Adventure in Football #8: Castle Vale Stadium (Romulus FC)
July 19, 2021
ROMULUS FC VS. REDDITCH UNITED
Before heading up to Castle Vale, I actually looked at their website and discovered the stadium is available for rental. Not just for one off football days but per season. If your team has no venue, you can play at Castle Vale Stadium for £600 a year. As long as you don’t clash with the other teams that already use it. Castle Vale Town, Concords FC and Romulus all use Castle Vale Stadium as their home ground.
On the crest there, just under a very stern looking Roman, is the club motto “Pro Certo Habeo”, which means “I feel sure”. The Roman gentleman is probably supposed to be Romulus, the founder of Rome. Literally the first Roman. He lived 2,700 years ago so no wonder he looks so stern. He’s seen some shit. He set Rome up as a kingdom some 700 years before the Roman Empire. Given how sketchy records are concerning history that goes back that far it’s a mesh of fact and myth. His dad is the Roman God of War: Mars and was raised by a she-wolf. Romulus ended up killing his brother, Remus, so if any West Midlands wannabe teams fancy an immediate rivalry I would suggest naming your team Zombie Remus FC. Imagine those derbies!
Romulus, the football club, don’t quite have the same history as the founder of Rome. They were formed in 1979 by Roger Evans and Ken Powell and spent their first 20 years playing Sunday league football. In 1999 they stepped into the football pyramid for the first time and have been making steady progress since then. They spent a while ground sharing with Sutton Coldfield at Coles Lane (which is currently home to several clubs, we’ll get into that another day) but they’ve been here at Castle Vale Stadium since 2018.
Just prior to Covid kicking in they’d been on a bit of a barren run. Getting relegated in 2018, finishing bottom of the same league that Alvechurch came second in. Bested by such footballing megapowers as Market Drayton Town and Kidsgrove Athletic. Things did not get much better in 2018/19 when they finished 17th in the Midland Premier. Two seasons have been voided since then so it’s almost a chance to start over. Their current rivals at this level include Sporting Khalsa, Boldmere St Michaels, Shepshed Dynamo, Highgate Utd and the once mighty Worcester City. For perspective they are currently two divisions above Fairfield Villa, who I went to see last time.
The temp in the car is 35 degrees. At 6pm. Fuck. It’s not ideal footballing weather. My wife, Maria, has volunteered to drive so at least we have a cool car to head up in. We get to Castle Vale and miss the turn to the ground, twice. The ground’s post code doesn’t actually take you to the ground. Little travel tip there. We headed through the turnstile and I didn’t actually need a ticket. Just to tell the guy on the door what my name was. We head in and I take a walk around.
Before we even get into the ground proper a fellow Groundhopper greets us. He wants to know what team Maria’s shirt belongs to. It’s a Sassuolo 2016 kit and he heads off to google it. He pops up later, I still don’t know his name sadly. On making my way around the pitch I snap the above pictures of the training set up and the main stand. You may notice Tom Pratt in the corner there, sporting a Coventry shirt. I know Tom from the graps but he’s the tannoy man at Romulus. It was lovely to actually see someone and chat to them. It’s been a long, long time. As you can see from the pitch shot; it’s a 3G astro turf pitch. Given the heat, that’s probably for the best.
Maria discovers there’s a bar and brings me a pint of Carling. In this weather, I’ll take it! We go and sit in the front row of the stand. There’s around 80-100 people in. Presumably Monday isn’t as big a draw as Saturday when they had more for the visit of Bromsgrove Sporting.
There are a million goals (22) around the outside of the pitch because it’s also used for youth teams. Redditch turn up in yellow shirts, with no numbers on the back, because they’re paranoid people will steal their trialists. Redditch start with FIVE trialists who they refuse to name on the team sheet. Non league is fascinating because there are only a finite number of good players and everyone wants them and none of them are tied down to contracts. There’s a motorway and a train track nearby so there’s a constant drone of vehicles in the background.
There’s only one physio and she has her work cut out in this game. I feel bad for her because she jogs on, in this oppressive heat, and then has to walk all the way around the pitch to get back to the bench. The first half is mainly a bad game with lots of head tennis until a few players get on the ball and calm things down. Romulus #7, a lad with a beard, looks talented. Several Redditch players also catch the eye but they have no numbers on. I described the one as “the lad with the hair”. He played right midfield. Redditch deservely take the lead on 28’ It’s a straightforward free kick across the box that gets turned in at the far stick. 0-1. Maria is upset there’s no replay. We’re not watching the Premier League on TV now hon!
As they go in for half time I can overhear the ref telling a particularly vocal coach from Romulus to “read the rules of the game” after he protested against a few first half decisions. I love that kind of referee sass. At half time I’m rejoined by Tom and the groundhopper stops by to say hi again. He’s from Sunderland and tells us a bit about his journey. He gets quickly distracted by a passing woman. “Are you a WAG?” he asks as myself and Tom chuckle in the background. If said Sunderland fan is reading this please drop me a DM on Twitter on the @arn_FM account. I would love to hear from you!
During the second half Maria decided she needed to charge her phone and disappeared up to the bar. I was curious so I popped up in the second half and the view is fantastic. Obviously you would have to get there early during the winter to get a prime seat but it’s totally worth it. You do lose a bit of ambiance because you can’t hear the crowd (no idea why they play music during a match but that’s the sitch). The pub is called the “Crossbar” and is located at the top of Castle Vale’s only stand. It’s really nice. We sat in there for about 30 minutes and it was great. I had a pasty (£3, hotter than molten lava, flavour optional) and we had drinks. Maria imprisoned a fly in between two plastic pint pots. I’ve never seen that done before. I married the right woman.
While we’re upstairs the Roms score, thanks to a drilled cross across the box, turned in at the far post by the defender (Jonathan Haynes claimed it). Then there’s a fight in the Redditch box as a Romulus player feels he’s been fouled for a pen. That’s broken up by the ref but you can tell the players are getting testy. A Redditch lad got sent off for a professional foul (second yellow) and then there was a lengthy stoppage (10 mins+) for treatment to Redditch player Jordan Kondo.
The poor bastard was carted away in a van. Redditch almost lost interest in the game after then, which is fair given the circumstances. Trae Bertie rifled home a good goal to give Romulus the win but they probably won’t take a lot of satisfaction from a game that was scrappy to start with and Redditch controlled while they still had their full compliment on the field. Romulus on the other hand got really fired up. The one lad full on spiked the football when a decision didn’t go his way and got into a shoving match on the far side.
I enjoyed myself. Castle Vale Stadium is a great modern ground. The stand is comfortable with plenty of leg room and if you’re not happy there, there’s plenty of space to roam around in. Fans are sparse around the outside of the pitch. You’re bound to find a good spot. Romulus feels like a cool club too. The atmosphere was subdued, because of pre-season, but the fanbase was young. We’re talking an average age of mid 20s with a few older heads scattered around. I’d personally recommend it if you’re in Birmingham and you want something fun. Say hi to my friend Tom on the tannoy!