Saturday 6th July 2013
Ridiculously Early Pre Season Friendly
RADCLIFFE BOROUGH 1 BURY 2
Tea Hut Stuff: Too hot for burgers and the like
Weather: Scorchio, hotter than The Med
Parking: Nearby side street 2 minutes away
Apparently, Boro play Bury every pre season. This was my initiation to this local custom so bear with me if you're a Stainton Park regular. Summer had made an appearance in the North West of England for the first time since 1992. Your traditional pre season friendly expert would argue that any game taking place as early as July 6th would undoubtably be crap, full of 16 year old hopers and out of contract beer bellies, but what the hell, it was too nice a day to stay indoors or suffer press-ganged manual labour in that bloody back garden again. To be fair the Radcliffe v Bury fixture read pretty good on paper, the non league side have a respected profile in the Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North and the Stainton Park stadium has good viewing facilities for both standing and seating, when you add the fact that Bury FC nearly went bust last season, tumbled out of Division 1 in relegation, off loaded nearly the whole squad only to receive last minute vital investment from a new Chairman (Mr Day) who in turn promoted new optimism in the town, drove season ticket sales forward and then gave Manager Kevin Blackwell the go ahead to assemble a brand new playing staff with an emphasis on cost effective 'quality', you end up with a team the public want to watch. A result made evident by the fact that around 900 people packed into the ground and without being disrespectful to Radcliffe most of them had come along to see the new 'Bury'. My drive down off the Pennines took the Match Tank west along the M62 before taking a right through the Greater Manchester suburb of Whitefield. Bit different since the last I came through here. All fancy dan al fresco french & italian restaurants with women with big hair swigging over priced white wine. Nice to reach 'back to reality' Radcliffe with the singular comfortable expectations of a downtown Asda populated by people in out of date Premier League shirts. I only stopped for diesel at 135.9. I reached Stainton Park at 2pm, twitter feeds said 'get there early'. True enough the car park was full to bursting, I got the Match Tank down a nearby side street without any trouble. Already lots of Bury fans were entering the ground with that 'I'm going to the Bar' look. Sure enough they did, I've never seen so may pints supped since attending a 'Saturday' Test Match at Old Trafford. The takings must have gone through the roof. Food was a non starter for me, the weather was simply too warm to be enticed by the subcontract burger van parked up beside the clubhouse and the covered paddock. Still, it was pleasing to see some Bury grease-monsters going hell for leather on spam and egg muffins, one bloke had the yoke sliding down his replica shirt. Perhaps another day I might have some of that too?
Stainton Park is a really decent little ground, there is an excellent all seater covered stand behind one end which offers really good views of the action. The opposite end has an open banked terrace behind the nets which was proving very popular with the unusual weather on offer.
One touchline is part clubhouse and part covered terrace standing, the other side is again terraced but open to the elements, this is where I planned to watch the game but I soon realised it was simply a sun trap and far too hot for the full afternoon. I beat a retreat to the covered (and shaded) seated stand behind the goals. I got a good seat but unfortunately a gang of young kids arrived just before kick off (obviously high on fizzy pop and multi-coloured sweets) to start banging the metal sheeting of the stand and chanting copied songs they'd seen on Match of the Day highlights. Ok for 10 minutes, I had to endure the little bastards for the entire first half (or move to an obstructed view). Kick off seemed to take an age to arrive, out came the teams, Radcliffe in a nice Chelsea style blue number, Bury in a charismatic all yellow design. For any kit-statistic fanatics out there its worth mentioning that for some reason Radcliffe turned out in the second half in a Liverpool style all red kit (ditching the blue)? I think this is the away kit. As both team line ups changed almost completely at half time perhaps they ran out of blue kits forcing the use of the away kit (whatever).
From my neutral status I reckoned Radcliffe were the better team in the first half and deserved a superbly worked 24th minute opening goal from Bradley Robinson. It appeared the Bury starting 11 looked a bit nervous and lacked cohesion, Radcliffe seemed to be out-passing them! All credit to the non league side. I got the impression I was sat amongst a huddle of Bury season ticket holders, they weren't too impressed to say the least, a couple of soundbites featured "I want my 200 quid back" alongside "This is the same shyte as last season". Doesn't appear Manager Blackwell will receive much patience in the coming months (even weeks)? 1-0 to Radcliffe at half time.
I opted for sun stroke rather than suffer the noisy kids in the second half and took up a number of positions down the crowded open terrace alongside the touchline. As mentioned, almost completely new teams appeared for the second half. Seemed like most of the Bury side were trialists looking for a potential contract? Fact is, this second half line up played miles better football than the other lot. Radcliffe never got to dominate and were forced back by some entertaining football. Bury got back on terms with a Shaun Harrad strike before Richard Hines headed home the winner, full time 1-2 to Bury. The visiting supporters appeared much more happy with the second half showing and surely it will give Kevin Blackwell some scope to further establish a competent squad for the Division 2 campaign. This game will have given Radcliffe a decent financial boost at the beginning of the season, a really good turn out from the public and some mega bar takings to compliment it. The match was enjoyable enough for such an early start to the season but I'm sick to death of all this bloody hot weather!