Saturday, 2 April 2011

AFC Emley 7 Brodsworth Welfare 0

Northern Counties East League First Divison
Attendance: 122

On my last football outing I saw the third best team in England, Man City. Today I saw the worst team in the top six steps of non-league football, Brodsworth Welfare. They are firmly anchored to the foot of their division having accumulated, before today, a measly two points from 36 matches and a -103 goal difference. When I first spotted their plight I earmarked a match in spring in anticipation of witnessing a double-digit hiding but, in recent weeks their fortunes have improved marginally with some fine one and two goal margin defeats and the attraction of today’s fixture was increasingly the possibility of seeing Broddy’s first victory.

Today’s opponents, AFC Emley, have already made plenty of history of their own. In 1998 this club from a former Yorkshire pit village reached the third round of the FA Cup. They played away to West Ham – Lamps, Rio, ‘Psycho’ Pearce, ’Arry and all – and lost 2-1. (Emley play, rather appropriately, in claret and blue). At the time they were riding high in the Northern Premier League. In fact, they were punching too far above their weight. Ground grading requirements led them to merge with and relocate to Wakefield from 2000. Reluctant bedfellows, Emley de-merged and returned home five years later. They were promoted from local football in their first season and have trundled along in the Northern Counties East First Division ever since. No sprint back up the table for them like other reformed clubs.

You’d think that finding a football ground in a village with a population of 1,900 would be easy – but not for my son Bertie and I. We did a couple of laps of the place and then finally spotted a narrow, unsigned passage between two buildings opposite an old market cross which ushered us through to the Welfare Ground. (You can’t rely on a torrent of fans to lead you to the ground at this level). We parked at 2.57pm and were inside the ground just as the players emerged.

On a fine spring day Emley is a pleasant, peaceful place to be and provides the best facilities in the division. The ground is three-sided, the fourth side being a fence to the adjoining cricket pitch. The view and the weather both bought the change of the sporting seasons to mind.

A crowd of a “magnificent” (to quote the PA announcer) 122 included a couple of boys in Huddersfield Town shirts, a chap sporting a wooly hat with the slogan ‘Emley – Simply the Best’ and a lady with the finest home-knitted scarf I’ve ever seen. I didn’t spot any away fans but then the crowd at Broddy’s last home fixture only exceeded the number of players on the pitch by two. Most of us sat in the large grandstand. To the right we could see Emley’s claim to fame, the Emley Tower (which we’d bagged earlier). At 330m, this is the largest free-standing structure in the UK and provides TV pictures to viewers from Darlington to Lincoln.

Coming into the match on a run of six wins and two draws, Emley were clearly the stronger side from the start but Broddy had about three good chances at the other end and went in at half-time just one goal behind and very much still in the match. Emley killed any chance of an upset with a second goal on 55 mins and at the end were – to coin a phase – scoring goals for fun with four in the last 13 mins. Broddy reminded me of kids on the beach who have built a castle to hold back the waves. To start with it’s all hands to the pump when a wave laps over the defences but, in the end, they just didn’t care and let all their earlier hard work wash away.

The Emley sub somehow missed a sitter when clean through at 6-0 then made amends to get the seventh but, tragically, hit the post with the last kick of the match. Tragic in that 8-0 would’ve been Broddy’s greatest pasting of the season and something truly to behold. Ah, well. 7-0 and a gentle afternoon with my boy in the sunshine: that’ll do nicely.

Programme notes: Botterill of Brodsworth “started pre-season on fire”. Sounds painful. I get the impression that his club’s profile was supplied as long ago. “The long-term future of Brodsworth is finally looking bright,” it concludes. I like the way that the ladies in the cafĂ© were billed as “hospitality hostesses”. A hand-painted sign on one of the dug-outs (right) shows them sporting their Marigolds.

Another Wembley way?: Today Whitley Bay continued their love affair with the FA Vase (think that’s the footy lingo) by reaching a third final on the trot. I expect some fans will give another Wembley run a miss and you can hardly blame them. Bizarre for the supporters of such a low-ranked club to be in such a position. On the same topic it’s not often I agree with Fergie but I’m with him when it comes to the nonesense of staging the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley. As he points out this season that means four sets of fans are carting down there from the north-west the same weekend as well as Liverpool fans going to Arsenal and the London Marathon traffic. Moreover, having the semis at Wembley further castrates the climax of the competition. You’ve basically now got three finals.

In the club: I’ve joined the Northern League Club. For just £10 you get a fab monthly newsletter and colour magazine, a bundle of back issues, ground guide and badge. This is better than the Tufty Club! Talking of things northern there was a great story this week about a lad who started the season with a Walker Central (who play at the level below the Northern League which is outer-space in non-league terms) and is now on the bench for Newcastle.

Name of the season: This one’s going to take some topping. Rudy Funk, appointed manager of Scarborough Athletic last week. He lost his first match 5-0.

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