I’m a great believer in the old adage ‘problems create opportunities’. It’s my first line of thought in business if ever anything goes tits-up. For every downside there has to be a positive, which invariably can outweigh the negative.
I have a chance to practise what I preach this very morning as I arise at my appointed hour of 5.15am – as indicated by the bedside alarm clock – only to discover that every other clock in the house says 7.15am, which just happens to be 45 minutes after my train was supposed to be leaving for Norfolk on my way to see Wroxham in the Isthmian League. Doh! In some ‘senior’ moment I must have programmed the time-set as opposed to the alarm-set. Consigning the now-useless Long-Eaton to Norwich rail tickets to the recycling bin, my next thought is ‘right, free day, where SHALL we go?!’
For a while I’ve had ‘Silsden’ at the top of my stand-by list. Nothing to do with the village itself, but because just four minutes down the railway track is the West Yorkshire brewing town of Keighley, home of Timothy Taylors. Where better for a pre-match session?
And so it comes to pass that I eventually head out of town in an ‘oop north’ as opposed to ‘due east’ direction, and after train changes in Sheffield and Leeds I arrive in Keighley in good time for a few beers. I was last in this town some 20-odd years ago, on a business trip, when my then business partner – who always had an eye for the ‘laaay-dies’ -was convinced that the place was only inhabited by blokes, such was the dearth of female ‘talent’ in the pubs that night. Me, I was only there for the beer, and was well happy with a pint or three of Golden Best in front of me.
One of the pubs we visited then was the ‘Boltmakers’ and it’s my first port-of-call today. It’s a small, cosy, locals pub, but reasonably busy, and with a full house of Tim Taylors beers on the bar, including two milds and Ram Tam. Ordinarily I would go for the latter, but in deference to the fact that the brewery has just renamed one of its regular beers after the pub, I plump for a Boltmaker which is the right colour for a bitter and not a bad drop at all. Just round the corner is the Cricketers Arms, a small free house which doubles as a music and comedy venue. There’s half a dozen microbrewery cask beers on sale, and I choose Great Newsome Wandering Wheatear which is a little hazy. Although I expect a wheat beer to lack clarity, according to the brewery’s website it is supposed to be clear. Curious. Mind you, it tastes OK, which is the main thing.
My next port-of-call is supposed to be another Timmy Taylors house, the Friendly inn, but when I get there it’s now called the Percy Vere’s Real Ale House. Sadly, Percy isn’t in, but the selection of beers, including examples from Saltaire, Copper Dragon, and Partners, is quite interesting, especially as everything is priced at £2.30 a pint, including my 4.6% Saltaire Hazlenut Coffee Porter. I even have time to discuss the merits of Martin O’Neill’s playing ability – something I had great first-hand experience of back in Forest’s ‘Glory Days’ – with a couple of natives, before moving on to my last beer of the session, this time at the local Wetherspoons, the Livery Rooms. My ale of choice here is Naylors Pinnacle Blonde, as I fancy a lighter beer after the complexities of the Hazlenut Coffee Porter I’ve just drunk. They do have Acorn Gorlovka Stout on tap, but after falling over in Rotherham after my last pint of same, I give it a wide berth.
Then it’s back to Keighley station – which sits alongside the terminus of the Keighley & Worth Valley steam railway which also has the gents toilets that the main line station lacks – and the short hop to Steeton & Silsden station, which in turn is just a half-mile from the Angel Telecom Stadium, the fancy-dan title of the Keighley Road ground of Silsden FC. The club have only been here for a couple of seasons, but it’s a tidy ground, with a large clubhouse complex which also serves the adjacent cricket club. There’s no decent beer of any description on sale, but the snack bar in the ground has a small but nevertheless tasty cheese & onion pie which goes well with peas for a couple of quid. There’s a solid looking main stand of a vintage that leads me to think it was perhaps transported here from the old ground, plus a ‘kit’ stand with no seats, which serves as a wind-resistant covered terracing.
Today’s game is between the home side, Silsden, who have had an indifferent start to the season, and St Helen’s Town, who sit even further down the North West Counties Premier Division table. Just before kick-off, one of the visitors substitutes buys a load of chips from the snack bar and hands them round on the bench. No tightly-managed pre-match nutrition there then? The pitch has taken a bit of hammering from the elements and looks a tad heavy, but the players make light of it in a fairly evenly-contested game. Even, that is, in every department except the scoreline. Silsden have got their shooting boots on, and everything that could go in, does go in. They’re five up by half time, and even though St Helens come out after the break determined to seize back some of the initiative, their solitary consolation is soon offset by two more from the home team, one spectacularly lobbed in from fully 35 yards out on the touchline. They can even afford to have a man sent off near the end.
So a day that started out on a head-in-hands note, sees me enjoy a good session in Tim Taylor’s country, and finishes off with an eight-goal game of football. Problems create opportunities – Wroxham can wait!
Programme: £1 on the gate. Quite a lengthy read, including a six-page history of Silsden, a couple of pages on the visitors, and a great story about Bert Trautmann, the legendary Manchester City goalie who apparently started his English career at St Helens Town (an important piece of trivia I might never have known had I gone to Wroxham!)
Floodlight pylons: 6 ( i think!)
Parakeets: Sadly none in evidence
Toilets: In the clubhouse
Club shop: No
Music the players run out to: Nothing
Kop choir: No
Away supporters: a few near me, one of whom – after his side had gone 3-0 down – advised me I might need a bigger notebook. I informed him in reply that a recent game I attended finished 10-0. He was quietly not re-assured.
What’s in a name: I was impressed by the storming runs of Silsden’s Matthew Moses, where the opposing defence seemed to part in front of him. Silsden’s Dale Feather was throwing his weight around as usual.