Glossop North End 1 Witton Albion 0 (5th September 2015)
After the exotic glamour of football in Japan, it was back to England and the Northern Premier League’s 1st Division north. It was somewhere I’d fancied going though, not so much because the ground is anything special, or because the desire for football in the 8th tier of the English game is a driving passion, but purely for the club.
For 17 seasons, starting in 1898, Glossop North End were a Football League club, with the high spot seeing them “partying like it’s 1899”, and gaining promotion to the 1st division for the 1899/2000 season. Not surprisingly, the smallest ever town to host top flight football in England didn’t find things easy, resulting in the club finishing last, well adrift of safety, and their average crowd of 4005 hasn’t been sunk below since then.
Fifteen years in the 2nd division followed, ended by failing re-election, being replaced by Stoke. Just when fans in Glossop thought life couldn’t get any worse, WWI broke out a few weeks later. Not a centenary of events you can imagine them celebrating too much last season.
The current ground isn’t the one that hosted League football. The site of that still exists as a mainly open field a few hundred yards away. The current ground dates from the 1950s, even if the crumbling but distinctive main stand, oddly tucked into a corner of the ground, looks old enough to date from the era.
Other than clubhouse buildings, the only other structures are a couple of sections of covered terrace. One down the opposite side, where fans vied for the few raised vantage points, among the unusually high number of dogs brought along to the game, and the other behind the goal, linking the clubhouse and the old main stand.
The place could never be dull though. For a start, the ground is tucked right into The Pennines, with views of the moors from almost every angle. If natural beauty isn’t enough of a distraction, just behind the section of covered end is the very tall chimney of a demolished factory. The chimney itself seems to be slated for demolition soon too, but currently it’s there towering over the ground, and over everything else in Glossop.
While not replicating the heady days of 1899, Glossop certainly are on the up after a very long spell in the doldrums. Last season was their 2nd promotion in eight years, and a promising start has seen the club average around 400 fans (and half a dozen dogs), as they look towards another possible rise.
Going the other way are the visitors Witton Albion. Once conference stalwarts, they are currently three divisions below where no doubt many of their fans think they belong. Certainly a few comments from their travelling fans suggested that losing at Glossop was somewhat below the standard they expect. At least they got to the game. A suicidal man on a bridge near Manchester Airport had closed the M56 for several hours, and many Witton fans were still turning up well into the second half. Had we not turned off the M6 ourselves, nipping up past Jodrell Bank, we could have had a similar fate.
Despite a good open start, the game kind of lost its way, and before too long I was contemplating my fourth domestic 0-0 of the season, out of just five games. The scenery was starting to win the battle for my interest, and the one or two dogs who were fast asleep seemed to reflect the mood. The outlier was one going mad, barking and growling at a cheapskate fan who peered over a wall to watch for nothing for all of the 2nd half. Not only was he too tight to hand over a few pounds to watch his local club, he was no doubt stupid too, as if he’d walked 100 yards down the road he could have got in for nothing through a gate opened at half time.
With just four minutes left the home side got the goal their play just about deserved, with a cool finish past the keeper after being out through. That forced Witton to really come out, and they almost got a reply, but a chipped shot just wouldn’t fall and went over the bar.
So, another win for Glossop, and they move up to 2nd in the NPL1(N). Getting back to the top division of English football may be rather beyond them, perhaps barring the Sultan of Brunei declaring himself a fan of The Hillmen and buying the club, but one more step nearer would be most welcome for the locals, as well as nostalgists of the world.