Hopping Around The World

Welcome to volume one of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loves the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed The World. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my dad, Bob Bernard and my late dearly loved Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have.

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

To see volume two of HAOTW, please go to: www.worldgroundhoptwo.blogspot.com

Rob Bernard
London 2011

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wimbledon




The story of Wimbledon FC of south west London, is a warning to all supporters of what can happen when success attracts owners the club could well do without.

Formed in 1889 as Wimbledon Old Central FC and playing on Wimbledon Common, the club played in local football. In 1905 they dropped ‘Old Central’ from their name to become Wimbledon FC, although the change didn't bring much luck, as they folded owing to financial difficulties in 1910.

They reformed a year later as Wimbledon Borough before reverting to Wimbledon within a few months, and then moving into Plough Lane in 1912. The club joined the Athenian League in 1919 and then the Isthmian League two years later.



The 1930’s were to see many great triumphs at Plough Lane. Isthmian League titles were secured in 1930-31, 1931-32 and 1934-35; the same season that the club reached the final of the FA Amateur Cup Final for the first time. In the showpiece Wimbledon were defeated 2-1 by Bishop Auckland in a replay at Stamford Bridge A fourth consecutive Isthmian League crown was added the following season.

The Dons second Amateur Cup Final came in 1947. This time it was Leytonstone who triumphed 2-1 at Highbury. Further Isthmian League wins came in 1958-59 and 1961-62 and 1962-63 before the club completed the doube by finally lifted the Amateur Cup with a 4-2 victory over local rivals Sutton United at Wembley. An eighth Isthmian League title was claimed in 1963-64 before Wimbledon turned semi-professional and joined the Southern League.

To view the Wembley win against Sutton United, go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwyDcdJGnYs

Wimbledon competed well without winning the league, but they were thrust into the conscience of the nation’s sports loving public during the 1974-75 season for an incredible FA Cup run.

Entering in the very first qualifying round they saw off Bracknell Town, Maidenhead United, Wokingham Town, Guildford Dorking United, Bath City and Kettering Town to find themselves in the third-round proper. They travelled to top flight Burnley and pulled off an astonishing 1-0 win. Their reward was a trip to Elland Road to take on reigning league champions Leeds United. Incredibly their keeper Dickie Guy pulled off a penalty save from Peter Lorimer as Wimbledon drew 0-0. The replay was moved to Selhurst Park, where a crowd of over 40,000 saw Leeds go through with a deflected goal. To see the Leeds encounters, go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rzfxdJK-88

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ-eFqYjYJw

The success helped spurred the club on as they lifted three consecutive Southern League titles in 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77 under the guidance of Allen Batsford.

These triumphs led to winning the vote to be elected into the Football League to replace Workington for the 1977-78 season.

Batsford resigned in January 1978 to be replaced by a young Dario Gradi, who led The Dons to promotion in 1978-79. Their spell lasted just one season before they were relegated back to Division Four.

In 1979 chairman of the time Ron Noades tried to do a deal with the Milton Keynes Development Corporation to relocate Wimbledon there. He and his directors even bought out non league Milton Keynes City FC as part of the plan. It was never fully executed. Noades was a man who over the years owned Southall, Crystal Palace, Brentford as well as Selhurst Park and the land where Imperial Fields, the home of Tooting Mitcham United would later stand on. Moving a football club lock stock and barrel apparently held no fears to him!

Noades bought Crystal Palace and moved on in 1981 and took Gradi with him. The Dons won promotion once more under Dave Bassett but couldn't prevent another relegation in 1981-82. However, his appointment was to prove a master stroke.

Bassett built a powerful team mixing experience with players who’d been released from bigger clubs and the clubs youth system. This led to consecutive promotions in 1982-83 and 1983-84.

After just two in the second tier, the team, with no star names but an unbelievable fighting won promotion to the top flight of English football. Many people tipped the ‘Crazy Gang’s’ stay to be a short one, but they were in a for a big shock. Bobby Gould took over from Bassett who moved to Watford with madcap Chairman Sam Hamman running things. One day in May 1988 was to be their greatest ever.



Wimbledon beat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final in a game many pundits predicted would be the most one sided ever. It was one of the greatest cup shocks of all time. To view the amazing achievement, go to:

http://www.bigmatchonline.com/blast-from-the-past/403-wimbledon-1-liverpool-0

Unfortunately they didn't get to compete in European competition because of the ban on English clubs after the Heysel disaster. Europe didn't know just quite what they missed!

The club were not everyone’s favourites by any means, as the purists didn't like their high tempo football mixed with some physical tactics which they claimed bullied opponents. Players such as John Fashanu, Vinnie Jones, Nigel Winterburn, Dennis Wise, Alan Cork, Warren Barton and Dave Beasant were certainly no shrinking violets, but they could play as well. Many moved on elsewhere for large transfer fees.

The club unveiled plans for a new all seater stadium in Merton, but nothing came of it. New managers came and went before it was announced that Plough Lane was beyond development for top flight football after the Taylor Reports findings needed implementing after the Hillsborough disaster. Instead they moved to Selhurst Park to share with Crystal Palace.

Joe Kinnear took over as manager and slowly improved fortunes on the pitch. In 1994 ‘The Wombles’ (as they were sometimes called from the mid 70's after the TV animation of fury characters who lived on Wimbledon Common) managed to finish sixth in the Premier League, their highest ever finish.

Wimbledon also managed some good runs in both the FA and League Cup's during this period. Hamman had investigated plans to move the club to Dublin but was stopped in his tracks before he sold the club to a Norwegian consortium. Home support was never massive at Selhurst Park, but that allowed large numbers of away fans to fill the ground.

Kinnear resigned in 1999 due to ill health before Egil Olssen and then Terry Burton had time in charge before the club were relegated in 2000. In the following two seasons they just missed out on the play offs before Burton was controversially sacked.



It was announced in 2001 that the club under the chairmanship of Charles Koppell were looking at relocating to Milton Keynes. This was met with wide spread protest from fans, but on this occasion the owners would win whilst the fans would have their club stolen from them in probably the most disgusting development in the history of English league football of which full details can be found on the AFC Wimbledon section.

The Dons spent one last season under Stuart Murdoch in London before they went into administration and moved to Milton Keynes but retained the clubs name.

At this point AFC Wimbledon was formed by the vast majority of fans who wanted to do with "Franchise FC" as their old club was being dubbed. In their first season at the National Hockey Stadium all the players were sold by the administrator as the club was relegated in front of slightly improved crowds. The club were taken out of administration by Pete Winkelman at the end of the season.

The construction of Stadium MK was started soon after as the team name was changed to Milton Keynes Dons and the club colours changed to all white, with a new crest.

Unbelievably they listed Wimbledon's honours as their own. This was only changed when the Football Supporters Federation demanded they be returned to their home in the London Borough of Merton in return for accepting MK Dons fans and calling off their appeal for all fans to boycott the clubs fixtures.

It is a very sorry tale of a very decent old club getting over ambitious, with some very dubious business taking place involving owners and businessmen and at least one local council.

At least there is a happy ending as the soul of Wimbledon FC lives on at AFCWimbledon.


My visits

Wimbledon 1 Hull City 4 (Saturday 7th April 1984) Division Three



It wasn't until I reached secondary school in 1977 that Plough Lane hosted League Football yet within nine years The Dons were in the top flight as The Crazy Gang steamrolled all before them.

My first visit was for the top of the table third division clash between the home side and Hull City. I was at college at Boreham Wood just north of London at the time and I met up before the game with friends in the newly formed Hull City Southern Supporters Club, who's first ever meetings I attended. The Tigers sprang a huge surprise with a 4-1 victory which led to me gracing the turf in celebration at the end. The ground hadn't changed much, save for the high fences since their Isthmian League days and really struggled to meet demands. Those of us in the away end even gave an ironic cheer when Wimbledon scored a late consolation. The irony would later come home to roost as the club missed out on promotion by one goal to Sheffield United after an agonising evening in Burnley the Thursday after the other games had finished.

The aforementioned away Wandle End was a steep bank of open terracing with segregation down the middle, for the rare occasions that enough home fans turned up to make it worthwhile opening both sections. To the left was terracing with the South Stand perched at the rear which contained about ten rows of seats. The home end was a terracing half the size of the one it faced with a basic roof at the back while The Main Stand maybe held 1,200 seats and was about fifty yards long with terracing either side.

The ground was a ten minute walk from Wimbledon Park tube station and slightly longer to Wimbledon stations.

Wimbledon 3 Hull City 1 (Saturday 26th April 1986) Division Two



The Tigers and The Dons faced each other again in the old Second Division. Wimbledon were on their way to promotion to the top flight despite many of their home attendances being around 4,500. They were a good side and they pummelled Hull 3-1 on the 26th March. The only changes since my previous visit were high fences around the edge of the pitch. I had the consolation of a good drink with the City fans in a pub near Wimbledon station before the game.

A further call

In 2005 I went to watch a greyhound meeting at the nearby Wimbledon Stadium which wasn't on as I got the wrong night! I walked back to the nearest National Rail station at Haydons Road along Plough Lane to be greeted with a high fence surrounding the site where the stadium once stood. A supermarket company bought the land but had failed to gain planning permission to build there. I could just see the sorry looking flattened wasteland through a chink in the fence.


The pictures on this page have been taken from the internet.















Friday, January 9, 2015

Everton






Everton FC, from the city of Liverpool, are a football club who were formed as St Domingo's FC in 1878 in order so that the people of the parish of St Domingo's Methodist Church had an activity in the winter to sit alongside their cricket in the summer.

The following year the name of Everton FC, after the local district was adopted after a meeting at the Queen's Head Hotel. Barker and Dobson, a local sweet manufacturer, introduced "Everton Mints" to honour the club.



Everton started out playing on an open pitch in the south east corner of the newly laid out Stanley Park. John Houlding's house backed onto the pitch and he noticed the large crowds so he got involved with the club. A Mr J Cruit offered Everton a new enclosed ground at Priory Road, but after a couple of years he asked them to move out because of the large crowds and noise.

'The Toffees' or 'The Blues' as they are nicknamed moved to Anfield in 1884, renting from John Orrell who was a friend of Houlding. Houlding was by now the club president and he bought Anfield a year later. For a time the club made a donation to a local hospital in lieu of rent, before they started paying rent to their own president! Anfield was quickly made into a top class venue and was soon to stage an international game.



Everton became founder members of the Football League in 1888 and they lifted their first title in 1891. A bitter conflict was soon around the corner as Houlding had increased the rental fee dramatically. His friend Orrell had adjacent land and wanted to legally build a road where the Main Stand stood. The Everton committee asked Houlding to work out a deal for them, but he refused to give them a contract of lease.

In 1892 Houlding tied to set up a new company called Everton FC and Athletic Grounds Ltd and take over the clubs fixtures. The officials at the Football Council refused to recognise the new company as Everton so Houlding changed its name to Liverpool FC and Athletic Grounds Ltd to form Liverpool FC. The Everton committee decided enough was enough and they abandoned their substantial home to move to Goodison Park in the other corner of Stanley Park.



Everton reached four FA Cup finals before the outbreak of the First World War, but only won one of them in 1906 at Crystal Palace against Newcastle United. In 1915 another league title was won.

A hero lit up the club for many years in the shape of William Ralph Dean (better known as Dixie), who scored a remarkable sixty league goals in the 1928-29 season. Unbelievably the club were relegated the following season. They were promoted immediately with Dean scoring thirty nine times. The FA Cup was lifted again in 1933 in the first final where both the teams wore numbers and then another championship was secured the following year. 1939 saw yet another league title with Joe Mercer and Tommy Lawton starring. Goalkeeper Ted Sagar remained constant throughout the eventful decade.



The 1940's and 50's were barren years for Everton. They were relegated in 1951 and spent three years in the second tier before reclaiming their place in the first division. Harry Catterick took over the managerial reigns in 1961 to watch over a golden era where the club were dubbed "The School of Science".

Further league championships were added in 1963 and 1970 as well as the FA Cup against Sheffield Wednesday following a remarkable comeback from being two goals down. To watch the highlights in colour, go to:


The 1970 title side was characterised by the "Holy Trinity" midfield of Colin Harvey, Alan Ball and Howard Kendall.



The club had an occasional push for honours over the following decade without winning anything. Former hero Kendall took over the managerial reigns in 1981 but didn't find things easy to begin with. Fans were losing patience before he transformed the side bringing in Peter Reid to marshal the midfield with Andy Gray up front around lots of young talent and the commanding Neville Southall in goal.

Everton won the FA Cup in 1984 against Watford and followed it up with the European Cup Winners Cup against Rapid Vienna in Rotterdam the following year. To watch go to:




The same season The Blues won their eighth league title. Gary Lineker spent the following season at the club before yet another title was secured in 1987. Sadly Kendall departed for Athletico Bilbao and the momentum dropped off. Managers came and went including a failed comeback from Kendall and the club were extremely close to relegation before winning a highly controversial game with Wimbledon.

Former forward Joe Royle came in and another FA Cup was lifted in 1995 as the "dogs of war" side were put together. More managers tried and ultimately failed at Goodison including yet another Kendall spell and the much respected Walter Smith before control was given to David Moyes who joined the club from Preston North End.



The club was struggling off the pitch with finances and the aging Goodison Park. Theatre impresario Bill Kenright took over as Chairman as Moyes continued to work wonders on the pitch with limited resources which forced him to sell starlet Wayne Rooney to Manchester United.

The club tried to put together a move to Kirkby which caused a volatile reaction from many Evertonians as it is outside the Liverpool City boundaries. The deal involved help from Tesco who would get a huge store on the site. The club were advised by the authorities that planning permission would not necessarily be granted so it went no further while fans continued to protest as Moyes continued to perform wonders with the squad.



The sides’ progress was always going to be difficult owing to the lack of finances caused by the limitations of Goodison Park. Everytime a decent run was produced, an important player was sold to balance the books. However, Moyes consistently found replacements and moulded a new side with the likes of Tim Cahill, Phil Neville and Nikita Jelavic starring, as The Toffees reached the FA Cup Semi Final of 2012, going out to their neighbours Liverpool.

Moyes departed in the summer of 2013 to join Manchester United. His replacement was the Wigan Athletic boss Roberto Martinez who quickly became popular with fans as his sides played with an attacking flair.

Everton FC will play in the Premier League in the 2014-15 season.


My visits

Everton 2 Middlesbrough 1 after extra time (Tuesday 9th February 1988) FA Cup Round Four Second Replay

I was a postmen back in the day and I finished work early each afternoon. A good Boro mate Doomie knew an Everton fan based in Scarborough who wanted to go to the game so he agreed to drive through.

We were pushing it to make kick off and we at last managed to find somewhere to park before we sprinted round to the Gladwys Street turnstiles and forced our way onto the terracing behind the goal. I was immediately impressed by the tradition and grandeur of Goodison Park.



The Gladwys Street End was terracing downstairs where we were with a deck of seats above us. The corner cut away where St Luke's church stood before giving way to the magnificent Main Stand had terracing at the front before two large seating decks with the third tier having an incredible rake to it. The far Park End was seated at the back before giving way to a smallish terrace for the visiting fans. This stand once had the terrace going further back but safety measures had restricted the capacity. The final side was taken up by the Bullens Road Stand which joined up with the Gladwys Street End. This had terracing at the front with a converted seated paddock behind it. A further seating deck rose above it.



At the time it was still considered quite risky to be thought of being in the wrong areas of a stadium and we had similar accents to the evening’s visitors from Teesside, or at least we would to a suspicious Scouser looking for trouble so we kept quiet. We need not worry. Everton went ahead and we got pushed around in the general crush but then Boro equalised with several around us applauding the goal! The Blues went on to win the match in extra time.

Monday 18th October 2010

I was on Merseyside for my second of three days groundhopping, socialising and sightseeing. The previous day had seen Everton defeat their deadly rivals Liverpool two nil and has luck would have it, I'd booked a Goodison stadium tour a few weeks previously.

I caught the bus from Lime Street station and I passed Prince Rupert's Tower which is depicted on the club crest before jumping out on County Road. It looked strange but mightily impressive seeing the huge rear of the Main Stand down the old terraced streets. 












On entering the reception I encountered others on my tour as well as many smiling club staff. Our guide was bullish in the extreme and obviously very proud of his club. He refused to mention Liverpool FC by name and referred to their owners as "The Cowboys". 

We were taken around the various hospitality suites and the boardroom. There was many interesting souvenirs and mementos on show including some of Dixie Dean's old possessions. We went into the changing rooms, which I thought were OK without being remarkable, before we lined up and walked up the steps and onto the side of the pitch with the clubs' 'Z Cars' theme tune booming out. Although Goodison was not as modern as a lot of stadiums, it still oozed class and character.












Since my previous visit it was now all seated. The only structural change was the Park End Stand which was now a large single tier of seats replacing the old stand. Everywhere including the pitchside track was blue. Our guide kept saying how the club needed to move to allow the manager funds for players that could be generated from a newer stadium with more facilities. He thought a shared stadium with his friends from over the park could be the solution!

I said my goodbyes and popped back to County Road to use an internet cafe before returning to Goodison Street where The Wimslow pub was sadly closed because I wanted to have a look inside to see if it had any souvenirs on show. Instead I made do with a mammoth portion of pie and chips from the local chippy before I walked round to have a look at the Dixie Dean statue.



I walked through Stanley Park clutching my lunch and trying to keep warm as I reflected on the history between two huge clubs who were such close neighbours. I went on my way to the Arkles pub and awaited my tour of Anfield where I heard a very different slant on the story of the clubs!

Everton 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1 (Sunday 9th December 2012) FA Premier League (att: 36,494)



I had been alerted by fellow Scarborough Athletic fan Matt Lawson about a website used by Everton called Stubhub, where fans with tickets who couldn't attend a game would sell them on at a fair price. With me having the day off work, I had being looking for various options of attending a game, but transport prices were expensive. However, the previous Friday I had attended a funeral with several fellow cricket pals of Terry Abbott, a wonderful man who loved watching sport.

We went for drinks to remember the great man where football was also on the agenda. Spurs fan John Jobber was musing whether to travel to Everton for the game, as his car was giving him some trouble and it was in the garage pending repairs. I told him to give me a shout if the car passed its fitness test and he decided to go.



John was in touch the following day with the news he was heading to Merseyside on his own, so I quickly snapped up a ticket for the family enclosure for £24, which was £7 cheaper than face value. We arrange to meet at Stanmore at 9am the next day. Going to matches with company wasn't a regular occurrence for me, but I really enjoyed it. John was great company; we'd previously had days out while on Ashes tours together so it was good to meet up again. It was great to hear stories of travelling away as we sped up the motorways passing The Ricoh Arena, Villa Park and Bescot Stadium along the way. John's car was certainly in good condition as we made excellent time. As someone who'd made the journey many times before he knew exactly where to go when we arrived in Liverpool. He kindly drove up to the Bullens Road ticket office at Goodison Park while I collected my ticket before heading back to the Stanley Park car park.



A few minutes later we were in The Arkles along with the growing number of visiting fans, and before long we were joined by Nigel, a mate of John's who'd moved to Southport from London some years previously. The Spurs fans were keen to get into singing mood as they aired a full repertoire as well as some unflattering tributes to Arsene Wenger and the fact that Chelsea were out of the Champions League. We had an enjoyable few drinks watching Man Utd go two nil up at Eastlands in the big derby game before heading off at about ten past two. The walk across the park, going past Anfield took around fifteen minutes. I said goodbye to my pals as I walked round through the crowds to find my turnstile towards St Luke's Church.

My seat was in the paddock at the front of the huge Main Stand, but before I took to my position I stood at the rear as I enjoyed some much needed nourishment. Graeme Holmes, a friend of mine on Facebook was a regular at Goodison and he recommended the scouse pies. As I'm always keen to try the local fare, I needed no second invitation and was soon getting stuck in to the pastry, which was filled with meat, potato, carrot and swede. It was that good I had a second!



It was now time to get into position, and I was delighted to have a great view in amongst the many parents and their kids. It was a really pleasant atmosphere, with the away fans across the pitch and the more vocal home fans to my left. The teams took to the field to a great ovation and the famous old Z Cars theme tune.

To see and hear, click below: 




Much was expected of the game with both teams around the much valued fourth place, with Everton three points behind Tottenham. The first half was of high quality, with Spurs playing the more controlled football, but Everton playing with a high tempo looking forward to spring Nikica Jelavic and Kevin Mirallas. My Spurs mates had told me that Everton fans were well known for whining at the refs, but I thought it was probably just them exaggerating. To be fair, they weren't far from the truth as referee Kevin Friend was booed off at half time, despite me thinking he was doing fine.

The second period followed a similar vein, with Spurs having more quality possession. I was struggling to see how Everton were going to score. Jermaine Defoe and Clint Dempsey were having fine games, while Moussa Dembele was bossing the midfield. With just fourteen minutes of normal time remaining Dempsey scored with a deflected shot to make the visiting fans even happier. They had made the most noise all the game, giving the Everton fans plenty of stick along the way. Although the home fans were outshouted I liked the way they concentrated on supporting their team rather than hurling abuse. Their reaction to the Salvation Army, the pre match presentations and kid’s half time choir had been exemplary.



The Toffee fans were to get their reward. They urged their team forward and the noise and atmosphere lifted. Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas took off Dembele and Defoe and Everton seized their opportunity. Finally Seamas Coleman put in a telling cross, which Steven Pienaar converted with a flying header. The place went berserk, and the noise was lifted even higher as the announcement was made that there would be an addition four minutes to be played.

The fans seemed to believe that a winner was possible and so did the team. Another cross came in, substitute Apostolos Vellious attempted an overhead kick which he sliced, but poacher Jelavic followed it up and rifled the ball home as bedlam broke out. The away fans began leaving, while the blues in the Park Lane stand next door reminded them of the score. It was a fantastic end to a game, and seconds later Mr Friend blew his whistle.



I ran round as fast as I could through the crowds and sneaked into the Park Lane stand for a photo of the Main Stand, before meeting John and Nigel. I consoled them and said that I thought that Tottenham had been the better of two good teams. They took the defeat far better than I would have done, and reflected on the game like proper football fans as we walked back to the car.

John did the business on the way home and I was back in my flat in Kingsbury at just gone half past nine. I love going to grass roots football, but I would definitely continue going to the occasional big game as well. There's nothing like the buzz in the pub before a game and the atmosphere inside some grounds. It does help if its in a fantastic tradition stadium like Goodison Park.

Everton 1 Hull City 1 (Wednesday 3rd December 2014) FA Premier League (att: 34,645)



This fixture suited me perfectly as I was on a couple of days off work following night shifts and I could visit my pal Paul Jones at the Wrexham v Bristol Rovers game the evening before.

My room at the Lord Nelson Hotel was fantastic and just what I needed; it was warm, in the town centre and had freeview TV so I could listen to some of the Sri Lanka v England ODI around a siesta. The power shower soon woke me up and ready to try some pubs.



My destination was Dale Street where the Ship and Mitre, Excelsior and Rigbys were perfect; especially the middle one that showed the cricket and an England victory. The beers were also bang on.

I returned to the hotel where I'd left my match ticket in error and then jumped aboard the 6.55 train from Central station to Kirkdale, before walking down to Goodison. It was everything I miss about the days I grew up watching the game. The walk in the big crowds down terraced streets, past pubs, schools, bookies and takeaways before the stadium emerged was pure magic; aided with it being at night.












The walk round to the far side took a bit of time as the crowds queued out onto the street to get into the home stands. Everton had a fine display of moments in their club history on the rear walls of the stands which caught my attention.

City only sold just over 400 tickets, so we were only allocated the lower tier in the Bullens Road stand. The stewards were excellent, allowing us to sit where we wanted and showing common sense regarding those who wanted to stand up.












Despite the low turnout, it was good to see some older school lads there who were determined to make a noise rather than some of the tourist fans that had apparently blighted the previous Saturday's outing at Old Trafford.

Everton took a deserved lead against a Hull side who liked making easy pretty passes but did little of the hard graft and pressing that was required the excellent Kevin Morallas set up the ever dangerous Romelu Lukaku.












At the break I commented on Facebook that it would be a miracle if City stayed up. They were already in the bottom three following the previous evening's results. It looked to be getting worse as the season's best player Mohamed Diame hobbled off.

Shock of all shocks came six minutes later as substitute Sone Aluko made Sylvain Distain look static before beating Tim Howard at his near post. The home fans were not a happy bunch but it should have been worse for them. Their former hero Nikica Jelavic missed a great chance with a header. Fair play to the Evertonians who'd given hoim a great ovation as the teams had been read out.












City sniffed that there was a real opportunity of a win as they actually fought like tigers in midfield. Everton were kept well at bay. The only noise coming from their fans was booing. As it turned out a draw was about the right result.

It was interesting to hear the home fans on the way back to the station. They felt that their squad was too lightweight. Distain and Howard were not top of their Christmas lists.












The train proved to be a good idea. I was back at Moorfields and in the pub before 10.20. I settled for a German beer in Rigby's and a fine effort from the Roosters Brewery in the Ship and Mitre before ending off with a nightcap in the Richard John Blacker to lubricate my impending take away.

I really enjoyed my short time in a magnificent city. I never tired of our fantastic northern cities with warmth and pride oozing from everywhere. The beers and an away point also helped!




















Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chester FC







Chester FC is a football club from the historic Roman city of the same name who were formed in 2010 following the demise of Chester City in March 2010.


The club are owned by the supporters of the club under the CFU (Chester Fans United) banner and were given a huge boost in the form of support from Cheshire West and Chester Council who gave them the lease of the old club home of Deva Stadium.

Initially the FA placed the new club in the North West Counties League Premier division, but on appeal they gained admission a step higher into the Northern Premier League Division One North. The club was officially launched on the 20th May 2010, with Neil Young being appointed as the team manager.












Chester were promoted as champions on the final day of the 2010-11 season on goal difference after a defeat at Garforth Town had fans biting their nails. Crowds flocked back to the Deva Stadium as they rejoiced in having owners that they could trust.

The 2011-12 campaign realised a second successive promotion as champions as a tremendous gate of 5,009 at Deva Stadium saw a 1-1 draw against Northwich Victoria to send Chester up with three games remaining.














Amazingly Chester won Conference North at the first attempt in early April 2013 following a victory against Boston United. The club remained part time as they prepared for their inaugural season in the Conference National, which led to a struggle on the pitch for the first time.

In January 2014 Young was sacked as manager to be replaced by Steve Burr. Chester finished the season in the relegation places on goal difference but were reprieved as Hereford United were demoted owing to financial irregularities.












Chester FC will play in the Football Conference in the 2014-15 season.


My visit

Wednesday 3rd December 2014

I was into the second day of my trip to the north west and woke up in the stunning city of Chester. I hadn't realised just how pretty it was. My only other visits had been briefly for a match or when we stopped off for beers and a curry en route to Holyhead for the ferry to Dublin to watch England play.

After a walk into the city centre and a breakfast at Wetherspoons it was time to walk to the Deva Stadium. I didn't realise just how far it was. However, the first part of the walk was tremendous through the old city and past the excellent racetrack, which brought back happy memories of backing Top Cees to win the Chester Cup in 1995.












On reaching the retail park where the old Sealand Road ground once stood and headed down the long Bumpers Lane. It seemed to go on forever. The ground appreared to be locked up, which was not exactly ideal.

Fortunately some gents were in the club office, with one kindly volunteering to take me inside and show me around. He was so proud of his club and to be one of the voluntary supporters helping to run it. I empathised greatly!

It was a cold morning with frost on the floor but the sun was bright. The stadium had signs of needing a tidy following Chester's match against AFC Telford United the previous evening. My guide collected the keys so we could walk out through the players entrance to go pitch side.












Deva Stadium was similar to my previous visit. Two identical constructions were behind the goals. The away end was seated, whereas the home Harry McNally Terrace was for standing. The far side had a low seated stand, with the Main Stand being larger with facilities at the rear. There were boxes at the rear of the stand opposite that had been installed by a previous owner without planning permission. The new club were hoping to get consent to use them, but my pal explained that because half of the ground was in Cheshire, but the other half in Wales it meant a complicated process.

I walked along the track to get a better angle for photos before being taken upstairs and introduced to an official in the boardroom. The facilities were just about right for a club of 'The Seals' size.














I said my thank you's to my kind hosts and headed back into town; only this time I took a bus to the centre from the bottom of the lane.