Saucy


Ask the average man (or woman) in the street anywhere in the UK apart from in a WR postcode what is the name of the Lea & Perrin spicy sauce you can chuck on your food and I bet 90% will answer “Worcester Sauce”.  Well saying such a thing in or around the cathedral city of Worcester could get you put inside (not literally of course…you need to do something much more serious in Brown’s Britain for that privilege, such as putting rubbish in the wrong bin).  For the answer is WorcesterSHIRE sauce.

First made in Broad Street, Worcester by two chemists (John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins) back in 1837, and is still being produced by HJ Heinz in the city.  So what has that got to do with football?  Well nothing really – it’s just that I like it on my food and I thought I would share it with you.

English beer

Is there anywhere more English though than Worcester?  Home of Edward Elgar and also St Georges Lane where it is rumoured the last remaining dragon lived and was hunted down by our patron saint. It has a rugby team, a county cricket team, a racecourse and of course the football team.  Just down the road was where Cromwell’s New Model Army (who a few centuries later released the album Impurity) beat King Charles (pretending to be a dog) to win the Civil War (so called as they didn’t actually fight each other they just traded mild insults). During World War II Churchill was based just up the road, as it was decided that the city was far enough away from a potential German invasion and as they cannot pronounce their “W’s” properly and undercover attempts to locate him would have been rumbled – “Vere is Vorcester?”.  And that is why the whole TBIR team had made their way across country on a glorious April Saturday wearing our red and black roses.

Playing away? Miss Worcester models the new kit

So Worcester City – what a mixed situation they find themselves in.  Six weeks ago the club looked doomed.  Three nil down with fifteen minutes to go away at relegation rivals Lewes they stared demotion to the Southern League in the face and with uncertainty over the future of the ground things looked bleak.  Then fifteen minutes of magic started a chain of events.  Three goals in that period not only gave them a point, but in the context saved them three, and since then two further wins and two draws had put some breathing space between themselves and the final relegation spot, still occupied by Lewes.  Last weekend the whole situation was turned on its head again with Lewes winning and Worcester losing, meaning that this game was a real six pointer.  Add to this the off the field news  for the relocation of the team from their St Georges Lane ground that has seen so many sights in its 108 year history but is now showing its age.

St Georges Lane

The finest moment at the ground, and in fact in the club’s history must have been events on the  15th January 1959 when the then Birmingham League team beat Liverpool (then in the 2nd division) 2-1 in the FA Cup 3rd round.  Drawn at home in round four they lost 2-0 to Sheffield United in front of a record 17,000 crowd. How can you top such an event?  Well you can’t and the club has been dining out on the fact that they have beaten a five times European Cup winning team since.  I once met a Worcester City fan who tried to explain to me that the club were in fact the World Club Champions.  After all they had beaten Liverpool, and Liverpool had beaten Manchester United, and Manchester United had beaten Real Madrid who in turn won the first ever Intercontinental Cup which then became the FIFA Club Championship.

TBIR

After a long stint in the Southern League, including a season under the stewardship of Ronnie Radford, he of THAT Hereford United goal in 1971 they were one of the original clubs to form the Alliance Premier League (today the Blue Square Premier) where they stayed until the mid-eighties.  Two seasons ago they moved from the Blue Square North to South to balance up the numbers and have struggled this season at the bottom of the league with crowds falling about 10% from last season.  Inconsistency has been the only constant this season.  Some great wins against the likes of Dover (home and away), Woking and Dorchester have been balanced by defeats to already relegated Weston-super-Mare and Weymouth.

The Lewes Lunatic Fringe (and Northern Steve)

The TBIR team met up with Cynical Dave and Big Deaks who can boast an almost 100% attendance record this season.  Dave certainly has been there through thick and thin and wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of away games at Aveley, Canvey Island or Hornchurch on a wet Tuesday night (although Hastings United and Margate on a sunny day in August is a different story) if relegation did come to Lewes.  Unfortunately Danny had decided that this game wasn’t big enough for him so had headed over to Madrid for the small matter of Real v Barcelona.  Me myself had turned my back on the Circus again, choosing this relegation battle rather than the one at Upton Park.

Welcome to the heart of England

This was the longest away trip of the season and through the bizarre workings of the non league authorities Worcester is actually some 30 miles north of Gloucester who play in the Blue Square North.  We sent off at 10am and shortly received a mercy call from the Lewes Lunatic Fringe who were stuck at Reading so we diverted there scooped them up after negotiating some of the worst signage known to man in the one way system and made our merry way up to Worcester.

After passing Sixways, home of Worcester Warriors sitting in the middle of erm…nothing…we headed on down to the ground and got a spot right outside the entrance, and opposite the Cavalier pub.  Let me describe the setting for you.  Benches beside a canal, sun shining, big tattooed bloke sitting outside with a huge pitbull, three yoofs listening to tinny music on their mobile phones – can a pub scene be any more English than this?  We passed on the Cavalier and instead went round the corner to the Swan for a pint of London Pride and Marston – “the beer of England” the glass told us.  All we needed was a man in a bowler hat with a copy of the Times to walk past to complete the scene.  Instead we saw/heard a Polish/Slovakian/Serbian couple, complete with 18 children wander past throwing their crisp packets on the floor – Can it get any more English than that!

And the winner is....

It was game time, and after hearing some revelations about the Lewes goalkeeper’s latest girlfriend (I cannot reveal it here – suffice to say that it is a close female relative of someone who epitomizes the current English cultural scene) we paid our entrance fee and were in.  Immediately we were thrust a voting slip for Worcester City’s player of the year – all of us except Lolly, who sporting her Lewes shirt was immediately excluded.  As a protest to such apartheid Dave, Deaks and myself cast votes for Julian Dicks!

Another record was set prior to kick off as we counted no less than 11 different team/country shirts in the bar.  Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Derby County, Birmingham City, Aston Villa, Wolves, Barcelona, England and El Salvador (OK so the last one was mine but it still counts) – hardly a show of solidarity for the home side!

Worcester City 1 Lewes 2 – St Georges Lane – Saturday 10th April 2010

Keehan heads wide

488…488…Four hundred and eighty eight days have passed since Lewes last won on the road in the League.  Tuesday 8th December 2008 was the date.  The place, Salisbury City but all of that has now been consigned to the bin as the Rooks won their most important game of the season.  It was tense, it was nervous and it gave everyone a headache but after 97 minutes when the referee eventually blew his whistle, the 23 Lewes fans could rejoice in the knowledge that for the first time in weeks the club’s fate was in their own hands.  With two games in hand and just two points now separating the teams the “great escape” could be possible.

Gradwell makes it 1-0

The match started relatively slowly, with the Worcester fans standing on the terraces urging their team on, but it was Lewes who made the early running.  The first real chance fell to Joe Keehan who headed a glorious chance wide in the 15th minute, and then David Wheeler smashed his header against the bar with Worcester’s keeper completely beaten.  Lewes didn’t have to wait too long for their reward though as in the 22nd minute a long Rikki Banks punt upfield was flicked on and Rob Gradwell outpaced the defence and slotted the ball passed the on coming keeper.

That's number 2

The rest of the half saw Lewes confidently playing the ball around and pushing forward, content in taking a half time lead.  The Worcester fans had seen enough and started filtering past us on their way to the bar.  One stopped and asked “Are you called Lewes or Looes?” .  A smart retort of “Are you called Worcester or Whorsester?” moved him onwards as he had lost his bet with his mates about the pronunciation and was seen shortly after buying a round of Aftershock in the bar. But then one of those rare moments at football stunned everyone.  Another long punt upfield.  Keeper and Defender both go for the same ball and both miss it and Steve Brinkhurst simply tapped the ball into an empty net.  One for the Danny Dyer/Ricky Tomlinson/Nick Hancock etc Xmas DVD I am sure.

Hands of my idea sky

As with tradition in the non leagues we swapped ends at half time, wandering around the ground.  It has certainly seen better days and if you ever wanted to make a film about football in the 1960’s or 1970’s then St Georges Lane is the place to come.  You can understand why the club are so desperate to move to a new ground.  The terrace behind the goal where we were now standing was a classic example.  Unusually set high above the goal, but close enough to reach into the net – it would have been a crime not to set up our own “Backofthenetcam” – a great idea but in practice almost completely redundant as all the action was at the far end as Worcester battered Lewes from the first whistle.  They hit the bar within the first 60 seconds of the half and if it wouldn’t have been for a brilliant Rikki Banks re-action save midway through the half the end result would have been different.  As it was Matt Birley’s headed goal in the 76th minute was their only reward.

The lonliness of a Lewes fan

With 4 minutes of injury time being played Lewes took the age old tactic of taking the ball into the corners.  Nothing wrong with that – or was there?  Every time they did it the referee shouted “get out of the corners”.  Now I know that some people are football purists but this is taking it to the extreme.  Sorry ref but you do not decide how the game is played.

So three valuable points from a highly entertaining away day.  We resisted the urge of a quick pint in the Cavalier as the man with the dog had been joined by a bigger man with a bigger dog and instead got back on the road down south.  Days like these are few and far between but that is what makes England great.

For more pictures from our day out in Worcester, click here.

About St Georges Lane
On entering into St Georges Lane you are transported back to the early 1970’s.  One main stand with a small terrace in front of it, a large bank of terracing on the far side, part of which has a roof and terraces behind the goals.  Basic it is and certainly not build for comfort but the proposed move to the new ground will change all that.  However in the meantime expect to get cold and wet if you come here in the winter, although on a sunny day it makes for pleasant viewing, especially in the unusual terrace behind the goal which is at cross bar height meaning you can look down on the action.

The bar seems to run almost the whole length of the main stand and is a great place for a pre, during and post match drink.

How to get to St Georges Lane
Leave the M5 at Junction 6 (Worcester North) and follow the signs towards Worcester along the A449. Follow the dual carriageway till you come to a roundabout. Take the 2nd turning towards Worcester. Stay on this road (Ombersley Road) for about a mile until you reach a T-junction and traffic lights. Take a right turn at the T-junction, St. Georges Lane North is the third turning on the left between a tool hire shop and the In-Toto kitchen showrooms.

As you travel up St. Georges Lane you will see the floodlight pylons of the ground, follow the road until you reach the front of the ground, very prominent. Car parking is roadside only, it is best to carry on past the front of the ground over the canal bridge and up Merrimans Hill road and park on the side of this road.

From Worcester Foregate Street Station. Exit via the long flight of steps and turn right onto Foregate Street. Proceed along this road past the Shirehall, Alice Ottley School and Royal Grammar School until you reach St George’s Lane you will see the floodlight pylons of the ground, follow the road until you reach the front of the ground, very prominent. Total distance is about one mile.

From Worcester Shrub Hill Station.  Its probably best to get a Taxi from here but if you want to walk leave the station and proceed ahead over the brow of the hil towards Pizza Hut. Cross the footbridge and walk along the canal tow path (you can only go one direction). Continue in this direction along the tow path until you reach the Cavalier Pub, turn left and you will see the Entrance to the ground in front of you.  Total distance is about two miles.

How to get a ticket for St Georges Lane
Admission prices to Worcester City for season 2009/10 will be:

Ground: Adult  £11, Concessions £7, Children (under 16) £3, Stand transfer £1.  The club has some special deals running for certain games such as children going in free with any adult.

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Any old Iron?



The credit crunch has not bypassed the Fuller household.  Despite my relocation to the 7th most expensive city in the World, I still have a few pennies left at the end of the week for Lolly and myself to find a game on a Saturday when West Ham are away.  With our beloved Hammers playing in the North West for the second time in two weeks (with two more trips up there in the next two!) we looked into the Fuller Football Crystal Ball.  This week’s criteria was simple – we had to be back at Ikea Lakeside by 6pm to pick up a wardrobe, so a new ground within an hours drive would be ideal.  Blue Square, obviously, and preferably one that wouldn’t break the bank, would be somewhere new and had some photo opportunities.

Whilst I had been smashing up a 70 foot concrete drive with a pneumatic drill (very therapeutic apart from the loss of feeling in your hands), Lolly had been away on her school field trip to Swanage.  She was following in the footsteps of Jay, Simon, Will and Neil, although I would be very worried if she spent her time looking for the MILF and offering her ” a lick of her cornetto”…For those completely lost at this point – check out The Inbetweeners.  However she was back, and looking forward to developing her photography portfolio.

So what did the Crystal Ball throw up this week?  Andy Hessenthaler’s Dover Athletic versus Alan Devonshire’s Hampton & Richmond came out first, closely followed by Braintree Town versus Worcester City.  I gave Lolly the choice, and once she found out Braintree were called “The Iron” she plumped for a trip to Essex.

She asked why were they called The Iron and not Irons?  We know that West Ham got their nickname of the “Irons” and “the Hammers” from their origins at the Thames Ironworks, Scunthorpe got their monocle from the nearby steelworks but I had no idea why a small town in rural Essex got the name Iron.  Time to consult Wikipedia, and they told me that the town was famous for the Crittal Window Company, who made the iron windows for the likes of the Titanic.  Their factory was actually located next to the current ground in the south of the town centre.  Well there we are.

So we headed north, then east almost passing Chelmsford’s ground where we went last week.  Braintree had had a great past decade and a bit.  Thirteen years ago they were in the Ryman’s Third division, playing local derbies against the likes of Witham, but promotion after promotion saw the club in the Blue Square South ten years later.  They narrowly missed out on promotion to the Conference National in 2007 when they lost in the final to Salisbury City, and last season lost in the Play Off semi-final to eventual winners Eastbourne Borough.  Less than an hour from home we were pulling up in the free car park outside the ground, tucked nicely away behind some smart new flats.

Ten pounds for me to get in, Lolly free of charge in the good old style “lift over” and with a programme, tea, coke and a delicious bacon burger took the spending to a whopping £20 for the two of us….£20 – approximately the same cost as 40 minutes football for one of us at West Ham.  To replicate a similar situation at West Ham it would cost (current season prices) over three times this amount.  Even at the Division Two level at Dagenham & Redbridge you would be looking at nearly £30 excluding parking so the club need to be applauded.  What was a bit of a mystery though was seeing how comfortable everyone seemed in the ground.  The bar was busy, the fans were buying their burgers, everyone was enjoying the sunshine, and with an average attendance (excluding the Chelmsford local derby) of around 450 why, oh why is the club trying to push through a new stadium move?  The club are progressing with plans for a 6,000 capacity stadium on the outskirts of town which will have amongst other things, a tennis club, community pitches and a banqueting suite.  Why?  The board, sitting in their portakabin behind the goal must be on the mushrooms if they think “if they build it, they will come”.

Braintree Town 0 Worcester City 0 – Cressing Road Stadium – Saturday 12th September 2009

What's not to love

What's not to love

With the temperature hitting the mid-seventies it was obvious that this game would fail to live up to any expectations.  It was also obvious that the game I would have chosen (Dover) but be full of goals.  So after my first sip of tea, and the teams barely a few minutes into the game, the first score flash came through from the Crabble.  Braintree came close to matching that with a smart header from Jon Keeling that hit the bar but was the best effort in the first half an hour.  Both teams struggled to make an impression on the game, and the fans seemed more keen on getting their suntan than any meaningful vocal support.  What was good to see was the early appearance of a Non-League Wag behind the goal, now a regular feature at the Blue Square South fixtures.

Lolly went off to get some artistic pictures especially those showing how uneven the pitch was, with a big lump, as if the clubs elephant mascot had been buried in the goalmouth being marshalled by Worcester’s Ben Hinchcliffe who was the busier of the two keepers, making further saves from Keeling again and Brad Quinton.  Half time came and went, and a check on the scores saw that there had been three goals down at Dover – drat!  Still a change of tactics in the second half was surely on the cards?  Er no.  More of the same was served up in the second half, with a few openings.  The impressive Worcester full back Alfie Carter cleared one header off the line, and with the game heading deep into injury time it looked to all still left in the ground that Braintree had earned a penalty when Lee Roche was brought down, but the referee inexplicably waved play on, only to blow the full time whistle a few seconds later.

Marks out of ten for a lovely venue for late summer’s football – 9/10.
Marks out of ten for value for money – 9/10
Marks out of ten for the game itself – 4/10

Can’t win everytime I told Lolly, as the sixth goal of the day at Dover game through on my phone….My choice next week!

About Cressing Road Stadium
Basic it may be, but it is more than adequate for “the Iron”.  One single covered stand runs three quarters of the length of the pitch, and covered terraces opposite and behind one goal offer cover from the elements for those standing.  Behind the north end is a small terrace, protecting the club house.  Views from everywhere are good but avoid standing under any speakers as they are deafening.  The club is one of the few in the leagues where the Board Room is a portakabin beside the edge of the pitch.  The club are planning on a move to a state of the art 6,000 community funded stadium on the edge of time – hmmmm.

How to get to Cressing Road Stadium
The ground is located to the south of the town centre.  The car park at the ground is free of charge and to reach the ground leave the M11 at Junction 8, heading in the direction of Stansted Airport, but staying on the A120 whilst the airport traffic heads off at the second junction.  Follow this for 16 miles until you reach Galley’s corner, where you should take the 1st exit on left at the roundabout into Cressing Road.  Follow this for nearly a mile and take third left into Clockhouse Way, then 1st left again for the ground (it’s hard to see until you turn the corner).

From Braintree station it is a 15 minute walk.  Turn right outside the station, then first right into Rose Hill.  Keep left and this will become Mill Hill and eventually Chapel Hill.  The second right is Clockhouse Way for the ground.

How to get a ticket for Cressing Road Stadium
Pay on the door is the order of the day in Braintree with a bargain £10 entry for Adults and £5 if the do decide to charge for children.  You can pay an additional £2 for a transfer to the single stand, or wait until just before half time when the steward wanders off for a pint and sit there free.  Nice little tickets though.