Burton Wanderers FC

As this article goes to press, Burton Albion are sitting pretty near the top of the fourth tier of English football. The club, who play at the modern Pirelli Stadium can claim a number of honours including once holding Manchester United to a no score-draw in the FA Cup third round under the management of Nigel Clough. Whilst they represent the honour of a town, perhaps better known as the home of Bass Beer and Marmite, the club has a complicated background.

burton_wanderers_1894-1897Let me take you back to the 1894/95 season when Burton Wanderers were elected into the Football League Second Division after winning the Midlands League title. They weren’t however, to be the first team from the Staffordshire town to be playing in the Football League. Two years previously Burton Swifts had been part of the Football Alliance Division that had merged with the Football League to form a two-tier structure.

Swifts had finished in sixth place in their first two seasons but it was Wanderers who seemed to impress the most, recording a 9-0 victory against Newcastle United and a 8-0 win against Manchester City on their way to a 4th place finish in 1896. They missed out on promotion due to goal average but it seemed that they would push again the following season. But it was not to be. That following season they finished second to bottom in the league and could count themselves very unlucky to be voted out of the Football League at the expense of Luton Town. Rivals Burton Swifts finished one place higher and lived to fight another day.

Three seasons later after Swifts finished bottom of the league they did a deal with the Football League to stop themselves being relegated, merging with rivals Burton Wanderers to form Burton United, and thus becoming the third Burton incarnation to play in the Football League. However, once again their tenure provided short-lived and at the end of the 1906/07 season after never finishing higher than 10th in the Football League Second Division, they were demoted and soon disappeared completely off the footballing map.

It wasn’t until 1950 that football returned to the town with the formation of Burton Albion. Their promotion to the Football League in the last decade meant that Burton now has the honour of supporting more Football League clubs than any town in England.

The ground, Peel Croft, used by two of the first three Burton teams is still in existence today and is home to Burton RFC. Back in the day the ground had a capacity of 6,000.

Whilst Wanderers, Swifts and United’s time in the Football League was brief, it did show that provincial towns could support the game at the top level, albeit just for a few seasons.


In search of Joanne Guest

Many people would say that the most famous sight in Chesterfield is the twisted spire of the Church of St Mary’s and All Saints. The wooden tower leans nearly 10 feet from its centre axis and it famed the world over. It is relatively logical that the local football team take its nickname from the most visible point in Derbyshire’s biggest town.

Some may suggest that the town is also well-known as the birth place of John Hurt, or even Simon Groom. Eighties pop aficionados would surely point their stylus to the fact two of the three Thompson Twins hailed from Chesterfield but to me the town has always been the home to the finest women, bar The Current Mrs Fuller, in the whole world.

1624873-609mWe can all remember our crushes when we were growing up, which manifested themselves into something obsessive as the hormones took over. One of the rites of passage growing up is when you build up the courage to buy your first top shelf magazine, making sure Mrs Patel had gone to lunch so you could carefully slip the copy of Razzle, Mayfair or Readers Wives under Viz and a packet of Minstrels. I remember the day very clearly when I went into my local newsagent a boy, and came out a man. She had already been a familiar face (among other body parts) in the Sun and the Star, but it was the news of her first ever “spread” as it was harmlessly called in those days, in Escort magazine that had me slipping on a baseball cap, wearing sunglasses and putting on a fake accent to obtain a copy of a magazine that today would be tame compared to the likes of Zoo and Nuts. But this was in the day when Baywatch was as exciting as things got on TV. Continue reading

Gone for a Burton

Last weekend saw the return to Dagenham of probably the most hated man in the history of the club, Steve Evans. With a welcoming committee ready and waiting to meet their team coach as it arrived at the car park, the day itself saw quite a fair amount of abuse aimed at the former Boston United manager whenever he ventured into the technical area surrounding the Rotherham bench.

As it turned out, Saturday 10th November will go down as one of those days when just about everything went right. A an excellent 5-0 win saw each goal celebrated like a World Cup final, and a reminder of just how much everyone hated Evans after each time the ball hit the net. Rotherham, on the day, were awful, and had Andy Warrington to thank for keeping it at just the five. After the game, Evans described it as the worst performance of his managerial career, so that was nice. There was even the threat of him not sending the team back out in the second half, but they eventually emerged and were just as bad in the second half as they were in the first. Perhaps it would have been better just to pack up and go home at the interval.

Despite the win though, Saturday just seemed a bit of a strange day. There was an atmosphere, partly stoked by the situation regarding the visiting manager, but there was also a bit of a dispute regarding the supporters club. For as long as I can remember, they have been staffing the match day club shop, so now that it has moved from inside the stadium to outside, there was probably the expectation that this arrangement would continue. Except that it hasn’t, and so standing outside the old premises prior to the game were a few of the “former” staff of the shop, complaining about the situation, and that they would need to have a word with those at the club who had seen fit to dispense with their services. This created more than one edge to the atmosphere, which helped make the noise in the ground last week the loudest and most sustained for some time.

Then, in the early hours of last Sunday morning, there was a fire at the club. First reports on the forum reckoned that it was the club house that had gone, which wouldn’t have entirely surprised me. That was then corrected, and it was confirmed that it had been the programme shop that had gone up instead.

As a club, one of my biggest moans is that we don’t seem to celebrate our history enough. As Dagenham & Redbridge, we were formed in 1992, out of a merger between Dagenham and Redbridge Forest. Forest themselves were formed out of mergers before that, but like Sky and their Premier League era, we only came into existence in 1992. It just seems that anything that happened before that isn’t of as much importance.

In the programme shop were loads of items that related to our predecessors, and now thanks to this, they are now gone forever. A quick look at the picture posted on the club’s website in the week showed the almost total destruction of what was inside. If anything is salvageable I’m not sure, but from that picture, it didn’t look like it. If there is nothing left, then it’s an opportunity to celebrate the history of Walthamstow Avenue, Ilford et al that has gone. How long it takes to get the shop back up and running again is anyone’s guess.

All of this has sort of cast a long shadow over what had been a brilliant day on the pitch. Winning any game by five goals is a cause for celebration, but given the nature of the win, and then adding in the history with the opposition manager, it just made it so much sweeter.

The win meant that the good league form had been extended by another game, making it now just one defeat in ten. There were times at the start of the season when this didn’t look likely, but now that there is a settled team, with minimal injuries, the side is starting to play well. There is also a little bit of confidence appearing in the support. Whereas there was the hope that we might play well and get a result, now that has changed slightly, and we are now going into games with a good level of expectation that we can get a result. Continue reading

No sunshine today Eric

Chris Durning from the Baradin website chose to spend his New Year in Morecambe…Don’t ask…

“Bring me Sunshine” goes the song most associated with the seaside town of Morecambe, yet typical british weather decided otherwise as the rain lashed down on my Fiat Grande Punto on the long journey to Lancashire from the East Midlands. The final match of 2011 for Burton on whats been a memorable year for the Brewer’s, a last gasp giant-slaying of Middlesbrough in the F.A cup, securing football league status for the second season running and now Albion find themselves battling amongst the divisions top six for a dream ticket to League One.

Still there was the small matter of an away tie before all that due to take place at the brand spanking new Globe Arena, the Shrimp’s residence after leaving Christie Park in 2009. Arriving in Morecambe is one of the easier drives to an away ground in the country with a few car parks surrounding the stadium and street parking a-plenty. Car parked it was time to brave the elements and head to see one of Morecambe’s main attractions, the statue of the towns most famous son, Eric Morecambe.

One half of legendary comedy duo Morecambe and Wise (i’ll leave it up to you to guess which one) Eric’s statue is surrounded by a Hollywood walk-of-fame style arrangement with stars depicting famous names that have appeared on the pair’s chat show’s over the years, well worth a look if you’re ever up in this part of the country, on the other hand from riches to rags the town appears a shadow of its former pomp in its heyday of years gone by and in parts has the appearance of a delapidated seaside resort that once owned a large slice of Britain’s tourist trade. Continue reading

Daggers stop the slide in Marmite town

Christmas is generally regarded as a time when miracles happen. For a team that has lost nine league games in a row, a miracle would probably be a game where they managed to avoid defeat. Despite this run of “form”, one thread on the main Daggers forum this week seemed to suggest that the majority of the posters want the manager to stay in charge. There are those however, that don’t want the miracles that have happened in the recent past, to be tainted by consecutive relegations.

During the week, we had the small matter of a replay in the FA Cup up at Walsall. General opinion from those who attended was that the game wasn’t the best, but after two hours of goal-less football, the game was settled by a penalty shoot-out. For the second time this season, we won a penalty competition, this time by 3-2. If only we could play each game with a shoot out at the end; we would be champions by now…

Today though, we have another league game, and it’s a trip up the M1 and A54 to Burton-on-Trent. After managing to lose a game where we had led (albeit for less than a minute) last weekend against Port Vale, today’s trip to Burton Albion is being well attended; ok, as well attended as a game the week before Christmas can be. The coach is about three quarters full, which is good going given that we now have eight days left to the festive period. Continue reading

Welcome to Marmite Town

There are a few things in life I think I would struggle to live without now.  The love of a good woman is one, and for that I can thank CMF (and a few others if she is reading just to keep her on her toes!), a good book to stimulate my grey matter and of course my life support machine when I am away, my Ipod.  However, two additional things I would take with me on any Desert Island would be some decent beer and the biggest jar of marmite in the world.  Marmite – you either love it or you hate it.  I reckon more love it than hate it, and in a Fuller family poll the love poll won 3 to 1.  Why is this relevant to my football ramblings?  Well my chosen Boxing Day game this year was to be Burton Albion versus York City, and of course every culinary expert knows, Burton-Upon-Trent is the home to the fabulous Bass brewery and the Marmite factory.  The smell of hops and yeast fills the air of this small town on the border of Derbyshire and Staffordshire that most people bypass on the A50 as they head to Alton Towers.

So after a feast and a half in Lincoln on Christmas Day I dropped CMF off at her folks in Newark, and headed west to visit the Pirelli Stadium for top of the table Burton Albion against York City.  Burton came into this game with a huge lead at the top of the Blue Square Conference under the management of Nottingham Forest legend Nigel Clough, and with a couple of tough games for all of the promotion rivals over Christmas knew a win was vital. 

Burton Albion are the perfect model of how a club with ambition should be run.  Clough joined the club in 1998 as Player-Manager, at the tender age of 32.  In the past decade he has made 300 appearances for the club, and is in theory still registered as a player today.  In his first full season at the club he helped them to runners up spot in the Southern Premier League twice but at the time due to the structure of the non-league pyramid only the top team was promoted.  So the club decided to try their luck in the Northern Premier League in 2001 and they were rewarded with promotion to the Conference in 2002.

In 2004 the club developed a five year plan that would hopefully deliver league football, a new stadium and financial security.  They have so far achieved two of the three objectives with the first one hopefully being achieved by the start of May 2009.  In 2005 the club moved across the road from their Eton Park ground to a new 6,500 £7.5m stadium called the Pirelli, named after the tyre manufacturer who are based close to the stadium.  In that first season at the stadium they drew Manchester United in the FA Cup third round and played out a very impressive 0-0 draw in front of the TV cameras at the sold out Pirelli.  Despite a 5-0 defeat in the replay the club had made enough money to invest sensibly in the playing staff as well as securing their future for seasons to come.

Last season they finished in their best ever position, 5th place which saw them qualify for the end of season playoffs, where they lost 4-3 on aggregate to Cambridge United.  This season has seen the club find the consistency in front of goal that was lacking last season and as they entered the Christmas period they were not only on top of the league but had also scored more goals than any other side.

Their opponents were York, who I had seen play away at Salisbury and Histon in the past few weeks, getting impressive draws at both.  In fact this is the story of their season as they had managed 11 draws in their games so far, which meant they were too close to the relegation places for a team who defended so well.  Only three other teams in the Conference had won less games than York and new manager Martin Foyle certainly had his work cut out trying to change the way the team played.

I only had an hour after leaving Newark before kick off and thanks to my advanced driving training I managed to get to the outskirts by 2.55pm.  I came to the first junction for Burton and not seeing any signs for the football I carried on on the A38.  Of course this was the wrong decison as the stadium soon loomed up on my left.  No problem I thought, I’d just turn off at the next junction and head through the town.  Great idea, except the next junction was over five miles away!  So I headed up onto the slip road, round the roundabout and back onto the A38 going east!  So eventually I arrived at the stadium at five past, and saw the “Car Park Full” signs.  But we all know there are always spaces so I drove in regardless, and of course I found a space right in front of the away turnstiles – not quite in the Histon league but still an impressive 26 steps away from the entrance.

Before I headed into the stands I decided to get some food.  Most clubs at this level use local suppliers which means that you will get unusual items on the menu.  I had hoped that the menu would be full of Marmite themed items but was disappointed.  But they did have Faggots on the menu!  Fantastic – 4 for £3 including peas was a bargain and well worth it!  Traditional football fayre at last.

Burton Albion 2 York City 1 – The Pirelli Stadium – Friday 26th December 2008 3pm

A nice back drop

A nice back drop

I had missed the first few minutes of the game but as I walked from entrance to entrance of the stand along the pitch I saw how busy it was.  Nearly 4,000 fans had turned out for this festive treat, over double the average attendance at the ground.  The weight of expectation on the home team was obviously too much in the first half as they struggled to find any fluency in their play.  York again had set out their stall, with their physical approach in midfield upsetting the Burton rhythm.  The first half saw few chances for either team, and the busiest people were the referee and the two physios who had to treat players on either side.

I moved round to behind the goal just before half time as the setting sun was causing an issue in the east stand.  As the temperature fell in the closing stages of the first half Burton had the best chance of the half, with Shaun Harrard forcing a good save from York City’s keeper Ingham.

The second half started much the same as the first one ended with Harrard causing issues for the York City defence.  However, it was the away team that took the lead on fifty five minutes as Adam Smith fired in smartly after a well worked move.  The lead lasted less than ten minutes though as Burton stepped up a gear.  From a free kick from twenty yards Ryan Austin beat the wall only for Ingham to make a smart save but Harrard was following up to put away the rebound.  Queue some relieved celebrations, especially from one Burton fan who ran onto the pitch, collided with the prone goalkeeper and joined in the goal celebrations taking place in the goal.  The deluded fellow was lead away cheering his head off, although nobody seemed to realise he’d lost his bobble hat in the process which was now laying in the six yard box.

There was only going to be one winner after that goal and it came seven minutes later as the two Burton forwards combined well before Pearson drilled in a cross that was turned into his own goal by York defender Mark Greaves.  York valliantly pushed forward but could not create anything as the clock ran down.  I took my leave as the fourth official held up the board, and within 30 seconds I was back on the A38 heading for my Boxing Day tea, and some long overdue Marmite!

About the Pirelli Stadium
The Pirelli Stadium is a multi-use stadium in Burton upon Trent, England. It is currently used mostly for football matches and is the home ground of Burton Albion F.C.. The stadium holds 6,500 and opened in 2005. The record crowd for the stadium stands at 6,191 when Manchester United visited the ground in an FA Cup tie in 2006. But after discussions the official capacity was raised to 6,500, with 2,000 seated and the rest terracing.

The Pirelli Stadium was built because the previous stadium Eton Park had become run down and was limited in the ways it could generate income for the club outside of matchdays. It was built on the site of the Pirelli UK Tyres Ltd Sports & Social Club. The new Pirelli Stadium offers potential for generating income seven days of the week, including conference rooms throughout the main stand with the largest holding 300 people. On match days there are nine directors boxes available for supporters wanting a more relaxed view of the game. There are four bars, one on each side of the ground, which are all open before and during games.

One side of the ground “The Main Stand”, is the only seated stand at the club and can hold just over 2000 supporters. The other three stands are terraced with half a dozen or so rows.  The views are good from each area. 

Thanks to Burton Albion for providing the above information.

How to get to the Pirelli Stadium
Car parking is available at the Pirelli Stadium for 400 vehicles. Overflow car parking is located at the nearby Rykneld Trading Estate(first exit at the roundabout before turning right into Princess Way). The Pirelli Stadium is located opposite the old Eton Park Ground.

If you are driving from the M1 (Junction 24) via the A50.  Head south on the A38 (Burton and Birmingham) until you reach the first Burton turn off.  Take this exit (A5121) and proceed along Derby Road, passing McDonald’s and the Pirelli factory on your right and a BP Garage and Cash & Carry on your left until you reach a roundabout.  Turn right at this roundabout into Princess Way and the entrance to the ground is 300 yards on your right.

Burton Railway Station is situated half a mile West of the Town Centre, past the Breweries on Station Street, on Borough Road. Trains run regularly to and from Derby and Nottingham to the North, and Birmingham to the South. It’s a good twenty-five minute walk to Eton Park from the Station.  Out of the station turn left, then next right into Derby Street. Keep going on this road about 1½ miles, straight across the first roundabout by the Derby Turn Pub (left), then immediately left at the next roundabout into Princess Way and the entrance to the ground is 300 yards on your right.

How to get a ticket for the Pirelli Stadium
The 6,500 capacity stadium has only ever been sold out once and that was for the FA Cup tie with Manchester United.  The club, even when they are sitting top of the Blue Square Premier League only average 1,900 so paying on the gate is never an issue.  The club have a very sensible and simple pricing structure – £12 for an Adult on any of the three terraces (and you can move around as you want) and £14 for a seat in the main stand.  A Childs ticket is £5.  Bear in mind that the East stand suffers with the setting sun.