My one and probably only ever trip to Africa was back in 1992 and Kenya was the destination for the wife and I’s honeymoon. Despite one or two issues, it was an inspired choice, not least of which because whilst lounging around the sun-kissed pool I got to read the local papers which contained some cracking ‘pidgen English’ football reporting. The one that sticks in my mind was the chap singing the praises of his team’s forward line who he described as a ‘terrible front force’. One suspects he actually meant a ‘terrific strike force’ but you never know!
Whilst in Kenya I discovered there’s another way to lose weight, rather than just dieting. After two weeks of eating nothing but Swahili food, I arrived home with a chronic dose of dysentery or something similar which decimated the beer gut I’d been nurturing for 38 years. I only mention this because today, as per usual, I’m mixing business and pleasure by visiting a couple of pubs to interview the landlords for a publication I work on. The second of these fine hostelries is just down the road from Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough and is run by a Nottingham couple I know pretty well. The landlord has a particularly fine specimen of a belly but is about to go into hospital for a delicate intestinal operation.
“And all these years you thought it was just a beer gut,” I say sympathetically. “Good luck with the Beer Belly By-Pass….”
The business part of my day over, I head further north to the outskirts of Barnsley and seek out the ground of Athersley Rec, newly promoted to the Northern Counties East Premier division, and set on the edge of a housing estate. I arrive to find a very neat and tidy stadium of a club clearly on the up. Former player and ex-League professional Geoff Horsfield (as in ‘Feed the Field and he will score’ or something like that…) owns the lease on the ground and has provided the stability for development of the stadium and facilities for the benefit of the community.
There’s a seated stadium behind one goal – not recommended when there’s a pre-match kick-in going on – and a covered terrace on one side. The rest of the ground is concrete flat standing. There’s a section in the corner behind a wooden fence which contains a small clubhouse bar and a snack hut, with outside seating serving both. My investigations conclude that the only beer available is served in cans, and the only veggie food is chips. Lucky I had a splendid cheese & onion cob at the pub earlier. Prior to kick-off I circumnavigate the pitch which looks in good nick, but has a decided side-to-side slope.
The ‘Rec’ as they seem to be referred to (despite the programme calling them the Penguins) have had a reasonably good start to the season, and I have high hopes for an entertaining game full of action and goals. The opponents today are Derbyshire side Staveley MW who are not exactly pulling up trees thus far this season, but nevertheless contribute to an entertaining first half which features lots of individual skill but no goals. After the break the entertainment level dips a bit but both attacks are guilty of wasteful finishing. Where a little bit of composure might unlock the door, a hurried shot against the keepers legs or wide of the post is the order of the day and the match ends goalless.
Which is what reminded me of those newspapers in Kenya. ‘Terrible front force’? You bet.
Programme: £1.50 inside the turnstile. A good looking publication that’s a little devoid of topical content. Just one page devoted to the visitors (no pen pictures) and a minimal amount of copy would require updating each issue, save the line-ups. 5 out of 5
Birdlife: strangely quiet…..
Club shop: Yes, a shack just inside the turnstile selling mugs, scarves etc, some discounted today to celebrate Non-League Day. You can also buy shirts in the clubhouse bar.
Toilets: Between the seated stand and the bar
Music the players run out to: Background music playing but nothing specific. The tannoy came into its own during the game with constant requests for spectators to move their cars from the main road as the local bus route was blocked. The Police paid a visit in the end and the problem was quickly solved.
Kop choir: No
Away fans: a handful of Staveley fans in front of me
What’s In A Name: When they retire from the game, I wonder of Rec’s Darren Shirt and Nick Gillott will open up a clothing shop. Staveley’s Ben Kistell needs to steer clear of any loose women who might blab to the papers!