Tuesday 9 May 2023

Audley - Town Fields Ground

Audley FC
Town Fields Ground
Old Road
Bignall End

Ground Number: 1185
Monday 8th May 2023
Audley 0-1 Abbey Hulton United Reserves
Staffordshire County Senior Premier


The club was established in 1895. There's not a huge amount about the first 103 years of the club's history online. They joined the Staffordshire Senior League in 1989, which was later renamed the Midland League. This has no link to the current league of the same name. Audley were runners-up in 1996 and 2002 and won the league in 1998. In 2004, the league merged with the Staffordshire County League to become the Staffordshire County Senior League. Audley were placed in Divison 1, the second tier of the league. This was renamed the Senior Division soon after and in 2008, a third-place finish was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division. A 17th-place finish the following year saw them drop down to Division 2. The bounceback was immediate though as in 2010 they finished as runners-up to Stretton Eagles Reserves before winning Division 1 the following season. A 6th place finish in the 2012 Premier Division was an impressive season. A name change to Audley & District followed and 2013 saw an even better finish as they finished 3rd behind Hanley Town & Redgate Clayton. Finishes continued to be strong in the first half of the 2010s. Despite finishing in a 'safe' 13th place in 2016, Audley were demoted to Division 1. They'd spend three years down there before coming back up as champions in 2019. Audley remain there to this day, though they've started to slip down the table after a promising start to life back in the top division.

Local cup wins include the Staffordshire Senior League Challenge Cup in 1990, the Staffordshire Senior League Challenge Shield in 1991, the Midland League Charity Shield in 1998 & 1999, the Midland League Cup in 2003, the SCSL Division 2 League Cup in 2010, Staffordshire FA Vase 1995 and the SFA President Cup Winners in 2011. The team represents the village of Audley. It is a large village with a population of just under 8,500. It is located around four miles from the town of Newcastle Under Lyme. Cricket is also played in Audley. The village's most famous son is Ronnie Jepson, a striker most notable for his time at Huddersfield Town. He is currently assistant manager to Neil Warnock at the Terriers.


Audley & District or Audley FC depending on what source you used was a club I'd been wanting to visit for a while. They were actually based in Bignall End, a fact that I'd found when going for a look at their ground when our coach stopped there on the way to Port Vale v Wycombe. I'd been impressed by the venue and also by the Swan and the Plough, two really nice pubs. The stops were organised really well nowadays, with food pre-ordered following prior consultation with the pub. That was a far cry from the old days when we just used to rock up somewhere. I recall an Irish club in Doncaster on the way to Hull, right next to their old Belle Vue ground. Not an Irish accent in sight and would you believe that not one of us had remembered to bring our membership card from the Irish club in High Wycombe. But we got in anyway. Another notable one was the Rising Sun in Audley on the way to Crewe in November 1996, which is where I remember the name from. That had superb chips which is my abiding memory as I was too young to drink at the time. Looking on the net, it was a pub that brewed its own beer and sadly closed in 2001. It is currently on sale on Rightmove for the estimated auction price of £300k.
When deciding this hop, the Staffordshire County League were a huge help, providing fixtures at 6.30 on a Bank Holiday. I had used this before to visit Biddulph Victoria and the league had some really good clubs and grounds. Due to the late arrangement of this groundhop, I'd not had the time to research Audley FC's history. Maybe that was no bad thing as Abbey Hulton had been a bit flaky in this league at not being able to raise a side. They were however superb hosts when I visited them for a friendly back in July.
From our game at Eagle Sports, we had plenty of time to kill. So, a couple of grounds were visited, namely Warrington Rylands and Knutsford. We didn't get in either, but it used up time. We then headed to the ground, getting there at 5.20. Happy that all seemed well with players warming up on the pitch, we went off for food. The Chinese was closed so I went for the Royal Balti where I got chicken Dhansak, rice and Keema roti for £13.40. Colin got had enjoyed some much-needed sleep on the way there and was as keen as we were for food. On reflection, I should have looked for oatcakes but what I had was very nice. We eat it back at the ground where we paid £3 to get in. This included a raffle to win a couple of halftime drinks.

Audley were in 14th place in the league whilst Abbey Hulton United were a couple of places below in 16th. They'd suffered a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Brererton Social on Saturday. They had not won in seven league games, last recording a win when they thumped Eastwood Hanley 7-0 on 18th March. They had however seen some success in cups and had a Final at Leek Town coming up next Friday. Abbey Hulton United's Reserves had failed to raise a team recently, their last game on Saturday was also postponed. They'd not won a league game in 12 attempts, last beating Buxton Development 5-1 on 3rd December.  The pitch was playable but very heavy. A meandering first half finished goalless. Unlike the referee this morning who dragged his heels incessantly, this ref was keen to get going and half time lasted just six minutes. A really friendly, talkative but elderly official, brightening up the game. Abbey Hulton were the better side sec half, forcing a couple of good saves out of the Audley keeper. Finally, ten minutes from time, a quick break by Audley saw them take the lead, a shot from the edge of the area found the bottom right-hand corner.
Before I left, I bumped into the tea bar lady from Abbey Hulton who recognised me from my visit earlier in July. She was delighted when I mentioned how great the oatcakes were. It had been a good day in good company but I felt we had been fortunate to see all three games. The rain had been pretty much persistent when we were driving and occasionally drizzly at games. I needed fuel, so we stopped at ASDA on the way to fill up which was 6p a litre cheaper than back home. We then headed for home through yet more torrential rain. It had been a long old drive, nearly nine hours behind the wheel by the time I got in. This felt like far longer when we got back to Bucks. The dark, dank pothole-strewn roads were even worse as the drainage was awful and they were all flooded. I dropped Anwar off at 11, Colin at 11.25 before getting home at 11.40, over sixteen hours after leaving. I was glad to put my feet up and have a few drinks whilst typing my first two blogs of the day. I got to sleep at 2 am, doing this blog the following day.


TOWN FIELDS is a great setup for the Staffordshire County Senior League. There are three small seated stands on one side. These provide a single road of bench seating for 100. Aside from that, the ground is open. The bar offers a basic range of drinks and snacks. There was a tea bar, but this was not open on my visit. Further afield, the villages of Bignall End and Audley are less than ten minutes walk away. The Plough and The Swan are good pubs in the former and the latter offers a range of takeaways.. There's plenty of car parking at the ground, though I'm not sure about public transport links. 

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