And I am genuinely delighted to welcome Curzon Ashton, play-off winners by the only goal against Ilkeston, alongside FC United of Manchester in next season’s Vanarama National League North, even if it does mean having to undergo that bloody awful bus journey to the Tameside Stadium. Here’s hoping you get second place, guys, and you meet the ground gradings for level 5.
And I’m especially pleased after the terrible blow Curzon suffered back in 1997 when they were relegated from the Northern Premier League First Division. Under the rules of the Pyramid, Curzon should have dropped down into the North-West Counties League Division One, but by a quirk of ill-fate, all three bottom teams in the Unibond First came from the south eastern corner of Lancashire.
The relegated teams should normally have been divided, on geographic grounds, between the North-West Counties League (Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, West Derbyshire), the Northern Counties (East) League (Yorkshire, East Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire) and the Northern League (Northumberland, Durham). But all three relegated teams were prime North-West Counties candidates.
Give the North-West Counties credit, for they made room for two teams, but couldn’t take all three. The most ‘easterly’ team, Curzon Ashton, were forced into the Northern Counties (East). An entire season without local derbies, traditional clashes, and every single away game starting with a trip across the Pennines on the M62. Curzon were nearly destroyed financially, and did no better on the pitch, falling straight through. Fortunately the rules of the Pyramid did not require teams ‘stranded’ geographically to get lost in an alien strand, and further relegation saw Curzon shunted back to North-West Counties Two.
When I was first exposed to non-League Football, I learned about the Tameside Five: five senior, long-lasting non-League clubs in one small area: Ashton United, Droylsden, Hyde United, Mossley and Stalybridge Celtic. Mossley were the cock team then, doing well in the infant Northern Premier, the other four in the Cheshire League. Curzon were nothing then, not remotely considered to be a par with the Five, the Tameside Stadium non-existent, the ‘ground’, if you could call it that, little better for facilities than a park pitch.
But Curzon made it into a Tameside Six. And next season they go into a League where only Stalybridge Celtic of the old Five play: Curzon Ashton look down upon Ashton United, Droylsden, Hyde United and especially Mossley, who haven’t approached that cock team level in nearly forty years. Good luck to them, I say, except in two matches next season.