Herts and flowers

We love Non League football for its quirkiness, its carefree attitude and the strange and random games it throws up.  But it is not just us, as Cyndee Mitchall aka CynInHerts to all you out there in the Twittersphere will know her reports from a trip to the Lancashire coast a few weeks ago.

While in Blackpool for 4 days for Rebellion Festival, I needed to both get out of the city and get in some football.  Apart from my initial visit to London Road in 2003 (which hardly counts, since it was my first match ever and I had no idea what I was letting myself in for) and my first of two visits to Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium in 2010 (Bnei Yehuda v Hapoel Acre, maybe), this was to be my first match to a new place on my own. My original plan was to visit AFC Blackpool because it looked simple enough to get to whilst also far enough away from, well, Blackpool. Plus, theirs v Runcorn Linnets was the first league match of their season. I’d also done a smidgen of research on AFC Fylde, whose location was meant to be nicer, but farther away and the match, their final pre-season friendly.
At home, I’d scribbled down a few notes about how to get to both clubs from Blackpool. Or so I thought…*After a leisurely B&B breakfast and lounging about in my room listening to The Danny Baker Show, my destination indecision came to a halt after a brief t-chat(see what I did there?) resulted in a last-minute victory for AFC Fylde v Guisborough Town.
*A long, convoluted journey from my hotel ensued…but let’s skip ahead…

Pub!As I’d need to change buses in Lytham, I’d had a quick search to see if there was anywhere worth stopping for a quick pint. Was there ever…

I made my way to CAMRA 2010 Pub of the Year runner-up, The Taps.
The Taps was a busy and homely place with friendly faces behind the bar; the food (of which I unfortunately did not partake. Walkers salt & vinegar doesn’t count.) looked and smelled good and there was a good choice of ales.  After ordering my beer (which may have been Elgood & Sons’ ‘Black Dog’) and looking like a lost sheep searching for its table, I eventually perched awkwardly on a seat that had a former life as a barrel; its height made me feel like a child who can’t quite reach the table.While I cast my mind back to supping that beer and looking at all of the rugby memorabilia surrounding me…
I will take the opportunity to mention what a wonderful little town was Lytham. I knew within seconds of leaving the bus that this place was special. Independent shops dominate the high street, as did smiling people. It was clean and tidy, with blooming flowers everywhere. And less than a 5-minute walk away: the beach.

What’s not to love?

What’s also in Lytham that I unfortunately didn’t learn about it until it was too late is a famous (apparently) windmill! I am disappointed to have missed it, and that my time in the town was so brief. I must return someday.And so to the footy…

From Lytham, was a short bus journey to the village of Warton and The Pickwick Tavern, from which Kellamergh Park, the home of AFC Fylde, was alleged to be a mere 10 minute-or-less walk.The pub was in no way noteworthy, but the lady behind the bar was friendly enough. I retired to the garden with my Guinness. And what a view…

It was soon time for the ’10 minute or less’ walk, which, it turned out, would have been more aptly called the 20-25 minute walk. I suppose the average football supporter has much longer legs than me.  Along the way, I passed an old church, a farm with 3 large dogs playing like puppies and a field of sheep. I was winning already.But more was to come…
AFC Fylde 10 Guisborough Town 0 – Saturday 6 August 2011

Attendance: 120 (a guess)
Entry: £5
Programme: £1
Consumed on site: pint of bitter, chip and cheese butty (ish), tea

Yep, that’s 10-0.
This many days later, I can’t remember the who, when and how of those ten goals (here’s a report, if you go for that sort of thing). I tend to be people-watching or looking out into space (or, in this case, at sheep) when goals are scored, so I can’t say for sure that I saw them all.  But there were ten. That I know.

Things I do remember:-

  • Fylde had a good partnership up front. I think one of them had orange hair
  • Sheep baaaahed and cows moooooed during quiet times of play. This should be incorporated into all games
  • The Club’s PR was very well-designed and professional; A4 posters in the toilets and other spots around the ground advertised the new season’s full programme of fixtures
  • The Club staff and volunteers that I encountered were all very friendly
  • The clubhouse, ‘Fullers Bar’, was snazzy
  • The chap on the tannoy was upbeat and cheeky

I got my money’s worth.

Unsurprisingly, I was the only person to leave the ground on foot. The walk back to the bus stop seemed quicker than earlier. I passed the sheep again – who, one might proffer, worked harder for my affection than did Guisborough Town.

After sleeping for most of the hour or so it took to get back into Blackpool, I arrived at my hotel 6 hours after I’d left. For local football.  And then there was tea. And punk rock.
You can follow Cyndee on Twitter here.
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