Adventures in Football 53: Liberty Way (Nuneaton Borough)
July 2, 2022
Nuneaton Borough FC vs. Stockport County (Pre-Season Friendly)
Well fuck me, this was supposed to be Stockholm. I was supposed to be watching AIK play today. Instead, thanks to Eurowings cancelling our flight at the last minute, we’re in Nuneaton. Yay. Nuneaton is local to us. I was thinking of doing something further afield, but pre-season can be a bit of a minefield and I have very low energy today. If you don’t know where Nuneaton is, it’s just north of Coventry and off to the east from Birmingham. It’s about 45-50 minutes drive from my house. If I was taking public transport it would involve a change of trains in New Street and a walk at the other end. It’s pretty easy, in the big scale of things, and the kind of mission a low effort Arn goes on when his flight to Sweden is cancelled at the last minute.
Nuneaton Borough play in the same division as Bromsgrove Sporting; the Southern League Premier. They finished on the same points as Bromsgrove too. A massive 42 pts, both barely staying in the division. Like Sporting, they’ll need to double their points tally if they want to get promoted in 2022/23. In the 1980s Nuneaton were a good side. From 1982-1987 they were among the non-league elite and finished runners up in 1984 and 1985. From 1999-2003 Boro played in the Conference, again, and then spent another four years in the Conference North. In between these years, they’ve been around the level they’re at now. Which is to say around three divisions south of the football league.
In 2008, Nuneaton Borough was liquidated after financial irregularities and relegated two divisions. Like Bromsgrove, they were re-formed under their old name of Nuneaton Town. As Nuneaton Town they made their way back into the Conference in 2012 but suffered relegations in 2015 and 2019 and now reside back in the Southern League Premier. In 2018 the club got its name back, switching back to Nuneaton Borough FC. As with the Rovers I hope the fans chanted “Boro” the whole time.
Historically Nuneaton are one of those ‘bubbling under’ sides that threaten to become a league team but haven’t got there. They have made the FA Cup third round on three occasions though, The second time, in 1967, is when Nuneaton set their record attendance of 22,114 for a draw with Rotherham. Nuneaton have been giant killers and have knocked Watford, Swansea, Oxford United and Stoke out of the FA Cup.
Nuneaton’s ground history is as interesting as their club’s history. They started out in 1889 at Higham Lane and played in various fields before moving to Queen’s Road in 1903, Newdigate Arms in 1908 and finally Manor Park in 1919. Manor Park was their home until 2007 when financial ruin struck. The ground has been demolished and replaced by housing. They now play their home games at Liberty Way, formally the local rugby team’s ground since the 1990s. They now groundshare with the rugby team.
Compared to the fixture this was replacing on my calendar, it didn’t quite fill me with so much excitement. I was off to sunny Nuneaton, a town I’ve admittedly never been to. You can’t judge a place until you’ve seen it. However, the weather was against us and it pissed it down with rain. It’s July, god damnit! The drive was short and uneventful. We decided to try and score a space on the industrial estate the ground is next to. It turns out just about any parking space is fair game on a match day. Some neighbouring businesses car parks were full of football traffic. We played it relatively safe and parked on a street a few roads across from the ground and we were the only ones there. Everyone else parked closer. It was an easy park up though and an easy exit.
We got to the ground, which involves walking through a car park, and got charged a whopping £12 to get in. It’s about right for the level (I paid less to get into grounds in the same division last season) but not for a pre-season friendly surely? I guess they’re just taxing the fans and trying to boost the coffers. Having got in, Maria announced she wanted food, so we joined the queue and it was moving very, very slowly. It looks like they normally have a food area at either end of the ground but only one was open today. It took ages. The burgers were £3.50 and decent. The chips were expensive and quite bad. Maria wanted to go near to the toilets so we went and stood up in the top of the big shed end.
It was like being in a creche. Kids running around, throwing water bottles and banging on the metal sides of the shed. I must admit, this is not my idea of a good time. I could have been in Stockholm, for fuck’s sake. Anyway, we took a seat on the dirty metal terrace and Stockport came to life, taking a 1-0 lead, from a deflected Mark Kitching shot. They were good and their passing and movement were beyond what Nuneaton are used to at this level. You can feel the four-division gulf between the two sides.
I take a moment to survey the lay of the land. We’re in the big shed end and it’s one of the busiest parts of the ground. On our right is the toilets and bar area. The bar seems to be doing a roaring trade and there’s a steady trickle of punters all game. On the right side of the ground is the seating and alongside the seats is a bar, which means the beer garden of said bar is right out onto the sidelines. It’s terrific stuff. I wish I’d had the weather to just chill out there all game. Opposite us are the Stockport fans, who’ve opted to go into the away end and therefore don’t get a good view of any of the goals, which all happen right in front of us. The final left hand side is low level uncovered terracing with a brick wall behind it. I’m guessing that’s next on the development list.
Back in the game the Nuneaton keeper is having a shocker. He whiffs on a cross and the left back botches the clearance. Stockport are soon 2-0 ahead, through Connor Jennings, which is met with the odd groan. The keeper then makes a cracking save from a long range effort but he can only parry it, the ball is crossed back into the centre by Scott Quigley and volleyed home by Will Collar for 3-0. Stockport miss two absolute sitters and this could get ugly. A corner gets nudged goalwards and just trickles over the line. Scorer is one Ethan Pye. 4-0. Not even half time. Minutes later another cross gets smashed home for 5-0 but apparently it was offside. I didn’t see that myself.
So, 4-0 Stockport at the turn. Stockport get another goal chalked off for offside early in the second half and the game promptly fizzles out. It was an attack vs defence training session for the most part. Stockport look highly capable. Nuneaton are in a division of teams of similar abilities. They won’t get tonked like this every week but their first half capitulation would worry me if I was the coach. They were outclassed though and know they can do better when they’re playing the Stourbridge’s and Redditch Utd’s of the world.
Time for the ratings and this is the first team of the new season so they get to be top, and bottom, of the new league table.
I was expecting nothing here, fuck all, but Stockport brought their voices and were still celebrating promotion from the National League. That alone was worth **. Considering it was a friendly, I’ll go **½.
£12? For that? Pfft. *½.
Stockport played some lovely football for the first 55 minutes or so before the game stopped being interesting. I can see them making an impact on League 2 with football of that pedigree. There are a few teams in League 2 who are ripe for a slapping. ***
EASE OF ACCESS:
I avoided parking at the ground because I expected a mess when everyone tried to leave. I didn’t stick around to see if that’s what happened but to get out of the club you need to drive past the flow of fans leaving the ground so it’s probably bullshit. We found an easy parking spot and got away with no hassle at all though. ***
I really liked the ‘beer garden’ and it’s a whopping great big shed end. The one side of the ground is completely pathetic and they need more facilities to avoid the queues. A decent ground overall. **½.
If this was last season Nuneaton would find themselves in the orange group. Not quite the relegation zone but nothing much going on. I gave the same points to Peterborough and Southampton if that helps. They would have finished P43 last season. Currently P1…lots of football to come though.