Sunday, 7 January 2018

In Safe Hands

West Horton  3  TVR United  2

West Riding County Amateur League – First Division

Not only did Akeel Mahmood respond promptly to the question as to whether West Horton’s game was on, he also invited me to join them after the game in a nearby pub for refreshments.

That told me everything I needed to know at 9.30am on a Saturday morning when the elements had once again cast doubt over the football fixture calendar. I was going to West Horton, end of!

I was reasonably confident the game would be happening with West Horton playing on the 3G at Bradford University, but it’s always worth checking that no curve balls have been thrown into the equation, such as teams struggling to raise a side, or last minute changes of venue, factors that have both caught me out in the past.

No, my mind was now made up, Akeel had convinced me that today was going to be the day when I polished off all of the grounds in the West Riding County Amateur League, for this season at least.

Bradford University Looms Large
I’m well versed with the non-league venues of Bradford, courtesy of the aforementioned league, in fact I can think of at least four artificial pitches off the top of my head that I’ve seen games at within the city boundaries. Other than the ring road being a bit of a bind, I love going to ‘Bratfut’ for football. You can typically find a decent boozer, the multi-cultural nature adds to the vibe of the area while some of the urban scenery is tremendous, if you like that kind of thing, which I do. There’s nothing better than watching football with a dark satanic mill, or indeed a huge Mosque as a backdrop.

One of the most comical things ever to happen to me at a football match, happened in Bradford, but at the time, it was far from funny. I went to Thornton United to watch them play Lower Hopton Reserves, it was my second attempt to watch a game on the 3G at Thornton following a previous visit where it had been called off due to snow on the surface.

The game was late kicking off, and to be fair we were lucky it kicked off at all, due to the visitors claiming to have insufficient players to start the game. It transpired that two or three were hiding in a car in the car park, they wanted the game called off basically, so tried to pull a fast. A couple of us got wind of this and decided to take matters into our own hands, we approached the players, explained that we’d come a long way to watch the game, and suggested they did the decent thing and got changed. It worked, we had a game.

Anyway, it absolutely smashed it down with rain, so much so nearby Bradford City’s game was called off. I had no umbrella, there was no cover, and by half time I was as wet as could possibly be imagined. I had this bright idea of having a wander outside the cage to get to my car, the trouble is I had inappropriate footwear on, and when I hit a patch of mud it was game over. Both legs went from underneath me, and I finished up lay flat on my back in a six inch deep puddle of mud.

To suggest I looked like the swamp creature from the blue lagoon was an understatement, but with forty five minutes of football still to play, I had to simply grin and bear it, and then worry about the drive home.

Thornton won the game 8-1, the referee blew early by about fifteen minutes, the visitors had given up at this stage and had ceased to try, he saw no point in prolonging the agony, and with the rain only getting heavier it seemed pointless carrying on.

No Swamps At West Horton
I had a problem, if I was to drive home in the state I was in, two things would happen. I would have to pay a fortune to get the car deep cleaned, and I was probably going to catch pneumonia. So, I had a plan, I climbed into the back seat (it was dark by now and the windows were steaming up), and proceeded to strip off. I had in the back of the car my fancy dress costume for our Christmas Party, it was the soldier from the Village People! So, with just a camouflaged jacket on my upper body, and some combat trousers on my lower half, I was clean-ish, and reasonably dry. I slipped on my sodden footwear, minus socks, and decided to go for it.

Now then, picture the scene, it’s tea time in inner city Bradford, the roads are busy, and as I’ve said the ring road is not the easiest of journey’s and there was me driving around looking like Norman Schwarzkopf. Did I get some strange looks? What do you think? None more so than when I got the call on the way back to ask if I would nip into Tesco, and by the stage to be honest I’d lost the will to live so walking into a supermarket looking like someone who had escaped from an institution was the least of my concerns.
The clothes got thrown into the washing machine and shivering, I got into the bath and reflected on a somewhat traumatic afternoon.

No such problems today though, arriving early I parked up and had a wander to the pub over the road. I’d had to decline Akeel’s invite as I needed to get back after the game, but thought I’d sample it anyway. The Westleigh was a good boozer, and provided some sustenance pre-match.

The Magnificent Mosque
West Horton used to play at Myra Shay, a ground I’ve seen Albion Sports play on, but this season they’ve moved to the Bradford University Sports Centre in Little Horton Green. Located just to the South West of the City Centre, it’s a mere stones thrown from the Park Avenue cricket ground, the former home of Bradford Park Avenue in their Football League days.

Sat just behind the Sports Centre is the magnificent Al-Jamia Suffa-Tul-Islam Grand Mosque, a truly spectacular building, and on another day, somewhere I wouldn’t have minded taking a closer look at.

As for the game, both sides are Bradford based and it became apparent that many of the players knew each other. Both sides also sat in mid table positions in what is the lower of the two divisions in the West Riding League, so it was effectively Step 8 football.

West Horton won the game 3-2. Two second half goals sealed the victory, the third goal being an absolute peach of a free kick from outside the penalty area. TVR after going a goal down early in the game, battled back well and actually took the lead early in the second half, but the hosts had the edge in terms of attacking quality.

Blue Skies Over Bradford
TVR threw men forward in the closing minutes, hitting the woodwork and seeing shots go high and wide, but in the end the honours went to West Horton, who avenged a 6-1 thrashing at TVR earlier in the season.

It had been a very enjoyable game, always engaging and played in a very good spirit. What I’m finding is that sides who play regularly on artificial surfaces do play some excellent football, and this was certainly the case with West Horton.

I didn’t get chance to catch up with Akeel at the game, he may well have been a player or indeed a member of the management team, but with genuine and helpful people like him representing local football clubs, then the future of the game is in good hands.

I wish them well, and for anyone who needs a port in a storm on a bad weather day, you could do an awful lot worse than pay West Horton a visit.

It's Not Gridiron - Honestly!

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