Biting cold... icy challenge

Steely: Stocksbridge battle on.
Steely: Stocksbridge battle on.
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They breed ‘em tough in Stocksbridge.

You need a certain type of endurance to cope with the icy weather on the tops - the coldest part of Sheffield, they claim - and the continued drain of steelwork jobs out of the once-thriving valley.

It has been a chill wind that has been blowing through the local non-league football club, too.

Stocksbridge Park Steels have seen eight of their scheduled games fall victim to wintry conditions and now face a backlog that sets a head-scratching problem to the fixture-setters.

Last Saturday, just when you thought the first signs of Spring might be on their way, their match against top of the table Halifax Town was frozen off.

It was yet another game to add to the cluttered list.

The club’s pragmatic Chairman Allen Bethel says: “We have got eight home games, eight local cup finals, a couple of Sheffield Wednesday reserve games to fit in and neither the second team nor the over 35s have played at home since November!

“I have never known it so bad. But, at the end of the day, it is just something you have to deal with.

“We are sometimes two and a half degrees colder than other places in Sheffield - last weekend we had three inches of snow.”

Steels, who will, at least, see their coffers filled on Saturday afternoon when the well-supported FC United of Manchester come calling in the Evo-Stik Premier game, always try and turn negatives into positives.

“Looking at the table, we have a 50-50 chance of relegation (they are three points ahead of the drop zone) but we have a great fighting spirit here” said Bethel.

“As a club, we stick together. Some people like Darren Schofield, Brett Lovell and Andy Ring have been here for years and that helps with the spirit and camaraderie. All of our matches will be like cup finals from now on.”

Steels take on an FC United team that has zipped from the lower reaches of the league to seventh position and are unbeaten in their last five.

“United have re-shaped their defence because it was wide open earlier in the season” said Bethel.

“Then, they were playing all their defenders on the half way line. We put four past them (away, last September) and Matlock got five against them.

But they are better now, they’ll be fancying the Play Offs and it will be a tough game for us.

“It will be a good atmosphere - and not just because we are the highest altitude team in the area!”

Saturday’s FC date should attract 500-750 fans - their earlier fixture at Stalybridge saw a crowd of 1,793. Steels, who played Buxton last night, also have a game on Tuesday, versus Burscough.