Adventures in Football #23: Townsend Meadow (Racing Club Warwick)
September 7, 2021
RACING CLUB WARWICK vs. WORCESTER CITY (Midland League Premier Division)
I’ve been to Warwick many times. Almost always to visit Warwick Castle. It’s around 30 minutes from my house by car and it’s the nearest tourist attraction of historical worth. So, everyone foreign to England who’s ever visited me has ended up at Warwick Castle. It is extremely commercial and run by Madame Tussauds, or Merlin, or whoever owns that now. So, you get loads of waxwork characters knocking around to suitably freak you out. Especially in the dungeons, which has basically become a ride. For a big old stone castle that’s a thousand years old it’s in incredible shape.
The town itself seems to have dodged modernisation bullets and it retains a sense of history that makes it popular with tourists. Traditionally it is a military town. A gateway to the unruly north. William the Conqueror built Warwick Castle in 1068. The town might be even prettier and loaded with historic buildings had a great fire not ripped through the centre of it in 1694. It destroyed 460 buildings in just five hours. St Mary’s church was rebuilt, and some parts of the historic wall remain. Our route from Warwick station takes us through the Eastgate (below) and just past the Westgate (further below).
Onto Racing Club Warwick, who have existed for slightly less time, since 1919. They played regional football until the 70s when they joined the Midland Combination. Originally the club was called Saltisford Rovers until 1970 when they changed names to their current incarnation. Since their move up to the footballing pyramid in 1967 they’ve barely moved, up or down. There are two tiers to the current Midland league and Warwick are in the top one after being promoted in 2018-19 season. This is a tier 9 club. Other teams at this level include AFC Wulfrunians, Lichfield City, Lye Town, Boldmere St Michaels and, naturally, Worcester City. Historically there’s far less to talk about with Racing Club Warwick than the town itself and the club has no real cup pedigree. It’s just there. Making up the numbers, year after year.
It’s a warm day today. It’s 29 degrees in September! The temperature gauge at Birmingham Moor Street is reading 32 degrees. The journey today is one that I’m used to, leaving near to Birmingham. You have to travel into Birmingham to travel out again. I’m sure people around London experience stuff like this all the time too. What is a straight-line drive of 30 minutes is a train journey of two hours. However, it’s a nice day for it. If you’ve never been through Birmingham Moor Street, it’s one of my favourite train stations. It’s a lovely little old fashioned one and it’s serviced by Chiltern Railways, who fucking rule compared to West Midlands Trains.
Into Warwick then and we’re here early so my intent is to find a decent pub and grab some food. We duck into the Roebuck. Josh gets a double chicken burger with a spicy chipotle sauce and is a bit of a pussy about it. I get the lasagne. There’s a debate between us over whether to get the “soup of the moment”. If we order it seconds apart, will it be a different soup? You ordered at 18.01, you have potato and leek. You ordered at 18.01 and 30 seconds so you’ve got carrot and coriander. It’s good food and I’d recommend going in there. The service was nice and it’s what you’d expect from a town bolstered by tourism. Speaking of tourism, we pop into the Old Post Office as well, which is a tremendous little pub.
The whole pub feels like a snug. It’s long and thin and has cask ale, cushions galore and plants everywhere. If I lived in Warwick, this would be my local. It literally feels like drinking in someone’s house. The bar is tiny. It’s exactly what I want from a pub.
After a short walk, and several pints, we arrive at Racing Club Warwick. It’s next to the racecourse and has a decent car park attached. Everyone is then funnelled past a mass of nettles into the turnstiles. They took cards! Clearly the tourist industry has pushed Warwick into modern times. The ground has a few nice touches. The club logo adorns the buildings that surround the entrance and it feels quite exciting…until you get inside.
First you’re greeted by food and drinks. There’s a coffee guy to the left. As the buildings open up to the right there’s a bar. To get to the bar you have to walk past some poor bloke’s office. The toilet is right at the back of the bar and there’s one urinal. ONE. It’s legitimately the worst toilet I’ve seen at a football ground so far and that’s a pretty big statement considering how bad they are at Kenilworth Road.
There’s a service hatch for food off to the left of the bar entrance but having filled up on lasagne I didn’t fancy it. Next to that is the two cabins that contain the changing rooms. In the middle of all this is the pitch, which is surrounded by a huge black fence. It’s clearly been set up as a multi-function pitch. It’s astroturf and there are spare goals everywhere. This is modern non-league football sadly. All the venues set up for multiple purposes to ensure the cash injections to keep the club running.
There are not a lot of fans in and both seating areas on either side of the pitch have plenty of space. The stand away to our left is tiny and has around 60 seats in it. We’ve got two of them at Claines Lane! On the other side is a longer stand but the front row can barely see over the boards around the outside and have the indignity of the away fans traipsing past at half time.
As away fans, for the first time, we post up behind the Warwick goal. No one is loud today. There’s no chanting or anything. The Warwick fans are used to this perennial misery and the Worcester supporters tend to vocalise their support through glib witticisms. While there wasn’t a single chant there was plenty of banter with the opposing goalkeeper.
Onto the game and Worcester score early in the first half. The ball cut back to Aaron Birch, whose shot goes in off the underside of the bar. As the lads are celebrating the winger comes across and says “ohh, here he is” at Birch. 1-0 Worcester and it stayed that way. Worcester hit the woodwork four times in the second half and Walker, the Warwick keeper, made an extraordinary save from close range.
The referee had a bit of a shocker, which is how it should be in non-league. He bottled a red card for one of the Warwick players after a dreadful two footed lunge saw Craig Jones carried off. He also missed an elbow right before half time, which lead to both teams arguing loudly on their way off the field and it felt like the game would explode. “Chill”. “You fucking chill”. The lack of angry fans probably placated the on the field antics and saved the players red mist developing into red cards.
Overall Racing Club Warwick isn’t a place I’d recommend going for football but if you get the chance to go for the castle and the pubs and then there happens to be a game on then go for it. Just make sure you go with an empty bladder and low expectations!