Sunday, 27 August 2017

If You Build It - They Will Come

Redditch Borough  1  Montpellier  0

Les James Challenge Cup

My earliest childhood memory of television was that we had a choice of three channels, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV.

Yes kids, that’s right, no 24/7 cartoons or any of this American garbage, and by the way, when we were kids, our TV window was basically an hour after school finished, unless it was the holidays and we got “Why Don’t You” as an added treat.

Before you even think about asking how small the remote control must have been, don’t even go there……

ITV though, that was a bit special in the sense it was regionalised, but us East Midlanders had a raw deal with it. You see, until they built a Central TV studio in Nottingham, all of our broadcasts came from Birmingham, which was ok until it came to the news and sport whereby anything East of Coventry didn’t actually happen.

The highlight though, looking back, was the adverts. I can remember to this day Don Amott, the King of Caravans – “The price is right and the choice is yours”, then we had Bristol Street Motors, but I can also remember an advert drawing us to spend our weekends at the new Kingfisher Shopping Centre in Redditch.

Oh yes, so us Derby / Nottingham / Leicester mob are going to look at that and think that we need to forget our plush city centre’s and trek all the way South of Birmingham, and remember we didn’t have an M42 in those days.  

All of that changed when the shiny new premises on Lenton Lane were opened and we could adjust our TV aerials accordingly, the West Midlands was no more, we had our own People’s Republic and suddenly we heard of places like Spalding, Ollerton and Bingham. Our World was a very different place.

Fast forward to 2013, I was placed on a management training programme which meant I had to spend several nights over a nine month period in a hotel, in Redditch. The Holiday Inn Express was to be my home, and that meant a chance to explore. The highlight came one evening when we decided to have a wander to a pub at the end of the road, only to find it was Exotic Pets Night. We walked in to find a tarantula scurrying across the pool table and a bloke stood with an owl on his shoulder. One drink was all we had.

Assessment day came, I had to drive to Redditch, pitch up at the venue at my allocated time, and in the space of 30 minutes I had to demonstrate a coaching session and then stand up and present to a judging panel. It was nerve wracking stuff, but I had a problem, my back had gone, and just walking up the hill from the car park was a real struggle. I spotted the Kingfisher Centre to my right, so in I went to find a seat and get a coffee. Eventually I got to the assessment centre, dug as deep as I’ve ever dug before and put on a show, while in quite some pain.

It seemed to go well, until I got home and it took Mrs Hatt some 45 minutes to get me out of the car. I was done for and could barely move for a couple of days, but one things cheered me up, I got the call from my boss to say I’d got a Distinction!

So, football in Redditch.

Fruits Of Their Labours
Redditch United were founder members of the Alliance Premier League in 1979 (Conference / National League as now is). It didn’t last long, they were relegated at the end of the season, and since then they have bumbled along as a Southern League side up until a period around seven years ago when they managed to get into the Conference North. Again, relegation came and it’s been Southern League since. I’ve been a couple of time, memorably once with Belper Town in the FA Cup when a slight altercation with some local youths when our last minute winner went in meant a Police van was summoned to deal with the situation!

Redditch Borough on the other hand came to my attention a couple of years back when they found themselves in the Midland Combination, playing at the Valley Stadium home of United. They made no secret of the fact that they had joined forces and were going to be a Reserve / Development side of United, and what they also bought to the party was a huge junior set up. But, at the start of this season they announced they were going to be playing at the Mettis Sports & Social Club in the town, it appeared relations with United had soured, and soured quite badly. From speaking to a Borough official, United would have happily seen them wiped from the map.

Dressing Rooms
But not deterred, Borough have seized the opportunity, and what is United’s loss (revenue / bar takings etc) is definitely to the benefit of not just the football club but also the Sports & Social Club.

The facilities have been upgraded, dugouts, railings, hard standing, some cover, a portable tea bar and refurbished dressing rooms has turned what was effectively a piece of grass into a proper football ground. They have done a superb job.

What has also happened is the clubs junior element have focused their attentions on the new facilities, and being very much a club as opposed to a team, they have breathed life into the Social Club in the sense that takings are up massively. They also have something slightly unique in the sense that many of the juniors and the parents come along to support the first team. The opening game last week drew a crowd of 232, to put that into context, United’s opening league game at home to Dunstable Town drew 212.

It very much looks to be a case of ‘If you build it – they will come’, and today, with neighbours Montpellier in town they were looking forward to another positive day at the Mettis. I arrived quite early after navigating the M42 traffic issues, and found the ground quite easily, just off the Bromsgrove Road and only a stones throw from United’s home.

Redditch Vista
It’s a pretty big complex, designed to support the workers from nearby Mettis Aerospace which is a huge employer in the Enfield area of town. Football is high on the agenda, but so is tennis and bowls it appears. The clubhouse is a big affair, while the football pitch used by Borough is set at the far end of the complex.

No admission charge was taken, but donations were made, and the tea bar was doing a roaring trade on a beautiful Summers day. I would estimate another crowd in three figures had come along, although not quite at the levels of the previous week.

The first half saw Montpellier start strongly but gradually Borough came back into the game. Very little came in the way of goalscoring chances, and once into the second half it was the visitors again who had the edge in the early stages. But it was to be the hosts who broke the deadlock in the 59th minute with a neat lob over the goalkeeper, and that was the cue for some more Montpellier pressure.

The side coached by ex Redditch United and Tamworth boss Paul Hendrie missed a couple of late chances to take the tie into extra time, and it was to be Borough that progress to the next round.

This is a club on the up, they have momentum and they have willing volunteers and a membership base to really push on. It’ll be interesting to see where they get to.

I swerved a visit to the Kingfisher Centre on my way home, I did think about looking at some caravans up at Don Amott’s place though. He wouldn’t have been around though, he’s a big non-league fan these days, Mickleover Sports v Nantwich Town is where you would have found him, he’s now the Chairman at Sports.

He liked it so much, he bought the club… that reminds me of another advert from the Seventies!

They Will Come!

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