Adventures in Football #13: Aggborough
KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS vs. MAN UTD XI
August 6, 2021
Aggborough has always had a bit of an aura about it for me. When I was a teenager Kiddy were the enemy. As a Bromsgrove Rovers fan, the rivalry didn’t get any fiercer than Kidderminster Harriers. That is until Rovers fell off and reignited the rivalry with Redditch Utd. Meanwhile Kiddy shot up the divisions. From being our rivals in the GM Vauxhall Conference in the 90s they made it into the football league in 2000. Topping a decent division with the likes of cash-rich Rushden & Diamonds, Morecambe, Scarborough, Yeovil, Hereford and Donny Rovers. They looked like a capable mid-table side for a few years and then bottomed out, finishing 23rd in 2005 and went back into non-league. I thought they might become a team that hung around that area of the league. Maybe getting into League 1 after a few seasons.
In 2016 though, Kiddy dropped out of the Conference, now renamed the Vanarama National League Premier Division. They finished second bottom and disappeared back into regional football, where they remain. They currently sit alongside some other fallen giants of the same standard; Chester, Hereford, Darlington and York City. They’re now only one division above the likes of Bromsgrove Sporting, Tamworth, Redditch Utd and Alvechurch. That local rivalry feels like it might be back on very soon. So, I’m hitting Aggborough before it’s an issue for me. Before I struggle to keep the emotions in check. Good news too, I’ve already seen them lose once this week. If Man Utd’s kids can sort them out I’ll have seen Kiddy lose twice in the space of four days. Living the fucking dream lads.
Aggborough has been Kidderminster’s ground since 1890 and thanks to upgrades made in the 90s, it’s a league standard ground although the capacity (6,444) is a little low by league standards. Kiddy has always been famous for its food but sadly Brian Murdoch, the man responsible for those legendary pies, passed away recently and the club no longer works with Quality Fayre Caterers. They’ve had a disagreement over their contract and 50 years of tradition has unfortunately come to an end. Aggborough has 17k+ visits on FootballGroundMap.com with the ground also playing host to Wolves and West Brom’s U-23 teams along with Worcester City who played there for several seasons.
My visit to Aggborough is sandwiched in between a busy work week and a trip to London for Luton and Fulham games. As the day approached, I was almost hoping for a cancellation. I have blatantly overextended myself. By the time the trip arrived though, I was up for it. I finished work at 5.45pm and Maria met me there. She’d brought me KFC. I love her dearly. We drove across to Kiddy and parked up an hour before kick off. It was busy but we got there early enough to get into a car park and there was a no charge. The parking was well organised. There were a lot of nearby “no parking for football” signs so I imagine the neighbours have had words over the years. The car park is right next to a walk in test centre for Covid. A sign of the times.
We’re in the main stand, which is apparently sold out. Seating on both sides is close to capacity and the attendance of 3,128 is low for how full it looked. It’s a great turn out for Harriers and you’d hope they could retain some of that support into the season. If you support Harriers that is. The kick off was delayed until 8pm, which created a few murmurs of discontent. Although it comes as a relief after the announcer said the game was “postponed…for 15 minutes”. Fuck’s sake, mate. Opposite me is a sign that probably won’t be there much longer; “best food in football since 1962”. Based on the assortment of burger van grub I saw at the game they’re not at that level now.
The ground is impressive for tier 6 but of course Kiddy were a league side not that long ago. There are fans in the Kiddy shirt but I see more wearing Man Utd gear and a couple with Villa shirts and West Brom kit. Lack of support for local sides is a real problem. During the warm up the Kiddy reserve keeper catches my eye…because he can’t catch anything else. Multiple shots go straight through him like he’s not there. Harriers fans had better hope their number one doesn’t get injured. The seats are decent. We sit up near the back row of the main stand, which isn’t that high up. The leg room is decent but there isn’t a mask in sight. The worry of Covid burning through supporters like the great fire of London is very real.
It rains during the warm ups, creating a lovely perfect rainbow right across Aggborough (sadly I couldn’t get the whole thing in one shot, but please enjoy the pics below). Man Utd have sent the kids here and there aren’t many recognisable names but there are a few worth mentioning. Ethan Galbraith is a solid midfielder with a good range of passing. He caught my eye and everything on the left seemed to go through him. Alvaro Fernandez, the left back who blotted his copy book with a comedy own goal in the second half, looked capable and has great positional sense. Joseph Olowu played well and was applauded off by all four sides of the ground when he was subbed. Dylan Levitt, who has played 9 times for Wales already, had a good game.
My biggest ‘one to watch’ has to be Hannibal Mejbri though. A Tunisian International footballer who looks like Sideshow Bob but has an incredible first touch. He puts himself around and isn’t afraid of scuffles. He dives a bit too much for my liking but he had an amazing game. He’s 18 and could feature for Utd’s first XI tomorrow if the vacancy was there. He seemed to play in several midfield positions. I’d love for him to have a blinding career and I could say I saw him at Aggborough in a pre-season game.
Not all the players that stood out were wearing Utd’s colours. Both of Harriers’ wide men had good games. Ashley Hemmings came close with a curling effort early doors and should have had an assist if it hadn’t been for a ropey finish. On the other side Sam Austin looked bright and scored a dramatic late equaliser, which I completely missed because we were already in the car park. Utd’s kids looked to have it at a canter as well but collapsed a little in the second half. Although, to be fair, most of the players that blew the two goal lead were not the ones responsible for attaining it.
One slightly sour note. A man behind us got into a massive row with a steward and shouting “fuck off, fuck off, fuck off” at him before being ejected. The home end serenading him with chants of “cheerio”. It’s pre-season. Grow up. All in all I enjoyed my trip to Aggborough far more than I was expecting. It’s a nice ground and hopefully they can recover from the beating that Covid has given them. This is my hope for all teams though, at every level, but especially non-league where they don’t have the same revenue streams. To close on a somewhat more cheerful note; the half time ‘crossbar challenge’ between the mascots was fantastic and well done to Sophie for pinging the ball off the underside of the bar. One of the finest strikes of the day.