|Ron Steel Sports Ground, Trentside Lane, Old Lenton Lane, Clifton Bridge, Nottingham Tel: 0115 9850803|
|821 v Tiverton Town - F.A.Vase 5th Round - 1994|
|Who are ya?||The Boatmen|
|What Division are you in?||Step 5 - Aspire Midland Football Alliance|
You must have come in a taxi
Nottingham - Follow the A453 out of the City for 1.7
miles. On reaching the Clifton Bridge roundabout, go straight over. Turn
first left onto Old Lenton Lane for 0.5 miles, passing the 'Hotel De Clos'
Restaurant as the road bends to the right. The Ground is marked by a
signpost on the first turning on your RHS, and has a car park for at least
From M1 Jnc.24 - Travel north on the A453 towards Nottingham for 8 miles. On reaching the A52 Clifton Bridge flyover, turn off for the A453 'City Centre'. Take the first exit at the roundabout into Old Lenton Lane, then as above.
Nottingham City Transport - Link 1 from Victoria Centre to Boots passes Old Lenton Lane, shortly after the Queens Drive Park & Ride site.
Nottingham Midland - 2.5 miles
For a map of the location, Click here.
My garden shed is bigger than this
Our story begins in 1946. Dunkirk football undoubtedly has a longer pedigree than this, but the Second World War had caused its footballers to temporarily hang up their boots. With the war over, local man Ron Steel was eager to see the Dunkirk back on the footballing map and was largely responsible for the establishment of Dunkirk Football Club.
The Club started out in the Notts Amateur League, originally played on one of the Corporation pitches at Highfields, on the Nottingham University site. Over the years they enjoyed a fair degree of success, but the Club had ambitions to play at a higher level. Unfortunately, the club were fully aware that there was no possibility of realising their ambitions whilst they continued to play on hired pitches.
All this was to change in 1975, when the Club successfully negotiated with the City Council for the lease of their present home by the River Trent. Once an enthusiastic band of volunteers had helped level the ridge and furrows left by the departing farmer, they set about laying out two football pitches. The City Council had required the Club to maximize the use of the land, and so a cricket square was established between the two pitches. At this point 'the Dunkirk Sports & Social Club' was brought in to being to oversee the activities of both footballers and cricketers. The Dunkirk Sports & Social Club ran four football teams, Dunkirk F.C., Dunkirk 'A', Dunkirk Sports and Dunkirk Boat F.C. Dunkirk would eventually inherit the nickname (The Boatmen) and Club badge of the latter of these teams. In 1976, Dunkirk F.C. successfully gained entry into the Notts Alliance, then generally considered to contain some of the best amateur teams in Nottinghamshire.
For over a decade in the 80ís and 90ís, Dunkirk where the bridesmaids of Nottinghamshire football. In the 1998/89 they seemed destined to win the Notts Alliance Senior Division title having led the table for 25 weeks, only to drop six points in as many games and ending up finishing second to Hucknall Town. The next season saw the runners-up spot taken again, finishing second to John Players. Dunkirk again ended up as bridesmaids in 1990/91, seven points adrift of Rainworth Miners Welfare, who took the title in a late burst. In the League Cup, The Boatmen reached the final with neighbours Pelican, but, predictably, were runners up. In 1995/95 The Boatmen make their debut in the Central Midlands Premier Division, scoring 130 goals, yet finishing runners-up to Killamarsh Juniors. As a result, they gained promotion to the Senior Division, and made a real impact, but were runners up again, this time to Heanor Town. This was a most creditable achievement, but Dunkirkís supporters must have felt like a curse had been cast on the Club. Fortunately, the agony was finally over in 1998, when they beat Clipstone in the League Cup. Curse lifted? Apparently not. In the 1998/99 season the Bridesmaids tag was back Ė runners up in the League again. Despite all this, the Boatman's proudest days have been playing at national level in the F.A. Vase. In 1993/94 they had a magnificent run in the competition, reaching the last sixteen where they lost 2-0 to Devon outfit Tiverton Town, the previous seasonís finalists, in front of a record crowd of 821.
The 2004/05 season was arguably the greatest season in history for the Boatmen, winning the Central Midlands Supreme Division for the first time and also winning the Floodlit Cup and the reaching the CML Cup Final. In 2008/09 they joined the inaugural East Midlands Counties League, which they won at a canter, becoming the only Nottinghamshire to play in the Midland Football Alliance, at the lofty heights of Step 5.
Following the death of Ron Steel in 1983, the Club paid the ultimate tribute to the man who had led them so gallantly for 37 years, by naming the Ground after him. The Boatmen's home could be described as a fortress by the Trent. Completely surrounded by eight foot high steel fence, painted green on the outside to blend in with the rural surroundings, they'll be no catching a cheeky view without paying here.
Prior to 1989, the only changing facilities available were those further along the road at Grove Farm. In the ensuing years successful appeals for grants to the City, County and Sports Councils helped the Club to find the money to have a Clubhouse constructed. Situated in the car park, the large Clubhouse houses four changing rooms, showers & toilets. It also provides hot snacks, meals and a bar on match days. At the front, besides the steps, is an attractive blue plaque welcoming you to the Club. The Clubhouse is rested on bricks to reduce the risks of serious flooding. This proved to be a rather forlorn task in November 2000 when Dunkirk, alongside riverside local rivals Greenwood Meadows & Pelican FC, suffered heavily from the devastating floods which engulfed the entire area. Unfortunately, with a flood expected every seven years, it may not be too long before the Boatmen take to the water again.
Within the Ground itself are six, three cluster, steel post floodlights perched on either side of the ground. The Ground is completely surrounded by a white steel barrier, with smart seated dugouts on one side, and two adequate covered stands on the other. The taller of the two stands, with it's angled cantilevered roof, is flat based, and actually bolted to the surrounding fence. The smaller stand on the half way line is a more traditional affair, held up at it is by steel posts.
There are some famous local heroes, both young and old, to have graced the turf of the Ron Steel Sports ground over the years. Two examples of which are the late, great, Johnny Quigley who managed the Club in his later years, up-and-coming Nottingham Forest starlet, Wes Morgen, started his career here and most recently Jake Sheridan moved on to Notts County. Forest & Ipswich star David Johnson even turned out for the club once his career was ended through injury.
The Ron Steel
Sports Ground other claim to fame is that it has also been a co-hosting venue for a world record. In March
2004, it was one of six venues to host a world record groundhop involving
attendees visiting an astonishing six matches in 24 hours. The event attracted
enthusiasts from all over the United Kingdom, as well as far a field as
Sweden and the Czech Republic. Some 274 brave souls attended at the RSSG, which proved to be the lowest of the three riverside crowds, but
quite understandable given the gale force winds rolling in on this open floodplain.
In 2005, Dunkirk were denied promotion
to the Northern Counties East League due to their inadequate facilities. A
surprising savior in the form of Kenny Dalglish appeared to have come to
the rescue, when a company led by Dalglish, Complete Football, offered to
upgrade the Ground for £2m. The plan was the brainchild of Wollaton
businessman, Richard Hipkiss, who had previously played for The
Boatman. The company planned to build new changing rooms connected
to the enclosed Ground, lay new pitches and refurbish the Clubhouse.
Unfortunately, the plan was blocked by
the City Council due to a refusal to allow Complete Football taking out a
100-year lease on the land.
The Club are now considering their options. A major barrier to promotion to the NCEL has been that the changing rooms are outside of the Ground boundaries. One possibility is to build a tunnel from the changing rooms to the pitch. Another option is to move elsewhere, and thus still be able to take up the stunning complete Football proposal. The Club have approached the Council to see if a move to a site is viable. The land is not far from their present Ground, but off the floodplain. If the proposals go ahead, a new stand would be built, along with excellent facilities for all the community to use, and up to standard for the NCEL.
© Christopher Rooney - permission required for photo & text usage