“We’re all going to Brighouse! We’re all going to Brighouse!” were the drunken words we were shouting when we won at Bootle in the very first stage of the FA Cup. I would hazard a guess and say that we’re the first club to chant so enthusiastically at the prospect of visiting the town which neighbours Halifax. After our drunken antics, would we get drunk again in this round of the world’s greatest cup competition? Of course we would. A morning that started off with a cup of tea in a local cafe, ended with black sambuca and jagerbombs at my local (apparently).
I wrote at length in my last FA Cup blog how much the competition meant to me. Iconic moments are seen regularly. Events such as Nat Lofthouse’s goal in the 1958 cup final, when he barged Harry Gregg over the line. Steven Gerrard’s thunderous effort to see off West Ham at the Millennium Stadium in 2006. Or, if you like, Brad Cooke’s consolation goal for Colls when an insipid performance from us saw Abbey Hey win 2-1 and go on to play away at Halifax in the next round; gutted. That awful afternoon in Gorton was now long forgotten and we were off to that corner of Yorkshire.
The previous round we had made a full day of the cup; everything was organised down to a tee. Unfortunately, logistics were harder to plan this time around so the players didn’t have their pre-match breakfast. Instead, we were to head directly up to Brighouse on the coach, setting off relatively early.
In preparation I finally bought the club a sign for the coach and I was quite impressed with the final product. In fact, I was that impressed I was going to take it up to University and hang it up on my wall but that would make me look like a football obsessive… wouldn’t it? I’ll stick to my Yankee Candles and Non-League Bins 2015 calendar.
I awoke early on the morning of the match, meeting Rob at Atherton train station at 09:00. I told him I would take him for breakfast at the Coffee Pot in Atherton. It came as a bit of a surprise when Emil informed me the place hasn’t been a cafe for the last 30 years and is now a hairdressers. Back to the drawing board it was. I knew that if we headed into the town centre we would find somewhere to have a cup of tea, and rather predictably we ended up bumping into Emil on Market Street. He ended up joining us in a local cafe where I enjoyed a lovely pot of breakfast tea before making my way up to Alder House.
We had a full coach for this trip; oversubscribed in fact after all places had gone within an hour. While the players and coaching staff had a game of chase the ace the fans were already drinking at the front of the coach. It took around an hour to reach Brighouse and I felt a bit like the pied piper as I directed everybody to Wetherspoons. Of course, there are other pubs in the town but it seemed like a suitable place to start.
The band Embrace who sang the official England World Cup song in 2006 are from Brighouse. Lead singer Danny McNamara and his younger brother Richard both brew up in the village of Bailiff Bridge which is just a stones throw from where Brighouse play. Their single World At Your Feet reached number three in the UK charts, but they went one better with Nature’s Law which came in at number two, pipped by Ne-Yo – So Sick.
Ironically, that is how I felt having had a sharing platter with Eddie and two pints of a locally brewed beer that had notes of grapefruit and citrus. The stuff was bloody strong too. It all made for a good atmosphere though as around 30 Colls fans packed out the beer garden at The Richard Oastler. This Wetherspoons was spectacular (as far as the chain goes) with an organ towering above the bar in the upstairs ring.
Colls captain Brad Cooke had put me in charge of looking after his younger brother for the afternoon. He had come down from Sunderland to watch the match and it was his first Colls away day. As we sat in the beer garden Zak’s mum rang him up to see how he was doing. After around a minute of conversation he was asked what he was up to. “Where are we lads?” asked Zak. Lee, instantly replied by saying “Brothel.” and this was duly repeated down the phone to a shocked mother. The poor lad then spent the next couple of minutes having to convince his mum that he was being sensible at Wetherspoons and not living the high life with the hidden women of Brighouse.
With around an hour to go until kick off a large group of us headed into the town centre to find a taxi rank. The ground is nowhere near the town centre and even if you were to walk you’ll find it’s all uphill. Fortunately Eddie had already done a recce and found a taxi rank; blink and you would have missed it. To put it simply it was at the back of a shop and to order a taxi you had to shout up to the window on the top floor. One fan started to call the bloke at the top Rapunzel but I don’t think he understood the reference.
Lee, Matt, Zak and I piled into the final taxi to arrive. Our taxi driver had his oriental music on full blast and he seemed to enjoy the fact we were dancing along. We couldn’t hear each other speak it was that loud. We turned up at the Dusty Miller to find the rest of the group outside drinking, feeling pretty startled by the sound of our appearance. We had a pint of Tiger before then moving on up through the estate behind the pub and to the ground.
St Giles Road has been home to the club since the 1980’s. Quite a basic ground, the only stand stretches the length of the pitch and is constructed of scaffolding and other materials that the NWCFL would probably turn their noses up at. A clubhouse area is found behind the near goal, comprising of a large wooden hut that looks as though it should be on a building site. Of course, this is no criticism. The club has come an awful long way in a relatively short space of time.
The club was originally formed in 1963 as a representative side of the Blakeborough Valve Company of Brighouse. They played their matches on the Woodhouse Recreation Ground and played in the Huddersfield Works League. Playing at this level they were successful and took steps to obtaining their own ground which they did in the early 1970’s when they moved to Hove Edge.
A step up in leagues saw them move into the West Riding County Amateur League in 1975. The club did well but their home ground was developed for housing, forcing a move to their current home on St Giles Road.
In 1988, the demise of the Blakeborough Valve Company saw the club rename itself Brighouse Town FC. This was nine years after Michael Palin’s famous Ripping Yarns episode, Golden Gordon, in which his side Barnstoneworth United played Brighouse. After losing 8-1, Gordon stormed home and began to smash his living room up in front of his worried wife. “Eight, one. Eight bloody one, to Brighouse! To a team of old age pensioners! The centre forward wears glasses! Eight goals, four of them through backpasses to the goalkeeper!”
Unfortunately for Colls there were no old aged pensioners in this Brighouse side that have enjoyed a lot of success recently. In 2008, they made the huge step up into semi-professional football and joined the NCEL Division One, winning the title after two season. Paul Quinn was appointed manager, and he guided them to a fourth placed and second placed finish in the Premier Division in his first two campaigns in charge. The 2013/2014 saw Quinn’s side go one better, and they won the league with a record breaking points tally, gaining promotion into the Evo-Stik Division One North where they remain.
Coming into this FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round fixture Brighouse sat in mid-table following consecutive wins at Harrogate Railway Athletic and Ossett Town. Collieries were in a similar position, but came into the match as underdogs as they play in the division below. There were glimpses of the difference in divisions, but in the whole you wouldn’t have guessed Brighouse were in a higher division.
All the Collieries fans were congregated near the turnstiles and we made a hell of a noise throughout the match, encouraging the players every time they touched the ball. Colls were in their yellow kit, while Brighouse were in orange, giving the false impression of this match being played on the continent.
The game started brightly for Atherton who looked the better side for this opening period of the game. On seven minutes, they could have been ahead if it wasn’t for Brighouse keeper Paul Hagreen. James Kirby had the ball threaded through to him in the area. The forward then released his shot on goal which was blocked by Hagreen who advanced from his line in an attempt to narrow the angles down.
Nine minutes later Kirby had another chance to open the scoring. He received a pass from Kristian Holt who had won the ball in midfield, advanced down the left wing and into area. Under dogged defensive pressure he fired the ball just over the bar.
However, despite the early pressure Brighouse took the lead on 22 minutes. From a corner, the ball was curled into the packed box. Brig’s Daniel Facey saw his initial header was well saved by Danny Taberner but Leon Henry was the quickest to react and fired the rebound in from six yards out.
For a short period of the first half the home side held the momentum and two minutes before the half hour mark they had another effort on goal. Ernest Boafo collected the ball on the right wing and cut inside to the edge on the area. Fortunately for Colls his effort went just wide of the mark.
On 29 minutes Mark Battersby, who adapted to a new forward role throughout the game, had his first effort of the game. He rose highest to head a Mark Truffas header over the bar. This galvanised Battersby and he had another three good attempts in quick succession after. His first, on 38 minutes, was thwarted by yet another fine save from Hagreen. The second came on 40 minutes when the forward was denied by the post after he drilled his shot around the Brighouse defence. And finally, his third, a minute before half time, was curled over the bar.
It had been a very strong half from Atherton and they had responded well to going behind. At half time, Brad Cooke asked me if we were looking after his young and vulnerable brother. I told him he had told his mother he’d been to a brothel and he was hammered… which didn’t go down too well with my favourite ever non-league player.
We had a quick pitstop in the bar to refuel before the second half began. I had been a bit loud and excitable in the second half so decided to only have one more pint incase I began to bring the club into disrepute (it wouldn’t be the first time). It’s a good job I only had one, as when Collieries did eventually score at least five pints from our part of the crowd ended up all over the players.
After piling on the pressure on our hosts, Colls equalised on 57 minutes. What followed was one of my favourite ever moments of following the black and white stripes. Brad Cooke gained possession in midfield and threaded a long ball through to Ben Hardcastle. The winger then advanced through on goal and slipped his shot underneath Hargreen. He ran off towards us and soon all of the players were with the travelling supports. Chris and Pete hurdled the advertising board and ended up on the pitch, with Chris’ shorts falling down in the process. We went absolutely mental.
Just as we had finished celebrating, Colls were on the attack again… and we had the ball in the net again! However, the linesman in front of us decided to rule Jordan Cover’s effort out as he was deemed to be offside. At the time, we didn’t think he was offside. When the highlights were published it confirmed that he wasn’t offside as there was a Brighouse player lying on the floor at the back of play. In fairness though, the linesman probably didn’t see him on the floor.
The remainder of the game consisted of half chances for both sides as they progressed and looked for a winner. In the end it finished a draw, meaning the two teams were to go at it again a couple days later in Atherton. Unfortunately we lost 2-1 and there could be no complaints as Brighouse were better than us in the replay.
Not to worry though, the Collieries fans won every prize in the half time raffle. Celebrations all around. Second prize was a crate of beer, which suited our fans very well. What was first prize? A bottle of vodka? Some whiskey perhaps? No. It was a vegetables from a local farmer. “What’s that? It looks like a giant cock!” shouted one fan as he was handed his prize. “It’s a butternut squash!” was the awkward response from the Brighouse official. The vegetables never did make it back to Atherton in one piece and the butternut squash was thrown around the coach with people having to take bites out of it as part of a drinking game.
There were one or two rogue vegetables that emerged in the pubs of Atherton as the night progressed. I don’t know whether people had stashed them down their pants or something incase they got hungry and couldn’t be bothered making the trip to a local takeaway. I’ve found that nothing solves munchies like an aubergine.
Before we left Brighouse, it was down to the media team to clean the away dressing room. This involved me staggering around the facilities with a sweeping brush in one hand and a pint in the other. Rob and Zach supervised me and we felt we had done a good job, until the next match when we got blamed for leaving some cones in Yorkshire.
As Matt, Lee and I stood with the players talking through the game, attentions soon turned to what we would be doing when we got back. With the promise of a full night out in Atherton, Matt soon ditched his plans to catch a train back to Manchester and hopped on the coach with us. What followed was a full night in the Rope & Anchor, of which I remember very little.
Without a doubt, one of my favourite days out watching football. However, I am still not over the hurt of being dumped out of the FA Cup by Brighouse. When I am stood waiting for a train at Manchester Victoria and hear the ‘B-word’ I respond with an unsavoury comment. Even when I drive past a signpost for the place when I’m travelling back to York for University I shudder with anguish.
I would go back to Brighouse one day though. They were gracious in victory and we got on very well with their fans and players after the replay. A well run and respectable club, who deserved their place in the next round. They were subsequently knocked out by Northern League side Newton Aycliffe, who went on to be knocked out by North Ferriby United. I then caught up with the FA Cup trail at Stalybridge Celtic v North Ferriby, and I’m sure I’ll get around to blogging about that trip at some stage.
Thanks to Rob and Matt for letting me use their photographs. I had a day off.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 39 miles
- ADMISSION: £4 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2
… and then the next day we woke up early to head to the Punch Festival before having a night out in Leigh…