Aldershot News & Mail : 2020-07-29

35 : 35 : 35


35 NEWS & MAIL WEDNESDAY, JULY 29, 2020 Sport United we stand... eventually Martin Neal is a non-league groundhopp­er, on a mission to visit as many grounds as possible. Join him looking back at some of those he’s been to over the years while we wait for the opportunit­y to attend a match once more. The changing rooms - or an Alpine lodge? BRANDON UNITED V CHESTER-LE-STREET WELFARE GROUND NORTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION TWO MARCH 7, 2015 GROUND NO 167 ments and retirement bungalows to a back lane which thankfully led me to the ground. Phew! The game had kicked off a couple of minutes earlier while I was still on my impromptu tour of Brandon and the turnstile steward had gone to retrieve a stray ball when I arrived. On his return I discovered he’d sold out of programmes but, sensing the pain, trauma and anguish this devastatin­g news had clearly caused me, a kindly club official came to the rescue with a spare. Phew again. The programme incidental­ly was worth its £1 price tag for the anagrams column alone. Did you know that ‘urine detachment­s’ is an anagram of Manchester United? Access to pitchside is up a slight of steps and the ground’s lofty geographic­al position means that when you turn around you peer over the surroundin­g hills, Durham coast and even Durham Cathedral. As a result it gets quite exposed up there too and on a blustery day like this the tall, spindly floodlight pylons had a right wobble on. The steps lead you up to the dugouts with hard standing all along that side and to the left, behind the goal is more hard standing, but also a row of benches. The changing rooms in the corner reminded me of an Alpine lodge. I expected a portly Austrian to emerge at any moment wearing nothing but a towel, red-faced and glowing after a hot sauna. In contrast to the right are the committee room and tea hut, both housed in what were once shipping containers. Still, the tea was lovely, served in a proper mug too, and I’d ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ I DELIBERATE­D for much of the week over which new tick I should get today and, after whittling down a list of possibles to three, I chose Brandon purely on the basis that they had the lowest attendance figures in the Northern League. They could do with my support, I figured. And the reason they struggle for numbers through the turnstiles may actually have less to do with the fact that they are rooted to the foot of Northern League Division Two and more to the fact that the Welfare Ground is so blooming difficult to find! For satnav purposes I used the postcode given on the website and although it got me somewhere close, once the words “you have reached your destinatio­n” echoed from my speakers I was, in all honesty, still none the wiser. The map on the website was minus a few roads too, so although I eventually spotted some floodlight­s, reaching them proved more problemati­c. Up and down a labyrinth of quiet residentia­l streets I drove, the floodlight­s in view but still out of reach. There wasn’t even a soul about to ask - if they’d filmed Treasure Hunt here, Anneka Rice would still be wandering around, lost. After dumping the car on a side street I walked up past some allot- tips; and declined steadily as my waist spread and grey hairs started to increase at an alarming rate. It turned out I picked the right day to visit, however. A competitiv­e and eagerly-fought derby clash with plenty of goals, it was all that makes the Northern League so enjoyable. “As Gus Poyet once said, miracles do happen,” beamed the guy selling half-time draw tickets as his beleaguere­d Brandon side went 2-0 up with less than 10 minutes gone. They went on to win 5-3 - only their second victory in their last 11 attempts and he was even more gleeful by the end. Without doubt I was a good omen and my visit had brought them good luck. “You can come again,” he said with a grin as wide as the mouth of the River Wear. I enjoyed the visit, maybe I will. nating the ground, is the West Stand. A basic concave breeze block and corrugated iron structure, it houses breeze block and wooden plank bench seats, with terracing in front. There’s a grass bank on the other side of that, but the plastic chain link fence which rings the standing areas rules that out of bounds, along with the small row of breeze block and wooden plank bench seating in the end behind the other goal. The steel fence that surrounds the ground has thankfully put a halt to the vandalism that had blighted it and the club are clearly doing their best to smarten the place up and keep it that way. It’s been an up and down ride for them - they weren’t even formed when I was born; began as a Sunday League works team when I was still in short trousers and cuddling my teddy; switched to Saturday action and dominated the Durham Alliance around the time I became a teenage punk rocker; won the Northern League Division One title as I clung on to my 40s by my finger- The floodlight­s got a wobble on ■For more of Martin’s non-league groundhopp­ing adventures, visit streetspav­edwithgoal­s.blogspot. com or follow @Pavedwithg­oals on Twitter. have sampled a pie or some homemade cake too had I not had a date with my favourite takeaway shortly after my arrival back home. To the right of those, and domi- ■ PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTE­D BY PRESSREADE­R PressReade­ +1 604 278 4604 . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW

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