It has some green space, a large park (although that has gradually been taken over by a municipal golf course) and a recreation ground (the Rec') which has a number of football pitches. Many a time have I played on there as the crowd admired Rands' skilful avoidance of a dog turd, whilst perfectly timing a sliding tackle.
12 of the Handsworth intake have gone on to join academies and Schools of Excellence at professional clubs. Will any follow in the footsteps of Handsworth lad and a former school friend of mine Paul Hurst? With no Handsworth FC established at the time he started his junior career, he crossed the city and played for Middlewood Rovers (then a top local junior side) and Sheffield Schoolboys, before spending his entire playing career as a one club man at Rotherham United. He is now Joint Manager of Grimsby Town with Rob Scott, where the going is proving a little tough after early managerial success at Boston United.
|View from the corner flag at the Railway End|
It is to both sides credit that they both tried to play passing football, building from the back. Something I have seen little of in the last couple of seasons of league football at Bramall Lane. Handsworth fielded a young side, peppered with experienced players. A testament to their burgeoning under 19's side which has won the North Midlands League three times in a row. The belief that if you bring good players through and retain them, they are the team and the future of the club.
Visitors Bottesford Town (from just outside Scunthorpe), on looks alone, appeared older and more experienced. Yet they, like Handsworth, are also an FA Charter Standard Community Club, with a long term view taken on player and club development. The visitors will be kicking themselves that they didn't take any of the several good chances they created. Several times second half they saw balls flashing across the face of goal, past keeper and post. They also suffered frustration as two goals were chalked off thanks to offside decisions from young lineswoman Brittany Smith.
|Lineswoman - Brittany Smith|
Credit to her for decisively making two tight decisions and for how she dismissed the derisive cries from the more vocal contingent in a decent away support. My friend Dick calling over to them when they called her "a stupid tart". It is good to see female officials getting opportunities at the grassroots level. Having watched the Birtley Town v Ryton friendly game officiated very well by Linzi Robinson pre-season at Northern Leagues United, they and their young male counterparts deserve great credit for taking the least easy option and taking on officiating for a pittance. Without them we wouldn't have a game to watch. The Ball is Round interviewed Linzi about her refereeing career here.
|You can see the small seated stand, set back into the trees|
So at the end of 90 minutes we had seen a Handsworth victory by three goals to nil, some decent football, some contentious decisions, a bit of argy bargy and had the great difficulty of distinguishing players as a team in amber and black stripes played a team in amber and blue stripes. Hull City v Shrewsbury Town if you like. The one thing we hadn't managed was a beer. Making the fair leg from pitchside to clubhouse, I entered the bar area to see towels over the pumps. We made do with a coffee, whilst Bottesford committee members tucked into pork pies and sandwiches and Handsworth regulars clamoured for great looking trays of pie, peas and gravy.
It wasn't until I read this on the club website a few days later that I realised why beer was not served. If you read it you will no doubt agree that it is a sad state of affairs when a local newsdesk, desperate for controversy, mischief make a story out of nothing and create bad publicity for a club like Handsworth. The clubhouse bar is an important source of income for a club in the non-league pyramid. Everything the club has done over the last 25 years has been for the good of the community, why would they undo it all now by upsetting the community they are an integral part of? Hopefully this can be resolved soon.
|A view from the Railway End|