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It was the first ever game for 1874 Northwich and how far they have come. From the red card protest against Jim Rushe who then had the nerve to wave a red card to his own supporters to here. The club that the people I met used to call theirs, Northwich Victoria were demoted from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League and the club are now playing at Valley Road Flixton in the Evo-Stik League Division One North from this season. This club no longer has any real link with Northwich and commanded an attendance of 83 when they played in Stafford last season. The fans had had enough, and come hell or high water they found a way.

Again, for a more detailed explanation go and visit twohundredpercent.net, which is a superior website in pretty much every way. My focus, although of course how it was formed did come up in discussion and is obviously mentioned, is on the here and now.

Now I had been planning to go and watch 1874 Northwich play AFC Rushden and Diamonds and hit two fan own clubs with one stone. Unfortunately, that game got postponed and I wanted to attend the first ever game so the day after watching AFC Telford the night before it was back on the trains to get to Lostock Gralam.

First problem was that I would miss the last train back so after sending out an SOS via twitter to see if anyone could let me crash some handy stranger told me how to get a train out at another station we were off. A quick and pleasant walk to the ground in what was perfect weather for a game of football and the obligatory pre match pint followed. After being pointed towards the group of Northwich fans I sat down and made my introduction. “Are you that lad from Shrewsbury?” was asked by a questioner kind enough to omit ‘the sad bastard’. “Yes, that’s me.”

“So you managed to get that train back sorted out?” After saying that I had thanks to some stranger on twitter helping I was told “I know you have, I’m the bloke who sent it.” The stranger in question was Mark Riding. Mark has been involved heavily since the start and is currently the I.T bloke at the club and on the day, with the help of others, had put a tidy program together. After sitting down with him the story followed a similar sad sorry tale which has been had around the country from Wrexham to Chester and down at Portsmouth. The difference here was that the way 1874 formed was by the official supporters trust at the other club (Northwich Victoria) voting to form a new trust and club.

This loophole I have been informed has been closed which prevents Supporters Direct from helping out Trusts in a similar way but 1874 got through and here we are. Supporters Direct were (and this is something you will probably here a lot of this season) unwavering in their guidance and support. However, it still needs the fans to make it happen. The praises were again sung for Andy Walsh at FC United and a variety of usual suspects who have helped 1874 out in the fight against modern football.

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Jim Rushe… This is what a **** looks like. Photo owned by: Paul Simpson

The questions went to how many fan owned clubs there are and me like a sad anorak reeling off a nice long list with a little bit of contention over Darlo who I thought were fan owned but have a different structure according to Mark… or something. It was all good pub talk anyway.

So “who was the guy who found the loophole?” I asked Mark before he ran off to get his dinner from the chippy over the road. “That’s Anthony, over there” pointed towards a man stood at the bar with his wife and kids. “Just don’t say to him it was a loophole, he’ll batter you.” With Marks advice ringing in my ears I went to say hi to Anthony, who then offered his house to stay at after having known me for about one minute. I found out what Mark meant about Anthony, namely the fact he looked like he could kill you with remarkable ease.

Anthony is an ex-soldier who when we were on the terraces (ok, the metal rails put around the field) informed me he was a pacifist, which was probably a development which happened after his service. He is also a genuinely decent person who went out of his way for me to arrange a lift back to Shrewsbury in the morning if I stayed at his house. When I told him there was a train that I could catch but was worried I won’t walk to it in time, he took it upon himself to drop me off.

Anyway, back to the football. After grabbing a chat with Anthony and heading into the ground (£3) there was a lot to be optimistic about. The match day program which Mark had done up (despite his Dad saying it wouldn’t sell) … had completely sold out and I didn’t even get a chance to buy one. Nor did a lot of other people and there was talk of doing a reprint for those who didn’t get one. Everyone I spoke to was commenting on the sheer amount of replica shirts that had been shifted. I had been told by Mark, Anthony and others stated that 1874 had shifted more shirts than a nearby Conference North team had in a couple of years.

The crowd wasn’t one man and his dog either. A rough figure of around three hundred has done the rounds on the forum with the vast majority being Northwich fans. Lostock Gralam had probably got the budget for their entire year paid for by one pre season game in mid- July. Plus the bar made a killing. I took my spot up on the rail just left of the goal 1874 were defending in the first half. Before kick off I spoke to more people around the ground and everyone had a story about their club.

There was noone who didn’t consider 1874 the true continuation of the old Northwich team and the numbers seem to support them. There were people who couldn’t see why people went to Stafford to watch the other team but had sympathy. Like a relationship which ended a long time ago, people still desperately cling to the past with a hope that it can go back to the way it was. It’s inevitably futile in 99% of cases but people at the ground understood why it was hard to let go.

The other challenge of course was “the race”. That being the need to get back to Northwich. With no chance of playing at the old ground and the need to develop their identity in Northwich, the clubs fans were aware that they need to get back there before the other team do first. Everyone is of course grateful for Winsford putting them up for the time being but the fact remains a ground in Northwich is going to be the number one priority in the near future, if it isn’t already.

Anyway, the game kicked off and less than three minutes in Lostock had scored… this was not supposed to happen. It was FC United vs Hednesford all over again. It wasn’t a massive setback but people had been stressing to me the need for the project to get off to a good start and get some positivity around the club. That meant winning games.

 We needn’t have worried, the players put a good shift in, in what were pretty tough conditions and eventually came out 3-1 winners with some decent play in periods. I could probably get the scorers but that wasn’t really the point of the day.

No disrespect is meant, but the night wasn’t about the players, it wasn’t about the manager. The names will be learnt and the chants developed, the bond between players and supporters will come in time. Since I have been anyway the players have got to taste a first piece of silverware and a front page on the Non-League paper after beating Rushden and Diamonds 3-0 for the Supporters Direct Shield.

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Silverware already!

No, the day was for people like Mark, who had spent time doing the programs and watch them all get snapped up. It was for Anthony who is responsible for the clubs motto which came from his old regiment. It was for the hundreds of others who saw their club stolen from them and they have fought long and hard to get it back. This was their reward, to see the team them love get back to doing what it should, playing football and representing them. The club is now truly theirs and no person, not even that (insert word here) Jim Rushe can take it away from them.

There were plenty of young faces at the ground to and as the club expands their reputation and reach, whilst undoubted doing as much to help the local community as possible, it will only make sure more people are bitten by the bug. It’s already started with Anthony telling me on the drive back that the club had already adopted a stretch of the river to clean up and regenerate.

On the drive to the station, I asked what Anthony hoped for from the season. “Mid table will do Ed.” That’s nonsense I told him, you should be able to get high up easy, promotion is a good possibility. Anthony laughed it off, keeping his feet very much on the ground. So as we parted ways at the station I told him I’d see him again this season, when 1874 are a win away from promotion and popped onto the train back to Salop.

I’d had a great day and everyone I met was top class to a man. These people are what make football clubs a family, they are what makes football great. From helping me find my way there to even dropping me back off, going out of their way to make sure everyone who comes out to support the club is taken care of. It wasn’t just me, I saw the chairmen do the rounds and he must of spoke to everyone in the ground just getting to know them, telling them they can get involved.

They have their own club; every supporter has a familiar family back with many new faces. They already have a club to be proud of. All they need to do now is to shout from the rooftops… 1874 Northwich: This is what real football looks like.

1874 Northwich are supporting Ciaran’s Cause this season and you can find out more here. http://ciaranscause.co.uk/home.html

Notes

Apparently, Anthony has informed me he was with his daughter and granddaughters. He does look young though… his daughter doesn’t look old. I have no intention of changing this because I know it gave Anthony a good laugh and he can always cheer himself up by looking at it.  Unless he/ his daughter/ granddaughters threaten me… they could probably all beat me up.

The top photo was taken from the Clubs website.

The photo of he who shall not be named was found via google with about six different people using it including the magpiewatch.co.uk , the football forum, Northwich Guardian, etc. The photo is the property of Paul Simpson so if he wants me to remove it he only has to ask.

The photo of the Direct Shield win is the property of 1874 Northwich and appears, unsurprising, on the Supporters Direct website. Who are awesome people. Links below.

Links

http://twohundredpercent.net/?p=21175 (A fresh start for 1874 Northwich from 200%, which you should all read… all the time.)

http://www.supporters-direct.org/ (Awesome people)

http://www.1874northwich.com/

http://www.northwichguardian.co.uk/news/10567380.Fruit_free_for_all_thanks_to_Rudheath_and_Witton_volunteers/ (Link to some of the good work that Anthony Rodgers and the 1874 Projects team have got stuck into.)

1874 Northwich are supporting Ciaran’s Cause this season and you can find out more here. http://ciaranscause.co.uk/home.html

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