Saturday, 24 October 2020

Bartley Green - Illey Road

Bartley Green FC
B62 0HF

Illey Lane
Bartley Green

Ground Number: 938
Saturday 24th October 2020
AFC Birmingham 9-0 Gornal Youth
Midland League U21 West


Bartley Green FC was established in 1949 and for the first 30 years of their history played football in a variety of Saturday & Sunday leagues. They had a couple of seasons in the Midland Combination Division 3 between 1979 and 1981, finishing in 6th and 8th before returning to local football. They would return to the Midland Combination in 2005, starting in Division 2 (step 8 of the non-league pyramid). They were champions two seasons in a row and so earned promotion to the Premier Division in 2007. Though they were never relegation candidates, they never challenged for the top half of the table either. The club transferred to the WMRL Premier in 2012 and spent a couple of seasons here. A dispute with a club stewardess led to her winning an unfair dismissal case and the bill of nearly £20,000 led to financial worries and the club folding midway through the 2013-14 season. A new club, Bartley Green Illey FC (the suffix denoting the name of the road that the ground is located in) was formed for the 2014/15 season and were placed in the WMRL Division 2 (step 8). They finished 12th in their only season here, before folding but retaining their Sunday side. The ground is still in use by local clubs in various leagues.

The club played in the FA Cup for a few seasons, their best run coming in their debut season of 2010/11. That season, they overcame Willenhall Town and Causeway United before losing out to Bedworth United in a 1st Qualifying Round Replay. In the FA Vase, they reached the 1st Round on four occasions. In terms of local cups, the club won the Birmingham Midweek Floodlit Cup in 2010 as well as the Smedley Crooke Memorial Cup in 2011 & 2013. The ward of Bartley Green has a population of just under 25,000 and is situated near Halesowen. It is home to Bartley Reservoir where a young Bill Oddie did a lot of his bird watching and was home to the UK's tallest ever person - Jane Bunford standing at 7 feet 11 inches tall before her death in the late 1920s.


Right before football was cancelled back in March, fellow hopper Anwar & I enjoyed a Saturday double in the Midlands, thanks to the Midland U21 League which was a rare beast in that its games kicked off at 10:30 on a Saturday morning. Though our original choice at Barlestone St Giles was called off, we managed to get a new ground for Anwar and a revisit for me at Quorn before we headed up Telford way. We both fancied a double this weekend, though with the various COVID-19 restrictions, we were playing it safe. The league had games at some interesting venues but a game at Bloxwich was avoided as they were in the 'high' tier but happily, the former ground of Bartley Green was hosting a game between AFC Birmingham and Gornal Youth. Even better, it was near Halesowen, home of one of AK Grill, one of the best takeaways that Anwar & I have visited in our eight years of hopping together. The day before was good, I finished work fairly early which is always a bonus on a Friday. I walked to town, stopping at a local butcher for a great burger for lunch. A couple of pints, a fair few snacks and 5 hours later, I had covered 12 miles on foot and enjoyed a nice walk. I had dinner and a few drinks at home before grabbing an early night just after 9. I had a restless nights sleep but felt OK when I woke at 5 am the following morning. I had a couple more hours in bed before getting up at 7 and getting some breakfast. I had a freshen up and got my things together before leaving at 8. Twenty minutes later, I was in Aylesbury with Anwar there waiting for me. It was a good journey up with clear roads and Union Jack keeping us company on the radio. We got to the ground at 9.50 with the venue very much in AFC Birmingham colours rather than that of the former owners Bartley Green. We met a friendly pair of blokes who had been coming down the ground for over 40 years and at half time got a Bovril from the tea bar. I caught up online before kick-off and was glad that I had a bit of time to spare.

AFC Birmingham were formed in 2013 as a youth side but had only been playing U21 football for a couple of seasons. Following a mid-table finish last season, they'd enjoyed an encouraging start this season, sitting in 5th place. They'd had wins against Allscott (5-0), Bewdley Town (3-1), Redditch United (6-1) and Kidderminster Harriers (4-1) as well as losses against Stourport Swifts (2-6) and Halesowen Town (2-3).  Gornal Youth was the junior side of Gornal Athletic and they were making their debut season in the league. They'd lost all six games and endured some pretty heavy defeats, losing 9-0 to both Rushall Olympic and Stourport Swifts as well as a 7-0 loss to Halesowen Town. The game started very much as predicted with AFC Birmingham in navy and Gornal in white. It took just 7 minutes for the hosts to take the lead when #9 advanced down the left, cut in and put a curling shot into the top corner from 20 yards despite the keeper getting a hand to it. It was 2-0 on 16 minutes, an attack down the right saw the ball crossed in for an unmarked #9 to finish from six yards for his and his teams second. A couple of quick-fire goals just before the break confirmed the outcome of the game. Firstly on 44 minutes, a corner was put in front the right and #5 headed home. Then a minute later, #8 completed a good run by firing low into the bottom right-hand corner. The one-way traffic continued in the second period, #8 got his second and made it 5-0 when he bundled a cross home. Three minutes later it was 6-0, thanks to a composed finish by #14  from a narrow-angle. On 65 minutes it was 7-0, a cross from #14 saw #9's shot well saved by the keeper but #12 was on hand to follow up from a few yards out. Another couple of quick-fire goals rubbed salt into the wounds for Gornal. On 83 minutes, #12 got away down the right to finish past the keeper. The rout was completed on 85 minutes when #11 finished from point-blank range after a cross. The 24 in attendance had enjoyed a fine performance by the hosts, but credit to Gornal, they stuck together and never bickered. The referee handled the game fairly well, even if he was very fond of handing out yellow cards for trivial offences.


ILLEY LANE is a great venue for the level and would probably be good enough for step 5. There are a few signs of its former team, but AFC Birmingham have smartened the place up a lot and it is well kept and in pleasant surroundings. There are two areas of cover in use - a 50 seater 'arena' type stand plus a low area of flat standing on the other side that has a load of school chairs in. There's a further area of cover in the corner, but this is disused. There's also a basic tea bar serving hot and cold drinks and the Bovril I had was very good. There's plenty of parking, but I'm not sure about public transport options.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Tring Athletic - Grass Roots Stadium

Tring Athletic FC
The Grass Roots Stadium
Pendley Sports Centre
Cow Lane
HP23 5NT

01442 891144
Official Website

Ground Number: 212
Tuesday 28th August 2012
Tring Athletic 0-2 Ashford Town (Middlesex)
FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay


The club was formed as a youth team in 1958 and remained that way until 1971 when the age limit was scrapped. Up until 2003, they played at MIswell Lane, current home of Hertfordshire League Division 3 side, Tring Town, Athletic having absorbed the original first team of Town when they moved in to their current home. They spent their formative years in the West Herts League before making the step up to the South Midlands Division 1 in 1988. The league merged with the Spartan League in 1997 and although Tring Athletic won the second tier in 2000, they were unable to take promotion due to ground grading issues. With the reorganisation of the Non-League pyramid, a 4th place finish in Divison 1 in 2004 was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division. They've been there ever since, with them finishing as runners-up behind Chalfont St Peter in 2011. They were runners-up again in 2019, this time to Biggleswade and last season were in 2nd place when the season was abandoned. It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise to see them rock-bottom of the league this time out, having lost all 8 games.

Tring Athletic have twice reached the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round - in 2006 when they lost 5-1 at home to Kings Lynn Town and in 2010 when they lost 7-0 at Wealdstone. The competition has not been a happy hunting ground in recent years with five consecutive Extra Preliminary Round exits. They've fared better in the FA Vase, enjoying a number of decent runs. Their best came during the 2017/18 season when they beat Ely City, Berkhamsted and Hullbridge Sports prior to a defeat to Melksham Town in the 5th Round. In terms of local cups, they've won the Herts Charity Shield (2000, 2002 & 2008), the Herts Centenary Senior Trophy (2000, 2001 & 2003), the West Herts League Cup (1966) and a plethora of Spartan South Midlands League cups including in 2009 when they won the treble of the Challenge Trophy, Premier Division Cup and the St Mary's Cup.

As well as Tring Athletic, the town is also home to Tring Corinthians who play in the Spartan South Midlands Division 2 and Tring Town who play in Division 3 of the Herts Senior County League. The small market town of Tring has a population of just under 12,000 and was the birthplace of top-level referees Graham Barber and Graham Poll. The town is home to Tring Brewery which is based on the picturesque Dunsley Farm alongside a farm shop and cafe. Poet Edward Lear made reference to the town in his 'Book Of Nonsense'

There was an old person Of Tring
Who embellished his nose with a ring
He gazed at the moon
Every evening in June
That ecstatic old person of Tring.


As I had a couple of days off work, I was looking to do a game on Tuesday night. Always a big fan of the FA Cup, I settled upon the game between Tring Athletic and Ashford Town. The original game had been played at Ashford Town's Short Lane ground and had been drawn 2-2, a significant result, taking into account that Tring were a division below Ashford. I had originally been planning to do a game on Monday too, over in Oxfordshire at North Leigh. But I was so tired after work, working for 6 days solid and at a crazy pace that I decided to rest for the afternoon instead. It did me the power of good, come Tuesday evening I was raring to go and so with my batteries fully recharged I left home at 6.35 and despite multiple tractors driving along single-track roads and getting in my way, I was still at the ground at 7.10. I paid £5 to get in, plus £1 for a programme and after taking some pictures of the ground went and took a seat in the stand.

Tring Athletic were a bit of a disappointment on the night. After a battling performance to earn a draw on Saturday, I would have expected more of them as the home side. Ashford took the lead in the 12th minute, a home defenders clearance went straight to Dan Brown who controlled well and slotted past the keeper. Tring actually had a chance to equalise in the 24th minute after a challenge felled the home striker. But Tony Fields' effort was saved by the Ashford keeper Paul McCarthy, Despite pinball ensuing in the area, the visitors survived and added to their lead on the half-hour when Kofi Lockhart-Adams drive found it's way into the bottom right-hand corner. Ashford had chances to add to their lead, dominating the second half, but in the end, it stayed at 2-0. After a much easier drive home, I was back in 25 minutes, arriving home around 10PM having enjoyed a good value night of 
cup football.


I was on my own again this Tuesday, as both my hopping pals were unavailable. Anwar was off to somewhere in Milton Keynes with another hopper, Richard and Colin was doing something with his Dad. I did think about joining the former but it was 14 miles to Aylesbury and I could do a local revisit for fewer miles than that. I decided to put it to a poll on Twitter and gave four options - new grounds at Bearstead and Blackfield & Langley, plus revisits at Tring Athletic and Harefield United. The latter two had the benefit of getting home at a more reasonable hour and also keeping costs down. Blackfield & Langley took an early lead, but with Tring being the only club to interact with the tweet, they soon took the lead and never looked back, winning with 48% of the vote. I researched the club history and planned my weekend - currently it's looking like a Midlands double as long as the COVID rates don't shoot up. I had a decent nights sleep before the day of the game, waking around 7. I spent the morning at home before walking to town and back for lunch, nearly 10 miles in all, getting some shopping too. The afternoon was spent at home catching up on things and watching YouTube. I had dinner around 6, leaving at 6.40. It was a good journey over to Tring, albeit via mainly small country roads. I was there by 7.10 but with the car park full, I had to park outside. Entry was £7 and after I'd checked in on the Serco Track & Trace app, I got some fresh pictures of the ground. It was a lot better than I remember and I was glad I paid the club a revisit.

Tring Athletic had lost all eight games in the league this season and had also gone out of the FA Cup (losing 2-0 at Easington Sports) and the FA Vase (4-1 at Edgware Town) although they had progressed originally in the Vase by beating Harefield United on penalties following a 1-1 draw. London Colney were not faring much better having drawn 0-0 at Wembley on opening day and losing all five games since. In the FA Cup, they'd lost 3-1 at Woodford Town and although they progressed on penalties against St Margaretsbury in the FA Vase, they lost 1-0 at Ipswich Wanderers in the following round. London Colney started much the better side and they were awarded a penalty on 25 minutes for a push in the area. There was a few minutes delay as an injury needed to be dealt with but Tring's 17-year-old keeper David Saunders pulled off a great save to keep the spot-kick out. London Colney took the lead shortly after, a great strike from 25 yards finding the top right-hand corner. The hosts levelled five minutes before the break, a ball was put in from the right and Joe Naylor had plenty of time on the ball to turn and fire in the top corner from 15 yards. This delighted a young group of fans who had been getting behind their team by chanting 'Tring Army!. The second half saw the hosts control the game, though they didn't create that many chances on goal at first. A good save from the London Colney keeper forced a corner and a good delivery was headed back across goal by James Butler and finished at the near post by Connor Smith. The visitors had the ball in the net soon after, but the whistle had already gone for offside. The game was sealed on 84 minutes and it was a lovely strike by Smith from 30 yards to complete his brace and make it 3-1.

The game was over by around 9.25 and I made my way back to my car. I tried to listen to the Wycombe game on the way home, the reception was dreadful at first, but as I got nearer home, I was able to listen. We'd gone 1-0 down shortly before I left and that stayed the case for 6 out of 6 defeats in the Championship so far. I was home just after 9.50 and managed to catch the final few minutes of the game on iFollow. As I'd got up three hours later than I usually do, I wasn't ready for bed and so I typed this blog and sorted some pictures before going to bed around 11. Next up for me looks like a double in the Midlands on Saturday - AFC Birmingham v Gornal Youth at 10.30 at Bartley Green and Redditch Borough v Knowle at 3, though late changes might occur, the way the world is at the moment.


THE GRASS ROOTS STADIUM is set in picturesque surroundings in the Hertfordshire countryside. Originally the home of Tring Town FC, the 2 clubs merged in 2003 and kept the Athletic name. On Wikipedia, it claims the stand seats 125, but it seems more than that. It's a stand that has its pros and cons. You get a good elevated view, but then again there are wooden pillars to contend with. And the front of the stand covers the near touchline when you are looking down onto the pitch. But overall it's a good view and the wooden built stand is certainly more interesting than the standard metal stands with plastic seats that are seen nowadays in so many non-league grounds. There is also a decent covered area behind one goal, with a few seats and standing as well. The rest is just open standing, but really it's a well-specced ground for this level. There is a decent bar too, they serve Thatchers Gold Cider and a local ale from the Tring Brewery, as well as the usual standard stuff you get in other places. They also do food in there (Burgers, Hot Dogs and Bacon Rolls) and also a selection of club merchandise, but no old programmes sadly.