Wednesday 12 January 2022

Irlam - Silver Street

Irlam FC
RG3 Digital Stadium
Silver Street
Greater Manchester
M44 6JJ

07969 946277

Ground Number: 1032
Tuesday 11th January 2021
Irlam 1-4 Prestwich Heys
North West Counties Premier


The club was established in 1969 as MITCHELL SHACKLETON FC, the works team of a local engineering firm in Patricroft. Initially, they played in the Eccles & District Amateur Football League before they first tasted success in the Manchester Amateur League. They progressed up the leagues, winning Division 3 in 1974 and Division 2 the following year. Various league restructures occurred but in 1989 they joined the Manchester League. By 1991 they were runners-up to Ramsbottom United in Division 1, winning promotion to the Premier Division in the process. They were long time members of the top tier and finished as runners-up to Abbey Hey in 1995. For the first five years of the new millennium, they were known as IRLAM MITCHELL SHACKLETON and were runners-up again in 2005, this time to Prestwich Heys. The club changed their name to the present one in 2006 and two years were admitted to the North West Counties League, despite only finishing 8th. Starting in Division 1, they had a number of solid mid-table seasons. In 2016, they finished a point behind Hanley Town, winning promotion to the Premier Division. The 2016/17 season saw their best-ever finish of 8th in the Premier Division where they remain to this day. 

Irlam have reached the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup twice, most recently in 2019 when they lost 2-0 to York City. The season before, they had enjoyed an epic FA Vase run, beating Burscough, Handsworth Parramore, Hemsworth Miners Welfare, Winterton Rangers and Cadbury Athletic before a 2-0 home defeat to eventual winners Chertsey Town. Local cup wins include the Gosling Cup in 1984, the Manchester FA Cup in 2004 and 2006 and the Manchester FA Charter Challenge Cup in 2010. Their record attendance of 950 came against a Manchester United Youth team for the opening of their ground which is the former home of Irlam Town who folded in 1995. There is also another team in the town - Irlam Steel who play in Division 2 of the Manchester League. Irlam is a suburb of Salford with a population of just under 20,000. People with links to the town include musician Russell Watson and actress Michelle Keegan.

The Christmas and New Year period had supplied a pathetic number of options for me, football-wise. This was thanks to Bank Holidays messing things up and it was typical of my rotten luck that all the games were on days I couldn't attend. A couple of years back, it would have not been a problem as I only had to work a couple a year. But then an enforced contract change, against my will decreed that I had to work the lot unless I booked them off as holiday. Now I view Bank Holidays as I do Sundays - the axis of all evil where the store is packed full of screaming kids and the more challenging members of society. Boxing Day, my nearest unticked ground was in Devon - around 170 miles away and the same was true of New Years Day with the nearest new ground being Cleethorpes Town, a similar distance away. I drew up a list of four possibilities - Roffey and Storrington were fairly close together whilst there were also options further afield at Wimborne & Thornbury. The horrible weather might have had something to say on the matter though, with the temperature set to dip down to zero during the game when I looked on Sunday. 

Me, my Dad & my Brother before the 1993 FA Trophy Final when Wycombe Wanderers beat Runcorn 4-1.

In the end, I decided that I wasn't going to bother well in advance and so I saved myself disappointment when Roffey and Storrington were called off in the afternoon. I didn't fancy risking the trip to Thornbury or Wimborne with the weather looking grim at best. I was glad that I stayed in, as my Dad, on his last legs, sadly passed away around 6 pm. He'd only been diagnosed with throat cancer in June which was untreatable. A chest infection complicated things in December and he spent three weeks in hospital although at least he got to spend his last Christmas at home with the family. He was the one who got me into football with me having no interest in the sport at the age of 12. However, the bribe of a Mars Bar persuaded me to go to a Wycombe Wanderers v Watford pre-season friendly, I was soon hooked and the rest was history. It had been an utterly abysmal start to the year, with work remaining busy. But as ever, football would provide my salvation. I only heard about my Friday night game a few hours before. Penn & Tylers Green Development v Chalfont Wasps provided me with a great game, Penn dominating the first half and leading 2-0 but Chalfont mounting a great second-half comeback. Saturday saw a walk in torrential rain and an unwanted early kick-off to suit the whims of Sky Television. However, I was rewarded with a corker of a 3-3 draw between Wycombe Wanderers and Sunderland. The Mackems thought they had won it with a goal in the third minute of injury time but Wycombe's never-say-die attitude emerged again as Joe Jacobson grabbed an equaliser in the eighth minute of injury time.

It had been a brilliant day and a bit, but on Sunday, normal service was resumed with a standard Sunday at work. There was at least some cheer in the evening when I arranged to go to Stone Old Alleynians v Hednesford Town with fellow hopper Chris. The choice was once more thin on the ground but this was a decent looking game and the nearest one in terms of distance. I'd not seen Chris since mid-October, so it would be great to catch up. Monday was another busy day and so I was glad of Tuesday off. I like to go out for a walk on the day off but was prevented from doing so by yet more rain. I still had a few things to organise though but was glad when it was time to leave, just before 3. I got to Chris at 4 after taking a back route to avoid all the traffic. For once, our journey was good with the M1 behaving.  It was just after we got off there that we discovered that our original choice of game was off. This was no shock, as, despite very little rain, their pitch did not have the best reputation. At least they had the courtesy to do an early pitch inspection. A quick decision needed to be made and with more backups nearby, Irlam won out over Yorkshire Amateur. We didn't even need to stop, thanks to me being able to reprogram Google Maps with my voice. We carried on as if going to our original choice of game, going right past Rocester FC or at least the JCB factory that was right near it. Unsurprisingly, there were delays on the M6 so we were taken through the back end of beyond with the roads slow but quiet by comparison. There's be no time to stop for our pre-planned Chinese with time against us. It was all a bit rush and one of the reasons that I dislike having to drive all the time with all my main hopping pals unable to drive. I was running very low on petrol and so I was glad when Chris found me a Shell station near the ground. I filled up and although it was a few pence pricier than home, I was glad to get filled up pre-match. We got to the ground at 7.25 and went straight in.

The admission was £6 but the programme was digital-only. Unlike some, this was preferable to me as I always list mine on eBay and scan it in when I sell it anyway. We headed to the tea bar and there was an initial disappointment - no peas or gravy and only meat and potato pie. Instead, we had hot dog and chips. It was basic but tasty fare and well priced at £3. In the absence of Bovril, I also had a hot Vimto for £1 and this was also very nice and a first for me. Due to the change of plan, I had no context of what form the teams were in, other than that Irlam were in 14th and Prestwich Heys were in 15th. The visitors were the better side in a first half that saw end to end action but not too many serious shots on goal. The game, scoring-wise at least came alive at the start of the second period.  Within the opening couple of minutes, Prestwich Heys took the lead in what looked like a header from Greg Daniels but the final touch was credited to Scot Cullen. Jack Coop's shot from the edge of the area made it 2-0 less than a minute later. On 70 minutes, Coop had his second and his team's third, tapping home after a shot initially hit the post. Four minutes later, good work down the right flank by Jordan Southworth saw a great ball for Demarlio Bown-Sterling to tap home from a few yards out. Both sides had further chances but it was while Irlam were pressing to pull one back that Prestwich broke and got their fourth. Coop completed his hat trick from the edge of the area, following up after a shot was initially been saved. Prestwich Heys had deserved the win and the fans that they had bought with them were delighted. They were part of a 125 crowd for a game that had plenty of competition from other games in the area.

It had been a chilly evening and we were glad to get back to the car at around 9.45. The M6 was closed for a few junctions so it was going to take longer than usual to get home. At least I left on a happy note, with Wycombe winning 2-0 up at Bolton. Little did I know when I left home, that I'd end up watching a game just 20 minutes from there. The initial postponement and limited choice of games forced my hand but at least I'd seen a game in good company. We listened to Greatest Hits Radio on the way back and had to deal with a few more road closures on the way back. I dropped Chris off at 12.45 and got home myself 45 minutes later thanks to the clear roads.I stayed up for half an hour before going to sleep and was a bit jaded when I awoke the following morning, less than five hours later. It had been a reasonable evening, but one with compromises. It also meant that the research for Stone had been wasted and it added to an ever-growing list of temporarily abandoned blogs. I did my research and blog for Irlam the following evening. The next game for me will probably be on Friday, evening if it's just a walk to my local side Holmer Green to see their development squad play a game against Taplow United. 


SILVER STREET or the RG3 DIGITAL STADIUM as it is known for sponsorship purposes is a functional venue that has been their home since 2003. Like many non-league grounds, metal 'Arena' stands are the order of the day. The unit in place holds around 150 and has a flat standing area for around 50 beside it. There is also a covered area behind the goal with cover for around another 200. The rest of the ground is open and is well-kept. Food and drink facilities include a smart bar with sports TV and a decent tea bar. The food is good value and tasty and the usual football fare. Everything I had was of good value and well-cooked. The ground is in a residential area but not far from the town. There's a range of takeaways and pubs, though if you have time, the Grocers micropub in nearby Cadishead looks well worth a visit. 

The daytime pictures are from a passing visit on 30th April 2011, on the way to Bury v Wycombe Wanderers.

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