Station View (Harrogate Railway Athletic)

My trip to Harrogate last week was, I have to be honest, not really comedy related. As I’d driven straight past the CNG Stadium the week before I don’t count it as cheating, but I should point out that the reason I returned to Harrogate was for Station View.

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I’ve been following the FA Cup this year from the very beginning for a project over at cuprunnings.com, which meant I was in town for Harrogate Railway Athletic vs West Auckland Town.

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My first impressions of Station View were good, very good. A lot of effort and care seems to have gone into making sure it’s a tidy little ground, yet it maintains enough old-school charm and character to win anyone over.

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Their biggest stand, weirdly, is behind one of the goals, a set up I can only ever remember at The Glebe, home of Whickham FC. They do have a smaller stand running behind the two dugouts, but it’s far smaller. It wins points for looking like it’s been wheeled in and could be wheeled back out at any point though.

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The pitch itself is on a quite ridiculous slope from left to right, rather than end to end, which is both weird and delightful, if a little annoying to play on. I was allowed on the pitch and despite it being wonky, it was a beautiful surface.

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We had the pleasure of being invited into the directors’ facilities at half time in the adjoining clubhouse, which has a wonderful view of the entire ground. The little balcony there is a wonderful feature and the tour of the dressing rooms downstairs was also very much welcome.

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All in all there’s not a lot to say about Station View. It’s a small non-league ground, but it’s well looked after, oozes charm and has some nice people working there.

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Compared to my quick in and out of their neighbours last week, this was an absolute pleasure.

 

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The CNG Stadium (Harrogate Town)

There was a point where I thought The CNG Stadium (formerly Wetherby Road) was going to prove elusive, but thankfully I managed to sneak a quick visit in on an unrelated trip to the beautiful Yorkshire spa town.

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I’d driven past the home of Harrogate Town FC a week earlier on my way to play the beautiful Harrogate Theatre, however due to running horrendously late I thought it’d be taking the mick to arrive after the gig had started with nothing but apologies and photographs of my latest trophy. Sometimes less is more.

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It was with some relief then that I ended up at their neighbours’ Harrogate Railway just seven days later and was able to make the detour. We got there with the ground padlocked, but with a club official unlocking it to leave. Cheekily I decided to ask if I could pop in a minute to take a couple of photos.

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I was informed what a pain and inconvenience this would be, but given permission to run into one corner of the ground, take ten seconds worth of photos then get the hell out. I duly did.

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There’s not a lot can be said about The CNG. Town themselves have had a lot of money invested in them and the ground is very new and smart but slightly devoid of character. We’ll cover their neighbours in a future edition but it’s safe to say their sloping pitch and run down stands warm the heart more than a billiard table with freshly painted off-the-shelf stands.

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There is the slight saving grace of a covered terrace which I’m praying is more popular than the seated stand opposite, although that touch line having two separate stands is a redeeming feature. Still, the brand spanking new paint around the sponsor-clad terrace made it look suspiciously corporate for my liking.

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Even more annoyingly, as we got in the car to drive home, was the other end of the stadium. Having been chastised and told off and had fingers wagged for wanting to run in, the opposite end of the ground was still open for fans drinking in the clubhouse, meaning we could just walk in that end and get any extra photos that we needed anyway!

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A nice ground, very smart for this level, but one weird club official left me a little cold towards it.

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Palmerston Park (Queen Of The South)

Like many of my visits, Queen Of The South is a name that evokes a certain element of romance in football fans. If anything, I dread the day when all I have left are the Wigans and the Hulls.

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I’m no expert in the history of QOTS, in fact, I dare say there’s not much. Certainly not that would trouble your average football fan, but its name is something quite majestic and Palmerston Park is a fitting home.

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Based in the Scottish town of Dumfries, I visited Palmerston on a hot summer day ahead of the new season starting to a scene of carnage. There was rubble everywhere, bulldozers, yet the ground appeared to have all four stands still remaining. Oh and one of the weirdest bits of PC gone mad for disabled supporters.

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A little bit of research afterwards revealed that the pitch is in the middle of being dug up and replaced with an artificial playing surface, which saddens me greatly. Much like referees and the argument over video technology, muddy unplayable pitches are one of the backbones of the game. I don’t want something flawless deciding the outcome – I want luck and chance to even things out.

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The ground itself is pleasant though. A bizarre mural is painted outside one of the terraces, with various club icons appearing as puffs as smoke coming from a train. As someone who loves railways as much as soccer, this was the sort of nonsense I lapped up.

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Also on the mural was the weird sight of a seagull nicking someone’s pint and an aeroplane that I’m almost certain played no part in the club’s history. Nevertheless, it’s a lovely piece of artwork that makes it stand out as somewhere that’s loved by a lot of people. Oh, they also have one of the scariest looking ticket offices ever.

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But stand wise, it’s awesome. All relatively old school, all look like they could be intimidating monsters on a cold wet night when full, but absolutely beautiful when bathed in summer sunshine.

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After my recent exploits I’m sure I might have been able to pop in for a walkabout, but with so many bulldozers and the place looking like a building site, I didn’t fancy taking my chances.

Oh and yes, I did call it soccer a couple of paragraphs ago. Get over it.

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Bower Fold (Stalybridge Celtic)

A trip to Stalybridge gave me the chance to tick another ground off my list, and I have to say Bower Fold scores favourably.

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Initial impressions weren’t great. It’s not well signposted and even the ground’s entrance is slightly overshadowed by signs for the gym built in the club’s car park.

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There’s also an Indian restaurant built into the main stand. Although you wonder what sort of corporate money-grabbing monster Stalybridge might be, you also realise that this is a non-league club making sure it’s making the most out of available revenue streams. Besides, they’ve got a bloody curry house IN their ground!

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The stadium itself is very, very tidy. Four reasonably new stands, all in seemingly great nick and generally spotless. And surrounded by greenery and hills. If the game gets dull the view won’t! It has old school charm but isn’t run down.

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Of course there’s some nonsense. Despite four beautiful stands, there’s a clubhouse with paint peeling off the side of it. Someone’s also had the daft idea of advertising the next game outside of the ground. By which I mean, once you pull off the main road and into the club car park, opposite the main entrance. If you’ve managed to get that far the odds are you’re there for the game anyway! That feels like a minor gripe though, considering how impressed I was with the rest of the ground.

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Bower Field is almost too perfect, you want something slightly more run down, or jaded. And with all the corporate nonsense going on you wonder what’s going on behind the scenes. Money-grabbing maniac at the helm or someone who absolutely totally loves their club, to the point of having a spotless home for it? I suspect with it being (I think) the only ground so far home to a blue plaque (Hibs had their own green one but that’s cheating), that this might just be a home full of love and care.

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I’m being cautious to not go over the top, but Bower Field definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

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