Football’s debt to Sheffield FC

Richard Tims, Sheffield FC chairman
Richard Tims, Sheffield FC chairman

Calling in on the home of the world’s oldest football club can leave you a tad underwhelmed.

Many people might conjure up images of a grand, multi-seater stadium with a museum full of trophies and pictures.

This is not the case for Sheffield FC – not yet anyway – but do not be fooled by the modest surroundings of the Coach and Horses ground.

Located on the edge of Sheffield, so much so that it is technically classed as Derbyshire territory, the ground has been home to the club since 2001.

Here you can pick up a pint, pie and programme with plenty of change left from a tenner. The football is honest, too. No simulation here. No gesticulations by those on the pitch or in the stands. Just honest, proper blokes getting stuck in for the cause.

This was the case for Saturday’s now annual Non-League Day. The initiative has gained growing attention from the media and, crucially, football fans in recent years.

Sheffield chairman Richard Tims is a fan of anything that helps boost the gates at not only the Coach and Horses, but clubs across the land – most of whom are walking a financial tightrope:

“At this level of football, it needs every promotion that it can get,” said Tims.

“A lot of teams are playing in front of one man and his dog and are struggling. “It helps that bigger clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday and United are pushing for fans to go and support non-league. I think the message is getting out there, but, like everything else, more could be done.

“I’m sure most blokes would fancy a pie, pint and a game of football on a Saturday afternoon. You do see a bit of an increase on your gate on Non-League Day. It might put 50 on your gate and, of course, every little helps.

“What we find is when people come, they see that it’s a modest price to get in.

“They can enjoy the game, go into the pub at half-time and come back in for the second half. “

It’s a refreshing change to getting pushed about by stewards and paying £50.”

As it was, Saturday’s encounter with Frickley Athletic drew in Sheffield’s biggest attendance of the season with 402 coming through the gate for an FA Trophy preliminary qualifier.

It is hardly one to get the juices flowing for supporters, but for club accountants winning this one meant an extra £3,000 in the coffers – a very good day at the office for clubs at this level.

The game was decided by a hat-trick from Jacob Hazell, which secured a 3-0 win for Frickley.

For Sheffield, it was a bump in the road for new manager Mark Shaw, who is in his second stint at the helm of the club.

He and Tims both know that the club have big plans to cash in on their history as the oldest team in the world.

This includes the ultimate aim of one day saying farewell to the Coach and Horses and relocating back to Sheffield itself.

“There’s more to playing here than money,” said Tims. “This club has a great selling point and we do stuff that other clubs don’t do.

“Our ultimate aim is to relocate back to the city and create an international tourist destination.

“We hosted 450 Cologne fans the other week. When they came, the first team was away that day at Kidsgrove. So we got some of their fans to play our fans.

“They were all drunk when they got here and then they drank our pub dry.

“It was a great occasion and that’s what the potential is here.”

We are the world’s oldest and first club, that’s the brand.

“We’re also a local club and it’s a case of marrying the two. “I’ve always said that this club should be more revered than it is.

“Without us, would there be other clubs?”