Thursday, 13 October 2016

Wham Stadium - Accrington Stanley

Accrington 1-1 Cheltenham

8th October 2016

Whilst some folks may attest that that bafflingly-successful old fraud Mystic Meg holds the title, those us of a certain vintage and of a proggy musical persuasion, would argue the town of Accrington's most celebrated Son/Daughter to be former Yes vocalist Jon “Olias of Accrington” Anderson.  I initially thought a few scribbles here talking about Jon – one of my heroes as a teenager - would flesh out this entry nicely.   But upon reflection, I felt the California-based singer's connection with the town these days is probably at best tangential.

So instead I decided, particularly given this year has seen the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Somme Offensive, to pay my respects to the Accrington Pals.  These “Pals” battalions were an idea dreamt up Lord Kitchener during WWI; his reasoning being that young men would be more likely to volunteer to join the army if they felt they would be fighting alongside friends and former work mates.  

Regretfully, what the 11th Battalion (Accrington) East Lancashire Regiment came up against was Butcher Haig still in the throes of his Breast-against-Bullet tactical phase with the consequence, on that fateful July morning in 1916, of the 700 or so Accrington Pals who went over the top, 585 were either killed or wounded within half-an-hour.  I really cannot begin to imagine what the impact upon the town itself and its population was, once this heartbreaking news began to filter back home.  

I knew a replica of the Pals memorial which presently lives in Serre, France, had recently been erected in Haworth Park in the town, so I made my way there initially.  Now I am aware the structure is composed of red Accrington brick, and the uncompleted look to the monument probably in some way reflects all those young lives cut short.  But it all appeared just a touch underwhelming.  I did find its site within a woodland walk though, rather than on some bustling high street corner, say, beautifully evocative.  

I had heard there was a Battle of the Somme exhibition being held in the nearby Haworth Art Gallery, so toddled off there next.  But my timing was out, as a new temporary exhibition had just been installed; an Open Exhibition of work by local artists.  But, ever keen to be exposed to kulchur, I entered anyway.  

The lady at the desk must have felt I looked of a sensitive disposition for she, with a straight-face, warned me that there were "a number of paintings of female nudes“ in one of the rooms; just in case I may be offended or aroused or something.  And there was indeed a collection of half-a-dozen or so paintings of really rather comely ladies – one of whom with a derriere sporting a robust pair of buttocks which could only be described as Kardashian-esque. 

The rest of the museum was given over to a display of glass – which was as riveting as it sounds.  Now I am not one to underestimate the importance of glass in all its forms.  And I am aware that without both the stained and see-through types, all of our lives would be immeasurably diminished, but I could not really summon any interest in this.  Perhaps it was those buttocks.

The place must vie with a cheese museum I once visited in France, and that pencil museum reputedly to exist somewhere in the Lake district as perhaps the most niche interest exhibition on the planet.

The Accrington Pals Memorial in Haworth Park

This little chap sits on top of the roof of Howarth Art Gallery
helping to ward off evil spirits.

Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington.
Watch Out - There are Nudes !

The Wham Stadium may be accessed along this lane off Livingstone Road.
There was something rather neat about the proximity of Livingstone to Stanley.

Which entrance do players turning up late use?

Entrance to the John Smiths Stand

The rear of the Clayton End Stand

The rear of the Clayton End Stand

Wham Stadium, Accrington Stanley

To the Wham Stadium – named, I learned for plastics company What More UK – which, I am pleased to relate was a delight.  Clearly the venue has evolved with the club itself as it has doggedly climbed its way back up through the FA pyramid.  It stood in marked contrast to those IKEA flatpak jobs being thrown up these days.  The main stand actually consists of two separate but similar structures, and there is standing terracing behind each goal.  Goodness, one is even uncovered - how many of those still exist in the Football League?  Along the remaining side runs a pleasing jumble of shallow standing area and dinky little stretches of covered seating, deep enough to accommodate just three rows of seats.

No Scots in the Stanley squad, I noted, although – a reflection upon these more cosmopolitan times, no doubt - Benin and St Lucia were represented in the forms of Rommy Bocco and Janoi Donacien respectively – although the latter was suspended this afternoon.  The bench boasted Billy Kee, who had impressed me when I saw him a few years back at Burton Albion (ironically facing Accrington that afternoon), and former Manchester United man Chris Eagles, now in the twilight of a career which has never really lived up to its early promise.

The opening period of the match was pretty forgettable, the home side enjoying the better of possession, but toiling to achieve anything meaningful with it.  The two best opportunities of the half actually fell to the visitors, but a dreadful touch by Danny Wright followed a few minutes later by Billy Waters' inability/reluctance to hit the ball with his left foot, meant the chances went a-begging.

The business continued to be rather uninspiring after the break, until Cheltenham midfielder - a Finland international with the unlikely sounding name of Daniel O'Shaughnessy – was ordered off for a second yellow, and the tide therafter moved subtely in the direction of the home lot.  

Sixteen minutes from time, Rommy Boco was given way too much time and space on the left to pickout an equally isolated Terry GORNELL who headed in what looked likely to the winner.  “We scored with our first real chance” said a young lad in front of me to his his grandfather.  And I realised, how correct he was.

But the vistors, to their credit stuck to their task, with the strong running Harry Pell driving things forward from midfield.  And a failure by the home defence to deal with a corner-kick led to Rob DICKIE heading in a, probably just-deserved,  stoppage-time equaliser.

Wham Stadium, Accrington Stanley

Wham Stadium - Accrington Stanley

This lad spent much of the first half re-roofing his shed overlooking the ground.
He never looked up once to follow the action.
Probably a Blackburn fan.

The Jack Barrett Memorial Stand

Panorama of Wham Stadium, Accrington Stanley

Accrington's Rommy Boco and Jack Munns contest a high ball

Visiting centre-back Aaron Downes required a
bit of treatment to a head-knock.
And yes, that is blood streaming down his neck.

Panorama of Wham Stadium, Accrington Stanley

Clayton End or William Dyer Electrical Stand

Clayton End or William Dyer Electrical Stand

I think this is Asa Hall just succeeding in nipping the ball away from Scott Brown.

James Dayton - Cheltenham Town

A patched-up Aaron Downes and Stanley sub Chris Eagles

I am sure this is just an unfortunate image of Scott Brown - but he does look rather "well-nourished" here

Rob Dickie - Cheltenham Town

I did not intentionally focus on the visiting players,
it was just those ones turned out better.
This is Cheltenham's Harry Pell

Accrington v Cheltenham - October 2016

Accrington's Aaron Chapman collects.  He looked a BIG chap.

Seating on the Whinney Hill side

Panorama of Wham Stadium, Accrington Stanley

Panorama of Wham Stadium, Accrington Stanley

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