Category: Features

Making Winter Warmer – an appeal

As part of our #NoHomeKit campaign, we are running a donation scheme to further support the homeless in our region.
We would like to invite you to purchase either a “care pack” or a sleeping bag which we will directly donate to Making Winter Warmer For Those Without.
We appeal to the Stan Army and our extended network of followers to support this worthy cause.
Let’s work together to make a difference this winter.

Eccleshill Preview – with Dean & Andy

As a jubilant Heaton Stan team bus made its way back up the A1 from Barnoldswick, a raucous chorus of ‘Sweet Carlone’ struck up in celebration.
“Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing,” sings Neil Diamond in what has become the go-to sporting anthem for many an occasion.
When it comes to the FA Vase and where it will end, well the Stan can’t begin to knowing either.
These are relatively unchartered waters for the team from Grounsell Park with regards to this prestigious competition. Not for more than 40 years has there been a bigger Vase tie for the club. After the Stan set a new club record at Northern League level with Saturday’s 9-1 win over Brandon United, there is anticipation of another high watermark – this time surpassing the club’s previous best attendance of 515.  It feels a distinct possibility. The sense of excitement around the place is palpable.
For Stan boss Dean Nicholson and his backroom team, the trick is to embrace the occasion without anyone losing a sense of perspective. For the club’s 16-game unbeaten run may be about to face its toughest test yet. Saturday’s opponents Eccleshill United currently sit second in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division, a rung higher in the football pyramid. Furthermore, Northern League opposition has already proved to be to the Eagles’ liking this season. Crook Town were beaten 2-0 at Millfield before Bishop Auckland were eliminated by the same scoreline at Plumpton Park. They will travel north from Bradford not short of confidence.
Another tense cup-tie beckons. The Stan have prevailed in two nerve-jangling Vase encounters already. Will it be a case of third time lucky?
It’s a Vase run that might not have got beyond the first hurdle. After a hard-fought league win at Esh Winning in early September, the squad had less than 48 hours recovery time before they were back on the road, following the Tyne west to face Newcastle University in Prudhoe. 90 minutes couldn’t separate the teams, and so it went to penalties.
“We knew it was going to be tough playing so quickly again after the Thursday match,” recalls No2 Andy McBride. “But we stuck in and the game went to penalties.
“Nobody ever wants to go to penalties but we came out on top and Ryan (Bailey) put away the pressure pen. The scenes in the dressing room afterwards were great, although I’ll admit a lot of the lads wanted an away trip to (AFC) Blackpool and not Barnoldswick!”
Ah, Barnoldswick. Nestled on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire, it would prove a day to savour for staff, players and supporters alike.
Trailing at the break to the North West Counties League Premier Division outfit, Stan would first restore parity before, with mere seconds left to play, Andy Burn conjured up a superb strike from distance to spark euphoric scenes. In the Silent Night Stadium, it truly was the stuff of dreams.
“To score in the 93rd minute and win the game like we did, it was just the cherry on top of the cake,” smiles Dean.
“It was just a brilliant day for the whole club. For us, the players and the supporters who came with us.
“We built up to the game properly and put a lot into the game plan. If anything, we showed them a little too much respect in the first half and we had to get out there and show we could play against a Step 5 side. And when Andy Burn’ winner went in, I don’t think I’ve felt anything like that in football before.
“My family were there and so to share it with them was really special. I don’t think my missus had seen me cry like that at football before!
“Not long after the game I wanted to think ahead to the next match but as Andy reminded me, you’ve got to take time to enjoy days like that when they happen.”
Saturday may be a new experience for many in the Stan squad but in Dean Holmes and Lee McAndrew, they have two players who know what it is like to be part of a Vase-winning squad. That must be an advantage? 
“To have them around with their experience is great,” says Dean. “Until they keep mentioning it and dropping it into conversations! But they are great lads and they know how to win Vase games.
“And Vase games are different, they are special. We have a lot of good, young lads in the squad so it’s good to have that blend.”
Saturday promises to be a special occasion at Grounsell Park. And the Stan Army can play their part.
“It’s the first Vase game we’ve had at home and that will be big for the fans. We know we’ll have another great crowd and if we can get a result then what a day it will be for everyone who is connected to the club.
“We never set a target in the Vase this year. We just thought ‘let’s have a crack at it and see how far we can go’.
“I didn’t really know the past history of the club with the Vase. The league will always be the priority for us but any kind of Vase run is a bonus.
“Everyone is keeping their feet on the ground but, of course, we know it’s going to be an exciting day for the club. We have a fearless bunch of lads who want to show they can play against Step 5 sides and who will give anyone a game.
“We’ve won two ties and we want to keep going. I said to the lads at Barnoldswick, leave nothing on the pitch.
“If you lose to better players then fair enough. That can happen. But I said to them don’t come off the field thinking they lost a game they could have won because it makes for a long journey home. 
“We hope it’s another great day on Saturday but we need the result for that to happen.”
As we talk over a pint, a song comes on the jukebox. It’s not ‘Sweet Caroline’ although ‘Glory Days’ by Bruce Springsteen is another tune the Stan Army will hope to be singing come Saturday night.
So if you do witness another rendition of Neil Diamond in the Grounsell Park clubhouse on Saturday night then you’ll know it has been another day to savour in a season that has already brought so much enjoyment.
“Good times never seemed so good…”

Author: Gary Oliver

Mid-season review with the Management

It’s Monday evening. 48 hours after the history boys of Heaton Stan have recorded their largest victory as a Northern League club, blowing away Brandon United 9-1 at Grounsell Park. Manager Dean Nicholson and his assistant Andy McBride are in ebullient and engaging mood. And who can blame them when things are going so well?
A most amicable chat turns animated when the conversation turns to a goal scored on Saturday that ought to live long in the memory of all those who witnessed it. Already leading 3-0, a bewildered Brandon backline is about to be cut open again with stunning rapier-like precision. As black and white shirts swarm around the edge of the visiting penalty area, we’re about to be treated to one of the finest team goals you will see all season. That it is scored at Step 6 of the pyramid matters little, this was a goal deserving of a place at the very apex of the game. Andy Burn, Lee McAndrew, Kevin Carr, Liam McBryde and – there to stitch it together with poise and precision, the mercurial talent of Dean Holmes – combined to produce exquisite, intricate approach play before Holmes, a wonderful, will o’the wisp talent for many years, provided the finish of worthy aplomb. It had flair, it had finesse, it had fluidity. You almost felt like going across to the turnstile and donating another fiver’s worth of admission for such entertainment.
For a fleeting moment, the pair are transported back to the touchline. The faces again wreathed in the same smiles as they had been on Saturday. For all of the individual brilliance of many players over the course of such a great start to the season, nothing is more satisfying than such a goal. It’s the result of all the hard work that goes on throughout the week to ensure standards are met and maintained when matchday comes around. It’s a goal that encapsulates the season so far. It helped Stan register a ninth league home win out of ten, a draw with Carlisle City back 9n late August the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record. 
They’ve scored 16 goals in the last two home games, seven alone from chief marksman McBryde. “I’ve known Liam for years, he’ a guaranteed goalscorer,” says Dean of one of his many impressive summer recruits. “You are only as good as your goalscorers in this league and if you have someone you know will get you 25-30 in a season, you are halfway there.”
No wonder gates are growing. At Grounsell Park there’s a real groundswell of support.
I ask Dean to go back to the summer, when the Stan began their search to replace the long-serving Derek Thompson, a man with the club in his DNA.
“I’d always said that, even when I was managing in the Alliance and enjoying myself, that the Stan was always a job I would go for if it ever became available,” he recalls.
“I spoke to people around the non-league scene in Newcastle and they all said the same thing. It was a club with a tremendous reputation. I just wanted the chance to speak to the club and try to sell myself.
“The interview process was handled exemplary. There were no targets as such. It was about being asked can you provide enjoyment? Can you win games? Can you play good football? Can you get people through the gate?
“When I was told I was successful, I accepted straight away. It was massive for me and the work started right then.”
Dean wasted little time in asking Andy, plus Scott and Tom Flynn to join him at Grounsell Park, albeit after several missed phone calls to his right-hand man.
“I knew something must be up when I saw the missed calls,” Andy smiles.
“I’d been with Bedlington Terriers for three years and had a great time there but it was not a tough decision to accept when Dean asked if I’d come in with him. 
“I knew the Stan had a tremendous reputation, that the club had ambition. It was a great opportunity and it was a chance to have a crack at it with my good pal. I couldn’t say no.”
With any appointment, there is always an element of risk. Dean readily accepts that.
“I’d played in the Northern League but hadn’t managed at this level so I knew it was something of a risk.
“I had lots of messages of congratulations but I was straight on the phone to sort my staff out and to start looking at players to bring in.
“Me and Andy had a vision that, on the pitch, is married with how the club wants to be off the pitch. I look at our crowds and ground and think we are a Step 5 club, the challenge is to build a Step 5 team.”
After early reverses at Ryton and Tow Law, the Stan have put together a 16-game unbeaten run. When did it click?
“Losing at Ryton on the first day, although it was disappointing, may actually have done us good,” says Andy. “We beat Birtley in the next game and got an immediate response.”
For Dean, it was a gloomy night at Dr Pit Welfare Park that proved illuminating.
It was 0-0 at half-time and Dan (Regan) had kept us in it with some good saves,” he recalls. “And in the second-half we got a couple of breaks and took our chances. You remember wins like that, when you haven’t been at your best but still find a way to get the three points. Likewise at Boldon, we could have come away feeling sorry for ourselves after being denied a late winner but we have gone on to win every game since.”
To go on such an impressive run offers little to luck and fortune. It takes serious planning. Dean freely says he can find himself thinking about football 12 hours a day. Andy nods.
“People think we are part-time at the level, but we are anything but,” says Dean pointedly.
“Every day you are thinking about the last game or the next one, or about what to do in training, who is fit. It’s constant.
“It’s an honour to be part of this club and you have to treat it with respect. We want people to come and enjoy themselves. My Dad comes, my family come, they love it. We want everyone to feel the same.”
The sense of community runs throughout the interview. Words like togetherness, unity, spirit and brotherhood frequently crop up. To borrow from the name of another Newcastle-based club that plays in black and white stripes, they are very much a united bunch.
Amidst all of the goals on Saturday, something else stood out. The calibre of substitute warming up at half-time. It cannot be easy picking a starting XI to many options. Crucially, the attitude on the bench is as positive as it is on the pitch.
“I’ve said to lads that there might be times when they are not in the team but that they have to be happy to be part of a squad trying to achieve things,” says Andy.
“We’ll play over 40 games in the season and you don’t achieve things with just 13 players. You need 20/21. 
“But they have all bought into that, all bought into what we are looking to do. There’s a brotherhood there. They have really bonded in that dressing room and that has saved us a few headaches!”
It’s that esprit de corps that has carried Stan through a 16-game unbeaten run.
“There’s a real buzz around the place. There’s a massive spirit between the backroom team and the players. They all deserve huge credit. They all appreciate what the volunteers do off the pitch and so they know we have to do our jobs on the pitch as well.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I listen to the way the crowd cheer us on, how they appreciate players when substitutions are made. I said to Andy it feels like a Conference North crowd. There’s a real sense of togetherness.
“You’ve got to have the right players but you’ve got to have the right people too. And the news lads have gelled with those who were already here. You need the right ingredients. And if you have a tremendous dressing room that’s 80% of the battle.”
“We’ve shown we can score goals in games like Bedlington (7-0) and Brandon, and we’ve shown we can play good football against other top teams in the league like Sunderland West End. But we’ve also had games where we have had to really battle to win, like at Billingham Synthonia away. There is steel in there too and you need that.”
Indeed, the forward play of Holmes, McBryde, Leighton Hopper and others may steal the headlines. But, behind them, Regan and his defensive backline have been miserly all season. “We’ve used a few different central defensive partnerships this season and it’s been the same with the full-back positions. But all of those lads have played a big part in what we do.
“And then there’s the midfield lads too. Take Kev Carr, he has been a great example of what we are about this season and the huge upturn in form.”
They still don’t mention the p-word, despite building an impressive lead at the top of the league table. But Dean has been promoted from this division three times as a player, so he knows what is required to get around the course. The Stan look capable of lasting the distance. And fans will be delighted to see them in the Winners Enclosure come April. Which does beg one last question, however. In a season of so many wins, how come both Dean and Andy are yet to find themselves at the top of another table, the monthly supporter-run Punt Stan horse racing tipster competition.
“I’m going to stop backing favourites and go for 25/1 shots,” laughs Andy before making a seriously impressive point.
“When we were asked to get involved we did so right away because it’s important to be part of things like this.
“It’s like how we always make a point of making sure we go into the bar, have a pint and speak to people. We’ll always do that, come in and show our faces, because we want everyone in the club to feel together.
“Who knows how long this run will last? There’ll be a time when we’ll lose a game but, just like already this season, we’ve got the lads who have proved they will run through brick walls and who have the ability to bounce back.”
The last word goes to Dean. “We want the whole community to be part of things here. I love engaging with as many people as I can after games. I cannot promise to chat to all 400 people individually who come to watch but I’ll give it a try!”
Right now, the Stan are certainly doing their talking on the pitch. Long may that continue…

Author: Gary Oliver

Heaton Stan A – Cup Final Giveaway!

Heaton Stan A will face Cullercoats Reserves in the Neville Cowey Cup Final on Saturday (8th May).

To celebrate this achievement we will be running a giveaway competition!

Simply predict the score at the end of normal time (i.e. excluding any possible penalty shootout) and be in with a chance of winning a £10 voucher for our online store! We have added a tie breaker question in the event that multiple people predict the same score – predict the minute of the first goal of the game (by either side).

Enter by completing the below form. Good luck!

Entry to this competition has now closed. We will confirm the winner(s) on Sunday 9th May.

Terms and conditions:

  • Only one entry per person. If more than one entry is submitted, only the first one will count.
  • Full time score at the end of normal time – not including any possible penalty shootout.
  • Tie breaker is the minute the goal is scored, as recorded on the official teamsheet submission post match.
  • If we have multiple entrants who correctly guess the score AND the same tie breaker – there will be multiple vouchers issued.
  • Entries open until midday on Saturday 8th May.
  • Winner to be announced here and on social media on Sunday 9th May. Voucher to be emailed.
  • In the event of a match postponement/abandonment, we reserve the right to restart or cancel the competition.
  • Your name/email address are not stored anywhere other than our mailbox & will be deleted after the competition winner is announced. We will not use this data for any other purpose.

Who are Padiham?

Our Programme Editor, Gary Done, takes a look at this weekends FA Vase opponents Padiham.

This Saturday our Buildbase FA Vase escapades continue with a visit from Padiham of the North West Counties Premier Division. Padiham sits to the west of Burnley and like much of the Northern League, its economy historically relied upon the coal mining industry, as well as weaving.

The club was formed in 1878, making them even older than our beloved gatekeeper Gordon Wilson and in 1883 theyrecorded their most successful run in the FA Cup, when they reached the 3rd Round. 

Their original ground was sited on the banks of the River Calder and they were a force to be reckoned with in their early days, regularly recording heavy defeats on local rivals Burnley and drawing four figure crowds to Wyre Street, where they plied their trade in the Lancashire Combination and local leagues, until the outbreak of the First World War.

Sadly in 1916 the club folded and they were forced to leave their home during the curtailment of league football. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that the club became active again. This coincided with their move to a new stadium known as the Arbories Memorial Sports Ground. A bumper crowd of nearly 1800 coming along to watch their debut in the Lancashire Combination on the 20th August 1949.

Padiham were founder members of the North West Counties League where they spent eight seasons, becoming runners up of the Third Division in their second season there. In 1990 they moved to the West Lancashire League, were they had previously won the Second Division in 1971-72 and 1976-77as well as being finalists in the Lancashire Amateur Cup. In 1999-2000 they went one better however, taking the First Division title, gaining promotion and a return to the North West Counties League.

In 2008-09 Padiham finished as runners up in the Second Division and in 2012-13 they won the First Division and promotion to the Northern Premier League. After two seasons in the Northern Premier League the club were relegated and found themselves back in the North West Counties League once again where they have played ever since.

The club have invested heavily in ground improvements over the last 20 years and it’s a favourite away day for many a club’s fan, commanding fantastic views from the ground, so a small part of me is hoping for a replay, as I never got there during my time travelling the North West Counties.

Whilst it looked like Padiham had an off season last time out, a Runcorn Town pal tells me that Michael Morrison has built a very good squad which should be a force to reckon with in the coming seasons, so we should be in for a good game.

Tickets are likely to be sold out by the time you read this, so if you’ve been lucky enough to bag one, enjoy the match and hopefully we’ll be in the next round come 17:00.