Adventures in Football #70: Cadbury Recreation Ground (Cadbury Athletic)
NOVEMBER 20, 2022
CADBURY ATHLETIC vs. EARLSWOOD TOWN (Midland League Division 2)
This weekend is a bit of a shitshow. I was supposed to head down south to hang out with Mike this weekend, but work has been harsh. I’ve been knackered for two days, and I’ve resorted to going to the closest ground I’ve not been to instead. And yet, a ground I’ve been meaning to go to for ages and one of the closest big hit list grounds (along with Villa Park). Cadbury, as you can gather from the name, are associated with Cadbury’s, the chocolatiers. And therefore, play at Cadbury Recreation Ground; an area of grass designated for sports by George Cadbury when he slapped together the whole company.
The club moved to Triplex Sports to play their home games when they needed floodlights. Now they’re in MLD2 they don’t need floods and can play at this lovely old ground. There’s always a chance they’ll bugger off again so I thought I’d get in here while I could. Cadbury Athletic started out in 1994 and have competed in various versions of the midlands leagues the whole of their existence. They were in Midlands Division 1 at the start of the pandemic but resigned during it and last season won division 2 and elected to stay at this level. Presumably so they can play in a ground with no floodlights.
I’ve seen Earlswood Town before, away at Worcester Raiders in a pre-season friendly, and they were one of the worst teams I’ve ever seen play football. The only other ground I’ve been to at this level was Fairfield Villa and they also don’t have floodlights. Amazingly there is a division on the pyramid below this one; division 3, which has teams like Central Ajax, AFC Birmingham, Coventry Dunlop and Continental Star in it. There are teams in there I’ve never even heard of like Sutton Rangers, Birmingham Tigers and Castle Vale Town.
Game day then and it’s one of the easiest grounds in the country for me to get to. I hop on a train, travel a few stops on the cross city and I’m there. From home to ground is about 30 minutes. I could have walked it. On arrival I slink off to Birmingham Brewing Company for a few tasty beverages. It’s about 7-8 minutes walk from the station and there’s another brewery that I walked past called Attic. I’ve been meaning to do the Birmingham one for a while, so I went there. Plenty of options around there for a pre-match pint.
Walking to the ground I’m reminded that Bournville has a purple gimmick, so all the lamp posts and railings are purple. As is the home team’s kit. It gives what is essentially a load of factories and worker housing a magical feel. It’s amazing what a splash of colour can do. I get to the ground and it’s a bluey to get in. Although if you turn up in the second half the fencing and entry point is gone so you can just walk in like a bunch of Chinese students did.
My first view on entering is to the right where we have a wonderful terrace. I stood on this second half and it’s a decent elevation to see the action. Some rails to lean on would have been nice but otherwise I was satisfied with both the view and the vibe. I also love the Cadbury’s signage.
Speaking of which, the pitch serves as a fire assembly point for the factory and each block has its own area and I had to take a picture of the chocolate block’s assembly point. In the background you can see part of the factory as it borders half of the pitch. Behind the terrace and behind the far goal mouth.
Next door to the pitch is this field. I’m assuming they play cricket on this in the summer because it’s enormous and there’s plenty of space to do so.
Here’s the view downfield from the pavilion end. I meant to go up into the pavilion and take a picture from up there and completely forgot. I love that you can sit on a bench behind the goal and just watch from there. The crowd is sparse. I did a head count about 10 minutes before kick-off and counted 28. Another, later, head count was 95. So, I a lot of people turned up right before the game started.
There’s no clubhouse sadly but the pavilion does have a serving hatch into a little kitchen, dispensing snacks and beverages. There was a wonderful and appropriate smell of hot chocolate wafting out from it. The pavilion also housed the changing rooms, and the players came out from there. The building also features toilets that are from another era. A big semi-circular urinal with hideous yellow staining. I wanted to grab a picture of it but there were people, yanno, urinating in there at the time.
As I mentioned before, the ground is half surrounded by factory buildings. George Cadbury held a belief that sport was an integral part of community and getting that work/life balance right. It’s great to see those ideals being held up to this day and the space being used for football. It was sad that Cadbury Athletic had to move away from here to Triplex Sports due to the lack of floodlights. Would floodlights ruin the aesthetic?
I got stuck in the corner as the teams come out, so I took this picture of them emerging from the ‘tunnel’. I want to say something about the referee but if I speak, I am in big trouble. You can see the little viewing platform from this picture and I’m kicking myself for not at least popping up there to have a gander at the view. There’s also an extra terrace behind the building but it felt too far away from the pitch to be useful. The smell of TCP as the players emerge brings back memories of standing by the tunnel in Bromsgrove. It’s amazing how smells evoke memories stronger than anything else.
My initial plan is to watch from the terracing but fuck me, it’s a bit bright. Note everyone on the side-lines with their hands over their eyes. I did get a nice view of the dugout though and the little purple bin in between. The visiting manager reminds me of Jurgen Klopp. He’s tall, wears a baseball cap and yells a load of bollocks. I’m surprised nobody twats him. I guess he is a big lad. Four minutes in and Cadbury get a free kick on the edge of the box. I’m not expecting much but Ethan Hanks curls a beauty over the wall.
I should probably mention at this point that there were a lot of Groundhoppers at the game. There was a car full of lads from Braintree including Daniel Turner who captured the goal above. I headed behind the far goal mouth to get away from the sun and watch Cadbury attack. I got chatting to a guy there called “Mr Ferguson”. I didn’t catch his first name because blokes just talk about football*. He was from Chepstow, and we were talking about grounds and stuff when we were joined by a local Groundhopper from Birmingham called Andy. I had a lovely time chatting to these chaps about football and grounds we’d been to.
*Thanks to Futbology, I know it’s Paul Ferguson. Thanks for the chat!
We weren’t alone and I’m pretty sure two other blokes who were walking around that area were also groundhoppers. I don’t think this was arranged or anything, but a load of hoppers descended on Cadbury this afternoon.
Another one of my famous ‘spot the ball’ competitions here. It’s there somewhere! Being at step 7 allowed for some tremendous comedy. An Earlswood player felt the urge to roll around feigning injury causing the Cadbury left back to tell him to “stop rolling you bell end”. Well, he’s not wrong. Who feigns injury at this level? Fucking ridiculous behaviour. Next up is the ref, who didn’t have a great game, but we are at step 7, who missed a blatant penalty. The Cadbury forward was clean through on goal and got pulled back. The referee gave it the OTHER WAY thinking the forward had dived. Absolutely terrible officiating. If he’d been up with play, he’d have seen it. Why would he dive when he’s clean through on goal?
Here’s the shot you’ve been waiting for; the pavilion from the far end. It’s a beauty. One of the most attractive buildings you’ll ever see at a football ground. It deserved a better standard of play than was on hand for parts of this game. The first half was fun, although Cadbury should have scored a second. The forward skying one over when he was through on goal and another half chance being blazed over. Seeing as I was functioning as an unpaid ball boy I was not terribly impressed. Then Earlswood equalised after a messy goal mouth mix up.
With the sun going behind some clouds, photography became a little easier. Here’s the pavilion in all its glory. The group of lads down front were playing headers and volleys for most of the game. In the second half both keepers made horrendous errors. First the Cadbury keeper missed the ball and the Earlswood striker completely miskicked his effort over an open net. Well, the shot went into the air but didn’t make the goal line. At the other end the Earlswood keeper, who was a nice chap and always thanked me for returning the ball in the first half, whiffed on a back pass and it almost rolled into the goal.
I went back onto the terrace for the second half and was again joined by Mr Ferguson. The second half was marked by a constant ringing of bells from somewhere nearby. I can only assume the Bournville Parish Church, St Francis of Assisi. Decent winger, St Francis, liked to whip his crosses in. Another thing that the second half had was a smell of weed coming from the one end of the terrace. Two blokes were happily puffing away. You don’t get that in the Premier League!
Around the hour mark they start to drag the barriers into storage. If you arrive at the ground super late there’s absolutely nothing stopping you strolling in and I’m pretty sure the crowd swelled near the finish. This is the ‘turnstile’ getting dragged away. As time ticked away it looked like a draw was on the cards. The quality of the game had decreased in the second half. Especially from Cadbury, who lost their centre forward to a hamstring problem in the first half. Cadbury almost score but it’s adjudged not to have crossed the line. Where’s Hawkeye when you need it? Just as I thought it was over Cadbury’s number 8 drills a shot into the box, it hits a defender and falls to Cadbury’s number 10 who scores. 2-1 Cadbury!
With the game over I say my goodbyes to my Groundhopping brethren and head for the train station. I almost hoped for a missed connection so I could pop in Attic for a pint, but the train was bang on time and I got home before it was dark. A stark contrast to my initial plans of travelling halfway across the country. I’m glad I went to Cadbury Athletic and had a great time chatting to both Groundhoppers I encountered. Let’s see how it rates compared to other grounds I’ve been to this season!
Muted. Some polite applause when goals went in and a little bit of cheering but nothing else. *
A fiver is a bargain. I paid £7 at Cefn last weekend. ****
There were flashes from a few players, but the general standard was poor, which is what you’d expect from this level to be honest. Technically, it was the worst football I’ve seen this season but again, it’s step 7. *½
EASE OF ACCESS
It was less than five minutes walk from the train station. Trains into Birmingham are very frequent. There’s also a huge car park by the station. ****
The lack of facilities are to be expected at step 7. The pavilion is a charmer though and the terracing is beautiful. It’s a really nice place to go and watch football, even if the standard is quite low. It is one of those grounds that, as a Groundhopper, you should probably be ticking off at some point. ***½
It’s a solid score for Cadbury. I gave the same rating to Old Trafford if that helps for comparison!