Monday 1 November 2021

Stourbridge - War Memorial Athletic Ground

Stourbridge FC
War Memorial Athletic Ground
West Midlands

01384 394040
Official Website

Ground Number: 189
Saturday 18th February 2012
Stourbridge 5-0 Bashley
Southern Premier


The club was established way back in 1876 and were initially known as Stourbridge Standard, switching to their current name in the late 1880s. They played in the Birmingham & District League at first and were champions in 1924. Following the end of the Second World War, Stourbridge joined the Birmingham Combination where they were champions in 1952. Following this title win, they rejoined the Birmingham & District League which later became the West Midlands (Regional) League.A couple of runners-up spots followed but in 1971, the club was elected to the Southern League. Playing in Division 1 North, they started well and were champions in 1974, winning promotion to the Premier Division. They found the step up too much and were relegated after a couple of seasons and this proved to be the story of the next 30 years which were generally spent in the Southern League's second tier. The 1983/84 season saw the best finish in the club's history - 14th in the Southern Premier which at the time was the second tier of Non-League Football. The turn of the Millenium saw the club struggle with them being relegated out of the Southern League into the Midland Alliance. They would be crowned champions twice but remain here until 2006 due to ground grading issues when they were promoted back into the Southern League after finishing as runners-up to Chasetown. It proved to be a good few years for the club, by 2008, they were promoted from Division 1 Midlands to the Premier Division following a 3rd place finish. The 2012/13 season saw them finish as runners-up to Leamington before they lost in the playoffs to Gosport Borough. This proved to be a trend throughout the decade with them failing in the playoffs on three further occasions. The club remains at step 3 and are now back in the Southern League, following a four-year hiatus in the NPL between 2014 & 2018. Recent years have seen results decline, with the club in lower mid-table at the time of my visit. 

Stourbridge have enjoyed a number of good FA Cup runs in recent times. They beat Plymouth Argyle in a 1st Round replay in 2011. Their best run came during the 2016/17 season. They beat Peterborough Sports 3-1, Mickleover Sports 2-1, Ilkeston 2-1 and Nantwich 3-1, all away from home in the Qualifying Rounds. They had to travel again to fellow non-leaguers Whitehawk in the 1st Round where they drew 1-1 before winning the home replay 3-0. A giant-killing over Football League side Northampton Town followed, with Stourbridge winning 1-0. The run ended in the 3rd Round at Wycombe Wanderers, an 85th-minute winner for Adebayo Akinfenwa saw them lose 2-1. The 2015/16 season saw a good run in the FA Trophy, having seen the club reach the Quarter Final back in 1974. Halesowen Town, Carlton Town, Spennymoor Town, Kidderminster Harriers and Braintree Town were beaten before a 1-0 defeat at Nantwich Town in the 3rd Round. Stourbridge also reached the FA Vase Quarter Final in 2005, losing 4-1 to AFC Sudbury. They also reached the Welsh Cup Final in 1974, losing 2-0 over two legs to Cardiff City after they had beaten Swansea City and Wrexham along the way. Many local honours have been won including the Worcestershire Senior Cup on 12 occasions and the Birmingham Senior Cup four times.

 The town of Stourbridge is located near Dudley in the West Midlands and has a population of around 63,000. During the industrial ages, it was famous for its glassmaking which gave the team its nickname of the Glassboys.  Much of Stourbridge consists of residential streets interspersed with green spaces. Mary Stevens Park, which opened in 1931, has a lake, a bandstand, a cafe, and a mixture of open spaces and woodland. Cricket and Rugby are also played in the town with the cricket team sharing with the football club at the War Memorial Athletic Ground. Famous people with links to the town include Led Zepplin's Robert Plant, snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan and footballer Jude Bellingham. 


Since about August/September time I had been planning to go to Alfreton Town v Darlington on this date. But sadly, the main reason I was going, to meet my mate Dan the Darlington fan couldn't make it due to the supporters' coach not taking its usual route past the stop near where he lives. So at the last minute, I had to find an alternative. Even though it was not in a league I was looking to complete, I opted for Stourbridge v Bashley as I had wanted to go there for a while. Added to that I could go up most of the way on the train with the Wycombe fans, and hopefully gain a cheap train ticket through a 'Groupsave' offer, which meant that I chose this one without too much thought. Unfortunately, when it came down to the day, lots of Wycombe fans had pulled out of going - understandable given our recent performances. So that meant I had to pay full whack for my train, but it still wasn't horrendous - £25, which is about the same as petrol would have cost.

So we all left Wycombe just before 9.30am and was in Birmingham just after 11. After a look around Birmingham City Centre and the Bullring Market to kill time, I got the train to Stourbridge, firstly to Stourbridge Junction station, then to Stourbridge Town station - the journey between the two Stourbridge stations was made using the smallest, most rickety old train I have ever seen! I got to Stourbridge just after 1 and after a quick look around the town, it was time to try and find the ground. The instructions provided on the club website were easy to follow, basically, follow the A491 to Wolverhampton and the ground is opposite a pub. I was there in under 10 minutes. As I had time to spare I went to the pub across the road, called the Royal Oak, to watch the rest of the Birmingham v Chelsea game. This was a pretty much run of the mill pub in appearance, no food to my knowledge. But they did have a pleasant little surprise on draught - Thatchers Traditional Cider - one that I can't remember having, certainly not for a while anyway. And very nice it was too. After that, it was just past 2PM, so I made my way across the road and into the ground. After paying a very reasonable £9 to get in, I made my way to the club shop, which my research told me was very good. And I was not disappointed, as I spent £11 and picked up some great bargains. For that, I picked up:

The Non-League Directory 2007: £5
Stourbridge FC Pennant £2
The day's programme: £1.50
A Wolves mini-kit £0.50
Assorted programmes/fanzines £2.00

After that, I fancied a bit to eat and so I had Curry Sauce, Sausage and Chips for a pretty reasonable £2.50. And very nice it was too. Sadly, the combination of chip fat and trying to text and take photos on my phone at the same time as eating meant I got grease on the lens and ruined a load of my photos. Luckily though, it was nothing that I couldn't retake. The game itself was really good and entertaining, ending 5-0 to the home side. Stourbridge richly deserved their win to end a period of indifferent form and postponements due to the cold weather. At the bottom of this paragraph is the report scanned from the non-league paper. The journey home was pretty easy, coming back the same way as I had come. Another stop in Birmingham was needed as I had to wait nearly an hour for a connecting train back to High Wycombe, but that time was filled by going to a Wetherspoons pub called The Square Peg for a pint of Thatchers Gold. After meeting the depressed Wycombe fans, our beloved team having crashed 2-0 at Walsall in another dire performance. The journey home was fairly upbeat, but with plenty of reflection on what looks to be a certain relegation. We got home at around 8.20, after which I had a long walk up a steep hill to fetch my car from its free parking space. Better than having to pay £10 to park in the station car park though. Overall I was glad I went to Stourbridge, it was an interesting ground, a friendly club and a good game. And it sure beats getting depressed, frustrated and angry at Wycombe, it is meant to be an enjoyable experience, after all.


Although I'd already done a fairly decent blog for my first visit to Stourbridge, I was always open to a revisit, especially with fellow hopper Anwar keen to tick the ground off. It was a matter of waiting for the right opportunity and that came on this Monday night with the Glassboys playing Nuneaton Borough. It was rare that I went to a game on Monday night but doing this game freed up Tuesday to do a game with Colin, another hopper. It had been a good but unhealthy Saturday and the usual miserable Sunday at work. I used Sunday evening to do my research on Stourbridge FC but they have had such an interesting history, it was tricky to decide what to include in my summary. I was working on the day of course and thankfully, the place was a bit calmer. There's always the odd person though, today it was a maskless woman, coughing all over the place and complaining to her mate on the phone that she had lost her taste. I kept my distance and although she was in the tiny minority, it does feel as if High Wycombe is the toilet bowl of humanity at times. I left just after 4, the journey over to Anwar took longer than usual due to roadworks. I picked him up at 4.55. Thankfully the rest of the journey was better and we were at Rio's Peri-Peri in Stourbridge at 6.40. I ordered my dinner of a Burrito meal before buying the tickets for the game online to save time at the turnstile. Dinner was excellent and straight away plans were made to tick off Stourbridge U21 at a nearby railed pitch. The ground was only ten minutes walk away, so rather than mess around finding a space, we grabbed our stuff out of the boot and headed there.

Stourbridge's last five games had seen mixed form. On Saturday, they lost 2-1 at Leiston and had also been thumped 4-0 at Tamworth. However, they had won 1-0 at Redditch in the FA Trophy and also beaten Lowestoft 3-0 and win 2-1 at Royston Town. Nuneaton Borough were unbeaten in their last fice, having gained a decent 1-1 draw at home to Bromsgrove on Saturday, also drawing 2-2 against Alvechurch. They'd won 3-0 at Soham Town Rangers in the FA Trophy as well as a 3-1 win at Redditch United and a 2-0 win over Lowestoft Town. Former Wycombe player Reece Styche was absent from the home team, away on International duty with Gibraltar. It was also nice to see fellow hopper Tony, a Manchester City fan at the game. The game kicked off five minutes late for some reason. It was 1-0 to Nuneaton after five minutes, Danny King curling a shot past the Stour keeper, though the glovesman might have got his angles wrong. On 8 minutes it was 2-0, a lovely dipping shot from the edge of the area by King for his second of the game. Stourbridge were enjoying plenty of the ball, but not really testing the keeper. On 35 minutes, the game was as good as over, it was a good through ball and a low shot from the edge of the area by Anthony Dwyer. Straight after the restart, Stourbridge pulled a goal back straight after the restart when Ben O'Hanlon headed home from a right-sided corner. O'Hanlon was bought down in the area and Montel Gibson converted to make the score 2-3 and potentially make a game of it. But the comeback was over as quick as it started. Three minutes later, Ryan Edmunds produced an excellent low drive from 20 yards to make it 4-2 to Nuneaton. King completed his hat trick on the hour to make it 5-2. The final goal of the game came on 83 minutes, a shot on the turn by Scott McManus.

Stourbridge still had a late rally, the Nuneaton keeper making a great save to deny a header. It had been a strange game in many ways, the visitors certainly hadn't been four goals better than the hosts although they did deserve the win. Nuneaton had been clinical but practically every single shot went in. No serious blame could be attached to either keeper to be fair. Despite the eight goals, it hadn't been an especially brilliant game but it had been nice to revisit a classic old ground. It had also been a good use of a Monday night although Stourbridge looks a decent place to spend a Saturday, with some decent pubs. By the time we got back to the car, it was 10 PM and we listened to Andy Crane on Greatest Hits Radio and the Top Ten at 10. I got the 'guess the year' right again, Live Aid references giving away the fact that it was 1984. There was disappointing news elsewhere as Wycombe were handed an abysmal FA Cup draw away to Lincoln City. A tedious and tricky tie against one of our league rivals and not really what the FA Cup is about. Personally, I hope we field a weakened side in the replay against Hartlepool next week and get our exit over and done with. With a home game against Sunderland on 3rd Round day, the last thing I want is a midweek game with them out already. I dropped Anwar off at 11.45, getting home half an hour later after filling up with petrol on the way.


THE WAR MEMORIAL ATHLETIC GROUND is a charming little ground, but due to the ground graders, I am not sure if it would even make the Blue Square North, the next division up. These rules are proven stupid by the fact that Stourbridge has hosted 2 crowds of around 2000 already this year - against Plymouth Argyle and Stevenage, during their epic FA Cup run. As mentioned already, the club shop and tea bar are excellent. There is also a bar there which is large and has plenty of interesting memorabilia on the walls.

The ground itself is very pleasant. As you come in, to your right is the cricket pitchside, which has no accommodation for supporters. Directly in front of you is an open terrace behind one of the goals - looking at the way the turnstiles are set up, this could be the area that away fans are given, should segregation be needed in the event of a cup tie. This is called the Church End. After walking through there is the main stand, all covered along one side, with terracing either side of a seated area in the middle. Finally, the Shed End is a decent-sized covered terrace, where all the noise from the home fans come from, and this was my choice of area for most of the game. Plans are afoot for ground improvements, should they be needed, though there are no firm timescales on this.


1 comment:

  1. Like it Russ.
    Excellent report and pictures.
    Looks a decent club to visit.