From passive fan to their Poet Laureate in two decades: a post of two halves

What were you doing on a typical Saturday in late 1994? There was a new fangled game known as The National Lottery. Noel’s House Party was ‘must-watch’ TV with 15 million viewers each teatime. Sleaze allegations continued to haunt John Major’s Conservative government. Bus Wars took a new dimension in Greater Manchester, with competition between GM Buses North and Merseybus, operating services in Greater Manchester as MTL Manchester.

Some time in November, the creator of this blog discovered the joys of non-league football. Luckily for him, he had several clubs to choose from. There was the delightful views of Alphin Pike and Brushes from the side terrace at Seel Park, Mossley AFC’s home. The sylvan environment of Bower Fold. The joys of an odd Empty Carriage Stock movement in full view at National Park, Curzon Ashton’s previous home. Or the joys of carpet football on the astroturf at Ewen Fields, Hyde United’s home.

After visiting a few grounds in the Tameside area, he chose Bower Fold, home to none other than The Mighty Stalybridge Celtic®. Plus, there was the lure of GM Vauxhall Conference football which drew him to Bower Fold. His view on football would change forever.

Your commentator [as always] is Stuart Vallantine.

First Half

My first game was against Woking. Me and my old man had heard of Woking thanks to their recent giant-killing exploits. Tim Buzaglo and Co’s relentless charge against West Bromwich Albion in their 1991 F.A. Challenge Cup fixture. Another thing I knew about Woking was the fact it was Network Southeast territory writ large. From experience having travelled from Guildford to London Waterloo; also popular culture being on the same line to Surbiton and geographical knowledge.

We walked to and from the ground, oblivious to the fact we could have caught the 220 or 343 and the 236/237 buses. Today’s journey, from Chez Vall: always by bus and via a decent pub of some description. Or the excellent Stalybridge Labour Club.

At the ground, we took our position near the Mottram End. Woking scored with Lenny Dennis taking the lead in the 31st minute. This attracted some mirth as to whether Les Bennett was plying his trade at another non-league side. (If there was, I’ll give you the money myself; if you do, remember what you heard, and where you heard it! (on East of the M60 of course, not The London Studios by the way)).

Before the second half, we moved to another part of the ground on the side, nearest to the Town End. At the time, what later became the Joe Jackson Stand was under construction. By the seventieth minute, Robert Jackson equalised for the ‘Bridge. The eighty-first minute saw a ‘Bridge penalty, converted by Paul Wheeler.

So my first trip to Bower Fold started well: a 2-1 win, a good day all round, and the gradual thinning of any interest in televised football.

Second Half

Twenty years on, I am happy to find that Stalybridge Celtic’s recent match versus Gloucester City, resulted in a 1-0 victory. Their first away win since March 2014 (which was against Vauxhall Motors), and first away clean sheet since the 20 April 2013 (a 0-0 draw versus Harrogate Town).

Besides maintaining East of the M60, I have of late been the Poet Laureate for The Mighty Stalybridge Celtic. This came about after doing some graphic design work for their Community section. All the poems have been well received by the players, manager Keith Briggs, his assistant Andy Fearn, and everyone else at Stalybridge Celtic Football Club. I have also recited a couple of pieces at the sponsors’ lounge.

If you wonder why there’s been the odd lull on the blog, well, yours truly has been working on the latest piece to gee the lads up. Some of which have started life on many a bus, at many a pub table, and in full view of the dog.

With 24 days till the next home game (unless the F.A. Challenge Trophy Third Qualifying Round tie against Chorley results in a replay), yours truly is working on the Christmas Special. I can assure you there wont be any fishing craft getting lost en route to Holland, exploding coaches or J.A. Harrison pocket watches going for £6.2 million. Lovely jubbly!

S.V., 26 November 2014.

2 thoughts on “It Was Twenty Years Today… Since I First Saw the Celtic Play

  1. I’m sort of jealous. My first game was Blackpool v QPR in 1970 which has had me hooked on Blackpool ever since. Dark days at the moment but we’ve had many great days at Wembley and Cardiff and the Premier League and the previous promotion season were a blast and I was so pleased I’d chosen to support my home town team rather than a “big team”. Enjoy the ups and downs of supporting Celtic.


    1. Hi Mark,

      Same here, even if it has meant longer periods of ‘thin’ than ‘thick’. Blackpool with Ian Holloway at the helm was a fantastic period, as was Stalybridge Celtic’s under Phil Wilson and their stint in the Football Conference.

      Checking on, both fixtures at Bloomfield Road, in 1970 (1969-70 and 1970-71 seasons), were 1-1 draws.

      Bye for now,



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