In December, I was asked by L’Equipe Magazine to provide pictures for a feature they were producing on former Marseille and England footballer Chris Waddle, now enjoying life not only as a pundit for various TV and radio stations, but also, more interestingly, as a part-time player-manager of the Hallam FC Sunday team.
Hallam FC are the second oldest football club in the world, and their home games are played at Sandygate, the oldest football ground in the world. It’s safe to say they have history.
I travelled across to Sheffield on the Friday, via Manchester Airport, where I picked up journalist Erik Bielderman, with whom I’d worked almost exactly a year earlier on our story about the north west’s football domination. The feature was used across 10 pages in the magazine and was extremely well-received, so I had every confidence this would be another fun and engaging weekend.
We made the short drive to Sandygate later that afternoon to attend a Q&A evening being hosted by the Hallam FC. Chris and another former player, Keith Edwards, were both guests at the event, answering questions about all things football from the modest group of guests gathered in the club’s 1860 Suite. We spent plenty of time with him throughout the evening, as Erik laid the foundations for his story whilst I shot a few pictures to help illustrate his role at the club.
Early the next morning, we popped down to Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium to meet John Garrett, the club’s historian, who was kind enough to give us 20 minutes of his time (on a home matchday no less) to show us the Youdan Cup, the oldest knock-out trophy in world football, which is housed in their museum. Of course, Hallam FC were the inaugural, and consequently the only winners of the cup, as it was never contested again.
With this small addition to our feature now safely in the bag, we headed over to Grimsby to spend the afternoon watching Hallam’s Saturday side in action. It meant very little in terms of our story, but it was great to see those lads in action and to see the pride and spirit of such an historic institution shine through onto the field. I filmed a short video clip before the game as their manager, Ryan Hindley, gave his pre-match team talk in the dressing room. You won’t be surprised to hear the language, in places, isn’t immaculate…
We made our way back shortly after the second half began…Erik was eager to sample some fish & chips in Cleethorpes, so after the most fantastic, fulfilling dinner, we headed back to Sheffield in preparation for the busy final day we had ahead of us.
It was a day that began very early indeed. It was bitterly cold too…so cold, in fact, that unfortunately for us, the Sunday team whose game we were going to see weren’t able to use the hallowed turf of Sandygate. It was mostly frozen, and where it wasn’t frozen, it was wet and boggy. Preservation of the pitch for Hallam’s Saturday side was the principal concern, so the Sunday team resorted to playing their game on a 3G artificial surface at a school sports facility they’re regularly forced to use instead. It was a huge disappointment to both myself and Erik; we knew that Chris’ involvement with such an historical club would be best conveyed with him playing or managing on the sidelines of the oldest ground in the world. Alas, it wasn’t to be, so we made our way to Dronfield, just south of the city, and met up with Chris and his teammates there…
Once again, I should say a massive thank you to the players and staff at Hallam FC. Everyone was extremely welcoming and happy to help in any way they could…it was a genuine pleasure to spend the weekend in their company and I wish them the very best of luck in the future.