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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

Great Harwood Town FC

The Showground, Wood Street, Great Harwood, Lancashire
Telephone: 01254 883913
Nickname: The Robins
Formerly North West Counties League (currently inactive - see below)

Note Kerry Miller has described The Showground as having a “gritty Northern atmosphere ... despite a battering from the lawless youth of the area”. Never was a statement more prophetic as in February 2005, the Monroes nightclub directly next door to the ground was gutted in an arson attack after a Peugeot 405 was driven into the building. The owner had just won a marathon court case in which he was cleared of turning a blind eye to drug-dealing on the premises. Unfortunately for the Football Club, their sports bar, including the changing rooms, was also badly damaged in the blaze, and as a consequence were forced to seek help from neighbours Accrington Stanley with whom they were able to groundshare until the end of the 2005/06 season.

When it became clear that the club would be unable to raise the money to buy back the Showground and repair its dressing rooms, the club resigned from the NW Counties League and officially folded in July 2006. However, Chairman Bill Holden has not ruled out the possibility of the club being relaunched in the future

One hopes that Harwood will be able to return home one day as despite being distinctly frayed around the edges, the Showground (or Sportsmans as it has more recently been known) is a venue of undeniable character. The marvelous 200 seat stand on the north side of the ground dates from the early 1960s and is worthy of preservation, whilst floodlights were first switched on for a game against Blackburn Rovers at around the same time. The majority of development did not occur until the following decade, and the long covered area that extends for much of the southern touchline was opened on 11 May 1976 by the late Chairman of Manchester City, Peter Swales.

The original club - Great Harwood FC - folded in 1978 and its place was taken by Lancashire Combination club Great Harwood Wellington FC, who subsequently entered the NW Counties League as Great Harwood Town.

The 1980s saw the building of the heavily fortified clubhouse at the western end of the pitch that was the target of the arsonists some 20 years later. The pitch was moved some 20 yards to the east to accommodate the new building, leaving a small portion of covered terrace some way behind the goal that is now no more. DB

The remains of a Peugeot 405 inside the gutted interior of Monroes nightclub
(Accrington Observer)