Adventures in Football #10: The Lamb Ground (Tamworth FC)
July 25, 2021
TAMWORTH FC vs. HALESOWEN
The Groundhopping journey hits double figures. It’s only taken me 30 years from ground one to ground ten. For this prestigious occasion I’m taking a train trip to Tamworth. For those not familiar with the Midlands; Tamworth is a satellite town of Birmingham. It’s not in Birmingham. I live closer to Birmingham than Tamworth and I wouldn’t say I was a Brummie. While I live south-west of Birmingham, Tamworth is located to the north-east so we’re going through Brum to get there.
Josh is a train virgin. He’s never travelled anywhere on his own before and messaged me repeatedly about it before the day. He’s planning on going to fucking London next month. I’m laughing as I type this. I remember being young and afraid of new things. It’s normal. We’ll get there.
The Lamb Ground is the home of Tamworth FC. It’s named after the Lamb Inn, which used to be on the site. The players used to get changed in the pub! Sadly, it’s no longer there. Tamworth fans like to move around. On Footballgroundmap.com they have 69 (nice) registered supporters but those guys average, average mind you, 94.25 grounds. That’s a staggering number. Bromsgrove Sporting fans, by comparison, average 51.67 grounds, which is an impressive number but 94? That’s a lot. It’s the highest number I’ve seen so far. It may be attributable to a combination of yo-yo league fortunes and lengthy cup runs.
Tamworth FC started out in 1933/34, taking over from the defunct Tamworth Castle FC. As with most non-league sides it’s been a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Historically; they’ve made the first round of the FA Cup a few times and even knocked Torquay out to get the second round in 1969. They won the FA Vase in 1989 and in recent years have seen their best league performances. In 2003 they made it into the topflight of non-league football and the FA Trophy final. In their opening topflight campaign, they finished above Halifax Town and Forest Green Rovers. They’ve had several superb FA Cup runs; losing on penalties to Stoke in 2006 and ousted by Norwich in 2007 before losing to Everton in 2011.
Tamworth put their cash into the ground and were an early proponent of 3G pitches, which are becoming ever more frequent outside of the football league due to their all-weather usage and multiple sports applications. Their run in the non-league elite came to an end in 2013/14, the year Luton won the league, and they slipped out of the Vanarama North in 2018 (the year Salford won the league). They’re back in the Southern League Premier Central now. Slumming it with the likes of Alvechurch, Bromsgrove Sporting and Redditch Utd. Given their recent history you can see them getting back into the higher leagues sooner rather than later.
To the journey and it started out ok. I made it to the station on time, the train was a bit late and Josh had actually got on the right train. Good stuff. We get into Birmingham New Street and we’ve got 40 minutes to kill so I show him around a bit and we get some food. It’s torrential rain outside. Like, wrath of the gods stuff. I’m hoping it eases off a bit before we get to Tamworth. When we get into Tamworth it’s still very wet but not the disaster that Birmingham is. Aside from having to take shelter in Lidl it’s mostly ok.
The walk from the train station isn’t far. It’s under a mile. Before we started out we waited for the rain to die down a bit, which resulted in the hilarity of listening to this gobby little kid mouthing off to his dad. A literal real world Eric Cartman. He called his dad an “idiot”. It was priceless stuff. Glad we had the rain to keep us there for it. After the Lidl break we find our route to the ground is actually cut off due to flooding. We were due to cut through an underpass. Well, that’s flooded. So we cross the road by the island and…that’s flooded. It’s feet wet time. I manage to only get one wet sock thankfully.
As soon as we get to the ground it stops raining. A football miracle. It’s a 3G pitch so they’ve probably just swept all the water off it. The rain was so bad at one point I thought the game might get cancelled. The poor weather hasn’t deterred the locals and there’s around 150 in the Lamb Ground to see this match. Tamworth is an interesting ground that’s been added to over time. So it’s a patchwork of different bits (painted red).
They’ve not upgraded their tannoy system and there’s only one tiny speaker away at one end. Next time they make the third round of the cup maybe they can buy a new one. My favourite feature is right next to where we stand; the red divider fencing between home fans and away scum, although on this occasion all the Halesowen fans stand at whatever end they’re attacking.
Onto the game; Tamworth play in a Milan-esque red and black kit, which is decent but Halesowen have a white kit with a tonne of detailing on it. I end up taking a picture because it’s such a nice looking kit.
For a friendly this is quite a sweary game. The Halesowen centre back yells at “H” one of his fellow players repeatedly. “H! H! H!…fuck off H”. The Tamworth boss, Gary Smith (who has played for both teams), goes off on a foul mouthed rant at the start of the second half provoking a fan to tell him it’s “only a friendly”. By that point his team is 1-0 down courtesy of a low cross and a tap in to an empty net from Halesowen striker Harry White. Halesowen have been the better team and Tamworth are heavily reliant on swinging crosses into the box. Their best chance was blazed over and got stuck in the shrubbery above the end.
I was very impressed at the forward play of right back Chris Cox though.
Halesowen’s boss (Paul Smith), by comparison, is really polite. He says “please” at the end of his yelled instructions. His criticism is excellent and he seems to have a genuine affection for his players. I bet he’s nice to work for. Tamworth eventually put a move together as one of their subs can actually pass the ball on the ground. His through ball is converted by #7; Henri Wilder and Tamworth rescue a draw.
With time running out Tamworth decide to make four substitutions. I accuse them of “taking the piss” and encourage Josh to join me on a stroll back to the train station with stoppage time remaining. We didn’t have a lot of time to play with and the station is a bugger to get into. It’s like Smethwick and has a two level deal with a criss-cross platforms situation. So we left from platform four, which was down the end of platform one and up two flights of stairs. We barely made the train. Especially with me stopping to laugh at their local shopping centre, comically dubbed “Ankerside”.
^ and yes, I know it’s a river (could have called it Tameside tbf) that doesn’t make it any less funny. I’m from Bromsgrove. We have a place called Lickey End. It’s still funny.
To conclude our journey we popped into central Birmingham after 10pm on a Tuesday to discover it’s a war zone. Still worth it to grab some train beers from the Tesco. All in all, this was a fun trip but it’ll be remembered as “that time it pissed it down in Tamworth” rather than for the football. If this was Top Gear this would be a very wet lap.