The Third Summer Of Aargh!

Back in the dim and distant days of early last August I made a wish-list for the upcoming football season:

1) To have a bit of a run in one of the cups
2) To go more than four games unbeaten for the first time in years.
3) To avoid relegation

The first two items on the list were crossed off reasonably early while the third, despite a week or two of worry around February, was settled much earlier than it was the season before.

If I'd limited the list to just three things then it would have been a clean sweep. However it wasn't because I'd been silly enough to add a fourth:

4) Avoid a summer of turmoil where there's only rumour and no news.

I mean, what were the chances of that ever not happening?

After two successive summers of upheaval off the pitch it appears we're heading for a third. I say appears because all we have to go on at the moment is a raft of rumours, none of which make for happy reading for a Mossley supporter.

Any neutrals reading this will undoubtedly be wondering why Lilywhites are mithering over gossip and tittle-tattle. Well there are two reasons.

The first being that despite the troubling nature to the rumours there's nothing in response coming from the club. No news at all. About anything. The second is they worryingly seem to have a great deal of substance to them. It all began when a supporter mentioned they'd heard the clubs Presentation Night had been cancelled. A few days later the club announced that it had indeed been called off due to circumstances.

That's where the trickle of real information ends though.

This was followed by the rumour that the Commercial Manager was leaving. He is but officially - nothing. Then came the story that the Chairman had quit. Again this has apparently turned out to be true and again, no word officially from the club despite it being a relatively important development.

Similarly you'd assume the departure of the club secretary would be worthy of a mention in dispatches but no. That another man had gone from the top was only discovered when I looked at the clubs entry on the Company House website. Which coincidentally is also the same site I went to a day later to find out that we'd appointed a new secretary. You won't be surprised to hear that it's an arrival that hasn't been announced officially yet.

Frankly I've no idea why I'm acting so surprised at all the secrecy because it's the Mossley way. It's been the M.O. of the club for so long that we should be having harsh words with ourselves for expecting anything different. But is it really too much to ask for a bit of information?

I don't expect the club to comment on every rumour that starts doing the rounds but when some whispers suggest that the club is teetering on the brink of an abyss, surely some kind of response would be wise - even if it's only a curt yes or no.

Crowds dropped significantly last season and they'll continue to drop if those that still bother to come are treated like mushrooms. If there's a will to halt that trend it's got to start by telling those who still turn up what's going on because once you start losing what's left of the hardcore support you might as well start rustling up some closed signs to hang on the gates.

Not only that but the longer rumours continue to circulate the more damage they can do if they're false, so it's surely in the best interests of the club to try and put and end to them.

So please, just tell us something. Even if it's bad it's better than the information vacuum we're currently in.

Alternate Revenue Streams

As you may or may not be aware (if not, follow this link) Woodley Sports have what could be a severe financial crisis looming on the horizon.

With monies owed to them by Stockport County not looking like being forthcoming any time... ever, the future of the club is in some doubt.

However, it looks as though they've discovered other revenue streams to explore and bolster funds:

Of course it's nothing to do with the Stockport based club but you knew that didn't you?

I mean it's not hard to tell: no club logo, it's not football related, the grass looks more realistic than what's at Lambeth Grove and the terracing has three people on it.

Chip Wrappers: 16/05/2009

As it's that exam time of the year...

Question: Using only this weeks local newspapers, give an example of the phrase 'spoke to soon'.


Wednesday - Tameside Advertiser

Thursday - Tameside Reporter

Conclusion: What a difference a day makes.

Runcorn Linnets 0 - 2 New Mills

Almost ten months after it began with a friendly against Stalybridge Celtic at Seel Park, the 2008/09 season finally came to an end for Mossley80 with the Vodkat League Cup Final at the Tameside Stadium.

And I’m not ashamed to say that a tear was shed. Not one wept through sadness I hasten to add but one of many emitted through laughter.

It may be rude to mock people trying their absolute best but it’s hard to stifle a giggle or a guffaw when you watch two players from the same side run 20 yards to pick up a loose and tackle each other. Or when you witness someone attempt to play a ten yard pass and stick the ball on the roof of the stand.

Even when someone tries to lump the ball down what passes for the pitch at Curzon and only succeeds in hoofing it backwards over their own head, it’s incredibly difficult to keep a straight face. Not that I'm complaining though. Far from it in fact as without the master class in the art of slapstick that was taking place at regular intervals, this would have just simply been a bad game.

Thankfully the ability to take a MST3K approach to watching the proceedings made the passage of time more enjoyable. Especially as the game was over as a contest before it was half an hour old; New Mills registering two goals through perseverance and a bit of help from some not especially clever defending.

To be fair to the Runcorn defence they were no worse than the rest of their side. I’m not saying the Linnet's were bad but... no, they were bad.

And with a midfield built around Nehru McKenzie (yes, that one) and Joel Pilkington, Clive Brown in defence and Barry Massey on the bench I'm stumped as to why that was the case (Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit but it's the easiest).

Their supporters deserved better really as their backing for the team never let up throughout the entire game and they continued their singing well beyond the final whistle. Not too dissimilar to a set of supporters at Boundary Park almost a fortnight earlier if I recall...

Apart from a twenty minute spell in the second half when Runcorn finally caused the Miller’s defence a bit of consternation, the High Peak side never looked in any danger of having the League Cup wrenched from their grasp.

Not unexpectedly for a team that had missed out on a far bigger prize two days earlier in Fylde, the celebrations at the final whistle were like Andy Gray’s commentary when I watch the football on Sky – muted.

There may have been a bit of a celebration when the trophy was presented but my presence was long gone by that time. And as I left a ground for the final time this season my thoughts weren't on the ups and downs that had made it what it was, or even about what the next could hold.

No. Instead they were occupied by the three games I'd seen over the previous ten days and the following question: football in the NWCL wasn’t this bad when Mossley were marooned there, was it?

AFC Fylde 5 - 0 New Mills

There are times during a football season when you wonder why you bother.

The latest outbreak of weariness, and possibly the last of the 08/09 campaign, came twenty minutes before the NWCFL title showdown between AFC Fylde and New Mills was due to start.

A light drizzle which had begun just as we'd reached the outskirts of Preston had turned into a heavy downpour by the time we reached junction three of the M55. Three miles into the middle of nowhere later, we were sat parked up in a field with a couple of hundred other cars in conditions not too dissimilar to those you'd expect to experience if you found yourself sat at the bottom of Lake Windermere.

With the ground appearing to offer little in the way of shelter from the conditions, some considerable thought was given to simply heading straight back home. As decision time neared though the clouds in the distance began to turn from dark gray to an off white and, with a whole summer to recover from the effects of pneumonia before the new season began, the choice was made to join the queue at the turnstiles and hope that it was better weather on the horizon. And thankfully it was. In fact the weather turned out to be a whole lot better then the match.

There was a bit of water on the pitch thanks to the pre-match torrent...

Don't let the score line at the top of this post fool you - it wasn't as one sided as it makes out. Until Fylde took the lead just before the interval with the first real moment of inventive football since the kick-off, New Mills had been the better side. This wasn't through any great skill on their part (hoofing the ball up the pitch doesn't require any) but they seemed more at ease, especially with things seemingly in their favour; the Millers only having to avoid defeat to win the league whle their opponents had to win to leapfrog them at the top of the table and claim the championship for themselves on goal difference.

... but it did get better, eventually.

And they remained the better of the two sides until Fylde added a second from the penalty spot. After that the men from High Peak simply fell apart and the home team added three more in quick succession; the fifth goal in particular being a highlight for Mossley fans with less than complimentary feelings towards Liam Higginbotham following his switch to New Mills.

If we didn't see a good game, we at least got to see what supporters could expect on their visit to Fylde next season and the answer isn't much.

It was said that Fylde simply took over a field to build the ground and it showed. There's a perimeter fence, a small all-seater stand that runs a third of the length of the pitch, a tiny boardroom, a tent that passes for a clubhouse, two dressing rooms that looked like POW huts and that's it.

Seriously, that's all there is at their Birley Arms ground apart from a P.A. announcer who could give the one at Skelmersdale a run for his money in the irritating stakes.

in all honesty, if it's fit for the Unibond North then those clubs in the league who've recently been forced into making improvements, despite having far better facilities, should demand an explanation from the graders.

Oh! I forgot to mention the pitch - a term I use in its loosest sense. Suffice to say that should the hallowed turf at Seel Park receive any uncomplimentary comments next season, the mere mention of the playing surface at Fylde should shut up any critics pretty damn sharpish.

On the plus side their fans were pretty decent though, at least the ones we could find amongst the crowd of 1217 were; the followings from either side dwarfed by the sheer numbers of neutrals in attendance. Besides Mossley fans there were people from Fleetwood, Blackpool, Bamber Bridge, Maine Road, the management from Woodley Sports to name but five of the many clubs represented.

So was it worth the long drive, getting drenched and standing in a biting wind? Probably not, no (even though it was nice when the sun came out) but it was a game of football to watch and with only one to go before a couple of months without any, it was better than nothing.

Besides, at least we know now how to get to Fylde's ground next year without the use of maps or sat navs.

New Mills 1 - 0 Ashton Athletic

While Mossley's season begins to gather the dust of history, other sides are still a couple of games away from completing theirs.

One such team is New Mills who are currently in a ding-dong battle with AFC Fylde for the NWCFL title and the promotion to the Unibond First Division that goes with it. So with the need to eke the season out as long as possible before the summer football drought begins, a few of us made the trip to the Miller's Church Lane ground to see them face Ashton Athletic and what could be, if results elsewhere went their way, a Championship winning game.

Well it seemed a good idea on paper. In reality though it was an afternoon spent wondering which other games you could have taken in instead.

My only previous experience of watching New Mills was when they played Mossley a couple of months ago in the semi-final of the Manchester Premier Cup and it's fair to say the impressions they left weren't good - both on the memory or the bodies of our players. In fact it's fair to say that some of our end of season problems with injuries can be traced back in part to this particular fixture and the Miller's overly physical approach.

And sadly it turns out that their performance in that game wasn't a one off, something Ashton Athletic will attest to after their number five was forced out of the game with a nasty looking facial injury*.

For a side facing a team with title aspirations, the visitors from Wigan weren't troubled too much during the course of the game. The keeper pulled off a couple of good saves but not nearly as many as you'd have expected given what was riding on the match and that was down to two reasons: Athletics extremely well marshalled defence and New Mills's total lack of creativity outside of lumping the ball up the pitch as far as possible.

I said after the first five minutes of the match that it was going to be a one goal game and so it proved. It came courtesy of a defensive error twelve minutes into the second period which gave Garry Kharas the opportunity of a clean run on Athletic's goal. Being the highly prized forward that he is (or was before he dropped three levels to sign for the High Peak side - money of course not being a factor in his decision), he completely fluffed the chance the presented to him but his soon to be elbow waving strike partner mopped up his mess by rolling the ball into the net.

Despite picking up the win, Fylde's victory at Bacup Borough means that the destination of the title boils down to a showdown between the two sides in Preston next week. It could be some game but I doubt it will be pretty.

As you'll have probably gathered by now I wasn't impressed at all by the Derbyshire side. The team Miller's manager Tony Hancock has assembled, and at reputedly some considerable cost too, looks nothing more than a very poor man's Wimbledon and while that's being kind, it's also the last thing the Unibond First Division North needs. Unless they can be shoehorned into the southern section...

It's not a form of snobbery at Step 5 football. I've seen Glossop North End a few times this season and they're a good side who play good football, New Mills don't. Then again they must have something about them to be challenging for the title but I sure as hell can't see what it is.

What's also galling is that after seeing and hearing about the hoops Mossley have to jump through to get a ground grading, New Mills' Church Lane ground is apparently fit for Unibond football despite making Seel Park look like Eastlands.

Such is the way that life plans out though that the next match on Mossley80's "don't let the season end" schedule is the NWCL Cup Final at Curzon on Tuesday between Runcorn Linnets and, yes, New Mills. Will it be third time 'lucky' in seeing an impressive Millers performance? My breath is not being held...

* The injury has turned out to be a fractured cheek bone. And in a twist beloved of American cop movies, the unfortunate recipient was just thirty minutes away from retiring from football.

Droylsden 2 - 1 Mossley

I have to start this report with a confession.

Being the pessimist that I am I went into this game fearing the worst. Not just that we'd lose but lose badly. No, strike that, I thought we'd get annihilated; that Woodbine Willie would be passing round the Lilywhites changing room before they came out on to the pitch.

My reasoning seemed sound. Not only were we facing a team from two divisions above us, and one that had narrowly missed out on a Conference North play-off, we were doing so after, the Rossendale match apart, what had been a poor run of results.

It was a feeling that intensified upon arrival at Boundary Park (the increasingly dilapidated home of Oldham Athletic) and we saw that we weren't just reduced to the bare bones in terms of squad size for the match, but that we were down to the marrow.

Like the fans at Oldham Athletic, the stands are disappearing too.

Ideally for a match, let alone a cup final, any manager would like a large, fit squad to choose his starting eleven from. However, the result of having to cram over half a season's worth of games into the final two months of it meant that injuries, suspensions and ineligibilities had taken their toll, leaving Chris Wilcock with just 13 players to select from - with one of those being his long since retired self. And if only to compound the problems, there were a significant number of that baker's dozen carrying injuries too.

Now can you see why I expected us to be rolled over.

We weren't though. Far from it. In fact if anything it was something a moral victory for the Lilywhites as even though they lost, the side ravaged by all manner of circumstances took the outcome of the match against an expensively assembled side on the fringes of the Conference to the very final whistle.

In the end the only real difference between the two sides was a ten minute spell immediately after the interval. Mossley's season long problems of defending corners and slow starts to second periods combined to haunt them again as Mike Byron rose unmarked on the edge of the six yard box to open the scoring and put the Bloods in front.

James Mann was then called on to make a string of high quality saves as the Blue Square North side built up a head of steam. He was beaten again though a few minutes later with a shot that even keepers playing at an international level would have failed to stop - a ferocious strike from twenty five yards by Neil Sorvel that doubled Droylsden's lead.

It all seemed incredibly harsh on a Mossley side that had gone off at the break having not only matched Droylsden but also having arguably been the better of the two sides as well.

In terms of chances created Mossley were certainly ahead on points. While maybe not enjoying quite as much possession as Droylsden were, the Lilywhites were proving far more effective at turning what they had of it into efforts on goal.

They also found the back of it with the games first shot in anger in the 4th minute. Unfortunately for them though Lee Blackshaw's ball behind the Droylsden defence had found Danny Egan and his celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee's raised flag.

Next to try his luck was Blackshaw himself who fired over the crossbar from the edge of the box while Reece Kelly hit it with an in-swinging corner. Daryl Weston and Chris Hirst tested Craig mawson on more than one occasion and Byron did well to scoop the ball over his own goal to Egan from getting on the end Ben Richardson's cross.

The Bloods on the other hand, while stringing some nice moves together, were struggling to break down the Mossley defence. Only once did they come close to scoring and it took a good save from Mann to stop Matthew Tipton from doing so.

But then came that spell at the start of the second period and just when it looked as though the floodgates were beginning to open, Mossley simply rolled up their metaphorical socks and began to take the game to their opponents once more.

For all the pressure they were exerting though Mawson was having an easy time of it in the Droylsden goal but that changed when Brown's ridiculously inept attempt at mopping up a Mossley attack saw him spoon the ball over his own keeper's head and into the net from the edge of the box. Another moment of quality brought to the masses by the Blue Square Conference North.

As well as halving the arrears the goal gave Mossley another boost and suddenly Mawson was having to do more than mop up the occasional back pass. Michael Fish went close on three occasions to levelling the game, Kelly fired over and Blackshaw found the keepers arms with a low drive.

As the game moved towards to time added on it looked as though Mossley had snatched what would have been a dramatic, yet deserved, late equaliser. Lee Blackshaw's free-kick was met on the back post by Ben Richardson who steered the ball past Mawsonwith his head and into the net. For the second time in the match though the jubilations both on and off the pitch were brought to an abrupt halt by a raised flag.

It turned out to be Mossley's last hurrah too as Droylsden wound the game down and reclaimed the trophy they last won in 2007.

Continuing with the theme of admission, writing this report has felt a lot like fighting a losing battle because no matter how much I type or how long it has taken me, I could never do justice to the efforts of the players and supporters of Mossley AFC during this game.

Okay, looking back on it in the cold light of day it probably wasn't the greatest match there's ever been. It was entertaining though which is all you can ever ask for in a cup final. And the two don't go hand in hand a lot these days.

In fact it was the only thing stopping the night from being the most intense feeling of deja vu I've ever experienced. That was because the last time Mossley reached the final stage of the Manchester Premier Cup it was against Droylsden, at Boundary Park, the pitch was bad, it finished 2-1 to the Bloods and Mossley's goal came courtesy of the boot of an opponent. The only difference nine years on was that the match wasn't akin to having someone rip out your finger nails while being serenaded by Chris De Burgh.

But back to this game and the players and supporters because even though we lost it didn't feel like a defeat. At least not from my position in the stand it didn't anyway. There wasn't the sense of gloom I normally feel when I've watched us lose a more meaningful than usual game but one of absolute and total pride. Yes, pride.

A pride that comes through having watched your side give their absolute all in attempt to win the match, to the point where they're visibly out on their feet. A pride that comes through standing shoulder to shoulder with supporters doing likewise on the sidelines, refusing to let their increasingly sore throats stop them from giving their side that extra push that may have made the difference.

It's the abiding memory I shall take from this game anyway. The commitment, the atmosphere (kudos to the fans of the “club behind the pub” for their part in it), the whole kit and kaboodle really. From the moment the PA announcer welcomed the supporters of 'Drossley' to the game, right through to the echoes of “Come on Mossley” reverberating around Boundary Park as the teams left the field for the final time...

It was an honour and a privilege to have been there shoulder to shoulder with you.