Day 13 – BoltonWanderers-Bury-Rochdale-Oldham-ManCity-SalfordCity-ManUTD
If you read yesterday’s blog you’ll know I ended up in Bolton, who are currently enduring their second covid lockdown. And thoroughly enjoying themselves as you could imagine. When I got to the hotel last night I really fancied one beer while I wrote my blog, just to chill after a long day cycling. You know, just as you do after a hard days work. But the hotel had shut the bar due to covid, so I had to do the unthinkable and literally bloody order one from just eat. There’s only so many pots of tomato sauce you can add on to make the minimum order.
I promised more pics of the beautiful University of Bolton Stadium and voila.
It is a stunning bit of architecture which is even more incredible when you think they are in league 2. The teams that come up into the top 4 tiers from below must be looking at the fixture list absolutely gutted they can’t be there during this. I can just imagine 2,000 Deliveroo drivers rocking up at the stadium with the pre match pints though.
Now I was scheduled to travel to Rochdale after this. However I am aware that Birmingham and Coventry play in the same stadium, like a slightly underwhelming Inter and AC Milan setup. So thats 91 stadiums. Not to be a modern day fagin, I noticed a very intriguing prospect along the way when it came to filling that void.
And what an incredibly sad sight I saw.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you, the poignancy, of Bury Football Club.
Now, the ground doesn’t give much away on the outside. It’s all gated up and the gates are full of cobwebs. So, let me take you back. Only to 2018/19. Just last year, when we didn’t have to dress like ninjas to go to Tescos. Simpler times for us, simpler times indeed for Bury FC. The club were in league 2, the fourth tier of English football. They acquired some decent talent too, the likes of Leicester’s Callum Hulme and former premier league forward Jermaine Beckford. Such was the group of players they had, they actually got promoted to league one, finishing in second place and ready to start the season as a club at the up.
Then, because of long-standing financial troubles, they were unable to start the season, leading them to becoming expelled from the league. Despite last December and this February surviving a wind up order from everyones favourite people the HMRC (remember, you can only invite 5 of them over for a party now unfortunately), meaning the club still exists as an entity, they still have no league to play in, no staff and no players. Making them a mere shell of a club.
It really is sad. The rotting turnstiles are haunting and the club still have their ‘buy our 2018-19 kits’ poster splashed across their unused club shop.
Football is a universal language though and their biggest rivals including locals Oldham Athletic have left messages written on shirts on the stadiums fences. Manchester United, City and even German clubs scarves line up in support of the sad tale that is Bury football club. It was uncomfortable and terribly sad seeing the sights. It must bring you down losing a club that you rely on as your predominant social outlet, and many people do use football as just that. It won’t be the first thing you think of when it comes to our mission and what we try to raise awareness of, but how would you feel if it happened to your club? I know I for a fact would be inconsolable.
Genuinely good luck Bury. If you re-imerge I’ll come up and catch a game.
I only felt worse when I left for Rochdale then Oldham. Looking at the terrain map my heart bloody sank. The hills are represented by curves, the big hills are represented by even bigger curves. I can only describe what I saw on my screen as what Pamela Anderson sees when she looks straight down.
It was boiling today but I somehow summoned my inner Linford and bombed it up hill to the Crown Oil Arena. For about 3 or so miles at least. I love things that give me a reason to stop to take a breath, makes it look like I’m not struggling in the incessant heat with a rucksack full of my road gear on my back. Don’t get excited, if you robbed me you’d only come away with some inner tubes, half a bag of maltesers and some sudocrem, but this caught my eye somewhere around Rochdale. No word of a lie, but someone’s fashioned an epic steakhouse inside an actual small plane. At the side of the road on a residential street.
They’ve called it ‘Steaks on a Plane’.
Not much was going on at Rochdale. It’s a proper community ground. The outside looks like a local trade centre and the inside looks like one of those stadiums you could watch a game properly without people telling you to shush or tut when you get up for bovril and block their views for 0.8 seconds. You know the type of fans, we’ve all seen them. If your club is full of the dickheads, come support Rochdale 👍
Moving onto Oldham. Now you want a proper old school ground that hasn’t been updated since the 70s Oldham is your boy. And that, is part of its charm. Paint peeling and a players entrance with cracks so big, Ronnie Corbet could have snuck in for a look.
The lettering outside the front entrance looks like its been lifted from the front of a tax office 50 years ago.
This is more Bradley Walsh than Brad Pitt. But this is what I absolutely love about it. The no frills attitude keeps the tradition alive and safe. Like your nan who won’t change the curtains she bought to celebrate the end of the war. Oldham is timeless and thats what the club are about, no frills, no nonsense, just a community club doing what they do. I bet the likes of West ham etc would rather play here than a stadium they don’t identify with. Oldham, I loved it.
Boundary Park, is a proper football stadium.
Quite the contrast next as I made the 29 miles between the last 3 clubs, starting at the Etihad, the home of ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City.
Now I love my football, but even I didn’t think the club moved there all the way back in 2003! Kevin Keegan was manager, they finished 16th and Nicolas Angela, Robbie Fowler and the Great Paolo Wanchope headed the strike force. This stadium is just incredible. Now I’ve never seen the pitch. Despite giving Wanchope a game, they still didn’t offer me one, but the outside is huge. I mean massive. Theres a bandstand for live entertainment on match days, a big screen showing football and a Blues Cafe that will flog you a hot dog for 4 quid. Not bad prices when you consider the price of a burger at west ham (them again) is 7 quid.
It is an entertainment mecca and the stadium is just beautiful. The stadium walls show the entire history of the club, from the 19th century when they were known as St Mark’s to now. Theres a walkway from the academy over to the ground, where they’ve actually built a stadium for them to play in. Alright when you got a bit of money ain’t it, and finally a club that have used their billions to invest into the community and to nurture young players whilst giving the full on pre match entertainment package to the fans. Probably still um and ah about buying a burger at West ham though.
One ground I’d love to experience the full pre-post game experience in.
Judge for yourself. It’s stunning.
Next up (yep I went full out to complete Manchester today) was to newest member of the football league, Salford City.
Revered in the press for their superstar backing in the form of numerous Manchester United players including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, the club has been able to sustain and build upon their success as a result.
There’s not more I can tell you about this club. They won the Lancashire Amateur Cup in 1973, 1975 and 1977 and the Manchester Premier Cup in 1978 and 1979. But I just lifted that from Wikipedia. The club is totally shut off from the public. The stadium you can’t see in as they’ve caged it off. Don’t be fooled by the picture above. I had to stick my hands through a fence to take it. All I can tell you is that they have some pretty cool, new-age floodlights 🤷♂️
So I finally finished the day bombing over to the last club, much decorated Manchester United. Which looks incredible at night.
I’ll start again there tomorrow to get some more pics and a feel of what the stadium is like, so tomorrow’s blog will have everything you need Man Utd wise as I make my way south.
Thank you for your amazing donations today everyone, we are just shy of £3,000 for the charities, which is incredible. The last time I owned a bike was 25 years ago. I’m not a cyclist and on days like today when I’m cycling up what feels like mount Vesuvius in Torremolinos weather, knowing that you’re shouting the word out and donating money that is helping people outright, it makes it all worth while.
Oh and Mr Beckham, go buy Bury FC for ***** sake
Manchester? Completed it mate 👍
Peace and love people, keep smiling.