Phil’s Forty, 21: Stop for a Blue Riband


It’s 40 years this year since Phil Ascough, our most prolific freelance contributor, arrived in Hull to begin a new episode in his journalistic career. Having spent two years on the weekly Doncaster Gazette, Phil headed east to the Hull Daily Mail. Apart from three years on the Royal Gazette in Bermuda and a short spell at the Teesside Gazette, he’s been here ever since. He worked for the Yorkshire Post and the BBC before returning to the Mail and becoming business editor. He moved into sports media with the Press Association in Leeds and then Howden, and set up his own PR consultancy in 2010. To mark the anniversary he has set out to write 40 essays looking at his career, our city and its people.


Bridlington Town FC
Bridlington Town FC.

With early goals and game-changing controversy, this year’s FA Cup Final set off like a steam train in its bid to become one of the most memorable. With a crowd and the resulting atmosphere it might have got there but it fizzled out and will primarily be remembered as the final with no fans.

It should also be remembered as the final which almost marked the anniversary of the start of the season’s competition. Bridlington Town, Goole Town and Hall Road Rangers all contested the Extra Preliminary Round on Saturday 10 August 2019 and attracted bigger crowds than we saw at Wembley last Saturday.

Brid won 3–0 at West Auckland Town and Hall Road fell 0–3 at home to Goole. The victors both fell at the next hurdle but will get another chance on the road to Wembley when the new cup season starts on 1 September. For a flavour of what’s in store have a look at www.therealfacup.co.uk

The site is resting at the moment but won respect among football audiences for its passion and its policy of covering the early rounds. By the time the big clubs entered many of the writers had gone off to report on the minnows in their local cup competitions, a land without lanyards but one where you had a better chance of finding proper chips, real tea and even a Blue Riband.

It’s grassroots football at its greenest and in 2011 it enticed me to watch a first round match in the East Riding County FA Senior Cup at one of the more distant fields in Holderness, now known as the Farm of Dreams and home of Easington United, who were hosting Chalk Farm from Hull.

The article from the time reminds me that as their home ground was a public space, The Eastenders weren’t allowed to charge admission so instead they relied on spectators contributing by purchasing a match day programme.

Pitchside portable buildings provided showers but only for the first team and their visitors, not the reserves on the next pitch. A snack bar had tea, coffee, soup, sandwiches and those Blue Ribands and nothing priced at more than 50p. As I write that I receive an email from Catering Today describing itself as “the must-read publication for UK food and drink professionals” so someone must be watching me.

I’ll send the original article to Easington United stalwart Rich Lusmore and see about updating it to progress the idea that such clubs in all sports should receive greater recognition. If the editor agrees we’ll run it on here and I’ll reveal who won the big match.

Barton Town
Barton Town FC.

A trip across the Humber Bridge in 2013 saw Barton Town Old Boys – now Barton Town – having to deal with the problem of the local baker still being on holiday when they welcomed Nostell Miners Welfare for the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round. So no pies but there was a bar and a ready supply of hot drinks which inspired the “magic of the mug” ritual. Look it up at the Real FA Cup.

North Ferriby United had featured the previous year when they were knocked out in the Second Qualifying Round against Ossett Albion. Faced with the need to rebuild as North Ferriby FC after United were wound-up, the club didn’t compete in the FA Cup last season and they’re again absent from the current entry list, but it’s a great place to watch football and the Church Road ground has become a second home for many Hull City fans.

Pete Smurthwaite
Pete Smurthwaite.

My preference though is Queensgate, home of Bridlington Town and the tireless Pete Smurthwaite, who combines running PBS Construction in Hull and his beloved football club with occasional guest spots on Radio Humberside’s Sportstalk.

My first visit in 2014 took in Town’s Preliminary Round tie against Northallerton Town, which came the day before a win over North Shields for Scarborough Athletic, who at the time were Brid tenants, awaiting completion of their new ground.

The following season North Shields returned to Queensgate and knocked out Town at the Extra Preliminary stage. One of the best jokes in football is the branding of the derby match between North and South Shields as “El Working Clásico” which, for those unaware, is a lovely play on the status of matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Brid Town is best done by train. It’s a short stroll from the station and offers a good bar and a warm welcome. Alternatively it’s a longer walk taking in some town centre pubs and a good fish and chip shop.

What all these clubs and games usually offer is an opportunity to see ex-professional players who are on the way down or who never quite made it. You also get a lot closer to the game itself and you get an insight into the dedication required to keep these community clubs alive.

This, from Pete, is one of my favourite football quotes: “I got sent off twice as a physio and seven times as a player. Two of those were for fighting. I’m just too passionate, or maybe stupid. I didn’t even win the fights!”

The draw for the Extra Preliminary Round takes place on Tuesday 18 August and Barton, Brid, Goole and Hall Road will all be in it. They’re joined by Ferriby in the FA Vase, which is due to kick off on Saturday 19 September. Wish them luck and pop along… if they’re still in the competitions when fans are able to return!

Phil Ascough