Meet New Mills: the real Redbridge Rovers

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HAVING popped over to France for the Euros, I’ve been playing catch-up with my Sky box, which has included their new sitcom ‘Rovers’. Starring Royle Family stars Craig Cash and Sue Johnston, the series follows the fans of Redbridge Rovers, a fictional non-league side based in the Peak District.

The clubhouse scenes were filmed in a studio but some eagle-eyed non-league fans will have noticed that the outdoor shots were filmed at Church Lane, home of New Mills AFC.

Sitting on the edge of Greater Manchester and Derbyshire, the ground was chosen for its picturesque location and friendly welcome. Filming took place over four days in October and the first of six half-hour episodes was aired on May 24. The ground’s entrance and stand are visible throughout the series, as well as the clubhouse, which had blue boards and a clock tower added to the outside.

I used to play for New Mills juniors so have been to Church Lane many times but having recently moved back to the area, I thought it was time I returned last Saturday, to watch their friendly against Ramsbottom United. And let’s be honest, they need all the help they can get!

The location wasn’t the only parallel drawn between Redbridge Rovers and New Mills. Rovers are battling for survival in the Evo-Stik North, something the Millers know all too well. Indeed, they hit the headlines last season as they were branded the ‘worst team in England’. They lost their first 26 games and didn’t get a win all season. They ultimately went back down to the North West Counties with just three points.

Ramsbottom, though, have recently gone past the Millers in the non-league ladder. They also worked their way up from the Manchester League to the Evo-Stik but last term were relegated for the first time in their 50-year history.

The Rams are still rebuilding after their hugely-successful management duo of Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley left in January 2015 for Salford City, where they’ve continued their success. Now Paul Fildes and Mark Fell have been tasked with preparing Rammy for their return to the Evo-Stik North.

Their stand-out signing has been 36-year-old striker Gareth Seddon. After helping Johnson and Morley win back-to-back promotions at Salford, the much-travelled frontman has decided to step down two levels to join Rammy, partly because he lives a few hundred yards from their ground.NewMillsRammySeddon started on Saturday, with former FC United centre-halves Nia Bayunu and Chris Lynch at the back, and Bayunu raised some eyebrows by continually berating his team-mates, even when they’d done nothing wrong.

Another row was developing at the far end, which in Rovers was named after Stanley Bell (I’ll let you work that out!) Seddon’s been in non-league for over 10 years now and for maybe the last five he’s also been working as a model so you can imagine the stick he’s had from the terraces. You’d think he’d be used to it.

Yet the ex-Hyde and Fleetwood goalgetter got riled by a group of youngsters, who took great pleasure in every loose touch and offside flag against Seddon. Only one of them looked near his teens so they were hardly ‘Ultras’ but Seddon answered back a couple of times then instead of tapping the ball to the home keeper for a goal-kick, he sent it head-height towards the little scamps, who managed to duck for cover. “Oi Gaz,” shouted one of his team-mates. “Stop bothering kids!”

Seddon did look rusty but he was alone. He missed Rammy’s best chance, sidefooting over from close range before going off at half-time. The visitors continued to have more possession and chances, yet Daniel Douglas-Pringle missed two glaring opportunities for the hosts, firing wide in each half as the game finished 0-0.

No matter. Having beaten Sheffield United’s Under-21s 3-0 in midweek, New Mills were delighted to have kept another clean sheet – and against a side being tipped for promotion from the league above. With manager Garry Brown having chosen to stay on and rebuild the squad, the Millers see this as a fresh start, so despite failing to win in 49 competitive games, they’re still smiling at Church Lane. Redbridge Rovers fans would be proud.

As for Rammy, they’re making the finishing touches to their squad. After the game, chairman and founder Harry Williams was surprised to hear that one of their trialists has the same surname. “Where have you been all my life?!” joked the youngster. I left them to sort out the child support.