Adventures in Football #80: Spiers & Hartwell Jubilee Stadium (Evesham United)
July 11, 2023
EVESHAM UNITED vs. BROMSGROVE SPORTING (Friendly)
Look at those numbers, eh? 80 grounds. For a guy who, pre-Covid, was on five grounds, that’s not bad going at all. Evesham, aka The Robins, were formed just after World War II by soldiers returning from the war. They’ve existed mostly in Worcestershire and Birmingham leagues. They made it into the Southern League (D1) in 1992 and they’ve been there ever since, barring a brief flirtation with the Premier League under former Coventry City player Dave Busst. He of the horrendous broken leg. Possibly the worst injury in football history. He needed 22 operations and nearly lost his leg entirely. After Busst got them promoted they went straight back down but have since reached the FA Cup first round for the first time in their history in 2008. They lost 2-0 to Torquay.
The Spiers & Hartwell Jubilee Stadium is fairly new. It opened in 2012, with former Man Utd manager Ron Atkinson cutting the ribbon. It’s a basic ground with one small main stand and an additional covered area. Plus bar, shop and all that jazz. I had to work beforehand so Maria picked me up in Worcester and we had a 30+ drive to get there. I originally was finishing work at 7pm when I discovered kick off was 7.30pm. Oops. I almost missed it. We left a bit earlier and got there with loads of time to spare. When you turn off the island outside the ground there’s a small car park marked “private”. That’s not for public consumption. We weren’t allowed in there. Drive a bit further up and the car park is right outside the ground. The stewards were helpful and found us a spot.
That big, corrugated iron wall on the right is the shed end. The building in the background is the bar. We headed up to the turnstile and were awkward and paid by card. It was only a fiver to get in. A fiver! Even for pre-season that’s a bargain.
This is the shed from the other side. The Les Malins Stand, with emphasis on “stand” as there are no seats. This is one of two areas of shelter around the entire ground so I imagine it gets packed in the winter when it’s pissing it down. Yet another substantial corner flag this week. Look at the girth on that bad boy!
Here’s Evesham’s crest, which will annoy Mike because it’s round, but I like it. I has a shoot robin on there. No need for an artist, they just went and photographed the little scamp. The building is Evesham Abbey. The building itself was demolished under the reign of Henry VIII because he wasn’t keen on big religion. The bell tower still stands though.
Here is the main stand. It’s cosy and only covers about a quarter of the pitch down that side, but it’s better than nothing. The rails indicate where the players exit the dressing rooms, which are in the back of the building that houses the bar. I’m thrilled, standing here, to discover 1. we have a grass pitch and 2. that little tent is an outdoor bar.
The other side of the pitch has nothing on it. The dugouts are over there and there’s a bit of standing room but that’s about it. The good news is that, unlike Malvern, the main stand faces the dramatic skyline and rolling hills of Worcestershire. It looked significantly more dramatic in person.
One trip to the “outside bar” later and we settled down on one of the benches outside the clubhouse to enjoy a cold pint of Madri and a burger from their little serving hatch. The kitchen was adequately equipped and whipped me up a *** burger, which came with optional onion, lettuce and tomato or “salad” as the guy dubbed it. I took the lot and risked my life by touching the ketchup bottle. 24 hours later, I’m still alive. Fuck you, Grim Reaper!
Maria got herself a Cold River cider, with blackcurrant, and we relaxed in the sunshine up in the stand, under a McDonalds advert. My hair is a bit of a mess today. Apologies. Also, the sun is in my eyes so I look squinty and the light being so strong makes my beard look ginger. All in all, not my finest work.
Here’s a far superior view; the Spiers & Hartwell Jubilee Stadium. Lit up by glorious sunshine, which means lots of holding of the hand over the eyes and squinting until it drops behind that big bank of cloud up there. As you can see, the seating is fine. It was reasonably comfy. If you are coming around to this part of the ground though, remember not to stand in the hatched area. There is no standing in the hatched area. The baseball cap sporting chap in front is from Bromsgrove. As was the guy down the row from us. And basically everyone else I saw walking around. It’s fair to say Sporting have a slightly bigger fanbase.
Alright, game time! Evesham, predictably, in red and white. Sporting rocking a green and white quartered shirt, with stripes added to the white quarters, making it look like a green version of the 1986 Denmark World Cup shirt, which is an all-timer. I might have to get me one of these. The game kicks off, Sporting field a team made up mostly of trialists. I suspect most of them are not going to sign as Evesham win a penalty and score it in 6 minutes. They then go on to win another penalty, which Ollie Taylor saves.
Sporting go on the attack, sometimes, and almost scored here although, if they had, I wouldn’t have seen it thanks to this big metal post. It’s a floodlight. They put them right next to the pitch for some ungodly reason.
At least Bromsgrove’s lack of movement and passing ability allowed me to get a nice still photo of the players wearing the kit. It’s a banger, I’m sold on it. The first half is dismal from Sporting. The only chances coming from a goalmouth scramble and a long range effort from Luke Rowe. Rowe plays as a holding player in midfield but he’s very skillful and ran the game, in spite of the players around him failing to get the ball forwards. Or make runs. Or run with the ball.
The weather gets a bit dramatic as it starts raining but you can see the rays of light shining through the clouds behind the game. It looks like God has turned up to cheer on the Sporting. They’ll need the help! It gets to half-time. 1-0 Evesham. Sporting have been crap.
This is the Evesham team sheet. Sporting didn’t bother to post one because they don’t know who half the players are. I also took a photo because it says, “Monday 11th July”. You can look this one up reader, it was Tuesday. Shout out to Evesham #7 Amer Awadh for tucking 50% of his penalties away in that half. Given the way Sporting are playing, there are more to come.
As the sun dramatically sets over Evesham, the Sporting make a series of substitutions that turns a complete mess into a decent showing. The right sided centre back (perhaps Tom Taylor?) is a huge improvement. He moves the ball forwards with much more dynamism and urgency. Right winger King-Harmes was especially lively and got into the box, where he was tripped. The resultant penalty was tucked away by Conor Tee for 1-1. That’s how it stayed despite pressure from Sporting. With Miro Pais to be added and hopefully a couple more signings, that second half performance gives me a bit of confidence that Sporting won’t be a disaster this season.
Seeing the club shop open here makes me wish I had collected some sort of merch from these games. Maybe a badge or something? Anyway, no regrets. Let’s see how Evesham faired on this season’s scoreboard!
Nothing doing. A bit of a cheer from the Sporting fans when the penalty went in. That was about it. A lot of pre-season grumbling going on. At one point a geezer in tribal dress walked past yelling at us to cheer up, we were sat in the stand. He didn’t get many smiles. *
It was a bluey. You can’t really fault that. Have I paid less to get into games? Very rarely. ****½
The first half was dogshit. I considered just leaving so we could go home and go to sleep. Luckily Sporting showed up for the second 45 minutes and it was just about salvaged. **
EASE OF ACCESS:
By car, it was easy to get in and out of. If you’re heading in by train, it’s at the other end of town to the station. Which is a two mile walk. There are two pubs on the route, if you fancy it, but one of them is a Spoons. ***
It’s a nice shiny new stadium with decent facilities. The outdoor bar was a nice touch, although it did close during the game. The indoor bar was very busy at half time. I considered grabbing a pint but couldn’t be bothered. The choice of beers is what you’d expect at a non-league ground. ***
The same score as Malvern. While Malvern had a less interesting ground, it had a better game and prettier hills. Evesham has a nice setup for the level, and it was a fiver to get in! I know that’s not the price all season but for a friendly, I’ll take it.