Thrills and spills in Alnwick Shrovetide football game

The parish of St Michael took the bragging rights in this afternoon’s Shrovetide football match in Alnwick, beating rivals St Paul 1-0 in a fiercely-contested game.

Shrovetide veteran Lee Pattinson scored the contest’s only goal – known as a hale. It was his third in as many years and took his overall goal tally up to about eight.

Action from the Alnwick Shrovetide football match. Pictures by Jane Coltman

Action from the Alnwick Shrovetide football match. Pictures by Jane Coltman

After his decisive strike, the 35-year-old, who works for Shilbottle Coal Company, said: “It is good craic to score the winning hale. I’m really pleased and it’s another hale to my name.”

The annual clash, played over a furlong-in-length pitch, was once again full of the usual thrills, spills and no-holds-barred tackling, as well as grassy knolls and muddy puddles.

During the second period, the hardy players also had to contend with a dog which joined in the action, chasing the ball and at one point running off with it in its mouth. Thankfully, one of the players carried the pooch back to its owner and, following the canine capers, the match resumed.

The fixture began in traditional fashion, with the ball being dropped from Alnwick Castle’s Barbican to the crowds below. The Duke of Northumberland did the honours this year.

Muddy faces - two of the Shrovetide match players from St Coud State University.

Muddy faces - two of the Shrovetide match players from St Coud State University.

Led by a piper, the players, spectators and the Shrovetide committee then marched down The Peth to the match field, which was full of divots, lumps and bumps.

The match attracted a good number of competitors, with Shrovetide committee member Archie Jenkins clocking around 65 players, which included American students from St Cloud State University, who are currently studying at Alnwick Castle.

Last year’s match winner, Scott Elliott, from Newcastle, also returned for another taste of the action.

Once the clash was over, 20 players were each given £2 for good play.

The Duke of Northumberland throws the match ball from the Barbican at Alnwick Castle.

The Duke of Northumberland throws the match ball from the Barbican at Alnwick Castle.

After this, the ball was kicked into the River Aln, prompting a mad scramble in the water to reach it first and carry it to the opposite bank. As in previous years, it was a family affair, as Ali Miller, 23, once again helped secure the match ball. This time round, he threw the ball to cousin Harry Brown, 15, who carried it to the other side.

Young Harry was delighted to grab the matchball and keep the tradition in the family.

The pair were watched on by proud cousin Steven Temple, who is another Shrovetide veteran and has previously worked with Ali to secure the ball from the Aln. He did not play this year due to illness, but he hopes to return in 2018.

Alnwick’s Shrovetide football match is a historic one, with the first recorded game being played in the town in 1762.

The procession down The Peth.

The procession down The Peth.

Mr Jenkins said he was pleased with this year’s turnout. He told the Gazette: “We were a little bit concerned this year, because the Duchess’s Community High School has moved to the other end of the town and we rely on the younger generation for the future of the game.

“But I have clocked 65 players and next year is a bonus because it will fall in the school half-term holiday.

“In terms of the procession, I haven’t, for a number of years, seen as many people walk down The Peth to the matchfield as they did today.”

Action from the match.

Action from the match.