British-based writer with a passion for sport and travel, music and photography. Proud dad, exploring the world anew through the eyes of a forthright toddler.
Sheffield is a city steeped in football history – and part of that heritage has been preserved against the odds. The Plough Inn, overlooking the historic Sandygate ground in the western suburbs of the South Yorkshire city, was scheduled for demolition. Even the local planning officers supported a scheme that would have seen the 19th-century watering hole levelled and replaced by housing. However, the city council rejected the proposal, in no small part due to the pub’s place in the birth of the beautiful game.
German football is often held up as a model of how the spectator experience should be. From the vast, swaying yellow wall of terracing at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion to the self-styled anarchy of St. Pauli, the Bundesliga and beyond reflects the football many in England wish they could remember.
Making yourself at home
West Allotment Celtic, a non-league football team from North Tyneside, announced over the summer that it was moving back to its roots to play Northern League football at Palmersville Community Centre. Three years ago, I saw the team play its first game at Druids Park, making an emergency landing near Newcastle Airport after a rent hike forced it out of the Northumberland FA ground at Whitley Park. This text first appeared on Groundhoppers.blog. More images of West Allotment, at Druid Park and Whitley Park, can be found here.
Cops and cricketers, angels and cowboys. Dozens of scarecrows descended on a small village near Durham – all part of keeping spirits up during a difficult year.
Fishes, wishes, boats and hopes
It started with a fish. And a wish. Then a boat of hope. And, gradually, a stretch of the Durham Heritage Coast turned into an unlikely art gallery – conceived and curated by anyone who was inspired to contribute to a growing collection of transient creations using the flotsam and jetsam on the shores of the North Sea.
Positivity in crisis
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolated. At lunchtime in Bean Social, a lively café on Durham’s North Road, the tables may be spaced out, but conversation still ebbs and flows between them. A couple of weeks after returning from lockdown, it feels appealingly normal; a space to meet and eat.
This weekend should have been Bootham Crescent’s swansong. Typically, though, things didn’t go to plan. York City, predictably unpredictable, saw the final season at the club’s much-loved old home turn into a characteristic roller-coaster. Top of the league when coronavirus struck, the Minstermen missed out on promotion from National League North via a points-per-game calculation that put them behind King’s Lynn. Next came a vociferous appeal to ‘promote two’, via a playoff if necessary, and York returned to action on July 25 against Altrincham. City hadn’t played a game since March 7 Alty defeated Chester in the previous week’s eliminator and recent form made the difference in front of a deserted Bootham Crescent. So, instead of a final showdown against Boston United, the season ends in Lincolnshire as York’s fans contemplate the club’s retained list and hope that next time – at last – the team might start climbing the football pyramid once again.
A retro football experience
Four years ago, when ‘lockdown’ was merely an adaptation of the notorious catenaccio tactic beloved of Italian defenders for decades, the football season was getting underway just now. On July 30, I was off to Shildon to see the curtain-raiser for the Northern League season. Shildon, defending champion and league cup winner, took on Marske United, runner-up in both competitions, for the Cleator Cup. League action would resume the following weekend.