry about, she’d worry about, not having something to worry about. Me being an obnoxious, youngest sibling, can’t help but tease her over it, she knew Blues weren’t playing, and she knew I was going to be ground hopping, but instead of alleying her concerns, by telling her where I was going to be, knowing that she’s an avid reader of this rubbish, I wanted it to come as a surprise. I caught the train from New Street, after sending a photo of the entire departures board to my Sis, announcing I was going to be on one of the services. It was going to be my 10th ground hop of the season, one I’d be ticking off the ever growing wishlist, it might have been another International weekend, and Non-League attending is promoted, but I’m past the toe dipping stage now, I might attend most (not quite all) of the Blues games, but I genuinely look forward to a Non-League ground hop, especially as with this case, I’d be ticking off a famous ale outlet too. I was going to be meeting up with my Neph, who lives up in Chorley, a possessor of a Chorley season ticket, but an avid ground hopper, in fact, when it comes to the Non-League scene, my inspiration. (*check out David’s adventures in ground hopping, on wordpress*) he was running late, he’d over slept, with two young children, an alarm isn’t usually needed. Touching down at Piccadilly, I got my train tickets, and went into Manchester, for a quick pint at the Piccadilly Tavern, while I waited. The Tavern is a Wetherspoons style place, and likewise, is a good place to start, pint sunk, I went back to wait for Dave, on the way encountering a large group of middle aged blokes all dressed as a hunt, complete with horn, fox, dogs and even someone in a horse’s head. I feel that we’re now past saturation point with fancy dress, I find that people who are in fancy dress, are Hell bent on getting as drunk as possible, their attire giving them a ‘free pass’ to have a total disregard for themselves, anyone and anything around them, with the excuse of ‘We’re only having a bit of fun’ (hic) when confronted over their riotous behaviour. I am though, getting older, an excuse for being boring. Just as I phoned Neph for a progress report, I spotted him, and we made for the Piccadilly Tap, a place that he’d heard was good, but hadn’t yet been in. Having been one who’d waxed lyrical about the place to him, I was more than happy, and we watched the flotsam and jet sum either coming from, or going to the station, catching up at the same time, until we joined the ones going to the station. We caught the train the short distance to Stalybridge, yes Sis, it’s part of Greater Manchester. Touching down, I was to finally get to go in the famous Buffet Bar. If I say every single station, throughout the whole world, should have a place like this, it’s no understatement.

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“Ok, enough with the photos”

I saw a plaque for trains to Newcastle, I couldn’t help but send a slightly blurred photo of it, to Sis, saying that I was on the move, although I had already sent her a selfie of me and Neph, just to alleviate her fears a little. After a lovely pint, in wonderful surroundings, we ventured out into Stalybridge.

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“The name the only good thing”

This only made the itinerary because of the length of the name, a massive disappointment inside, was only exasperated by the beer starting to turn to vinegar, although we only had halves of the same, it was later to return to haunt Dave.

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“Ahh, Hyde’s, much better”

Although the beer was infinitely much better, another place that only made the itinerary because of its name, and its ridiculous proximity to the pub with the longest name, I’d ever known. The ‘Q’, has always been called that, hence the plaque commemorating it. Only a road splits them, but in reality, so much more does. The next on the itinerary, was only the second that was in the guide, The White House, thankfully, there wasn’t a fat bloke in the corner, with carefully sculptured hair, and a bigoted attitude, another in the Hyde’s portfolio, somehow, as can happen when I meet up with family, a huge chunk of time seems to disappear, without me knowing, and my short itinerary, had become physically impossible, even for Darryl.

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“You know when you’re oop north, when you see one of these sort of places”

We had enough time for a quick pint in Crafty Pint, (Apt, I suppose) a good little micro pub.

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“Complete with a nerd’s collection”

I’m forever going the wrong way, not always, but far too many times for my liking, I don’t mind too much when I’m on my own, but I absolutely hate it when I’ve written myself directions and I’m with someone and I still end up going the wrong way, doesn’t help, when time isn’t on my side either. I’ve actually since looked at the map I used to write the directions from, and can’t work out, how I went wrong.

We found the ground, turning up, well after kickoff, so far after the kickoff, Stalybridge were already 1:0 up.

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“Rangers in green, and I’ll have a set.”

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“Nothing green on that menu”

I can’t remember Stalybridge playing at a higher level than the old Nothern Premier League, but somewhere in their past, they must have had ambitions of playing in the old Alliance, or the new National League and higher, as the ground is fairly substantial, and puts the likes of Crawley, Forest Green, Morecambe and the new pretenders Salford City’s ground to shame, I could add Barnet, Solihull Moors and many more to that list that have ambitions of reaching the Football League.

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“And none of that horrible tin terracing either”

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“And if the football’s boring, least the hills make for eye candy”

The football wasn’t boring though, far from it. We might have missed the opening goal of the game, but it wasn’t going to be the only one of the game, and it was a good game, an end to end game, as games go, you can sometimes be stood or sat there, wondering why on Earth you bothered, especially when you’ve had to travel some distance to get there, this wasn’t one of those games, this was one you wanted to box up, and take with you, for when you are at one of those games where you wondered why. With most games that I’m a neutral, I tend to end up favouring one team or the other, not this time, this time, I didn’t care who won, I was able to just totally enjoy the game, as a game. As I’ve said, it was end to end stuff, and it was end to end, in both halves of the game too. Even the lead swapped twice, as Bamber equalised the goal we missed, and took the lead, only for Stalybridge to equalise and regain the lead. 3:2, and it could’ve easily have been 7:6 to either side, but for good saves from both keepers. Had the game gone on for another couple of hours, I’d have been more than happy. I’m not sure I could say the same for my Neph though, as that dodgy half we had had in the Old Thirteenth Cheshire blah blah blah, made a reappearance and he ended up painting the toilets at the ground.

We went back to the other micro pub that we hadn’t had time to do before the game, Bridge Beers.

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“So no Carling then?”

Dave’s stomach paint machine was mixing up its next batch, affecting his tastebuds, and he could only manage a sip, before deciding not to brave anymore, having finished my itinerary, we headed back to the station, where Dave found out that the stomach paint machine had been put on indiscriminate spray, and he was forced to graffiti the platform, he was more the colour you’d usually associate with a club called Celtic. Machine was switched to standby, as we got the train back to Manchester, before we were turned away from the Piccadilly Tap, though I’m sure I heard a huge sigh of relief from somewhere, as the doorman told us that the bar was at capacity and we couldn’t come in, I was hungry, so after a bit of a scout round, I settled on something from Subway, a place I hadn’t been in for over a decade, that’s not just the one in Piccadilly either, strangely, Dave didn’t fancy anything. We got the train back to Chorley, before the last batch of stomach paint for the day had been spilled all over the pavement on the way back to Dave and Steph’s new place.

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