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Retro Sunday

Wanderers SC 1, Team Wellington 4
Bill McKinlay Park, Auckland, December 14 2014

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A couple of weeks ago I compiled a post packed full of photographs and memories of and about Newmarket Park – the home of New Zealand football in the 1960s and ‘70s. It was hugely popular as it allowed people to feel the warm fuzzies flood back about a special place, long gone, that saw some of New Zealand’s finest football moments. But sometimes we are guilty of not appreciating things until long after they are gone. We have some other football treasures dotted around Auckland that some amongst us might be a little guilty of taking for granted.

Take Bill McKinlay Park for example. Home of Mount Wellington AFC  – a glamour club that dominated New Zealand domestic football for a generation or two during the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. ‘The Mount’ boasted some of the stars of the game, particularly many of those who qualified our nation for the 1982 World Cup – a campaign that included a 4-zip demolition of Mexico at Bill McKinlay. And it’s still there, in Panmure, where I think one of Auckland’s greatly underrated football venues lurks sadly underutilised.

I love it here. Firstly, because you can feel the history, sense the presence of all those great players and the superb things they achieved. And secondly for the wonderful retro feel of the place. Just look at that old stand. It’s glorious. I bet there are plenty of people who would love to tear it down and replace it with something modern but in my opinion nothing could possibly ruin the place more than doing that. They just don’t make football grandstands like that anymore and the feeling it evokes of being transported back to the 1960s and to some Northern English coalmining village is worth its weight in gold as far as I’m concerned.

Not only that but in that fortress to the forces of nature you can sit right over the pitch and it doesn’t matter if Cyclone Bola comes through, you will not get a drop of rain on you. It’s so enclosed that you feel quite snug on a cold day, particularly with the timber terraces under your butt rather than the more commonly found concrete! Another plug I’ll give is the cosmopolitan food selection on offer. I had the most delicious lamb samosa ever today! Yum yum.

But anyway, I digress. Today Bill McKinlay was the venue for an ASB Premiership game between Wanderers SC – a virtual New Zealand Under 20 international side – and last season’s runners up and O League qualifiers Team Wellington. I am sure somebody will correct me if I’m wrong or put an exact timeframe on this but I suspect that this was the first time in quite some time that this ground has staged a National League match. Over a decade?

And as comebacks go, this one was superb on a couple of levels. Not only was it Bill McKinlay’s National League comeback but Team Wellington also came back from a goal down to eventually win 4-1. The score maybe flattered them a little as they were too big and strong for their younger opponents but they certainly didn’t have it all their own way and I thought Wanderers probably deserved another goal or two. It was nonetheless an entertaining encounter with plenty of attacking flair on display.

A worthy match for a worthy venue. Perhaps if Wanderers ever stop wandering, they might consider this as a permanent home. Or perhaps Unimount could start taking the NRFL seriously again and give me an excuse to come back more often. I would be sorely tempted to buy enough samosas to finance a couple of good players…

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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