Ten seminal moments of non-league footballing greatness in the Tameside and Glossop areas
With the season less than ten matches from completion, this would often be the time for Player of the Year, PFA Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards. This would also be a time to reflect upon the last three-quarters of the footballing season, maybe the odd past glory or two.
Among the six Tameside clubs, and Glossop North End, there is a substantial amount of history between the seven sides. Enough to fill a hardback book, probably. For the purpose of this post, East of the M60 has managed to distill their proud records into an easy-to-follow – often subject to debate – Not So Perfect Ten. Therefore, this month’s TNSP10 will be focusing on Leo Skeete instead of Leo Sayer. Or Chris Camden instead of Christopher Cross.
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Our Not So Perfect Ten
- Smith, Moore and Skeete: Mossley’s 1978-79 campaign;
- Wraggy’s Boys Lift Cheshire County League: first title win after 57 years membership;
- Mossley’s Annus Mirabilis: 1980 sees F.A. Trophy Final trip to Wembley and a league scalp;
- The Future’s Plastic?: the arrival of Astroturf to Ewen Fields;
- Camden versus the Northern Premier League: Buffalo breaks N.P.L. scoring record;
- Mike Mackenzie’s Break: Hyde United in the mid-1990s;
- Robins Swoop to F.A. Trophy Quarter Finals: memorable 2-0 win over Hyde;
- Wizzo’s Treble: Stalybridge Celtic’s own treble – two years after Sir Alex Ferguson’s;
- The Reorganisation Game: Tameside clubs in the early days of Conference North football;
- Glossop North End Goes to Wembley: the 2009 F.A. Vase Final.
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1. Smith, Moore and Skeete: for Mossley fans of a certain age, the aforementioned three players conjure up memories of Mossley’s glory years. Ian Smith, David Moore and Leo Skeete terrorised defences in the Northern Premier League, scoring 93 goals between them in the 1978 – 79 season. That season saw Mossley clinch the Northern Premier League title with 117 goals for and 48 against, with 69 points. The Lilywhites finished above Altrincham with a gap of eight points.
Unfortunately, their achievements were tarnished by the introduction of the Alliance Premier League, and their ground grading criteria. Before 1978-79, NPL clubs could put themselves forward for election into the Football League, and the last side to do that was Wigan Athletic in 1978. They replaced Southport. From 1979 onwards, the then new APL would become the highest non-league tier, as well as its first national league. Seel Park would fall foul of the ground grading criteria in 1979, and again in 1980.
2. Wraggy’s Boys Lift Cheshire County League title: in his first stint of Bower Fold, Stalybridge Celtic would begin their climb up the leagues. Like Mossley, this was stymied by organisation, albeit till the late 1980s. The 1979 – 80 season saw the ‘Bridge lift the Cheshire County League title for the first time in their history, 57 years after replacing their reserve side. Players like Kevin Crumblehulme and Paul Mather would wow the crowds. As well as their title win, the ‘Bridge got to the Second Round Proper of the F.A. Trophy. They would lose 5 – 0 to Dagenham at Bower Fold. Their victors would beat another Tameside club a few months later. In Wembley Stadium, no less…
3. Mossley’s Annus Mirabilis: if 1979 was a fantastic year for Mossley, 1980 was even better. At the end of the 1979 – 80 season, they retained their Northern Premier League title, though once more, Seel Park didn’t meet the ground grading criteria (in spite of a new stand on the Park End). However, the real highlight of that season was their F.A. Trophy campaign. Mossley’s journey began with a 3-1 home win against Spennymoor United. A 0-0 draw at Boston led to a replay where the Lilywhites beat them 6-3. A trip to Moss Lane saw Alliance Premier League side Altrincham hammered 5-1.
In the Quarter Final, they drew 1-1 with Blyth Spartans before beating them 2-0 in a replay at Croft Park. For the Semi Final, they would face the bigger Boston club, Boston United. A closely fought tie saw the Lilywhites draw 1-1, before beating them 2-1 in the return leg at York Street. In the Final tie, they lost 2-1 to Dagenham, and their trip to Wembley was captured for posterity by Granada Television in the documentary Mossley Goes To Wembley.
Though they would finish runners up in the 1980 – 81 season to Runcorn, that season would be marked by a 1-0 win against Crewe Alexandra. Mobley’s goal ensured their first scalp against Football League opposition in the F.A. Challenge Cup First Round Proper. They would be drawn to Mansfield Town in the Second Round and lose 3-1.
4. The Future’s Plastic? in the mid-1980s, Hyde United faced some financial problems. Ewen Fields was in need of improvement and the main stand was well and truly showing its age. Thanks to some support from Tameside MBC, Ewen Fields was regenerated as a community stadium. Part of the development included a new 420 seat main stand (with toilets and a snack bar underneath the stand) and – its centrepiece – a Baspograss synthetic pitch. As well as Hyde United’s fixtures in the Northern Premier League, it was hired out to community groups. The Manchester Spartans American Football team set up home at Ewen Fields during the late 1980s.
Part of the development included Tameside Leisure Pool which opened in February 1988. Another, though unrealised plan, was a North West Football Hall of Fame museum which would have been next to the leisure pool.
By 1995, several badly grazed knees later, Hyde United reverted to grass. In the words of one Stalybridge Celtic supporter at the time, they traded in the Hoover for a lawn mower. Owing to the bouncy surface and fast play, this coincided with Hyde’s best performances in the late 1980s and the mid-1990s.
5. Camden versus the Northern Premier League: in 1991, Stalybridge Celtic finished second in the Northern Premier League to Witton Albion. One concern was the ‘Bridge’s lack of goals. In the 1991-92 season, the answer to their prayers came courtesy of former Stafford Rangers forward Chris Camden.
Nicknamed Buffalo, Chris Camden had joined Bower Fold after a stint at Witton Albion. He scored 45 goals for the ‘Bridge in the 1991-92 season. During then, the ‘Bridge finished as Northern Premier League champions, only losing twice, and reached the Third Round Proper of the F.A. Trophy. His 45 goals remain the Club Record and, prior to 1995, was the NPL record, when John Coleman scored 48 goals for Morecambe.
Unfortunately, Buffalo didn’t follow Stalybridge Celtic to the GM Vauxhall Conference, but the rest of Phil Wilson’s side finished a creditable 12th in their first season at the top of non-league football.
6. Mike Mackenzie’s Break: from 1994 to 1997, Mike Mackenzie’s Hyde United sides captured the imagination of most of Tameside’s non league fans. Mr Mackenzie, already familiar in Tameside after playing for Stalybridge Celtic, was part of the highly successful Astro F.C., a Mancunian Sunday league side. His Hyde United sides was characterised by nippy forwards and fearsome defenders. Up front was Colin Little, later followed by Ged Kimmins. At the back, their brick outhouse player was Gordon Tucker – nicknamed by Tigers fans as ‘The Terminator’.
In 1994, their F.A. Cup First Round Proper versus Darlington was the last non-qualifying cup tie to be played on an artificial pitch. Though Hyde took the lead, they went on to lose 3-1 to the Quakers in front of over 3,000 spectators. Under Mike Mackenzie, they reached the Semi Finals of the F.A. Trophy twice in 1995 and 1996.
7. Robins Swoop to F.A. Trophy Quarter Finals: in 1997, Hyde United looked set for a hat trick of F.A. Trophy semi finals. That was scuppered by a confident Ashton United performance in front of a four figure crowd at Hurst Cross. The Robins won by two clear goals, facing Dagenham and Redbridge in the Quarter Finals. At the time, Ashton United’s side featured former Knowsley United and Stalybridge Celtic player Padi Wilson.
In September 1996, they pulled off a real coup when John Coleman succeeded Phil Staley as player-manager. At the time, of Ashton’s victory, they were a league below the Tigers in the First Division of the Northern Premier League.
8. Wizzo’s Treble: two years after Manchester United’s treble, came Stalybridge Celtic’s very own in the 2000 – 01 season. The season started rather unconvincingly though by 2001 they were in the frame for the Northern Premier League title. One turning point was a fantastic save by David Fish against Worksop Town, another was an epic 4-2 home win against Emley (where the ‘Bridge finished with nine men to Emley’s ten).
Though success eluded them in the national competitions, they would lift the Cheshire Senior Cup for the first time since 1953, thanks to a 5-1 victory over Stockport County at Ewen Fields. In the President’s Cup final versus Blyth Spartans, the ‘Bridge would draw 3-3 after 90 minutes and extra time, taking the match to a penalty shoot out. A stunning save by Gary Ingham in the shoot out saw the trophy going to Bower Fold, after beating the Northumberland side 3-2 on penalties.
The third leg was by far the tightest and most frustrating. A trip to Emley saw the Celts win 3-2 at Belle Vue Stadium, Wakefield thanks to a stoppage time goal from Ian Cooke. The most frustrating match came on Tuesday 01 May at the Butchers Arms; a local derby versus Droylsden with and added dimension. Kick off was delayed by 30 minutes owing to the stature of the clash. Anything other than a win would have meant the ‘Bridge having to beat Burscough on the final day of the season, with Droylsden’s opponents on the same Saturday being title rivals Emley.
As the match went into stoppage time, the tension was nothing short of unbelievable.
Then came a penalty decision. A penalty for Stalybridge Celtic, ironic given that a previous match versus Droylsden was decided that way, in the Unibond League Cup. That too had a delayed kick off, owing to inclement weather. Stuart Locke converted the penalty, and the Northern Premier League title would reach Bower Fold for the first time since 1992. The Stalybridge Celtic contingent were ecstatic to say the least; players threw shirts into the crowd, but the crowd had to return them! After that, the ‘Bridge, in party mood would lose 3-1 to Burscough, then join the Football Conference. On May Day Bank Holiday, Phil Wilson’s side would parade their three trophies through Armentieres Square on an open-top bus. Probably Stalybridge Celtic’s most memorable season.
9. The Reorganisation Game: the 2003 – 04 season would be Stalybridge Celtic’s, Droylsden’s and Ashton United’s last season in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. From 2004, the second non-league tier would be two new regional feeders into the Football Conference (the Conference North and Conference South). Reorganisation would see fifteen clubs from the NPL Premier Division join the new Conference North. Stalybridge Celtic finished eleventh whereas Ashton United finished fourteenth.
Clubs finishing 14th to 20th would face a play-off, and though Ashton United lost to eventual play-off winners Bradford Park Avenue, they were promoted. In their first season, Stalybridge Celtic avoided a return to the Northern Premier League, finishing 19th with an inspiring last third of the season, ending in a last minute 3-2 win over Redditch United. Ashton United were less fortunate, finishing 21st and in one of three relegation places.
In the following season, the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day spectacles of the ‘Bridge-Hyde Derby returned, as Hyde United gained promotion as NPL Premier Division Champions. In their first season, they finished 11th, whereas Stalybridge Celtic missed the play-offs in the last day of the season finishing 7th. A 1-0 win for Droylsden saw the Bloods finished 4th; the winning goal was followed by the sending off of ‘Bridge goalkeeper Paul Pettinger for dissent.
10 Glossop North End Goes to Wembley: for anyone not old enough to remember Mossley’s trip to Wembley in May 1980, the Hillmen followed suit 29 years later in the F.A. Challenge Vase competition. Their journey to Wembley began with a 5-0 win in the 1st Qualifying Round against Sporting Khalsa. Then a 4-1 away win against Calverton Miners’ Welfare. Home again, 2-1 against Winterton Rangers, ditto the above against Stewart and Lloyds Corby in the 4th Round Proper.
In the quarter finals, they faced Bitton and visited the Bristol suburb with a 2-0 win. In the semi finals, their opponents were Chalfont St. Peters. After drawing 3-3 in the first leg away, they drew 2-2, and went on to win 6-5 on penalties. Glossop North End became only the second team east of the M60 motorway to reach a Wembley final. After all the excitement, the Hillmen lost to Whitley Bay by two clear goals. Even so, their cup run did a world a good in publicity for the Hillmen and the town of Glossop. Plus, it was the first and only time that the very words ‘SpeedwellBus’ (their then kit sponsors at the time) was in full view of the 12,212 people who went to the new Wembley.
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Before I go, feel free to comment on the ten, or maybe suggest a few other moments. Some of which could be the subject of a possible sequel to this article.
S.V., 18 March 2014.