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 loved 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 late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my 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. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

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.

Click to see volume two of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard

London

September 2015

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Royal Thai Army FC (Thailand)


Thai Royal Army FC, often known as Army FC is a football club based in Bangkok, Thailand who were formed in 2011 as Army Welfare Development FC and playing in the Khǒr Royal Cup, a competition for non league clubs in Thailand.


The club was formed after Army United began to sign players from outside the army as the professional game in Thailand began to be established, with the team sharing the Thai Army Sports Stadium in the Din Daeng district of Bangkok.

The club won the Khǒr Royal Cup in 2014 and were promoted to the third tier Regional League Division 2 in the Bangkok Area division. In their debut season the club finished in sixth place.


A fourth place finish in 2016 saw Army being placed in Thai League 3 (T3) Lower Region following league reconstruction, with Col. Somsakul Vijitraparb in charge of the team for the 2017 season.

Army FC will play in Thai League 3 Lower Region in the 2017 season.


My visit

Army FC 1 Buriram United 7 (Sunday 10th April 2016) Thai League Cup Round One (att: approx. 1,800)


The 29th Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes had been a huge success and I arrived back in Bangkok in good form, if a little weary. After checking into the Sukhumvit 23 Suites, it was time to meet up with my good pal Steve Walker for pre match refreshments.

The waitresses at The Clubhouse were most helpful in writing down directions for the taxi in Thai, so after we’d had a beer and food it was time to head to the stadium. The girls had done well, as the driver recognised our destination immediately.


Around thirty minutes later we were dropped off by the away fans driveway to the Thai Army Stadium, far earlier than we’d anticipated. It was immediately obvious that the visitors would have a healthy following, as many Buriram natives now lived in the capital.

We wandered round and bought a ticket, which was far cheaper than on the advertised ticket. Perhaps this was because it was a cup match? I believe it was only 60 Baht each (around £1.15). This seemed to be excellent value for an all top flight clash?


It is here that I have to own up. As I researched this piece a few weeks after the match I discovered that we were watching Army FC of the Regional League third tier, and not Army United of the Premier League! This explained an awful lot as you read on.

We bought a large beer to share from a grizzled woman under the stand, who one could imagine had hammered more than one army cadet into shape. Steve did everything to try and make her smile, but she was a tough gig.


Our seats for the Army section gave us limited scope. The obligatory band was down at the front, with the drummer seemingly fancying himself as the next Cozy Powell, although he was definitely not the best.

The local in front of us had his IPad showing all the other live scores in the League Cup, so he was able to keep me up to date on my team Port’s progress up the road at Look Tapfah. He also had our match on, as it was being shown on live TV.


Buriram did indeed have an impressive following, with the central open section behind the goal very busy and the crowd continuing round and taking up their allocation of seating. It’s fair to say that several were quite aesthetic.

We anticipated a tight game, which it surely would have been if it hadn’t been the reserve side! No wonder we thought the home defence and goalkeeper would struggle to keep Army in the TPL! Within four minutes, the aforementioned hapless keeper had made a real mess up as Brazilian striker Weslley made it 1-0.


It was 2-0 when Korean Kim Seung-Yong finished. The referee was obviously feeling sorry for the home side when he turned down a stone wall penalty, which led to the injured striker being stretchered off. Our friend on the IPad confirmed that it was a bad tackle and a penalty.

Further goals from Kaio and Weslley sent Buriram down the tunnel at the break with a 4-0 lead. We had another beer, as our barmaid nearly broke into a grin. We also attempted to get into the away end for a different view but the security wouldn’t have it.


The Army fans had something to cheer on fifty three minutes when Pongsuriyan scored. They gave it their best shot and tried to carry on, but there was a large gulf in class between the two sides. Ten minutes later Kim quelled any thoughts of a comeback to make it 5-1.

‘Ram were determined to see just how much confetti their fans had travelled with, which was thrown around following each goal as a couple of further efforts from Kaio allowed him to complete his hat trick.


With five minutes remaining we headed for the exit and took the footbridge over the Don Muang Expressway to hail down a taxi. It was time for us to meet up with Gavin Shaw and his good friend Anthony for a liberal libation on Soi Cowboy.


A good time was had by all as we related the tail of a shocking Army United team. If only we had known, or I had done my research properly!


To read details on my previous visit to Thai Army Sports Stadium for an Army United game, please click here







Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hadley

Hadley FC is a non-league football club who are based in Arkley, a couple of miles east of Barnet in the county of Hertfordshire, who were formed in 1882.


The club initially played their matches on Hadley Common, in Monken Hadley, in the London Borough of Barnet. Hadley became members of the North Middlesex League before joining the Barnet & District League after World War Two, and moving their home ground to Wrotham Park.


In 1955 they moved to North Barnet Playing Fields and joined the North Suburban Intermediate League before becoming members of the Mid-Herts Football League. Hadley were crowned as champions in 1975-76 and 1976-77.


Hadley joined the Hertfordshire County Football League the following season, winning the Third Division title at the first attempt. To progress up the league’s the club moved to a new ground in St Albans Road, Barnet, but it was only available for one season, so once again Hadley were on the moved again; this time to Chandos Avenue in Whetstone in 1985.


The latest move worked well for the club as they were promoted to the Premier Division in their first season at the ground. The club made the move to the Amateur Football Association and the Southern Olympian League, moving grounds at the same time to Woodside Park Club in Totteridge.


In 1992 Hadley moved to the Brickfield Lane ground in Arkley, which was the former home of Wingate FC, who departed to merge first of all with Leyton and then later Finchley. In 1999-00 the club rejoined the Herts County Senior League. They would be crowned as league champions in 2003-04 and 2004-05.


Hadley applied to join the Spartan South Midlands League for the 2007-08 season but the move was blocked by the Herts County League. Hadley left that league to join the West Herts Saturday League and winning the league title.


It was a case of second time lucky, as Hadley were accepted into Division Two of the Spartan South Midlands League for the 2008-09 season. The first team entered into an agreement to share Parkfield, the home of Potters Bar Town for their matches, while the club’s other sides remained at Brickfield Lane.


Hadley continued their progress with promotion to Division One at the first attempt, and then going up to the Premier Division straight away in 2009-10 as league runners-up. The team consolidated their place in the top flight of the SSML, while lifting the Herts Charity Shield in 2015-16.


Brickfield Lane was brought up to the league requirements with first team matches commencing on the ground from the start of the 2016-17 campaign.

Hadley FC will play in the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division in the 2016-17 season.


My visits

Hadley 1 Eastbourne Borough 4 (Wednesday 5th October 2016) FA Cup Third Qualifying Round Replay (att: 302) at Potters Bar Town


Despite Hadley getting Brickfield Lane up to the required standard for league matches, they entered into an agreement with the local residents that the floodlights must go off at 9.30pm. Therefore it wasn’t possible to stage a replay at the ground that had the possibility of going to extra time. Therefore the match was moved to Parkfield.

My pal Tony Foster had never been to a game at Potters Bar, so he drove us. A decent crowd was already gathering when we arrived. Admission was £7, with the programme an extra quid. The bar was doing a thriving trade and Hadley had set up their own gazebo doing hot drinks and cakes.


Parkfield hadn’t changed from my previous visit. To read a full description and see additional photos please click here

We headed round to the far side of the pitch near to the dug outs, where Hadley coach, the former Tottenham and Chelsea midfielder Micky Hazard was quickly losing his temper with the near side linesman.


The first game the previous Saturday had ended in a goalless draw. Plenty of supporters had travelled up from Eastbourne. Hadley came flying out of the blocks eager to impress and cause a cup upset. Hazard and the rest of the coaching team gave plenty of encouragement to their players and advice to the officials.


The ‘home’ side really did play some lovely football and it was by no means against the run of play when they took the lead on the half hour mark. Hadley’s defence cleared a corner to winger Zane Gangadeen, who set up Ivan Machado, whose twenty five yard shot went flying into the top corner of the net.

The Borough players appeared to be a little rattled, although their strength and quality gradually came to the fore. Their star man Elliott Romain was scythed down just a few minutes after the opener in the penalty box, with Nat Pinney putting away the spot kick.


The same player made it 2-1 just before the interval when he put away a knock down from a cross. At half time we went round for another cuppa. The bar wasn’t selling alcohol, much to the grumbling of the fans.

Hadley gave it their best shot after the break, putting plenty of pressure on their National League South colleagues. Hesham Benmansour broke through but dragged his shot wide. It was to be the last decent change for Hadley.


With fifteen minutes remaining Romain broke away before dragging the ball back for Gavin McCallum to fire home. Charlie Mann was having a superb game in the Hadley goal, doing his very best to keep the score down, but he was helpless in the dying embers as Romain turned home a cross shot from Josh Street.

We headed back having both enjoyed an excellent evening out. I was dropped off at Stanmore in time for a few drinks back at Kingsbury.

Hadley 1 Edgware Town 2 (Wednesday 10th October 2016) Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division (att: 95)


Steve Barnes decided to accompany me to this match and cheer on our local side. We met early and headed by bus to Barnet, where we enjoyed seeing England knock off the winning runs in the ODI cricket against Bangladesh in the Butchers Arms.

We also enjoyed fine ales in Ye Old Mitre Inn and the brewery tap of Barnet Brewery in The Black Horse before taking the 107 bus to Brickfield Lane. There was time for a swift half in the foodie, but decent Gate pub and restaurant over the road from the ground.


The programmes had already sold out on our arrival. Admission was a very reasonable £6. It was good to see a sizeable support for the Wares in attendance in the very smart little ground.

Although the clubhouse wasn’t fully complete fitted out it was open with tea, snacks and cakes available. Micky Hazard was in there chatting away and obviously enjoying being involved at the grass roots level.


Once past the pay hut behind the goal, the rest of that end had a narrow piece of hard standing. To the right was similar with a small stepped cover on the half way line. Both those sides were enclosed by neat wooden fencing. The far end had a strip of hard standing and then open grassed areas. The final side was fairly open with land for training beyond the pitch and a new modern seated stand.


The first half saw some excellent football being produced by both sides. With Edgware struggling since their promotion, I expected a very difficult night for them on the evidence of the Hadley side I’d seen in the FA Cup the previous week. The visitors more than held their own before going behind to a goal from Hesham Benmansour.


After the interval Edgware put in arguably their best performance of the season. The returning Stu Blackburne was having a fine game. The pressure eventually told when George McCluskey smashed home after keeper Mann parried a cross.

The winner came when a cross went all the way through to Blackburne who lobbed the keeper. The three points were well deserved. We went back over the road for another quick half while waiting for our bus to arrive.


We still had time to head down to Kingsbury to round off a fantastic few hours out with a celebratory couple of pints.

Hadley 0 Hitchin Town 3 (Wednesday 7th December 2016) Herts Senior Cup Round Two (att: 61)


I headed to Brickfield Lane for the second game of the day, following the UEFA Youth League clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre between the home side and CSKA Moscow.

After taking buses and getting snarled up in awful traffic I headed to the Red Lion in Barnet after a couple of pints over the road in Ye Old Mitre Inn. My choice of the second pub was because I needed a proper feed and it was part of the Toby Carvery chain. I left full and most satisfied!


The 107 bus seemed to take forever along the A411 towards the ground. I headed straight to the pay box to secure a programme, but they were still to arrive. It seemed that there had been a traffic accident in Barnet that had caused the jams. The Hadley chairman was stuck in it along with the programmes.


The game only kicked off a few minutes late, despite the congestion. It turned out to be an excellent contest on a carpet of a playing surface. Both sides tried to play football the proper way. The Canaries, who were the cup holders, fielded a strong line up.


Hadley were playing mainly on the break, and it was the visitors who went ahead after twenty five minutes. Hadley keeper Mann had already pulled off a fine save before he could only parry a shot from Ben Walster for Mason Spence to put home the rebound.

The second goal came six minutes later when Liam Brooks was brought down in the box. Walster put away the penalty with aplomb. At half time I enjoyed a much needed warm cup of tea and a very pleasant warm mince pie. It seemed quite appropriate with Christmas looming.


Hadley played some really nice stuff after the break with Bwanga having a fine game up front. However, it always looked likely that the third goal would be at the other end, and so it was. Spence put home a Walster cross at the far post.

Despite around five minutes still remaining, I caught a bus that was due to save a further long wait. I didn’t miss any goals.


I took buses to the Wetherspoons at Colindale with the intention of meeting friends who’d been at Wembley for the Tottenham v Moscow Champions League game; only to find that only Doombar bitter was available. I headed to Kingsbury instead!







Kings Langley


King’s Langley FC is a non-league football club from the village of the same name, which is located just south of Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. The club was formed in 1886, becoming founding members of the West Herts League in 1891-92.


Early home games were played at Groomes Meadow, Blackwell Meadow, and Kings Langley Common before settling in at Home Park in 1913. Kings suffered a couple of relegations before fighting their way back. They struggled in the Herts County League before dropping back down to the West Herts League.


The club folded in February 1930, but were reformed within a few months. A new pavilion was opened at Home Park by Stanley Rous in 1934 as the club decided to move to the Southern Olympian League; winning a couple of league titles along the way.


Kings rejoined the Herts County League after World War Two, winning the Division Two title at the first attempt and then going on to lift the Division One title on a couple of occasions. Three seasons in the Parthenon League proved too expensive for travel so the club returned to the Herts County League in 1955.


The Premier League title was lifted in 1965–66 and 1966–67. Over the next decade or so the club yo-yo’d between Division One and the Premier League. Kings were struck a devastating blow when they lost Home Park to redevelopment in 1980.

Kings Langley led a nomadic existence playing at Oxhey, Rolls Royce & Buncefield Lane, and finally the Leavesden Hospital ground. In March 1997 the club secured some land on Hempstead Road, to the north of the village to develop a new ground, which was named Gaywood Park in memory of Colin Gaywood; a generous benefactor to the club.


Kings struggled initially to maintain their Premier League status, but gradually consolidated. In 2000-01 the team finished in third place, going on to join the Spartan South Midlands League Division One. After a couple of seasons the club were relegated because Gaywood Park didn’t reach the grading standards.


Kings bounced back under manager Steve Heath, going up as runners-up from Division Two in 2007-8 and finished second once again the following season. In 2009-10 Paul Hobbs took over as manager as the facilities at Gaywood Park continued to be improved. His side secured a third place finish in the 2010-11 season.


Hobbs retired in 2012 to be replaced by the managerial duo of Ritchie Hanlon and Paul Hughes. A runners-up finish in 2013-14 saw Kings secure a Premier Division place. The team went on to lift the Spartan South Midlands League title in 2014-15 to be promoted to the Southern League.


Kings amazing run continued as they won the Division One Central title at the first attempt and win promotion to the Southern League Premier Division. Budget cuts were rumoured to be on the horizon early in the 2016-17 season. Managers Hanlon and Hughes resigned and departed for Hayes & Yeading United. Paul Hobbs returned to steady the ship.


Kings Langley will play in the Southern League Premier Division in the 2016-17 season.


My visit

Kings Langley 2 Basingstoke Town 0 (Tuesday 13th September 2016) Southern League Premier Division (att: 112)


Kings Langley had been on my radar for a while, especially since their meteoric rise in recent seasons. I had seen the ground on numerous occasions; albeit at high speed on the West Coast trains hurtling past at high speed.

I had got as far as Harrow & Wealdstone station for a pre season friendly against QPR, but my timings were all over the place so I had to abort. A fine late summers evening seemed an excellent opportunity to final tick the ground off.


Once again I travelled via bus and tube to Harrow & Wealdstone before taking the train to Kings Langley. There was a bus service to the ground but I wanted some exercise and to take in the lovely scenery. Unfortunately I went slightly off track so I added half a mile on to the route.


Admission was £10. The programme was just £1, which was good value. Feeling hungry I went for a cheeseburger and tea, which again was a very reasonable price at £3.50 for both. The tea bar was built into the side of the small clubhouse and had a tiny toilet cubicle. Youngsters kicked about on the second pitch. It had a real community feel about the place.


Gaywood Park had been receiving plenty of stick on various forums, but I thought it charming. The road side had a small low seated stand with newly laid terracing either side. There was another small seated stand behind the far goal. The canal side had two small modern covered standing enclosures. The final end by the second pitch had a small area of hard standing.


The visitors from Basingstoke had bought a plentiful eclectic mixture of away fans with them. I’m not sure that many were members of a slimming club or gym. Tattoos on open areas of women’s skin were the order of the day.


Kings had a real family crowd. Some young lads tried to make an atmosphere behind the goal before getting bored and going for their own match in the fading light. I was really enjoying the ambiance, save for the annoying midges which seemed to relish some Yorkshire flesh in the hot weather.


Basingstoke were managed by the experienced Terry Brown and had a very young and enthusiastic team. However, they went down early in the game when Josh Chamberlain went down the wing and crossed to the far post where Stevie Ward smashed in an unstoppable volley.

‘Stoke’s youngsters couldn’t find their way through the Kings defence despite their pace. Manny Daku was excellent up front for the home side, holding the ball up and causing problems until he was forced off with a knee injury.


Shortly after the half time interval Kings doubled their lead. Daku’s replacement; Sean Coughlan beat a man near the by line, then cut inside to shoot past the Dragons keeper from an acute angle. It was another tremendous goal.


How Basingstoke could have done with a finisher. They continued to have the majority of the play until full time but they hardly had a shot or find a clear way through for all their energy and elaborate play on the grassy but bobbly playing surface.


At the final whistle I decided to walk away from the village along the main road towards Hemel Hempstead and catch the train from Apsley. I had time to kill before the direct train so I enjoyed a fine couple of pints in the excellent Paper Mill Fuller’s pub by the canal side.


It was a great way to round off a really enjoyable evening out. There’s nothing like enjoying the football and then a beer in warm temperatures.