With the promise of a pie and a pint, we travelled to Derbyshire to watch non-league Glossop North End (GNE), arriving at the unexpectedly grand Glossop train station which, we found out later, was built and paid for by the 13th Duke of Norfolk – he even had his own private entrance.
As it was match day the first stop was, naturally, a pub. Handily across the road from the station on the ground floor of the old Glossop Conservative Club was our recommended bar, Harvey Leonard’s, run by locals Stephen Leonard and Suzanne Harvey. In its current incarnation, the pub dates back to 2013 when the couple started a licensed wine and ale shop in case locals fancied a glass of something before taking the bottle home. The shop was a success and quickly outgrew the confined space so when a developer wanted a local business to move into the Conservative Club, the pair jumped at the chance.
We get the low-down on Glossop life from Thom Hetherington, 10th generation Glossopian, art and restaurant exhibition specialist and self-confessed foodie. Glossop is going through some changes and fairing much better than some other towns surrounding Manchester – the independent businesses and chains work well together and lend the town a unique identity. Glossop is great for local foodies with a vegan and a Sri Lankan restaurant, several real bakeries and thre proper butchers including the award-winning Mettricks who supply the pies on match day. One of Glossop’s claims to fame is as the setting for Royston Vasey in The League of Gentlemen TV series (Mettricks even produced a blue sausage as a tie-in to the show).
GNE was founded the same year as Arsenal in 1886 but the connection doesn’t end there. When GNE had a brief spell in the first division, the team’s benefactor was local businessman (as well as cricketer and MP) Sir Samuel Hill-Wood who, after retiring from politics in 1929, became the Arsenal chairman, as have his son and grandson.
Today GNE play Colne, who have won their last five matches and are two points ahead – both teams need all three points to be in with a chance of a play-off place. Thom suggests getting a pie straight away (steak, mushroom and red wine for me) as they often run out. Fellow Arsenal supporter Susan, who judges a stadium by the vegetarian option, reports that GNE has passed thanks to its with a cheese and onion pie.
The first half of the match was subdued and lacked the crucial goal – Colne were organised and managed to keep out everything that GNE threw at them, but the GNE keeper provided a safe pair of hands. As the referee whistled for half-time the home team looked deflated. We had a peek in the club house to check the earlier PL score, confirmation that Arsenal’s nearest rival had won. Again. 4-0 this time. Grabbing hot drinks on the way back to the stand we readied ourselves for the second half.
The weather changed for the worse but GNE seemed reinvigorated after the break. Manager Chris Willcock had clearly said the right things as the home team calmly strung passes together finally managing to test the Colne goalkeeper; the anxiety and nervousness from the first half had melted away.
Now the rain started to pelt down. Time ticked on and it looked like GNE had left it too late with the Colne keeper continuing to pull off impressive saves. One attempt comically rebounded around the penalty area several times with the keeper stranded on the ground. More chances and more frustrating saves, then, with ten minutes to go, from a Colne throw-in, Glossop midfielder Ben Richardson (primary school teacher by day) scored and the stadium erupted with even some Colne fans applauding. After that, they managed to hold onto the ball with little drama and Willcock made some time-wasting substitutions until the final whistle. All three points and fourth place secured for the Hillmen. With just Mossley and Lancaster City left to face, it’ll come down to the last match before GNE know if they’ve made the play-offs.
We headed back to the Harvey Leonard’s and settled next to a sizeable table reserved for a vegan hen party. We checked up on the PL scores to see how those nearest to Arsenal had fared – as predicted all our near rivals had won. This was not good news. The end of the season is around the corner for GNE, they are looking upwards. Arsenal still have another month before they know their fate.
By Michelle Nicholson, Sports Correspondent
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The Northern Soul Awards 2017, hosted by Lemn Sissay MBE, will celebrate and reward cultural and artistic excellence in the North of England.