Non-league Atherton Collieries to host Al-Ittihad in friendly

Atherton Collieries' 2,500-capacity Alder House ground
Atherton Collieries' 2,500-capacity Alder House ground which will host Wednesday's friendly with eight-time Saudi champions Al-Ittihad

This summer has already seen some unexpected games building up to the new football season.

Kuwait, 156th in Fifa's world rankings, beat non-league Marlow in a friendly earlier this month, while League One Accrington Stanley took on Marseille, the nine-times champions of France.

But have Atherton Collieries, a non-league club near Wigan, pulled off an even bigger coup?

The Colls, who play in the seventh-tier Northern Premier League Premier Division, landed a friendly with one of the top teams in Saudi Arabia.

Not only that they beat Al-Ittihad 2-0 in front of more than 700 fans - double their average league attendance - on Wednesday after goals by Matt Grimshaw and a trialist.

Atherton Collieries chairman Paul Gregory (right) exchanges gifts with Al-Ittihad president Anmar Al-Hailiy
Atherton Collieries chairman Paul Gregory (right) exchanges gifts with Al-Ittihad president Anmar Al-Hailiy

Al-Ittihad are the eight-time champions of Saudi Arabia, two-time Asia Champions League winners and finished fourth at the 2005 Fifa Club World Cup.

They were recently managed by newly appointed West Brom boss Slaven Bilic.

Al-Ittihad have a Twitter following of 3.7 million, compared with Atherton Collieries' 7,334.

They play at the 62,000-capacity King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah - a world away from Colls' 2,500-capacity Alder House, where the friendly took place.

Al-Ittihad are currently based in nearby Bolton for a series of friendlies against Leeds, Bury and Bolton, and wanted to fit in one last match before returning to Jeddah.

Colls boss Michael Clegg said: "I know it's only pre-season and people think it doesn't mean anything, but this was a massive game for the club."

"Something like this doesn't come around often," Colls secretary Emil Anderson added.

The programme cover from Wednesday's friendly between Atherton Collieries and Al-Ittihad
The programme cover from Wednesday's friendly between Atherton Collieries and Al-Ittihad

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