Farsley Celtic have become my second team. Naturally Stoke City are at the forefront of my footballing passions, but when my fellow Leeds Stokie friend Paddy moved to Farsley a few years ago we started to occasionally attend matches at the wonderfully named Throstle Nest. I rather enjoy standing on a terrace and listening to the comic banter of disgruntled Yorkshiremen, it’s not that disimilar to my days on the Boothen End at the old and sadly missed Victoria Ground at Stoke. (Apart from the different accent and a much larger crowd of course!) While I have become quite taken by this non-league side, it is a relatively detached way to enjoy a game without the utter misery felt when your team loses. While I cheer them on and want them to win, it’s not the end of the world if Farsley don’t do the business. Just as well seeing as they were relegated after one season in the Blue Square Premier, the division just below the Football League.
However tonight Farsley took on Stoke City’s local “rivals” Port Fail, er I mean Vale. This was one game I’d have loved the Celts to have won, if only for the pleasure of singing the sensational “Beat by a village, you’ve been beat by a village” to the Vale fans. Cambridge Utd got that treatment last season. Marvellous stuff. What were the Vale doing up in Yorkshire? Well Vale’s current manager Lee Sinnott left Farsley to join them, having done a wonderful job of delivering three promotions at Farsley in just four seasons. He did another wonderful job leading Vale to relegation to the bottom tier of the Football League in his first season in charge. Oops. Mustn’t laugh, but to be fair he faced a mammoth task and they were pretty doomed before he arrived. So Sinnott returned to his old stamping ground with his new team to provide a pre-season friendly match, and hopefully something for us Stokies to chuckle at.
I’d love to report that it was a good game but I can’t. Both clubs fielded young sides, many of the Farsley stalwarts were nowhere to be seen apart from their only international cap (Pakistan) Amjad “Ammers” Iqbal, and veteran journeyman Steve Torpey who looks about three times the age of some of his junior team mates. While the football was played mainly on the ground with some decent passing moves, the quality in front of goal was lacking by both sides. To their credit Farsley matched Vale for fitness, industry, and often skill, indeed it was the home side that fashioned the best openings in the first half, but not the required finish. If Farsley had been wearing their shooting boots the Vale might have trailed 3-0 by half time, the Burslem team failing to trouble the Celts ‘keeper once. The second half produced even fewer chances, the only one of note falling to the Vale, but it was superbly saved at close range by the Farsley goalie. To be honest neither side deserved to win it, though Farsley probably took it on points seeing as a visiting Martian would not have been able to pick out which was the League side and which contained semi-pros. Despite being a friendly there were some crunching tackles flying about, mainly from the home side with a point to prove maybe. Final score at Throstle Nest 0-0.
I’d like to think I provided the Vale fans with one talking point to return to the Potteries with. I attended the game with a Stoke scarf tied to a Farsley scarf, draping them around my neck so both my allegiances were on clear display. Passing by Vale fans produced looks of stunned disbelief, disappointment, and prompted one lady in the stand to deliver a “I don’t believe eeeet”, pointing at the offending article. I grinned back cheekily and replied “Better believe it, Stokies here, Stokies there, Stokies bleedin’ everywhere!” Hopefully Vale fans returning home will be chuntering about going all the way to some obscure place in Yorkshire and still seeing a Stoke fan
The Vale fans may be from the other side of the city but they share the same self-depreciatory humour as their Stokie counterparts. One Valeite noted the hoarding with the Blue Square Premier logo emblazoned across it and added drily, “I wonder how much they want for that sign? It’ll save us buying a new one in a season’s time!”