Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
The Joys of Goole
By: Chris Smith
I decided to give Stockport a miss today. I couldn't be bothered with parting with a tenner to watch a meaningless game at a club who waited until they were eleven points clear of mathematical relegation before pulling the plug and going into administration.
I've worked out that if I avoid every club that I have an issue with, I can coast through the season without watching a game. After all, my home town club give me the hump on a regular basis, which is their role in life (with a few moments of glory on the way to remind me why I still come back for more). That’s twenty three games accounted for.
Darlington and Rochdale always beat us so why bother? Cheltenham, substandard ground. Hereford and Shrewsbury because, er, they're Welsh or near enough. Rotherham-would you build a ground for them? Port Vale’s prices are a rip-off. I could go on and on and most folk would say I do already.
However, Goole had a game on, and as Gary lives near the town, we decided we'd go and watch the friendly game against Scarborough Athletic, the team that did for our youth team last week. They also have a game against the Chimps next week which looks inviting. Being a bit of a groundhopper, I thought I'd ask whether they were doing a programme and sent a text on Friday afternoon to the club. When I hadn't heard anything by this morning, I thought no more of it. I sent a text to Gary so he knew when I'd be arriving there as the chavcab (sorry, bus) times have changed. The bus actually picks up outside my house in Thorne and drops off at the top of Carter Street where I walk down to GAFC. I got a text straight back, or so I thought, saying "Teamsheet today". I was surprised how Gary had found this out and replied saying "How did you find out, better than nothing" It shows why I should read who has sent me texts because I received the reply "Because I happen to be the chairman" Oops, a reply from GAFC. Gary isn't nicknamed the Chuckler for nothing and had a good laugh at my expense. I'm just glad I didn't put the normal expletives in my communication. Or, I think I didn't. Got me worried now...
As if this wasn't an unpromising start, I was chatting to a neighbour whilst I cloudbathed in the garden, (you know the score, put a bit of sunscreen on and cue the thunderheads) and said I was going to a game this afternoon. "Is your brother picking you up then?" Eh? That seems to have been a case of mistaken identity; my brothers aren't in the habit of picking me up at home, living as they do in Qatar and Wales. I don't know who stood to be more insulted by this, but as a Town fan, I play a magnificent victim, so decided I had come off worse. Sorry Gaz.
I duly caught the chavcab and did an impression of Michael Jackson in his heyday whilst trying to avoid a wasp on the top deck. However, I safely arrived and made my way down to the Victoria Pleasure Grounds.
Quite a few non-leaguers don't like Goole’s ground, and whilst I appreciate that the running track around it isn't ideal, it has plenty of atmosphere. It has lots in common with Blundell Park as well, surrounded by tight terraced housing, a railway running by the side and even docks on the doorstep. I probably see two thirds to three quarters of Town’s games during a season. On the odd Saturdays I don't see them and so long as I've been to a game, and especially a ground like Goole’s on a cold Saturday afternoon, I feel that I have done my bit contributing to the game in general and that I can hold my head up high when watching the parody that is Match of the Day nowadays.
Goole has a small side stand opposite the dug-outs and a larger one nearer the ground entrance. This actually has good acoustics as the rowdy Leek Town fans discovered last season. The rest is open, but there is no need to get wet as plenty of fans can be accommodated in the standing areas. I'd love to see Grimsby play here in a pre-season game, or even better, in the FA Cup. It wasn't lost on me that if we hadn't had a chairman bankrolling us and had ended up in liquidation, AFC Grimsby would quite probably have been playing in the Unibond Premier League, one division above Goole. If we were lucky.
I got into the ground about twenty past two, and immediately recognised several of the volunteers. Ann Smith, who used to be the club secretary and still helps out, came up for a chat. Ann knows me and Gary are Town fans. I first spoke to her to check games were on a few years back, not realising that my Non-League Yearbook was out of date. Goole had serious problems with pitch drainage up to a few years ago which wasn't helped by some seriously wet summers, so it was always best to check. It was never a problem contacting Ann, who on one occasion when I was checking an away match was on, asked me for the ground’s postcode so she could programme her sat-nav. I spoke to Eric Lawton, who is the outgoing Vice Chairman. Eric is still active with the club, making sure match officials are paid and running the club shop.
Non-league club shops are marvellous ways to fill gaps in programme collections and are worth a look on any visit. It isn't unusual for visitors to bring their club programmes in as a donation or a swap, so there can be some gems on the shelves. I've often gone into Eric’s shop, coming out with a good selection and with the price settled by a shrug and a discount for buying something else.
Because Goole play in the Unibond, any purchases have often involved Unibond give-aways from plastic bags to hats and car flags. The hats have been worn by several Town fans on uncommonly cold days and I had about five of them. We jokingly pointed out that we were ahead of the fashion at times when it looked as though non-league football for Town was a reality. I like to spend a bit of money on each visit to help the club coffers and have a fair old collection of shirts and scarves and badges. Oh, and a mug, appropriately. I jest actually; I just like collecting football memorabilia.
After spending a fair bit of time exchanging pleasantries, I ascertained that a team sheet would be forthcoming and agreed to buy a golden goal ticket if the seller could track one down for me. Not a problem. You know, if the warmth accorded to fans at non-league grounds such as Goole was replicated at professional clubs, we would all be a lot happier. I've always been made to feel a valued visitor here and probably make between eight and a dozen trips here a season depending on Town’s fixtures. It was a shame that there wasn't a programme as Goole produce a very good one, with features from Statto to Big Mal Rants. The club obviously rely heavily on sponsorship, and the number of local advertisers who get behind them is testimony to the effort that goes on behind the scenes.
The article continues in Part Two
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