The Butlers Sports Centre
Ground No. 227
Visited - Saturday 16th April 2011
Result - Shawbury United 2-2 Bromyard Town
Competition - West Midlands Regional League, Premier Division
Attencance - 40 (h/c)
Nestled in the Shropshire countryside, Shawbury is a small village notable for two things, firstly the major RAF base there, where Prince William did his helicopter training, but also (and probably less well publicised) for being the home of the main Shropshire weather station that records data for weathermen to relay. With a population of just over 2700, it’s the smallest in the West Midlands Regional League after Wellington, and so small that there aren’t the facilities for Shawbury United to actually play there, the club instead sharing with Wem United three miles up the road.
One of the furthest flung teams in the league, being based in Wem actually made it more accessible, with the town, unlike Shawbury, connected to the railway network, so it was one I was looking forward to, having planned to visit for the game against Bromyard Town. As it was, we chose to drive anyway, so after setting out at midday, we arrived in little under an hour, the journey from Wolverhampton to this part of the world being a relatively simple and short one.
Formed in 1992, Shawbury played their formative years in the Shropshire Alliance and Shropshire County League, before stepping up to the WMRL in 1999. As seems to happen quite often for teams entering this league, they won promotion in their first season into the Premier Division and by and large have spent most of their time in the top half of the table since then, a second place finish in 2007/08 being their best to date. The past couple of seasons hadn’t been going quite so well though, and having finished bottom last year, saved from relegation only by Ledbury and Oldbury Athletic’s demise, this season saw them still in the mix, sitting fourth bottom going into this game, albeit 8 points ahead of visitors Bromyard who were propping up the table.
On arrival in Wem, we went straight up to the ground to see if there was a chance of having a look round, only to find it all locked up. We were heading away when we got a shout from someone inside who had spotted us and was only too happy to let us in and show us around. Known officially as the Butlers Sports Centre, the ground appears to have another two names as well, with Wem Sports Club on the front gates, and also Bowens Field, which United seem to refer to it as on the website. It was opened in 1975 by Billy Wright, and whilst Wem Town are the official owners, it’s Shawbury who have spent the money bringing it up to the standard it’s at today. The ground is on a larger site that includes a fitness centre and bowls club, all forming part of a shared driveway, with the social club at the bottom. The entrance to the football ground is to the right, and after going through the turnstiles, you come in at the side of the Main Stand. Sitting in the centre of the near side, it’s more of a cover jutting out from the social club behind really, but with several rows of seats, it does the job, and as with the rest of the ground looks smart and well kept. The seats are actually from the old Buck’s Head ground at Telford, prior to it being rebuilt, and adjacent to the Main Stand on the other side of the turnstiles is another area of cover, in keeping with the rest of the ground, unconventional, but smart, with six wooden poles holding up a small roof, perhaps used for disabled supporters? Hard standing runs around the other four sides, with neatly trimmed lawns beyond, whilst a training pitch sits on the far side with hedges and trees giving the ground an enclosed feel.
After having had a look, then we eventually got off and went back to the town to find a pub for a drink (the Post Office on the High St being well recommended with several ales on), before eventually heading back and going in.
Despite Shawbury’s own bad season, with Bromyard bottom, then this was a game that the home side were looking to take something from, but even they couldn’t have believed how early, when in just the first minute they went 1-0 up, a long throw headed in, in a move that Rory Delap and Stoke would have been proud of! It looked like it might be a case of how many early on, but gradually the visitors got more into it and grabbed a deserved equaliser on the half hour mark when a deep cross in was headed home by their number 6. A few minutes later and they should have had the chance of making it two when a Shawbury defender handled in the area. It wasn’t even a slight one, even the home fans were groaning, only for the referee not to give it, but in classic style, two minutes later, perhaps realising their mistake, the officials awarded the visitors a much softer spot kick, when the linesman flagged for a pushing offence in the box. The home players weren’t happy, and with good reason really, two rights not making a wrong, and with the kick converted, then there were some angry words being exchanged five minutes later at half time as the players left the field.
The second half was all Shawbury, the hosts pinning the visiting defence in their own box for long periods, but they couldn’t quite break them down, and Bromyard nearly put the game to bed in the 75th minute, but for their number 6 to blast over in front of an open goal. It was to cost them dearly as well, right at the death with another controversial penalty awarded by the ref. The visiting keeper and Shawbury’s number 10 had both chased a ball into the box, and in a 50-50 challenge had collided with each other, nothing malicious, and no resulting injury other than both players winding each other. The ball had trickled away towards the corner flag when after getting up the two players started to remonstrate with each other before the keeper shoved the Shawbury striker back down on the floor, cue penalty awarded by the ref. Technically it was probably right, with the ball still in play, although I wouldn’t have awarded it, but with the very last kick of the game, Shawbury’s number 7 slammed it home which saw the visiting ‘keeper having to be held back by teammates as the arguments spilled over after the final whistle.
After leaving, we made our way back with no problems, glad to have made the trip. Despite the two teams’ positions in the table, it had been a fairly entertaining game, and the ground really is a pleasure to visit on such a warm sunny day, with friendly folk running the club, so all in all, it is one well recommended to come to, especially if as the club are hoping, their plans to move to a new ground in Shawbury come to fruition as they might, with the council apparently on board. The only downside was that there were no programmes, the former manager being the man to have produced them, before being sacked earlier in the season!
Welcome to Wem Sports Club!
The Social Club
A shared Ground
The Near Side
The Far End
The Far Side
The Far End
The Near End
The Near Side
The Main Stand
Old Buck's Head Seating
Further Cover adjacent to the Main Stand
Ready for Kick Off
The Near Side
The Butlers Sports Centre Panoramic