Eastwood Hanley FC (Defunct) their home ground at dusk in september 2005
A commonly occurring conversation is what you’d do with your life after winning the lottery or, by some other means, coming into a large amount of money. Most people seem to have definite ideas about what they’d do, whereas I only had vague answers predictably and somewhat blandly involving charity and lots of lazing about.
Since returning to the resting place of the now defunct Eastwood Hanley, I now have a definite plan: to resurrect this humble club back into the non-league pyramid. I spend many an idle moment formulating the revival – applying for grants to rebuild the stands and terraces, holding open days for prospective players – hiring semi-retired scouts with an encyclopaedic who’s who knowledge of the North West Counties and Midland Alliance leagues.
The first (real) incarnation of Eastwood Hanley only lasted 32 years between 1965 (I have since found out they were founded in 1946 – sorry), when they entered the Mid Cheshire League, until 1997 in the North West Counties. Their best period was between 1987 and 1990 where they played in the Northern Premier(now Unibond). I have struggled to obtain information about them, aside from their league history from a non-league club database. My work colleague, a Port Vale fan, dimly remembers a pre-season friendly against them and reckons it was a regular fixture in July; similar to the current arrangement The Vale have with Newcastle Town. As they folded just before the internet boom I guess information on them will be scarce. I would love to hear from an old fan and would love to see pics of their ground while active. Please comment or email me if you have anything on them.
I first visited Eastwood Hanley’s ground about 10 years ago, just after their demise. They are situated in an area just south of Hanley called Joiners Square; their ground running next to the disused railway line that used to connect Stoke to Leek and parallel to the Leek Road. The area used to be known as Eastwood, hence the name. Eastwood pottery was a well-known factory in Lichfield Street until it was taken over by Bridgewater in 1958. However the factory site is still known as Eastwood Works.
I lived in Joiners Square at the time and had heard vague rumours regarding this football team. I thought they were still in existence so one lazy Saturday afternoon I set out to try to find their ground. A newsagent, who I asked very furtively, almost apologetically, told me he thought they didn’t exist anymore but pointed me over the road to their ground with the look of bemusement I’d come to expect from one of my obscure football questions.
I was a sad sight that awaited me over the road and behind the trees. As I walked over a grassy mound a burnt out stand opposite came into view and remnants of a terrace on the near side. It was clearly a newly vacated site though, as apart from a slightly overgrown pitch, the rest of the ground was fairly intact. I was so disappointed as it was only a 7/8 minute walk from my flat and would have made a perfect second team for me.
It was situated in a nice location up a lane off the main A-road that almost immediately became a country track in a densely wooded area. What a shame to have left such a tranquil sylvan setting. I wondered what had been the cause of their demise and how many people in the area were as sad as I was to see their home left to the elements and to slow decay.
It was last year (2005) when I got to thinking about them again; by pure luck, I came across an old programme of theirs in a bric-a-brac shop. It was from 1989, a Northern Premier League fixture(Unibond now), the highest league they played in. It prompted me to go to revisit their ground.
I invited Tom along, suspecting a polite refusal; thinking that despite his own love of football and football related nostalgia, this might be too extreme even for him. Apparently not. He was all too willing to see how much evidence was left of Eastwood Hanley.
Luckily for us this area of Stoke has long been a land that time forgot with the only notable passage of time being the fading of shop signs and the crumbling of brickwork.
Luckily for me there was still quite a noticeable bit of their ground left, so I hadn’t dragged Tom half way across the city to see a patch of grass. It was only in a marginally worse state than a decade before.
A middle section of terrace was still standing and in fine fettle. It felt good standing there, imagining it being a match day for an FA Cup third Qualifying round or something. Ghosts from yesteryear seemed to hang around this structure mourning for lost football and praying to be reawakened.
The behind-the-goal shed was still very much in evidence, the long bus-shelter type affair made from corrugated iron, with an extremelely narrow path running behind serving as the entrance.
The picture is not great as dusk was descending more rapidly than I anticipated, but I like the big factory buildings you can see in the background, which I think provide a fitting backdrop to a team who’s name only really lives on in the pottery industry.
The other side had deteriorated the most since my last visit. I have vague recollections of a reasonably sized stand sitting there before, but now there is just a bare frame left of what was once there. Again, apologies for the quality of the photo.
Behind the other goal I suspect there was only a bar and single step path to begin with. There are certainly no remnants of anything bigger, and with a wall not far behind space was at a premium.
With it being in one of the renewal areas now, it probably won’t be there for too much longer. See it while you can if you like your ghost grounds. I expect it will become a city-centre-living urban box type thing before long. It was standing in the middle of the pitch taking photos that I’d decided exactly what to do with a few million – resurrect this football team that had been left behind the main road and ignored for 10 years. Donations welcome!
To read more…Eastwood Hanley Revisited