Radford is an inner-city estate that is just a short tram journey away from the centre of Nottingham. It’s known as being the home of Raleigh Bicycles, The Old General Pub – with its iconic 120-year-old statue of Benjamin Mayo standing proudly in the window box, and The Variety Club – what was basically like a smutty version of Phoenix Nights. These local landmarks are now defunct and will, of course be making their way for housing.
But the area remains to be known for its less welcoming qualities. Such as; being one of Nottingham’s ‘concrete jungles’; with high crime-rates, drug use, prostitution and derelict buildings that are more often than not inhabited by squatters. But if you’re a fan of non-league football, all of that shouldn’t put you off paying a visit there, because hidden amongst the old laundrettes, takeaways, tower-blocks and gun shops (honestly), lies a diamond in the rough – Radford Football Club.
Radford FC, nicknamed The Pheasants, were formed in 1964 as Manlove (don’t laugh!) & Alliots. But that (luckily) didn’t last very long, and they were renamed Radford Olympic – the club’s crest still retains the Olympic rings from that period – and in 1977 they were the first amateur club to be allowed to wear advertising on their shirts.
In 2008, The Pheasants became one of the founding clubs of the semi-professional East Midlands Counties Football League (level 10 of the English Football League system), in which they still ply their trade. Last season (the club’s 50th) they finished 3rd – their highest ever league finish, which also ensured that FA Cup football would be played at Selhurst Street for the 2015/16 season. Also, to celebrate their 50th year and the installation of a brand new pitch, the club hosted a sell-out fixture against a Nottingham Forest XI, which finished 10-1 to their famous neighbours.
Although they’ve always had a club house, with a bar and hot food on the go, they were your typical one-man-and-his-dog club. Residents would rarely turn out to support their local side, despite admission being free due to the plethora of holes in the perimeter fence. They literally couldn’t give it away, even to see notable players such as Andy Cole(‘s brother), Devon White(‘s brother) and Devon White.
But, in the last few years, with help from Sport England and the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, Selhurst Street has had a bit of a makeover, including erecting a one hundred-seater stand, sheltered terraces and a new tunnel (yes, it’s an extender) – offering a much improved overall match day experience which in turn has attracted a lot more spectators through the turnstiles – earning the club a bit of a cult following. At the game we attended, there was plenty of entertainment on the pitch also. Radford were 4-1 down, but an outstanding comeback saw the Pheasants draw level at the death.
Radford FC is definitely a club with a certain charm about it, and they’re on the rise. If you’re a fan of non-league, treat yourself to a visit to Selhurst Street, you won’t be disappointed!
[Originally Posted in Liquid Football Magazine Issue One]