Adventures in Football #9: Sixways (Worcester Raiders FC)
July 21, 2021
Worcester Raiders vs. Earlswood Town
Worcester Raiders are a relatively new team. They were founded to fill a football void in Worcester, thanks to city rivals Worcester City playing their home games elsewhere. I’ll talk more about City when I get to their ground but the Raiders were Worcester’s only team for a while. They used to play at Claines Lane, the home of the Worcestershire FA, which is where Worcester City will play this season. Raiders now play their home games here;
Sixways! Easily the best ground at this level (step 10) in the entire country. Sixways has a capacity of 11,499 and is home to Premiership Rugby club Worcester Warriors. The Warriors co-owners became majority owners in Worcester Raiders due to the ground share. For comparison here are some other teams in this division; Pershore Town, Wellington and Moreton Rangers. Such noted massive clubs in world football as Hereford Pegasus and Clanfield ‘85. The only ground with a comparable rating on footballgroundmap.com is Bourton Rovers’ Rissington Road ground, which has a capacity of 500.
Worcester Raiders were created to fill a void so they didn’t exist before 2001 and were a youth club until 2009 and didn’t enter the pyramid until 2013. Like with any footballing rivalry, they selected the opposing colours to Worcester City, who play in blue, and play in a Man Utd-esque red and black.
This is a big day for Josh, my work son, as I’m taking him to his first football game. He plays and is addicted to football on TV but this is his first live game. I’m hoping it’s a good one for him. My first live game was a frankly tedious goalless draw in a pre-season friendly at the Victoria Ground.
First off was part of the journey I was actually quite excited about. I love walking. I love exploring shit. The two reasons I really like to walk is that 1) it gives you time to mull over your thoughts free from the constraints of work or even at home where there are myriad distractions. 2) Life comes at you fast. If you’re driving somewhere or on the train, the world flies by at a million miles per hour and you’re going to miss stuff.
Like this footbridge!
I spent most of the journey walking alongside the canal. Canals are normally a good walk because you get away from the big city life a little bit. There’s one through London that has incredible views. It’s a completely different city by the canal. The Worcester canal stroll is three miles from the outside of town to Sixways but every inch of it is beautiful. The countryside sprawling off to the left. Little woods to the right. I went past two locks. It was a lovely little stroll. The temperature today was once again 30 degrees so I was boiling but it was still nice.
My little walk brought me out here. At the back end of the Sixways car park. There’s no denying Sixways is an impressive stadium. It was designed for top flight rugby and is set up in a professional manner. There’s a load of car parking space, they have a fanzone set up outside and there’s a huge store attached to the site. Plus multiple bars on multiple levels. Most of which was closed because this isn’t the Warriors playing.
The pitch is immaculate, although it should be because it’s artificial. It is a touch frustrating to see it covered in marks from where the rugby is played. I don’t know what all the crosses and shit mean but I assume that’s where scrums happen or something some posh boy invented at university. As part of the contactless bar Sixways has a ‘serve yourself’ set up. Which is cool but sadly I am really bad at pouring a pint of Becks. Like 60% foam bad. The barkeep takes pity on me and pours me another. Pure shame. Josh opted for cider so he’s fine. Next time I see a self pour thing I’m definitely going with cider. Attendance wise; the crowd is sparse. There are probably 50 people and only one stand is open. There’s still no one sat anywhere near where we are. In fairness though; it’s a very big stand. Raiders line up in a snazzy red and black kit with faded vertical stripes. Earlswood, tonight’s cannon fodder, turn up in yellow.
Early on Josh asks me for a score prediction and I go 3-0 Raiders. They’re clearly far superior to Earlswood. The visitors have 3-4 badly overweight/unfit players and struggle to keep up. Raiders leave huge space at the back and Earlswood don’t have the pace to exploit it. Raiders #8 Kyle Belmonte looks like a talented player. He’s their creative force in midfield. If they can nail down some communication issues on set pieces they’ll do bits this season. Raiders play 4-3-3 with the right back charging forwards at every given opportunity. He must have been watching Denzel Dumfries at the Euros. A goalkeeping error gives Raiders the lead. Issac Cooper tucks away from close range for 1-0. Tricky #10 Reece Taylor Randle pulls a proper Lorenzo Insigne out with a right footed curler from the edge of the box for 2-0. It’s an absolute beauty. I was joking with Josh before kick off saying it’ll end 0-0 as my first game ever was 0-0 and my first Everton game was 0-0. 2-0 at HT.
Shout out to the floodlights for being a big W by the way. I love touches like that in grounds. The Raiders badge has been blatantly stolen from the LA/Las Vegas/Oakland Raiders crest though. Just putting some red on there isn’t fooling anyone. Early in the second half Belmonte gets his goal after enterprising first half play, dinking one over the keeper. 3-0. Shortly afterwards another attack makes it 4-0. The marauding right back (#3) heads home. Raiders Twitter doesn’t identify him sadly. Belmonte tees up Cooper for his second and Raiders’ fifth and the big centre back Jordan Stoddart even gets in on the act by rifling in number six.
I can’t recommend going to Raiders enough. It’s like being at a Championship ground only with a tiny fraction of the fans. If you’re like me and you hate other people, it’s a really pleasant experience. If you yell at players they can hear you. You’re not lost in the noise of a big crowd. Which is a pity if you want to call the captain of the opposing team a “fat bastard” but are worried he might just stroll off the pitch and lamp you. If you’re in the Worcester area you could do far worse, quite frankly. It’s a great ground. Security was decent and not overzealous. Everything was very organised for this level of the pyramid. The owners hope to put football on the map in Worcestershire. Good luck to them. They’ve already got an incredible set up.