Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The Two Towers

It must have been November last year when a picture of Ravenhill Park, home of Sunday league team Brereton Town FC popped up on Twitter. Since 'getting into football' a couple of years ago, I had always wanted to watch a football match with cooling towers as a backdrop, because for some reason I have an affinity towards them: so far I have visited nine across the UK. Not that I'm counting. The closest I have come was this cricket match back in 2018 at Ferrybridge:

Despite saying that, I had actually watched a game where a singular cooling tower was visible in the shape of Bedford Terrace (Billingham), where I saw Middlesborough Ladies play early last year:

...But since seeing the images where the Rugeley towers were up close and pretty personal, the research began and the desperation to attend a game at the ground was inherent. As luck would have it, I found that there were actually two grounds in Rugeley, both of which you can get a good view of the towers from. Was this too good to be true? Apparently it wasn't.

As well as a Saturday team (Brereton Social FC) who play at The Red Lion Ground, it also plays host to Sunday league matches. This was the more favourable option, as with shorter days in the winter combined with my wanting to visit as soon as possible, a morning game would provide the best light for the whole 90 minutes: perfect for photographs.

After a failed attempt one week, we made the what seemed like a weekly pilgrimage down to the ground on the 22nd December for the Staffordshire (Sunday League) Premier Cup Quarter Final between Brereton Lion and Greenhoffs. When we pulled up and saw cars in the car park, to say I was ecstatic was somewhat an understatement! There had been heavy rain during the week, so with the match being 'on', it was such a relief.

The ground was a modest affair, boasting a small seated stand and a good sized social club. Around all four sides (albeit overgrown) hard standing, with a dilapidated red rail separating the pitch from the spectators. At one goal end there was a raised bank, which gave a good view of the game and of course, the cooling towers.

I was pleased that we visited in the winter, not because I enjoy the cold (quite the opposite), but because if it was summer the leaves on the trees would have obscured the view of the power station. You could also see The Red Lion pub on one side of the ground, along with an aesthetic row of houses situated behind the social club/ changing rooms.

As only our second taste of Sunday league at the time, we didn't quite know what to expect, though this match wasn't short of a two footed tackle or few.

It was exactly three weeks after, that we set off again at 8.30am on Sunday to visit the aforementioned Ravenhill Park. This ground is pretty much just 'across the road' from the towers, though separated by an out of place Amazon building, blocking off the bottom half of the towers. I'm sure preserving a Sunday league ground view of what most would describe an eyesore wasn't one of the contractors priorities whilst erecting said building, but a few hundred yards to either side would have been favourable...

The ground didn't have a stand, but that didn't matter because the cooling towers provided a perfect focal point. It too had a social club at one end, with a section of covered standing which came in handy at various points throughout our visit.

The ground had an oval gravel track around it, offering some hard standing for those who wanted it, though at each end was grass. The pitch was fully railed off. The ground was situated in a public park, where there is one of those outdoor gyms at one end and the ground was hemmed in by some picturesque trees. Even without the towers, it would have been a lovely little ground.

We couldn't quite believe it when the double rainbow appeared: I'm not sure cooling towers are everybody's cup of tea or pot of gold for that matter, but for us they definitely are and it made our visit all the more special.

Unfortunately the towers are set to be demolished at some point during this year (timescale currently unknown), so if either ground takes your fancy and have not already visited, then now is the time to do so. Check the Cannock Chase Sunday League for fixtures for both teams.

You can view my photographs from The Red Lion Ground by clicking here and images from Ravenhill Park if you click here.

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