Friday, 6 October 2017

Hanley Stanley

Hanley Town  3  Maine Road   0

North West Counties League – Premier Division

The 1992-93 Keele University 5-a-side League was a short lived period for Traffic Cones FC.

I was resident in a block on the campus and we came up with this really great idea that we would enter a team into the competition, and our selection criteria was quite straightforward. I had a Derby County season ticket so I was in, Matt had an Aston Villa shirt so he got the nod, Simon watched Ipswich Town regularly so that was a no brainer. Then we had Scottish Tony and Sasha the Goat Slayer.

We couldn’t really understand what Tony was saying, so worked on the principle he could play football and wanted to join in, whereas Sasha was a bit scary, no one ever entered his room for fear of never coming out again, but he claimed to be a Blackpool fan and was mates with Trevor Sinclair, so clearly that was as good a testimonial we were ever going to get.

The name Traffic Cones came about because we were pretty adept at nicking them for souvenirs to keep in our block after a night out, but after a mad night involving unscrewing various bedroom doors from the hinges and setting off of fire extinguishers, we were swooped upon by the authorities, fined, and ordered to remove / return the said cones.

All was going well in the league, until one Sunday evening when we came up against one of the superpowers, Hanley Stanley, who were sweeping all before them. Our pre-match team talk involved a good session in the bar, whereas the tactic was quite simple. I was the big lad upfront, the keeper would launch the ball down the line to me, I would hold it up, look for a runner, lay it back and the said runner would welly it in the general direction of the goal.

Hanley Stanley were not daft, they had us worked out quite quickly, and their plan was a simple yet effective one. If they nailed the big lad upfront, the game plan was down the toilet. I think it was either the third or the fourth time that the ball had come down the line to me, but it was a bit wide, so I ended up with my back to the play, in the corner of the court. I decided to try and hold on to the ball and work my way out, but Stanley had other idea. Smash!

I felt the full force of a kneecap smash right into the side of my left knee, I hit the deck in absolute agony, but the game carried on. I couldn’t stand, so I had to drag myself off the court with searing pain going through my knee.

I can’t quite remember how I got back to my room that night, but I think I had to administer some anaesthetic, namely Carling, to get myself into a place whereby I could walk unaided. Traffic Cones FC after the heavy defeat that followed, found life tough after that, and eventually disbanded, thank you Hanley Stanley.

Hanley, it was the mecca for us students, a short PMT bus ride (I know!) from the campus and the World was your oyster, it had a cinema, shops, pubs, a statue of Sir Stanley Matthews, but not only that, it had a nightclub called The Place!

It was a legendary venue, so much so Michaela Strachan and Pete Waterman used to frequent it to film the Hitman and Her TV show. I can remember being in it one night when it was my birthday, it was the same day that Freddie Mercury died so Queen featured heavily on the playlist. It’s an awful long time since I’ve been in any sort of nightclub, I can’t imagine Queen gets much airtime these days.

Student life was great, and what it also did for me was give me a chance to visit some football in the area. First visits to Stoke City, Crewe Alexandra, Wrexham and Chester City all happened while I was at Keele, but not only that, I picked up on some non-league as well. At the time the major players were Newcastle Town, Kidsgrove Athletic, Eastwood Hanley and Knypersley Victoria. Nowadays, Eastwood and the Vics have slipped off the senior radar, and as the years have gone by the likes of Alsager Town, Market Drayton Town, Norton United, Abbey Hulton United and Hanley Town have reached a senior level.

Hanley Town were a Staffordshire League side when I was at Keele, and to be brutally honest I wasn’t interested in the county league stuff at the time. But, with maturity comes an open mind, and over recent years I’ve made a couple of visits to them, but was keen to return as I’d not been since they achieved North West Counties League status.

Having spent the bulk of the day at a conference at Old Trafford, I wasn’t too sure what time we would be released back into the wild, so I had a few games on the radar for the journey back depending on time and traffic. However, Hanley was the first choice, and as luck would have it, I made it with plenty of time to spare.

The ground has come on tremendously since I last went. The car park has been tarmacked and lined, while a turnstile block has been put in place. Floodlights have been installed, while opposite the old covered terraced, a seated stand has been erected.

A further block of seats has also been put in behind the goal, in one corner adjacent to the smart clubhouse that looks as though it’s had something of a refurb.

They’ve also put in a tea bar and a hospitality room, and overall the ground looks really good, and to be honest I was grateful for plenty of cover as it was a filthy wet night in the Potteries.

Hanley had started the season well whereas Maine Road were below half way in the league. With a few experienced players in their side from Northern Premier League football, Neville Thompson in particular, Hanley got off to a positive start and took the lead in the tenth minute through Theo Stair. In fairness to the visitors though, they came more into the game as the first half wore on and with a bit more luck could have gone in at half time level pegging.

More Seats & A Clubhouse
The second half was thirty minutes old before the second goal finally came, and it was Stair again who found the net. A third goal came in the 81st minute via Tom Ashton. It was difficult to argue with the outcome, but in fairness to Maine Road they battled hard and never threw in the towel.

The result saw Hanley move into seventh position in the league but with games in hand over the leaders. Five wins, a draw and a defeat is just the start to the season they would hope for, but can they compete with the likes of Runcorn Town who have won eleven from eleven? With the possibility of two sides getting promoted this season though, maybe finishing above Runcorn Linnets and Charnock Richard needs to be the aim.

Heavy rain persisted on the journey back over the tops into Ashbourne and back to Belper, a journey I have completed on countless occasions during my student days. As for Hanley Stanley, I’ve no idea what became of them, but the legacy lives on, I named my cat Stanley, not strictly as a tribute to the Potteries finest, but he was capable of inflicting pain when he wanted to!

Hanley Town however, a club on the up, watch this space……..

No Seats, Cover Or Clubhouse

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