As you will know if you are a regular follower of the blog, we have a soft spot at TBIR Towers for Grays Athletic. This is due to a number of reasons. I once trained for a full three weeks with the club “back in the day” when I could still run; Lolly went to one of her first football matches here and managed to procure a shirt for just £5 that was then signed by none other than Paolo Vernazza no less and then at the start of this season we came to a friendly here and I managed to capture a picture that today is hung in a gallery in New York no less (OK – a kitchen of a mate then). Judge for yourself below what you think.
That would be reason enough but then low and behold they go and announce a management team of John Moncur as Chairman and Julian Dicks as Manager. What a double act. Between them they were responsible for more yellow cards than most other double acts, but none were as committed to the Hammers cause in the past twenty years I would say. Legends both of them. But such characters off the pitch do not always translate to great managers. Hoddle nearly did it, but then went off on another planet and ended up at Southampton, Dalglish could still get another chance at Liverpool and Billy Bonds himself had buckled under the pressure of his reputation.
All has not gone according to plan though at the New Rec. Despite bringing in a host of new players, such as ex-Arsenal-and-brother-of-ex-Arsenal Hoyte (Gavin) and Anton Zola, one Gianfranco Zola’s son, Grays came into this game still second from bottom and some nine points from safety. They came into the game after a couple of heavy defeats, as well as the fact they had failed to win at all on the road in 2009/10.
But could the home team fair any better? Well in terms of points on the board, yes. Thirty two of them in fact from thirty games, some six above the drop zone but the concern at Church Road was for the amount of goals they are shipping in. A 6-1 home defeat to Rushden & Diamonds had come only a few weeks after a 5-0 reverse to AFC Wimbledon. Watching Hayes and Yeading certainly meant goals. Fifty of them in fact at Church Road in just fifteen games this season. And goals is what we pay our money to watch. Although there hadn’t been alot of money coming through the turnstiles. After promotion last season from the Blue Square South, where they surprised many by sneaking into the end of season play offs and then upsetting the form book by beating Alan Devonshire’s Hampton & Richmond Borough at the Beveree to boot, the crowds had been conspicuous by their absence at Church Road. Just 291 had been present for the recent game with Forest Green Rovers, which surely meant the club was losing money? It is hard to fathom why the locals were staying away, but perhaps the birth of the “super club” had not gone down too well?
Hayes and Yeading FC were the new entity created by the merger of Hayes FC and Yeading FC, announced in April 2007. The two sides, both members of the 2006/07 Conference South and both located within the West Middlesex town of Hayes decided to” join forces, integrate resources and bring together a community, creating a new super-club on the non-league scene.” according to the official statement.
“The combined forces of Middlesex and West London’s senior semi-professional football clubs will further raise the profile of non-league football in an area that traditionally struggles for crowds against local Premiership and Football League sides.” Former Hayes FC Chairman Derek Goodall said “It is well known that for years our clubs have struggled to attract the big gates needed to survive at this level. By combining efforts, know-how and strategy we can secure the future of high-level football in the area and provide facilities that the local community need and desire”
Some of the locals were not impressed judging by the message boards at the time:-
“Surely two set’s of fans merging is going to be rather difficult, however it’s no secret that there is a lot of neutrals who watch both teams home games and for that they must be delighted they now have every other saturday available. Personally I don’t see how this new club will function, there’s just not a fanbase, at all 50 loyals from each and then 100 neutrals in total these days, the average attendance is likely to be 300 if you account for away fans.” Very Prophetic if you look at the situation now…
“If this merger is supposed to encourage bigger crowds in the future, the new club will have to find one new supporter immediately.. to replace me! There is no way on Earth that I will give my support to the new “Hayes”. Here is my suggestion for the new club motto; “Stick it up your arse”. Goodbye.”
So all was not well in the garden of West London. It would be rude not to spend a paragraph on the clubs though. Hayes FC started off life as Botwell Mission in 1908 and stayed that way to 1924. They moved to Church Road in the following year, renaming the ground Townfield. They progressed through the Middlesex leagues, before election into the Isthmian Leagues in 1972 where they stayed there or there abouts for the next thirty years. A few cup runs were all the club really had to show to put themselves on the map during that period.
Yeading started off as recently as 1960, by brothers Ray and Carl Gritt, who were both involved in the club until recently. The Ding, as they were known reached the Isthmian Leagues in 1987, and a few years later they won the FA Vase by beating Bridlington Town at Elland Road. In the early 1990’s both clubs made the Isthmian Premier League and eventually the Conference South when the changes were made in 2003. A decision was made at the time of the merger to move into Hayes’s Church Road as it had more chance of making the next league grading should it be needed.
The main stand, which was the oldest part of the ground had received a direct hit from a German bomb in the war, which also destroyed the club’s historic records and wasn’t upgraded until the 1990’s. In fact many of the improvements you see today are down to the £600,000 odd the club received as part of a sell on clause for old boy Sir Les Ferdinand when he joined Newcastle United from QPR in 1995. But this is not the only old boy who has made it good. What about Cyrille Regis and Jason Roberts? Or Andy Impey who once played for Yeading and who could forget DJ Campbell’s exploits in the FA Cup some years ago when Yeading reached the 3rd round and played Newcastle United at Loftus Road. In theory, all consigned to the history books now…
So here I was – Conference ground number 23 on the list after the expedition to Barrow at the weekend, which had gone much better than expected. I picked up Dagenham Dan from McDonalds at 6pm (he is keen to stress that he never goes in there, he just knows where it is) and we were off – traversing from one side of London to another in the rush hour. In a few years time (yeah, right) we could have made this journey in minutes on the Crossrail link from Stratford to Hayes & Harlington, but instead we had to make do with Zafira-power.
Hayes and Yeading United 4 Grays Athletic 0 – Church Road, Hayes – Tuesday 9th February 2010
First off let me tell you about the highlight of the evening. If you have never been to Hayes’s ground before, you have missed possibly the best treat known to a football fan. If you have then you will know exactly what I mean. No, its not the food, the comfort of the ground, the perfect views or the entertaining football – all of which are spot on. Nor is it that little upstairs bar on the main road where for £20 you get to do….sorry – family audience and all that…I am talking about THE Portakabin. Pay your £12 to get in and almost straight in front of you is a little hidden gem. It is a crime that it is only open on matchdays. Officially it is the club shop, but it is the Aladdin’s cave of football shops. Rows upon rows of old football books, programmes, videos, DVD’s and shirts from every club known to man. Lee Hermitage is the man behind the idea and he has been promoted to a Danny Last FIFA 5 stars for his efforts. Need an old Rothman’s yearbook? Lee is your man….A video of the 1991 FA Cup semi-final – the Keith Hackett show? Lee is your man. So good was the shop that we almost forgot there was a game on outside. Such a visit is worth the admission money alone.
Anyway back to the game…I’d had a little wager with Dagenham that the crowd would be less than 250, and judging by the numbers I could see on the terraces I was sure I was on a winner. I do not know what the footballing public in West London want. Here was a game that was sure to produce goals but they obviously choose QPR and Fulham down the road. What a treat they missed.
The opening few minutes saw both teams passing the ball well. My impressions were that both teams would hoof it long, but that was not the case and some slick passing created chances for both teams in the opening ten minutes. The first real goal scoring opportunity fell to Hayes striker Scott Fitzgerald in the 11th minute when he charged down an attempted clearance by Wayne Gray before trying to lob keeper Preston Edwards from 40 yards when he should have continued to run on goal. Never mind as just 60 seconds later he had the ball in the net, albeit from what appeared to be an offide position when he moved onto a Justin Cochrane throughball before sliding the ball past Edwards to open the scoring.
One became two in the twenty sixth minute when a free kick was powerfully met by Matt Ruby at the far post and easily beat Edwards in the Grays goal. To give the visitors credit they did not give up and a brief spell of pressure saw Wilson feed the ball to Gray who with his back to goal neatly set up Guy but his drive from the edge of the area was wide of the target.
Scott Fitzgerald almost had a second goal just before the half time as Green and Binns combined on the left to create an opening that beat Edwards only to see the shot come back off the post. Grays task became mountainous in injury time as Wilson tackled Cochrane heavily and the referee produced a second yellow card for the Grays man and sent him off.
After our visit to the club shop we reconvened on the terraces in front of the main stand. I had wanted to get a shot of Dicks in venomous mood but I was disappointed. The Grays manager did not say one word to anyone during the second half. Assistant Kenny Brown did his fair share of swearing but nothing from the manager.
17 year old Daniel Wishart came on for Scott Fitzgerald at the start of the second half and he had a major hand in the third on 54 minutes when he played it to Allen-Page who hit a powerful drive across Edwards to make it 3-0. Six minutes later it was four as Binns crossed to the far post where Allen-Page arrived to fire home his second in just a few minutes.
Grays should have pulled one back ten minutes later as Hayes and Yeading’s keeper Masters could only get his fingertips to a cross and it fell to Alex Rhodes who somehow managed to hit the outside of the post with the goal gaping. At this stage I felt confident it could be at least six and made another sure fire winning bet with Dagenham Dan. But there was to be no more. Binns nearly made it five with a late header that came off the underside of the bar and with that I lost my bet. Seconds later the official attendance of 251 ruined my evening of gambling, and Dan went home 50p richer.
So a freezing cold evening had not turned out exactly how I thought. Both teams tried to play football but as with most things in life you need a bit of luck. Hayes & Yeading got that in the first half and the contest was over by half time. The future does not look too rosy for Grays, with only the helpless and hapless Chester below them. Haye and Yeading on the other hand can look forward to a run of home games against the divisions big boys confident in their ability to score goals. The question is can they stop leaking them.
A good evening? Absolutely – thanks to Lee Hermitage and his Tardis. Go there on Saturday – give the man on the door a wink and say Stuart sent you…you will not be disappointed.
About Church Road
Church Road is a classic looking old ground that has banks of terracing that sweep around it. On one side is the Main Stand, which was originally built in 1925. The stand which straddles the half way line, is covered and all seated and is raised above pitch level. It has a number of supporting pillars that run across the front of it, which is to be expected with a stand of this age. The team dugouts are located in front of the stand, with areas of open terrace to either side. Opposite is a fair sized mostly covered terrace, known affectionately as ‘the Shed’. This covered terrace, does not provide cover for the whole of its length, but at least does cover the terrace down to pitch side. There are also a number of supporting pillars running across the front of it. Both ends are open terraces that are quite steep and continue around the corners of the ground. The stadium has a set of eight floodlight pylons, four of which run down each side.
The club are unique in the fact that they actually own two grounds, and it is hoped that at some point the Club will re-develop Yeading’s old ground ‘The Warren into a stadium that would meet Football League standards. The Club would then move from Church Road to the Warren.
How to get to Church Road
If you are driving then leave M25 at Junction 16 and take the A40(M) towards London. Pass over one large junction (Denham Roundabout) and under another (Swakeleys Roundabout). Take next slip road (Hillingdon). At traffic lights turn right into Long Lane (A437). At the traffic lights at the end of Long Lane turn left onto the Uxbridge Road (A4020). After about two miles, turn right into Church Road opposite the Adam & Eve public house and the ground is down on your right. There is a car park at the ground which holds 300 cars and costs £1. Otherwise street parking.
Hayes & Hartlington station is the nearest to the ground and is situated just over a mile away from the ground. It is served by trains from London Paddington & Reading. Exit the station and turn right and follow Station Road. At the T-junction take the left hand fork into Bolwell Lane, and then straight on into Church Road at the mini roundabout. The ground is further up this road on the left hand side.
How to get a ticket for Church Road
Average attendances over the past few seasons haven’t exactly been stellar. Last season in their play off winning season it was just over 340. This season some teams will bring sizeable support, such as Luton, Oxford and Cambridge so these games may sell out. Otherwise it will be pay on the door. Prices are:-
Seating (enter through the terrace turnstiles and pay a transfer fee inside) – Adults £14, Concessions £9
Terrace: Adults £12, Concessions £7, Under 7’s Free
Many thanks to Duncan Adams and his fantastic site http://www.conferencegrounds.co.uk for the above information.