Hyde United
Ewen Fields

Ground No. 130
Visited - Saturday 18th August 2007
Result - Hyde United 1-2 Tamworth
Competition - Blue Square North
Attendance - 511

They may not have changed their names to Jekyll FC, but since I visited Ewen Fields in August 2007, then Hyde United have gone through a transformation that even Robert Louis Stephenson might have considered a bit too far fetched to make a story of.

Originally formed in 1885 as Hyde FC, the club took a two year break during the First World War, but after reforming in 1919, they added ‘United’ to their name and adopted red shirts and white shorts, a combination that they would stick with for the following 90 years. They’d already been playing at Ewen Fields since 1906, and in accordance with the shirt colours, on my visit every surface seemed to have been coated in bright red paint, leaving you with no doubt as to who the home team were! Since then though it’s been all change. The club were officially wound-up by the courts at the start of the 2009/10 season, the fans though rallied around and managed to raise enough money to pay off tax debts and have the decision reversed, meaning that thankfully they were able to carry on. It was at the end of this season that everything would turn around when Man City came in dangling a bag load of cash and the offer to sponsor them and turn their fortunes around. Maybe it’s just me with a cynical mind, but that summer, dressed up as celebrating their 125th anniversary and a return to their original name, the United suffix was dropped and the club reverted back to the blue and white colours that they’d started life out in with a sky blue away strip to boot. The ground was repainted with a blue colour scheme, albeit that was slightly more openly admitted to as part of City’s deal, requiring it to be that colour as part of the branding for their reserves to play there, but all in all it seems to have made them a very different club, with even the red on the badge being replaced by sky blue.

Going back to my visit (the reviews only four years late!), then in the week running up to the match I’d been planning on heading instead to Accrington to tick them for the 92, but with heavy rain forecast, then I’d decided a second tier non-league ground would offer far better facilities than the Crown Ground! Hyde were due to be at home to Tamworth, so decision made, off I set in a good mood, the weather seeming to be holding, despite the predictions.

Situated 7 miles east of Manchester, Hyde was traditionally part of Cheshire, sandwiched right on the border with Lancashire on one side and Derbyshire the other. It grew on the cotton trade during the industrial revolution, an industry all but gone these days, and despite the relatively small population, has had a number of famous people either born or living here at one time, including Ricky Hatton, LS Lowry, Stuart Hall and infamously both Myra Hindley and Harold Shipman. Whilst not quite on the scale of the latter two, the club also were the centre of national attention at one time, after losing 26-0 to Preston in the 1887/88 FA Cup a score which is still the record defeat in English football.

After spending some time in the centre of Manchester early on, I made my way over to Hyde, finding the ground with little difficulty with the walk from Godley station a pleasant 10 minute trek. The ground itself is situated within a park with an adjacent leisure centre a hive of activity. After entering through the main set of turnstiles, you are at the back of the Main Stand, with the clubhouse tucked away in the corner, the small, uninviting entrance masking a large bar within. Inside the ground itself, the Main Stand sits on the near side, centred on the halfway line, running for about a third of the pitch length. With eight rows raised from pitch level then it seats just over 500 people, and is most notable for the unusual floodlights on its roof. Adjacent is the Scrattin’ Shed, a covered terrace which runs up to corner with the Tinker’s Passage End, where an unusually positioned terrace sits with a deep cavernous roof that is set back from the touchline, running at an angle to the pitch. Two modern terraces sit on the other two sides, with the Leigh Street Stand on the side of the pitch and the Walker Lane End at the far end, looking like the roof there may have been a later addition, unusually sited behind and overhanging the terrace itself.

Having had a look round then I went off for a pint in the clubhouse before the game began. With the season only two games old, it was difficult to gauge any form just yet, but the hosts had won both of their opening fixtures, away at Worcester and a nine goal thriller at home to Vauxhall Motors. Tamworth were the visitors, and despite having been beaten in midweek by Redditch, were favourites for the title, and a good early test for the Tigers. At kick-off, the promised bad weather had arrived, and so with cover on all four sides, the match seemed to be a good choice, and the early action seemed to confirm it, with both sides attacking and Tamworth having a shout for an early penalty in the sixth minute following a shove on Gary Mills in the area (the visiting midfielder causing confusion on the teamsheet with having the same name as their manager!). Despite no spot kick being given, they took the lead on 24 minutes thanks to Mills who volleyed home from a good 25 yards out to break the deadlock in stunning fashion. On the half hour the hosts were screaming for a penalty of their own when Chris Simm was bought down, only for nothing to be given, and then ten minutes later the drama spilled over when Tamworth number 9 Anthony Robinson lunged two footed at Tom Cowan in a needless tackle. Robinson was shown the red card, but in the aftermath Cowan had got up and punched the Tamworth striker which saw him receive his marching orders as well to leave both sides heading to the dressing rooms at half time with tempers frayed.

In the second half Hyde came out the stronger and took the game to the Lambs, but couldn’t make any of their pressure tell, and just past the hour mark it should have been 2-0 when Gary Mills had a glorious close range chance to double the lead only to see his shot miss the target from a few yards out. He made up for it a few minutes later though with some good work to feed Dave Bampton into the box who slotted home past the keeper to make it 2-0. The home side were determined though, and they pulled one back five minutes later thanks to Dale Johnson, and they thought they had the equaliser just two minutes later when Chris Simm headed home from a corner, only for the ref to note a push in the box and disallow it. In an increasingly end to end game, Nicky Clee hit the bar for Hyde in the 75th minute, before goalkeeper Craig Dootson made a good one handed save from Tamworth’s Tony Thorpe that would have settled the game. Instead, the hosts continued to press and were denied by Jose Veiga in the visitors goal when he got down low to save a free kick, and there was another chance that was denied when Michael Briscoe got in the way of a Matthew Tipton shot that was destined for goal to send it out for a corner for Hyde, which they failed to make any chance from, with the score remaining at 2-1 when the ref blew his whistle for full time.

After leaving, I made my way home glad to have come, both the game and the ground having lived up to expectation, with the ground itself being a classic, full of irregularities and character that help made it what would be one of the favourite trips of the 2007/08 season. Looking at pictures of it now, the new colour scheme does seem to have taken something from it, the carefully designed two tones of blue looking far too corporate and not really the ground I’d visited back then. Still, with the fans campaigning for a return to a red strip and the reinstatement of United in their name, then once the sponsorship deal runs out perhaps the ground will return to its original colour scheme as well.

Turnstiles to the Ground

Welcome to Ewen Fields!

Entrance to the Scrattin' Shed

The Clubhouse

The Scrattin' Shed and Main Stand

The Tinkers Passage End

The Leigh Street Stand

The Walker Lane End
(note the roof)

The Main Stand

The Scrattin' Shed

The Travelling Fans!

Ready for Kick Off

The Tinkers Passage End

The Walker Lane End

The Leigh Street Stand

The Main Stand

The Tinkers Passage End

Ewen Fields Panoramic 1

Ewen Fields Panoramic 2


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