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Village History

Hopwood’s football history

Posted on November 30 2015 at 12:47:37 0 comments

Ron and teammates

Village reader Ron Ashford shares his memories of Hopwood United FC in the 1950s and 60s.

In an era when most villages had their own amateur football team, Hopwood was not to be outdone. Longbridge resident Ron Ashford was one of the first players to join a new club set up in the 1950s, but his story begins a few years earlier. . .

Ron’s footballing career kicked off in style when he was invited for a trial at Birmingham City in 1955. He joined the club’s youth team, but just over a year later he was called up for his National Service.

“I wanted to rejoin Birmingham City when I came back, but I’d been out of training for two years so it was no good,” says Ron, now aged 77.

However, City’s loss was Hopwood’s gain. In 1958, a village resident called Howard Hastilow, who lived in Smedley Crook Place, had just started a football team called Hopwood United.

Ron’s brother John had already been signed up, and Howard asked Ron to join too.

“Hopwood Playing Field was our home ground. In those days the club was just a wooden shack divided into two dressing rooms, and it had no electricity or water supply,” Ron remembers.

“During the close season we went down to the ground with spades and buckets. We took the soil from under the surrounding hedges to fill potholes on the pitch, then seeded it.

“We also dug our own trench from the road up to the dressing room to lay on water. Then someone gave us an ordinary house bath – this we all had to share!”

Ron also recalls that the local community was keen to help the new club get on its feet. The use of the playing fields was rent-free provided they kept the grass cut short, and the Hopwood House pub allowed the team to train on a section of its well-lit car park.

“The owner of the Westmead Country Club, Joe Slater, let us hold fundraising dances there with no room-hire fee, and he actually went on to become president of Hopwood United.”

Ron played 500 games for Hopwood United, scoring 267 goals, and during his time there the club won the North Worcestershire League and various cups including the Rose Bowl and the Frederick Smith Cup.

Other notable players included Ron Kelsey, who had played at Birmingham City alongside Ron, and Alan Hayes, who also played for Aston Villa.

But it was a friendly match that proved one of the most memorable for Ron and his brother, when the Hopwood ground was hit by lightning during a storm.

“The lightning hit the stanchion by the goal and spread across the ground, and was felt by several players,” says Ron.

“The referee abandoned the game and we went to the dressing room, but my brother never came in – we looked back and he was lying on the pitch. He was rushed to hospital by ambulance but wasn’t too badly hurt. The staff couldn’t believe he had survived!”

After leaving Hopwood, Ron went on to play for Alvechurch FC and Bromsgrove Rovers, before moving into football coaching for his former clubs – he was a coach at AFC under manager Ivor Chambers, when the club won the Worcestershire League, and served under Bobby Hope at Bromsgrove Rovers.

Ron’s son Darren followed in his father’s footsteps, also playing for both ‘Church and Rovers.

Sadly, Hopwood United did not continue for long after Ron’s time there, only carrying on for another three years or so. However, many years later the ground is in regular use by Alvechurch Lions FC, with its youth section representing potential footie stars of the future.

“I’ve never been back to the ground but I’m told it now has a club room, a proper car park and much better facilities!” says Ron.

“We didn’t have much in the way of luxury in our day, but they were happy times. Now it’s all memories… time goes by, but the players I’ll never forget.”

Above left: Ron with his album of memories

Above right: Hopwood United FC, circa 1963. Back row: Brian Morris; unknown; unknown; Brian Salmon; Mick Lawson; unknown; Ralph Jones; Jeff Norman.  Front row: ? Bates; Billy Green; Dave Andrews; John Ashford; Ron Kelsey; Alan Hayes; unknown; Ron Ashford.  Can you help fill in the blanks?


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