I’ve never been to Altrincham, the closest I’ve been was Sale to visit a friend. So my primary opinion of Altrincham has been of a kind of Mancunian Kingston, at the end of the tram network, where the bus terminates, the last stop, as far as the suburbs go. Its their position that means they have no real local rivals anymore despite playing on the outskirts of one of the famous football cities in the world. Everyone around them seems either a bit too big, or a bit small, or in Macclesfields case always a step ahead. You could imagine an alternate reality, where the transition between Football League and Non-League had been fluid from the start. Perhaps Altrincham would have gone on to have a meaningful rivalry with the likes of Stockport?
Formed back in 1903, they actually have an Old Centrals-esque history dating back as far as 1891, when the club played on park pitches under a variety of different names. The Robins are possibly unique in being founder members of just about every league they’ve ever played in; the Manchester League (1893), the Cheshire League (1919), the Northern Premier League (1968), the Alliance Premier League (Conference, 1979), Conference North (ok, I know its a division of the Conference, but they were in it from the start, 2004).
The club are probably most famous for their FA Cup runs in the 70’s and 80’s, including joining Wimbledon as one of the few Non-League clubs to knock out a First Division team on their own ground, beating Birmingham City 2-1 in 1986, as well as hugely creditable draws away at Everton (1975) and Spurs (1979).
Recently Altrincham achieved the feat of finishing in the Conference relegation places in 2006, ’07 and ’08, gaining a reprieve thanks to clubs accepting voluntary demotion or being forced out of business. While its never good to see clubs suffer financially, Altrincham must have felt disappointed having to face clubs who were spending beyond their means on playing budgets, and must be congratulated for putting the long term security of their club ahead of short term gambles to ensure divisional status.
What must have seen even more galling to Robins fans was they would have remained out of the relegation zone in 2006 had they not been punished by a whopping 18 point deduction for their version of Darlo-gate, in their case midfielder James Robinson. With Alty not fortunate enough to have a high profile QC supporter willing to give his time for free, they copped the entire punishment. However justice was ultimately served as the club remained in non-league footballs top flight.
After the fortunate relegation battles of previous years, Altrincham seem to have turned a corner in 2008/09. Despite a disappointing September that saw them plunge towards the relegation zone, they picked up by October and were briefly in the top half of the table. The Robins hung around midtable for the rest of the season, never looking entirely safe, and a run of eleven games featuring just one win was ended with a fine victory over Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground which hauled their slide towards the relegation zone.
Inconsistency was a major problem – they managed to slump to a 0-2 defeat to Lewes, and ultimately were probably thankful for the poor form shown by sorry Weymouth, and our Surrey neighbours Woking (who didn’t have the excuse of playing youth players) prevented them becoming involved in a relegation dogfight. But for long suffering Alty fans, I’m sure last season was a blessing compared with what has gone before.
Altrincham are perhaps the best example of what could have happened to WFC had the ‘Dons 4 Div 4’ campaign failed. With league clubs surrounding them within easy reach, including the North West Premier League giants, you’re probably more likely to see a range of Premier League shirts in Altrincham than the home clubs (like Kingston town centre on a matchday…). However crowds of just under a thousand are decent for a club battling against clubs with league history, and the larger fanbase that goes with that.
Also, its seems Altrinchams Official website is a real labour of love. Updated daily, the news includes breaking news from around the Conference as well as club news. I had a quick look a couple of days ago and ended up losing a whole lunch hour reading it. It can be found here – http://www.altrinchamfc.co.uk/alty1.htm
A half hour train or tram ride from Manchester Piccadilly, there’s no doubt some fans will be using this game as an excuse for a weekend in Manchester (should the fixture fall on a Saturday). Moss Road isn’t that far from the station, and is an old style non-league ground that looks as though it’s seen a facelift relatively recently, without losing any character. Dons fans should primarily find themselves located on the open Hale End, however it looks a little small, if we find ourselves playing there on a Saturday near the start or end of the season, or have the immense good fortune to be visiting on a day when FC United haven’t got a game (thus earning ourselves a few extra fans for the day!), it might turn out to be a bit cramped!
The more and more you look into Altrincham, the more certain aspects ring a bell – they have a pylon right next to the ground that overshadows the floodlights. Where have we seen that before?!
(NB – Before I started writing this section, I wrote on my notepad ‘Do not call their ground Moss Rose, thats Macclesfield, they’ll get offended…’. Spot the deliberate mistake above. Clearly several people were watching, I apologise, I’ve amended the tag but I’m keeping the error in as a slap on the wrist and a warning to any other Dons fan reading not to make the same mistake… I’ll spend the rest of the day writing ‘MOSS LANE’ 1000 times as punishment…)
(Dons home admission in brackets for comparison)
TERRACE – £13 (£12) Conc £8 (£6) 12-16 £5 (£2) U12 £2 (£2)
SEATS – £15 (£14-16) Conc £9 (£7-8) 12-16 £5 (£3-4) U12 £2 (£3-4)
Altrincham have upped their prices this season – not by a lot mind, and they are among the cheapest in the division. I would imagine that we would have wanted the £13 terrace prices too, but a 30% rise would have been too much for some fans to take in these tough economic times. It’s likely that our prices were largely based on clubs like Altrincham
AFC Era – None
All time Wimbledon – None
In other words we will be facing Altrincham for the first time this coming season! However we have faced them in competition to be elected to the Football League in the past…