the real fa cup

Resort For Sport?

… It’s not bad at Brid!

Someone locked away in a local authority marketing department possibly found themselves a whisker away from promotion a few years ago when they branded Bridlington “the resort for sport.”

Maybe they missed out because they overlooked the obvious. For all the marketing guru’s passion for windsurfing, Zapcat – that’s speedboat racing – and… erm… foot golf, and for all the glittering prestige which is no doubt showered on the host venues of national championships in such events, Brid has rather more to offer the sports fan.

The cricket ground at Sewerby occupies one of the finest locations in Yorkshire, perched on the cliff top with a magnificent Georgian country house, complete with explosively colourful walled gardens, at the other end of the bowling greens and a serving hatch selling the finest pork pies and cakes round the back of the modern pavilion. It pays to be early.

But we’re all about football, and closer to the centre of the town is the Queensgate stadium, venue over the years of some bizarre goings-on, even by football’s standards.

Bridlington has two teams. But for the dealings of one of football’s most notorious characters a few years ago it might have three. But for the efforts – and investment – of Pete Smurthwaite it might have none at all.

Saturday’s Extra Preliminary Round tie at home against Whitley Bay is a big one for Pete’s Bridlington Town. Defeat would leave him having to pay bills such as Whitley Bay’s travel expenses which are unlikely to be covered by an attendance expected to be nearer 100 than 200. Victory would put £1,500 into the pot.

It’s a far cry from the last FA Cup match that Pete went to. As a season pass-holder at Hull City, he was at Wembley in May to see the Tigers shock Arsenal with two early goals before running out of steam in their historic first Final.

There are other links with Hull City, which is just 30 miles or so down the road. Manager Gary Allanson coaches at Steve Bruce’s Centre of Excellence, which is handy when it comes to picking up young lads who haven’t got what it takes for the Premier League. Many players have turned out for both clubs, some starting out at Brid, others calling in on the way down.

A favourite feature on the club’s website looks at players who are better known for their exploits elsewhere. Steve Brentano was captain when Town won the FA Vase in 1993 and also played for Hull City and Doncaster Rovers. Linton Brown became a favourite at Hull City, quick and with an eye for goal, but struggled with injury after a move to Swansea City.

Chris Swailes was tipped for greatness at Ipswich Town but never quite delivered, and Graeme Jones is the true legend. The same Graeme Jones who won the cup last year as assistant to Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic. Jones began his climb up the football pyramid with a £10,000 move from Bridlington Town to Donny.

Another significant move from Bridlington Town to Doncaster Rovers was made by Ken Richardson. The same Ken Richardson who had already been in bother over a scam about switching race horses, and who would end up locked up for a botched attempt to burn down Donny’s Belle Vue ground.

Evidence from those who know Richardson suggests that while his actions can never be condoned they were possibly the result of reckless ambition more than anything else. But one of the casualties along the way was Bridlington Trinity, the resort’s other team, who shared Queensgate and were forced to close after problems with Richardson over the lease. Trinity’s fans have never forgotten or forgiven.

Not that it was plain sailing for Town. Richardson’s wrangling over the stadium saw them relocate to Doncaster and then shut down, before being resurrected and, eventually, steered by Pete into calmer waters.

His increasing confidence is underlined by his pledge that if Town win promotion from the Northern Counties East Premier Division this season they will take it, whereas a few years ago they declined. But he admits to being on edge about Whitley Bay, serial FA Vase winners from the mighty Northern League. In addition to much-needed cash, victory would also bring a fixture clash. These days Bridlington Town share their ground with Scarborough Athletic, the tenants having evolved from the Scarborough who ten years ago appeared live on TV when Chelsea arrived in the fourth round of the FA Cup. And that will be another story.

Scarborough will play North Shields or Pontefract at Queensgate on the weekend of 30 August. Bridlington Town will play Northallerton or Colne and, if they overcome Whitley Bay, one of the ties would be moved to the Friday or the Sunday.

So let’s cast neutrality aside, get behind Brid on Saturday and hope for a festival FA Cup double-header on the wonderful East Yorkshire coast in a couple of weeks. You’ll find Queensgate just a 10-minute walk from the resort’s well-kept and stylish railway station. You’ll find proper seaside cafes and candy floss, wonderful sandy beaches and bracing North Sea breezes, pubs and guest houses full of character and characters.

Post-match you might even catch the last few overs up at Sewerby’s cliff top cricket club, but the pies will be long gone by then.

Bridlington Town v Whitley Bay
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round 16th August, 3pm KO.
Queensgate Stadium, YO16 7LN.

Words & Pictures Phil Ascough whose new book, ‘Never Mind The Tigers – The Ultimate Hull City Quiz Book’, is published by The History Press and available now.

Further Reading: Bridlington Town 1-2 Whitley Bay, FA Cup Extra Prelim 2012.

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