There’s something about a bit of sunshine that puts a smile on your face from the start of the day to the last. Today is that sort of day. The sky is clear, the forecast is good, and on my short walk to Long Eaton station I find a tenner. The omens are good, I’m going to have an enjoyable day.
My destination is Hereford, a twee market town on the Welsh border, where my previous visits have invariably ended up at Edgar Street, watching Darlo on a couple of occasions, and also Wolves when they were in the old Division Four. Today my target ground is a little further out of the town centre, to the home of Midland Football Alliance side Westfields.
Before that, I have to change trains at Birmingham, which gives me the dilemma of either enjoying a Wetherspoons Brekky in the Briar Rose, or a couple of beers in the Wellington – one of my favourite pubs – just up the road. I plump for the former, knowing I’ll be back in Brum at the end of the month for a proper session in the ‘Welly’. Shortly after ordering at the bar, the Briar Rose is hit by a sudden influx of footy fans needing to be fed and watered before heading off to St Andrews, the Hawthorns and wherever. This pub is obviously well used to this, and the number of bar staff instantly swells from two to six to cope with the rush – impressive!
My 90-minute train journey to Hereford is over in a flash, doubtless helped by me dozing most of the way after sampling a pint of Jamaica Stout with my brekky. The sun is still shining as I head for my first pub, the Black Lion free house, reportedly selling beers from the new Saxon City Ales brewery. They’re not on, but they do have Wye Valley Butty Bach – one of their few non-golden beers – and a massive array of cheap bar nibbles. I plump for a couple of bags of bombay mix – very nice. From here I criss-cross back across town to the Victory, home of the Hereford – formerly Spinning Dog – Brewery. The interior is unusual in that the bar counter is in the form of a Elizabethan galleon – the Victory, I suspect. The beers, Hereford Dark, and the equally dark and malty Gamekeeper Bitter, are excellent.
I just have time to drop into Barrels, owned by Wye Valley Brewery, for a lovely pint of Stout, and then its the fifteen minute walk past the Edgar Street ground of Hereford United, down Prior Street, and along a footpath which dissects the Widemarsh Common home of Hereford Lads Club FC – game already underway – and AllPay Park, where Westfields compete in the Midland Football Alliance. I enter the latter through a pay-gate where the chatty attendant spots that I am not of his parish and is interested to hear my reasons for venturing this far from Long Eaton. He then introduces me to the club chairman who is passing, who points me in the direction of the bar. No beer, sadly, but a tasty cheese and onion cob washed down by a J20. I am ready for a good game.
In fairness, what we get is a fairly one-sided match which entertains us with the number of goals scored – six, all for Westfields. It might still be a warm sunny day, but not so bright for visiting Biddulph Victoria – apparently disbanding at the end of the season, or not, if you believe the Westfields programme – who turn up with the bare eleven men and just one coach. The assistant referee jokingly points out that only one of him can stand up in the technical area. He seems to see the funny side.
It’s an even contest for the first 20 minutes, but once the home team nose ahead with two goals in two minutes, it’s a done deal. A third on half time confirms where the points are going, and although it takes Westfields a good half hour to open their account in the second half, they manage to reach six, the highlights being a hat-trick for Daryl Addis ably assisted by his right-winger brother (presumably) Jamie. After the match I stay on the for a pitchside ‘Player of the Season’ presentation where the wag of a club president announces a name, and then adds “It’s not you…” just as the unfortunate fellow thinks his skills have finally been rewarded. A good chuckle all round.
A good day enjoyed, another smooth rail journey home and I arrive back in Long Eaton ten pounds better off than I thought I’d be, and with the smile still on my face. 22 years ago almost to the day, I returned from a match where I had once again set off in anticipation of a good day out. Things didn’t quite turn out like that. 96 others never made it back. All things are relative.
Programme: £1 but given away free on the gate with the £5 entry fee. Much of it printed pre-season with just the centre section updated for each match.
Floodlight pylons: 8
Parakeets: A load of quacking ducks in the nearby stream disturbing the peace.
Tannoy music: none
Toilets: in the Clubhouse
Clubshop: nothing evident
Player with the quirkiest name: Biddulph’s Glenn ‘Denim’ Jeneson