Sheffield FC
The Coach & Horses Ground

Ground No. 177
Visited - Saturday 21st March 2009
Result - Sheffield 2-1 Willenhall Town
Competition - Northern Premier League, Division 1 South
Attendance - 310

Other than sanitation, medication, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system, public health, founded Sheffield FC…. what have the Romans ever done for us? Well, OK, maybe not the last one, but you’d be excused for thinking so given how much the club goes on about it! Officially recognised by FIFA, Sheffield FC are the oldest club in the world, not quite dating back to the times of Bigus Dickus, but founded in 1857, they even predate the FA by a full six years.

In the early days of the game, they had a huge influence, right down to defining the very rules we play by today, but the founding of the Football League and professionalism was a route they chose not to go down, and as with a number of the famous nineteenth century sides, they became usurped by the more common names we know today. Despite this though, they didn’t die, but instead moved on, continuing their influence by helping set-up the FA Amateur Cup and enjoying a long life in non-league.

Their recent 150th anniversary was particularly memorable, not just for games against Inter Milan and Ajax, but also for promotion from the NCEL into the Northern Premier League (Div 1S), and that’s where we come into the present day. With Wolves having sold out their allocation for Forest away, then I was looking for a game to go to, and Willenhall’s fixture with Sheffield stood out. As mentioned in earlier match reports against Grantham and Lincoln, I’ve got a little bit of a soft spot for Willenhall, so was looking forward to the game more than most neutral matches.

Despite their name, the club don’t even play in the same county as Sheffield, instead situated in Dronfield, a small town just the other side of the border in Derbyshire. Due to this, I never actually made it up to the Steel City, instead stopping off in Derby before making my way up to Dronfield via a change of trains in Chesterfield, arriving in good time.

A typically pleasant Peak District setting, the ground is on the main road through the town and, unsurprisingly, is named after the pub that it stands adjacent to, albeit now officially titled ‘The Bright Finance Stadium’. From the outside, there isn’t a great deal to see, but going in you’re greeted with a much more modern scene than you might expect from the oldest club in the world. The main turnstiles bring you in at the corner, with the changing room and offices to the immediate left. An all-seated stand sits behind the goal with capacity for about 200, whilst on the near side is hard standing and a covered terrace just before the halfway line. The far end is hard standing, as is the far side, although this has a bank behind it with a large message welcoming you to the Bright Finance Stadium. A scoreboard has recently been erected in the opposite corner.

After going in, I made my way around before buying a programme and attempting to retreat to the clubhouse, only to find there isn’t one! It appears that the Coach and Horses pub operates as the clubhouse, except being outside the ground, then it isn’t accessible once inside (until they open the gates at half-time). That was disappointing, so after a sober wait, the game eventually got underway.

With both sides sitting in the bottom half of the table, a thriller wasn’t expected, and it never really turned into one. The first half was largely even, with Willenhall looking to have the edge up front, but it was the hosts who took the lead, although fans had to wait until the 67th minute when Michael Goddard got onto the end of a low cross to poke it home from close range. Sheffield dominated after this, and really should have increased their advantage until right at the end when they looked to have been robbed in injury time. A defensive mix-up on one of Willenhall’s few attacks in the second half saw Paul Smith clear off the line with a diving header, only for the referee to point to the spot. I’d happened to be standing right behind the incident, and it was a bizarre penalty to give from an official who had had an otherwise decent performance. Sheffield were further punished when Smith was sent-off, before Lee Chilton smashed the penalty home to seemingly give the Reds a valuable away point, but things weren’t finished yet. The home side, with their supporters still berating the referee went straight down the other end and within seconds had taken the lead again, David Graham taking advantage of poor defending to settle the game in breathtaking fashion.

After leaving, a little disappointed with the final score, I made my way home, getting back with no incidents to report.

Overall, whilst the ground and club have obviously seen a lot of work put in (with apparently the promise of more to come), I did leave feeling slightly disappointed with it. As with many modern stadiums, it lacks something and perhaps feels a little too tidy, like walking into a strange house that you could never feel comfortable in. I don’t like criticising non-league clubs, particularly one where the efforts of everyone in charge are so evident, the club certainly can’t be accused of that, and it is a friendly place to visit, also notable for the number of younger fans around (something a lot more clubs, Willenhall in particular, would like to see), but for the ground in particular, then it’s one I’m happier to have got out of the way and certainly find myself looking forward more to the home of their great rivals, and worlds second oldest club, Hallam FC.

Welcome to Sheffield FC

Outside the Ground

The Turnstiles

Ready for Kick Off

The Far End

The Near Side

The Near End

The Main Stand

The Far Side

The Coach & Horses Pub

The Coach & Horses Ground Panoramic


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