Saturday 25th Oct 1997
FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round Knypersley Victoria 0 Boston 1 HT 0-0 Att: 575
Saturday 27th Jan 2007
Midland Alliance League Cup 3rd Round Biddulph Victoria 0 Leamington 2 HT 0-2 Att:152
This was a full debut for my four year old son Dylan. He’d watched one half of Norton Utd v FCUM last season at Vale Park, but today he lasted the whole 90 minutes, thanks to a leapster, some crayons and an adjoining cricket pitch to run around in.
I’d been to Tunstall Road before, in 1997, for the biggest game in their history – an FA Cup fourth qualifying round game against Boston United. It was the furthest they’d been in the FA Cup thanks to a giant killing 3-1 win over Gresley Rovers in the previous round. 575 packed in to their tiny ground to see them edged out 1-0 to a Boston side that at the time, weren’t even in the Conference.That last time I went, they were called Knypersley Victoria. They changed the first bit to Biddulph in 2002 to better reflect their locale as a whole; Knypersley is a suburb of Biddulph. (It amused me to see the sign on the back of their stand that just said ‘VICS FOOTBALL CLUB’. I remember it used to say ‘KNYPERSLEY VICS FOOTBALL CLUB’. It looks like in 2002 they just ripped the KNYPERSLEY bit off and never got round to replacing it with BIDDULPH!)
The Vics were founded in 1969, inheriting the Tunstall Road ground from the defunct Knypersley FC (of which I could find no information at all).
During the seventies they fielded just a Sunday side in the Leek & Moorlands League, as their Saturday side had had to disband as money was too tight to mention. In 1979 though, football in the area returned to its rightful day, as they joined the Staffs County League (North), where they had some success.
In 1984 they became founder members of the Staffordshire Senior League until 1991, when they joined the West Midlands Regional League. They won the first division in 1992/3 and, holding their own in the Premier division, then became founder members of the Midland Alliance (step 5), and have been there ever since (best position 5th 1995/6).
I wouldn’t normally do a ground twice but Tunstall Road was only 10 minutes drive for me and they were playing Leamington, who were Tom’s home town team (Tom being my fellow ground aficionado and friend from down the road in Burslem). Also, it was Dylan’s first full game, and shorter drives are generally favourable when accompanied by four-year-olds with short attention spans.
Biddulph, the town, sits in the Staffordshire Moorlands in the shadow of the imposing Mow Cop. It’s unusual name either derives from By Delf, meaning by the diggings, or the much better theory is that it is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon bidulfe, meaning Wolf Slayer. As the family crest has a wolf rampant, I’d say that this one was the more plausible. Among its claims to fame, my favourite is that at one time it was the sole producer of Velcro in the UK.
The Tunstall Road ground is very small; being squashed in on one end by Tunstall Road, a nice dark stone wall separating it, on one side by houses and gardens, on the other end by a five a side court and the final side backing on to the cricket pitch of Knypersley Cricket Club. It claims to have a capacity of 2,500 but when I was there for that FA Cup match in ’97 with 575 people, we were packed in like…you guessed it…sardines.
The gates lead in to the car park and the clubhouse, that is signed Knypersley CC. Turn right and there is one turnstile that exits onto the end with the snack bar, and the ground’s only stand – wich has 3 rows of benches, with fading paint marking off individual seats. I’d guess the capacity of this stand was no more than 100.
To the right is where the huge netting starts, strung up on high poles, and continues on down the small side. This is to prevent high balls flying into the busy main road and residents’ back gardens (and windows). This side terrace is so small it gets quite claustrophobic if you have to pass someone coming the other way; behind the dugouts is strictly one way traffic. (the pic is actually taken from the other end, though)
The other long side is roped off and backs onto the cricket pitch. It may be that the rope forms the boundary in the cricket season.
This game was a Midland Alliance League cup game 3rd round with the winners progressing to the two-leg semi-final. Leamington were top of the league by miles, having won all but two league games, and were unbeaten.(until Tuesday 30th Jan, going down 2-0 to Stratford Town). Since being resurrected in 2000 Leamington were moving up the pyramid fast, with a huge following. Their average attendance is more than twice that of any other club in the division (576) and about nine times more than Biddulph’s (67). Today’s attendance of 152 seemed to be almost exclusively fans of Leamington (nicknamed the Brakes) – amazing considering they were back up here next week for the league tie.
The game was dire, killed off by two Leamington goals inside 14 minutes – the first was a penalty. I didn’t see what happened as I was helping to crayon at the time! At 2-0 the contest was snuffed out – Biddulph just didn’t look confident or incisive enough to get a goal back and Leamington played out the win like a friendly. Dylan and I attracted some funny looks chasing each other on the cricket pitch, Benny Hill style, to keep us warm and entertained.
Biddulph’s programme was excellent and full of statistics including average crowds for each team in the Midland Alliance. It also had full and interesting histories of both clubs.
The snack bar left a lot to be desired, though. The two working there had obviously never heard the expression ‘time management’! If someone ordered chips, they’d cook them specially and just wait 10 minutes rather than seeing if anyone else in the queue wanted drinks or cold food. Aside from that, nice club, nice setting.
Oh, I almost forgot: Orange nets! Rare; reminding me of a subbuteo pair I had. Enjoy: