Preston Grasshoppers make a trip across the River Mersey once again this Saturday to face long time opponents Birkenhead Park at their Upper Park ground which lies just a short distance the other side of either Mersey Tunnel. Coincidentally, it will be just eight days short of one hundred and thirty six years since the two clubs first faced each other on the Wirral.
Words by Mike Forshaw, photo by Mike Craig
Whilst Hoppers were opening an even wider gap at the top of the table last Saturday, this weeks hosts picked up a valuable win at fellow struggler’s Pocklington to keep their hopes of survival in this league alive.
Preston Grasshoppers supporters with a long memory might recall a very muddy Upper Park back in late December 1984 being the scene of Wade Dooley’s appearance off the bench for a North of England team playing the Romanian touring side. Wade replaced the incumbent England lock forward Jim Syddall for the remaining eighteen minutes and who’s subsequent failure to pass a fitness test ruled him out of the forthcoming Test match. The significance of that injury to the Waterloo forward being that with England’s favoured locks being out of action through fitness and disciplinary reasons, novice Wade was thrust into the International limelight to make his England debut against the same opposition the following Saturday. The 6′ 7” Policeman’s International debut was not only assisted by the absence of a couple of experienced Locks, but it didn’t do him any harm that at the time, England Coach ‘Dick’ Greenwood had mentored Wade at Hoppers.
Back to this week’s game and Hoppers will be mindful both of Park’s lowly position and the fact that last week’s success will have boosted their confidence. No opponents should be taken lightly as was shown not too long ago when they struggled for quite some time to overcome current bottom side Morley at Scatcherd Lane.
The playing record between ourselves and Birkenhead Park stands in the visitors favour by twenty nine victories to sixteen with five drawn games plus another five games being cancelled. There have only been a handful of League encounters with Hoppers winning all four played to date.
It’s one hundred and thirty seven years since the first meeting took place during October 1881 at Preston’s shared ground with the town’s cricket team on West Cliff with the return fixture being played at Park’s St Annes ground the following January. The game in Preston was won by the home side and although the visitors to Birkenhead scored a try in the second game, it wasn’t converted and thus didn’t count as a score. That game ending in a draw.
The 1869 Club are running a supporters coach to Birkenhead and are taking Lunch en route. Departing at 10:45 the coach fare will be the usual £15 and £5 for accompanied children with the return journey to Preston departing about one hour after the final whistle.
Also planned is another ‘Two Coach Quiz’ on the outward journey between the supporters and team coaches. The ‘1869’ers’ inflicted another defeat for the ‘1st XV’ on the way to Wirral in the second of these matches but the Players Coach brain power will be strengthened for this short trip, so the travelling supporters will need to be on top form to maintain their winning run!
HERE’S HOW THE TEAM LOOKS
Scott Jordan is due to make his fiftieth appearance for Hoppers in his next game and will be looking to score one more try thus making it a tidy twenty five from fifty. Congratulations and well done Scott!