So my lack of writing on here in recent months has coincided with a new scouting role (you can now keep tabs on my moans and groans more frequently at theheadscout.com) which has meant travelling up and down the country to some of football’s lesser known venues, as well as a few old favourites which you may have heard of, whilst on my journey from club to club, mostly in English football’s non-league pyramid, I have been snap happy, trying to capture my moment and I wanted to share some of these stunning venues below, see it as some sort of 2022 review in football.
From the National League to Women’s Super League, FA Cup to FA Trophy, my journeys from the start of the season, in pictures, begin below…
It all started in September when I was asked to scout Republic of Ireland U19’s v Gibraltar U19’s at Denbigh Town FC in North Wales. A stunning local set up with a fantastic pitch. In the end the boys in green were comprehensive 6-0 winners thanks largely to a Mark O’Mahony hat-trick.
A few days later I was asked to go to Alfreton Town in Derbyshire where I watched the home side take on Peterborough Sports at the Impact Arena. A feisty full bodied game ended 2-2 with a late leveller ensuring spoils were shared in the National League North.
On more familiar territory in October where I watched Notts County take on Altrincham in the National League. Top of the table with a free scoring striker the Magpies won 3-1 thanks to a brace from their hot shot in attack, Macaulay Langstaff.
Back in Derbyshire I visited the idyllic Ilkeston Town home which is called the New Manor Ground, the Robins hosting St Ives Town in the Southern Central League Premier Division with the away side from Cambridgeshire coming away with all three points, an entertaining match ending 3-2 to the visitors despite goals for Ilkeston from ex-Forest stars Chris O’Grady & Jamie Ward.
An old stomping ground of mine from my coaching days is Nanpantan Sports Ground the home of Loughborough Dynamo’s who I watched face Worksop Town in the FA Trophy. Magnificent pitch blessed in sun the away side coming from behind to go through in what was a thrilling game of football between two step four outfits.
Another place I’ve frequented many times, and played on several occasions is Basford United’s Greenwich Avenue Ground which played host to a Southern Premier League Central Division match between the hosts and Hednesford Town. A cold horrible snappy midweek encounter was a lacklustre affair, heading for nil-nil until the home side scored a last minute winner courtesy of a huge deflection.
A week later I was back watching Hednesford this time playing at their home venue of Keys Park in Staffordshire as they took on Tamworth in a bottom of the table v top of the table clash which was won by the away side thanks to a second half strike by Danny Creaney. Unlike the previous week, Leroy Lita wasn’t in the Pics line-up after suffering an injury the previous weekend.
Arguably the nicest non-league venue I’ve had the privilege to visit recently was at York City, their community stadium playing host to a National League match between the Minster Men and Chesterfield with the away side taking an early lead through Jeff King before Mitch Hancox levelled to send a packed house on the night, into raptures.
Back in the Southern League Central Premier Division I headed to Leicestershire and the sleepy village of Barwell to see the home side beat Stratford Town 2-1 at their Kirkby Road Ground. It was my first viewing of both sides with both playing some really attractive football on an artificial surface.
In November I headed to Boston United and their fabulous new Jakemans Stadium for the first time. I have since been back on a couple of occasions and can swear by the pie, chips and gravy they do, the football on the night weren’t the best as the Pilgrims beat Alfreton Town 1-0 but the modern three sided arena (one end still to be finished) is a very pleasant looking place.
Two firsts for me in covering my first women’s club game I also visited the impressive Loughborough University Stadium for the first time as Loughborough Lightning faced Sheffield FC in the women’s FA Cup first round. A 5-0 win for the home side which I enjoyed so much, I went back to watch them against Stoke City Ladies in the second round, unfortunately that time Loughborough fell short.
A real favourite trip of mine was to this cult venue at Banbury United, the Spencer Stadium apparently their home since 1931 and I doubt not much has changed over the last fifty or so years. This National League North game against Bradford Park Avenue was far from a classic but a real good atmosphere built up by the home fans helped their side to a late single goal win. Jay Williams scoring an 89th minute winner.
The biggest stadium of my scouting missions was the Leicester City Stadium, sponsored by King Power, where I watched Leicester Women take on Chelsea Women in a one sided affair that ended 8-0 to Chelsea. Some incredible talent in the Chelsea team including Frank Kirby, Millie Bright and Beth England, although Norwegian international Guro Reiten was star of the show with a goal and four assists.
A day after Leicester v Chelsea in the WSL I was sent to Coventry where I watched a women’s Championship match between Coventry United and Sunderland at Butts Park Arena. It was bottom of the table verses second bottom with Sunderland, comprehensively beating their hosts 5-0 to leave United rooted to the foot of English football’s second tier.
One of my final scouting missions of the year came at Coalville Town who I had earlier seen knock Notts County out of the FA Cup in dramatic style. The Ravens hosted Nuneaton Borough at their Owen Street Sports Ground in a Southern League Central Premier Division game that ended 2-0 to the away side, both still going for promotion in 2023.
I’ll be keeping you up to date with my journeys through football, remember to head over to theheadscout.com for regular updates on all the games I visit in my new blog.