Adventures in Football #81: The Grove (Halesowen Town)
July 18, 2023
HALESOWEN TOWN vs. KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS (Friendly)
Halesowen is a ground I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. It’s been home to Halesowen since 1881. Like nearby Stourbridge, it used to double as a cricket ground and had three sides. This remained the case until the 1980s, although the cricket pavilion was replaced way back in the 1950s. The ground is famous for having a slope to it, although I’ve noticed grounds with slopes seem to be eradicating this natural advantage. It also has fabulous old terraces on two sides.
Halesowen, dubbed the “Yeltz” for reasons I don’t understand* have been largely a regional team in their history. They came out of the Birmingham leagues in 1962 and have been in various divisions of West Midlands leagues ever since, apart from a stint in the Northern League during a strange reclassification period. In the FA Cup, they made it into the first round back in 1985-86, beaten on a replay by Frickley Athletic. They did so again the following year, routed 4-1 by Southend. The run of R1 continued for 7 years. Cup success breeds cup success. However, R2 remained elusive. After defeat to Farnborough in 1992, they didn’t get to R1 again until defeat to Yeading in 2005. Recent years have been less kind and last season they were hammered 3-0 by tiny Romulus in pre-qualifying.
*I have the answer to this, keep reading!
In other cup competitions they’ve had more joy. They reached the semi-final of the FA Trophy in 2019-20, being edged out by Concord Rangers. In the FA Vase, they made three finals in four years in the mid 80s. Winning two of those against Fleetwood and Southall in 1985 and 1986. This season, they’re back in the Southern League alongside nearby rivals Stourbridge, Bromsgrove, Redditch and Alvechurch.
Game day and Halesowen is even closer to me than Birmingham so it’s an easy 20-minute drive, somewhat complicated by rush hour traffic and roadworks. On the way Maria announces she’s already eaten, and I haven’t. On arrival in Halesowen, I’m forced to track down some scran. We park up at the High Street Multi-story. Never quite figured out how to get into the underground part of that. Parking is free after 7pm so if you’re going to the ground yourself, this is an easy win. It’s 10 minutes walk to the ground. It’s also next to the William Shenstone, the local Spoons. I have come to loathe Wetherspoons but it’s still one of the best fast food places going. I order up a mixed grill and it’s on the table inside ten minutes. The beer is, perhaps predictably, dreadful.
After that we stroll around the corner to Roberto’s Bar and Tasting Room for a significantly better beer. It’s a delightful little tap room, fitting into a shop space with a convenience store next door with whopping big melons outside of it. Across the road is St John the Baptist Church. I’ve had worse views with my pint. We take a stroll and five minutes away is the Waggon & Horses, which is a Black Country Ales pub and they’re just wonderful, so we have time for a beer in there too. If you planned it, you could easily add in the King Edward VII and the Yeltz Bar for a pub crawl pre-match.
Anyway, we’re here. Welcome to Halesowen Town Football Club. There are two entrances. One the other side of the pitch is the main way in and it comes out next to the clubhouse, toilets and other amenities such as the shop. I would recommend this entrance because those steps right behind the turnstile give you the best view of the ground.
Bam! The steps are like going into a league ground, where you come out of the concourse, but it’s done on a non-league level. It’s very cool. While this is just a normal non-league ground this is the first of many things that surprise me and take my breath away.
I take a moment to look around the ground and I’m immediately drawn to the terracing. We’re standing on one cool bit of old timey terracing but the whole one side has it too. Obviously, I’ve seen it done better (Hereford) but this is a cracking little ground.
This is our seating area for today’s game. Maria grabs a seat while I go off on a tour around the ground. Only four rows of seats in the main, well only, stand but it goes almost the entire length of the pitch. There’s a sponsor’s bar thing further down plus a serving hatch for food and you can get a pint from there too. Albeit limited to Carling or Thatcher’s.
First stop on the tour is back where we started. Here’s another view of the end we came out at. This is where the Kidderminster fans congregated and where I would probably stand if I had the choice. Not because I support Kidderminster but because it just looked like a great view of the pitch.
This is the terrace on the other side of the pitch from a better angle. It’s in good condition but, obviously, open to the elements. I wouldn’t fancy standing out here in the winter with a cool breeze blowing. Leaving it open does make it look better though and as the PA announcer mentioned, because it’s completely outdoors you can smoke out here. Should you wish.
Back over the other side, where we would sit during the game, is the Harry Rudge Stand. As you can see, it’s fairly substantial. Most stands at this level don’t go that far down the sides. For example, Bromsgrove’s is probably half that size but higher up. You can see Maria here in the top left hand corner wearing the white Chicago Bulls hoodie. That was our vantage point.
Ok, the Yeltz. What does it mean? Yeltz is short for “Ye Earls”, or rather residents of the Earl’s land. Essentially, commoners. It’s a club of the common people. I appreciate that. This is their TV gantry, which also has no cover. I bet that sucks when the weather is rough. However, it does provide cover. I reckon I’d try and stand here if I was a regular. Right on the halfway line.
Up into the far corner of the ground now and this is the Shed End. This is where all the noise came from during the game. I did go and have a look in here but the player’s tunnel/cage comes out three quarters of the way down so you can’t just walk through. Off to my right is the clubhouse, keeping those fans suitably lubricated. The main toilets are behind me. Plus the main food and club shop. All in this corner. In between the second and third pillars, you can just about make up the little serving hatch in the corner, which sorts out the Harry Rudge fans.
Back around the ground and some slightly artistically improved shots of the ground on the way. This is in the other corner of the Shed End. The fans less raucous down here. You’ll notice the pitch looks a bit weird here and apparently, the ground used to have that famous slope to it. You can see where the pitch would have started. That would have been pretty steep!
The Yeltz Army; Halesowen’s 12th Man. Boy, they weren’t kidding. I’ll get to the fan support later on but this was a pre-season game, and they were in fine voice. As I mentioned at the top, Kiddy are two divisions above Halesowen and it showed. They started out professionally and were 1-0 up inside a minute. A tap in for Morgan-Smith after one of Kiddy’s triallists took a punt from range. Halesowen rallied and they tried hard to get back into the game.
Second half Kiddy took a hold of the game and scored twice from corners. Zak Brown both times. The second one was weird as a defender managed to head the ball against their own bar before Brown followed in. Kiddy had two one-on-ones after that goal and could have run away with a big away win.
Full Time: Halesowen Town 0 Kidderminster Harriers 3
Before we depart the scene, let’s give Halesowen some scores shall we?
One of the liveliest pre-season games I’ve ever seen, especially at this level. The Shed End was the main source of noise and I reckon important games in this ground would be noisy. They had 1000+ for this game too. A great turn out. ****
It’s normally £12 but they dropped the price to £6 because it was pre-season. An absolute bargain. ****
I’ve seen better games. Pre-season is all about getting players used to each other and up to full speed for the games that matter. There were a few misunderstandings and if Harriers had more clinical finishing, it could have been a massacre. **
EASE OF ACCESS:
There is parking at the ground, which we didn’t explore but the car park we used was a short walk away from the ground. The train station isn’t much further and is 13 minute walk according to Google Maps. That route will take you past all the pubs I mentioned too. ***½
I loved the terraces and the sunken pitch, which felt like you were looking down on it even when you weren’t. It’s a cracking place to watch football. They could do with a third beer on in that little serving hatch and the toilets weren’t great, but these are minor complaints at this level. ***½
A solid score for Halesowen, it puts them top of the table (albeit very early in the season). Last season they would have tied Arsenal in P9. One of the best non-league grounds in the Midlands with Hereford, and Kiddy itself.