Silkfield Lane

Ground No. 198
Visited - Tuesday 27th October 2009
Result - Brocton 3-0 Pelsall Villa
Competition - Midland Combination Premier Division
Attendance - 63

Just south of Stafford, the small village of Brocton lies on the edge of Cannock Chase and was once home to writer J.R.R. Tolkien. It was here where he did his Army training during the 1st World War, in a camp long gone, but still immortalised by the road bearing its name. Tolkien only spent 13 months here, so his association with the village is somewhat overstated, but it was in the same year that his novel ‘The Hobbit’ was published (1937) that Brocton FC were formed thanks to Arthur Mayer, the landlord of the Chetwynd Arms who provided a ball and pitch for local boys to play on. Spending most of their life in various amateur leagues, the club eventually moved up to the Staffordshire Senior League in 1991, although with the promotion was the need to find a more suitable ground, moving to Rowley Park Stadium in Stafford to meet the grading requirements. Continuing their on-field success, they eventually moved to the Midland Combination Premier in 2003, having since switched grounds to Cannock Sports Stadium. It was being forced to leave there and share with Heath Hayes that increased the clubs determination to find a ground of their own, and in 2006 they achieved this aim by moving back to Stafford and securing the lease on the former Staffordshire Police Sports Ground in Silkmore Lane.

I hadn’t actually planned to come here, or rather was in no particular rush to do so, but the big 200th ground was approaching, and I was trying to decide where to complete the landmark at, having eventually settled on Consett for the 28th November. As always though, the best laid plans of mice and men… and this date had to be bought forward to the 14th, so still stuck on 197 then I needed to quickly fit in another two to get the timing right, Brocton’s home fixture against Pelsall Villa being one of the few night games over that period that I could get to without taking time off from work.

Leaving the office at 5pm, then the journey went well enough, arriving back in Wolverhampton by 6 o’clock and then catching a train up to Stafford before setting off on the long walk down to the south of the town.

Situated in a residential area, when the club took over the site, they found it derelict, the police not having used it for a number of years, so they had had to knock down the social club, changing rooms, and rotated the pitch so that the aerial view I’d seen beforehand was long out of date. Hidden in between two neighbouring houses here’s a lengthy entrance drive to the gates, but once in then it opens out into quite an expansive area, the main pitch in front as you enter and two other pitches on the far side. Hard standing runs around all four sides, with car parking around the near side and end. The only stand at the ground sits just off the halfway line on the near side providing roughly 100 seats and is of the flat-pack generic design. All of the facilities and changing rooms are situated in a series of portacabins in the far corner, although perhaps the most interesting thing at the ground are the floodlights. There are six in total, one on each side of the halfway line, whilst the other four are in the corners, but unusually behind the by-line as opposed the touchline (which in fairness, actually probably isn’t the most interesting thing in the world!)

Brocton had been doing well in the league, sitting in third place behind two teams I’d seen earlier in the season (GSA and Pilkington), whilst the visitors Pelsall were safely ensconced in mid-table mediocrity. Despite the form though, it was Pelsall who started the brighter and gradually looked the stronger of the two as the half wore on, getting more and more into the game until just before half-time when the hosts went ahead. A throw from Tom Tonks which would have made Rory Delap proud was flicked on and Mick Fox met the loose ball at the back post where he tapped home. The second half was much more decisive in the home teams favour, ‘The Badgers’ adding another two courtesy of Richard Jones and Tonks who put what had turned into a fairly boring game beyond Pelsall.

After leaving I made my way home without any problems, the journey back going fairly uneventfully other than a cancelled train (which ended up working fine meaning there wasn’t a long wait for a bus at the other end). Overall, whilst perhaps lacking any real character, the ground is what you would describe as neat and tidy. The club have put a lot of hard work into getting football played there again, notably on the pitch which has no doubt benefitted from former groundsman of the year and ex-Wolves man Bill Pilbeam being involved. After a game versus Arsenal at Molineux, George Graham was quoted as saying “if you can’t play on that, you can’t play on anything” and you get the impression that similar praise is due here, now if only he had a degree in ground architecture...

Welcome to Silkmore Lane

Entrance to the Ground

The Near End

The Near Side

The Main Stand

The Far End

The Dugouts

Ready for Kick Off

The Far Side


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