Biddulph Victoria
Tunstall Road

Ground No. 220
Visited - Saturday 6th November 2010
Result - Biddulph Victoria 0-1 Coventry Sphinx
Competition - Midland Football Alliance
Attendance - 42

When Tuncay signed for Stoke in the summer of 2009 it was considered a big signing, with the Turkish international putting pen to paper for the sum of £5m, however it appears he might not be the first man from the east to have found his way to the Potteries.

The legend of ‘The Black Men of Biddle’ goes back centuries, and appears to relate to the crusades when (depending on which tale you believe) either one, or a dozen or so Saracens were bought back to England by Orm of Biddulph, settling in the area, which supposedly gives explanation to people from that part of the moors having a darker complexion and different accent to those from the surrounding towns and villages. How true that is, is anyone’s guess, the details having been lost in the passage of time, however the Eastern influence and carvings on the local parish church throw weight to the legend, with one variation of the tale suggesting that it was the Saracen stonemasons that helped to build it.

Situated just north of Stoke, allusions to Eastern influences aside, Biddulph is a small market town close to the River Trent’s source and has a long history, with ancient burial mounds in the surrounding countryside suggesting the area has been populated for several millennia. Since the industrial revolution, it has been most notable for mining, and it was the miners from the Victoria Colliery who founded Knypersley FC in 1933, (Knypersley being an area to the south of the town) playing at Tunstall Road, where they won the Staffordshire Challenge Cup in 1946 before disbanding shortly afterwards. In 1969 a new club, Knypersley Victoria were formed, and after playing in local leagues, during the late 80s they eventually started to climb the non-league ladder, joining the West Midlands Regional League (Division One) in 1991, winning the title one season later and in their first season after promotion, finishing sixth in the Premier Division, a position which was enough to see them claim a place in the newly created Midland Alliance for 1994/95. They’ve been there ever since, winning the League cup in 1998, the same season that they came close to an FA Cup 1st Round appearance, only to narrowly lose 1-0 to Boston United in the 4th qualifying round. In 2002 they decided to change their name to Biddulph Victoria as a bid to gain wider support from the area, but with attendances remaining steady and further success alluding them, then it hasn’t helped their fortunes, with many fans still referring to them by the more familiar Knypersley moniker.

I’d seen the club play a number of times on various Alliance grounds, so a visit there seemed well overdue and having been too lazy to get up for the early train down to London, then a quick rethink was required come mid-morning, with Biddulph’s fixture against Coventry Sphinx standing out amongst other games.

Leaving at midday, the journey into Staffordshire went by fine, a short train ride to Stoke, and two busses into and out of Hanley before arriving into Knypersley just before 2:30pm and making the short walk to the ground.

Whilst generally considered part of Stoke-on-Trent, Knypersley is in fact quite a rural area, a good 7 miles north of Hanley itself. The ground is located on the main road through the village, and is split between cricket and football, with a picturesque pavilion and scoreboard sitting at the top of sloping ground in the distance. The clubhouse (or sports bar) sits outside the turnstiles, and after arriving, was rather disappointingly packed full of Stoke fans watching their game with Sunderland on TV, easily outnumbering those inside the ground who had chosen to watch their local side instead, so giving that a swerve, I decided to go in and take a peek at the ground itself.

The near side is railed off from the cricket pitch, although there's no hard standing, only grass with the rail presumably moved during cricket season. Behind the near goal is the changing rooms and refreshment huts, whilst the only stand at the ground sits at this end, directly behind the goal, with four rows of bench seating under a large cavernous cover. The far side is a cramped affair, with netting obstructing the view from behind the barrier where there's hard standing running the full length and around behind the far goal. It’s noticeable how many signs there are that even 8 years on still retain their former name, including the exit gates outside which have it painted on in large letters!

On to the game then, and whilst I'd managed to make the journey up from Wolverhampton and arrive half an hour before kick-off, it was a shame the officials couldn't have been as efficient, with the programme listing them from as from there as well! They were stuck on the M6 in traffic, so the game was late kicking off, eventually getting going at 3:20, with the light already starting to fade.

Coventry looked the brighter to begin with, a strong, physical side bullying their way into the game and causing the home side some problems in defence, but as the half wore on, Biddulph got more into it and a fairly even game played out with it still 0-0 at the break.

10 minutes after half time, Kelvin Phillips broke the deadlock with a great goal, cutting in from the right hand side before hitting the ball home from a good 25 yards out right into the corner. It was what they deserved for their early pressing from the first half, but they were made to sweat in the last half hour as Biddulph put them under some severe pressure, really testing the away goalie who made some great saves, including a fantastic tip over late on from an effort that was going in. Despite their best attempts, the hosts couldn't find a way through, and were probably unfortunate to come away with nothing in the end on a bitterly cold afternoon that seems to suggest it's that time of year to either get out the gloves and hat or find a clubhouse that keeps the curtains open!

Coming back, then it was good to have eventually ticked off a ground that according to the rumours at the game, might not be around next season with the cricket club supposedly kicking them out. It's probably worth taking that with a pinch of salt, however with the cricket part of the site in a better state of repair than its footballing neighbour, which is probably best described as ‘rustic’, then you do wonder. Having a bar next door full of fans watching their local Premiership team on TV whilst their crowds fall sadly won’t help their case, or the clubs future either it’s sad to say as Biddulph continue to suffer from the same decline in attendances that all of the Potteries non-league sides have following Stoke’s promotion in 2008.

Welcome to Biddulph

or Knypersley...

The Clubhouse

The Turnstiles

The Main Stand

The Far Side

The Near End

The Far Side

The Far End

The Near Side

The Cricket Club Pavilion

The players shake hands

The Near Side

Tunstall Road Panoramic


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