- Chester Nomads
- Chester Nomads AFC
- Boughton Hall, Chester, UK
Nothing Last Forever, Except Chester Nomads
When the clubhouse doors open at Boughton Hall, an electronic sensor makes a sound in the upstairs bar. The person entering will walk up a staircase lined with pictures of Cricket legends and above them, the Football team’s Captain’s board. Meanwhile, those already in will know that another friendly face will soon join them, whether it be for a passing handshake, to talk about the game on the tele or who they’ve got on this weekends accumulators, but most of all to get ready for another day of sport, together at one of England’s most traditional grounds.
Throughout the weekend, from the moment you drive past the terraced houses on Filkins Lane and onto Boughton Hall Drive, you can’t escape the strong feeling of togetherness.
The roads are narrow and with cars lined either side. When behind the wheel, very rarely do you not have to let someone go and never will you fail to receive a courteous nod, which often comes with a smile.
Once you’re in, the car park leads round past a sign which says ‘Do not park in the bull horn’ as you gaze out towards the Cricket nets and scoreboard. You look up to see a burgundy, yellow and blue flag waving at the front of the building.
At this level of amateur football there are many hostile places to turn up, but here, you get an immediate sense of privilege.
As the car park turns from smooth to gravel – a dark green, arched tin military style shed will hold the groundsman’s tools and outside that are the parked up tractors and rollers. Opposite – a brand new perimeter fenced football pitch.
With its magnificent red brick structure, huge open windows and imposing clock, Boughton Hall is a truly beautiful place. Not just from its image, but through the camaraderie of its members in keeping standards which bring an understanding sense of pride.
It’s got everything a traditional clubhouse desires, yet is complimented with details of class and wooden finishes. Its spotless. In the far corner, the sound of plates and cutlery clashing can be heard as the catering team work. The opinions of the Gillette Soccer Special are just about loud enough to heard on the two mounted tele’s whilst members play winner-stays-on at the pool table as laughter constantly rings out.
Standing on the two-sided balcony of the 2002 built clubhouse which replaced its previous building, one of stark contrast, staring out over the endless pristine grass that houses the perfectly kept three football pitches and two cricket ovals – that sense of privilege becomes belonging. It is a sanctuary of sport, one of the oldest amateur clubs in the country, and you can feel the history shining through.
Through every minute spent inside, you soon understand that the spirit runs deep – founded upon generations of friendship, success and hard work. Chester Nomads is a family.
Originally founded in 1904, the name ‘Nomads’ was decided by players upon a train journey home from an away game in Manchester. It was around this time that the club’s players couldn’t find a settled venue for home fixtures inside Chester’s city walls. That all changed however, when in 1913 they agreed to rent pitches from the already established and to this day, very successful cricket team, Chester Boughton Hall.
The chapter of Nomads history I’m most interested in, though, is one that I had told to me first hand after signing for the club as a player in 2012. I knew as soon as I signed it was a special place, and despite not covering myself in glory when I played there, I realised what it meant to be a Nomad. And I wish I’d have played for the Class of 96.
It was in that year that three veteran Nomads looked at the club and decided they had an opportunity to become catalysts for its future. Mike Apollonio, Geoff Moss, and former Football League centre half, Bob Delgado, all had sons the same age and the decision was made to set up the club’s first ever junior team.
In the 22 years since, the Amber Army, as the club is nicknamed due to its colours, has grown to have 20 junior teams to add to the seven adult teams who all play across Cheshire and Merseyside.
This story is about six lads who would become the foundation, who met by watching their dads play and ended up having endless kickabouts themselves. who stayed together, won together, lost together, and all went onto play for the men’s team, with some of the group also going on to playing professionally, semi-professionally, and even internationally.
To them, Nomads is more than family, and there is a pact and belief between the six that they will one day return home together, with the ambition to drive it on to win major local honours harbouring bright.
Mike Apollonio sadly passed away in 2012, but his legacy lives on. As he once said: “Nothing lasts forever, except Chester Nomads.”
Here, the six prodigal son’s of Boughton Hall tell us more
Joe Imlach, Forward, 26
Striker and out of the six, the only current player currently at the club. Playing for the first team in the West Cheshire League. His grandfather Stuart, won the FA Cup for Nottingham Forest in 1958 and later that summer playing in the World Cup for Scotland.
When I signed the new clubhouse what you see now was just being built. I was just kind of sat there in awe seeing it being built. It was ahead of its time.
This place has got a huge family feel to it. From an early prospective, it was a good group of lads to be around. Good footballers. It’s home. It’s not all about the building, its about the people involved who you see every week. The cricket fella’s, the old fella’s, the caterers, the bar staff.
One thing I think explains it well is the way on a Saturday everyone has got the same kit or tracksuit on from the under 5’s to the adult teams. That’s how it should be.
The coaching we had growing up here was second to none. We were surrounded by people with good football knowledge. They took no shit. They were good at getting the best out of you. It was old school values. There might have been the odd ‘F’ word thrown about where it might be now at that stage in the game, but it was all part of it.
I’m still here at the moment. I’ve not had an injury free season since I was 20. Every time I get a bit of momentum I get injured. I feel like I owe a good season to myself as well as to Chester Nomads and I’m determined to do well for this club.
Jack Delgado, 27
Played for Chester Nomads, coming all the way from Under 6 to Captaining First Team last season. Currently playing for Holywell Town in the Huws Grays Cymru Alliance League.
First memories that stand out was playing tick with the lads in the old club changing room and watching David Beckham scoring the goal that took England to the World Cup in 2002. The sort of bond we had together from watching games lead to us having such a good chemistry on the pitch.
All our dad’s put so much effort into us playing for this club. It brought us all together and it was something to look forward to every Saturday with our mates.
One memory that stands out was when we won the Ellesmere Port League Cup against Berwick – we were massive underdogs as half of our team were a year younger. During the game we went down to nine players. We were losing and then in the last minute of extra time, we scored a penalty before going on to win in a shootout. I scored the winning penalty. The image of turning around and seeing the lads running towards me will stay with me forever. TEAM PICTURE WITH TEAR TOP RIGHT
I Captained the club last season which is a great honour. My brother Dan remains the Club Captain and has been for years. My Dad hasn’t missed a first team game for years.
I’m hoping one day all of us will come back to the club we love and achieve something I’ve always wanted to do and lift the league title with the team and players I’ve grew up with.
There will always be a special place in my heart for this club that I will hopefully pass on to my future children and see them love this place as much as I do.
Louis Moss ,26
Left Nomads for Wrexham at junior level, where he went on to sign a pro-contract, scoring on his debut away at Luton in the National League. Louis is a full international for Barbados and is currently playing for FC Oswestry Town in the Hallmark Security League Division 1 South
The state of the junior section now, 20 kids teams. That’s all down to our dad’s who set the foundations. Its grown and grown and its in a really healthy place. It’s the number one club in Chester for amateur football in terms of facilities and teams.
I didn’t get chance to play in the team with the lads until I was older. I watched every single game of theirs and was always in the huddle for team talks. They were an excellent side. BOTTOM RIGHT OF ARCHIVE TEAM PHOTO WITH TEAR IN THE SCAN
I started in goal, probably because I was used to all these having shots at me, being the youngest. I then switched to outfield and scored a lot of goals playing a year up. My team was a really good team, we won the league three years on the run.
My brother was at Wrexham so I used to go and watch him on a Sunday morning and one of the coaches told me to come down to training as well as I used to take a ball down with me to Colliers Park.
It has probably been the highlight of my career representing Barbados. Everyone at Boughton Hall was obviously made up for me, I am the only international player in the club’s history and having grown up here all of my life, thats something I am extremely proud of.
Ed Moss, Attacking Midfield, 27
Playing for FC Oswestry Town along with brother Louis after a spell playing for Paradise FC in the Barbados Premier Division. Played for the club’s first team after leaving Wrexham aged 19.
This club was my education in football. From the days of waking up really early to get here for training, having a bacon butty, sometimes catching a bit of Soccer AM before going to watch my dad play for the Vets.
In the old clubhouse we weren’t allowed to play pool because the barman said we would ruin the felt, so we were always outside. During the winter we would go through about three sets of clothes every Saturday because we were just caked in mud.
It’s just a special place. The culture of it and all the values. I would sum it up by saying you could ask anyone for anything.
We were a very successful junior team. Throughout the summer tournaments we would clean up, totalling up around 5-6 winners medals.
I remember one year playing in a final at the Sandbach tournament in Cheshire. The other team’s parents had put a bottle of champagne on ice. We came back from 2-1 down to win 3-2. That was us, just getting the job done our way.
Chester Nomads taught me how to play the game. How to conduct myself and to play to win.
Every time I drive along Tarvin Road past the club, I slow down, see what’s going on and just admire the building and the memories. It’s because of this place we are such good friends off the field.
Kieran Smith, Forward, 26
Currently playing for Bala Town FC. Young Nomads of the Year 2011, Nomad of the Year 2012. Won West Cheshire League Player of the Year in 2012 before his move to the Welsh Premier League side.
I never actually played for Nomads until I was 16/17, after my time at Wrexham came to an end. I had grown up in an around the club like the others but missed out playing for the club as I was signed for Wrexham from a young age. I loved every minute of it as a player when i did eventually get the chance.
Mike Apollonio showed such belief in us to allow us to play in a competitive men’s league at such a young age. To think we all grew up wearing amber, after watching all our dad’s play – I think is quite unique.
It’s still a huge part of my social life and it’s a meeting point for all the lads. We’ve watched Geoff Stelling age through the two buildings on different tele’s whilst waiting for our raffle ticket to get our pie & beans every Saturday – this was the traditional cuisine.
We’ve spoken about a reunion many times and I am 100% confident it will happen at some point in the future. To go back to Nomads and win a league title – It would be amazing to do it with the lads.
Benito Apollonio, 27, Defender
Son of Mike Apollonio. Played for the Club from Under 6 all the way to the first team. Young Nomad of the year 2012. Currently playing for The Gun FC in the Hackney & Leyton League.
My First memories of the club itself is going down there and training on a Saturday morning before we were old enough to play in proper matches – with all of our dads, they’d coach us and then after that we’d all go and watch their Vets game in the afternoon and continue to play football on the sideline or play games like blocky.
The club itself was very rundown, it reminded me of an old working mans club, stank of ciggies – my mum hated me coming back from there cause it would just be so stuck on my clothes.
Our very first game, we got beat 7-1 by Christleton who would go on to become our rivals. We never lost a game for the rest of that season, including the return fixture. Looking back that was probably an early sign of how quickly we learnt and an indication of the potential we had in the side.
This club means more to me than absolutely anything. Its taught me loyalty above anything else, we were so tight knit and became brothers from an early age and still are.
When I think back about following in the footsteps of our dads, at the time we didn’t really think anything of it. We were just playing in the same colours as our dads and we were proud we were imitating our heroes and the people we looked up to.
It makes me immensely proud and incredibly happy because i knew how much my dad wanted it. Nothing meant more to my dad than Nomads and more importantly, the junior side of it. He lived and breathed it. He would be the proudest man on earth.