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


September 2015

Monday, September 17, 2018

Broadfields United

Broadfields United FC is a non-league club based in Harrow, north west London who were formed in 1993, joining the Southern Olympian League from their Broadfields Sports & Social Club base in Headstone Lane.

The club soon grew, running many Saturday and Sunday teams, with United winning Division Four of the Southern Olympian League in 1994-95, moving to join Division One of the Middlesex County League.

Division One was renamed the Senior Division, with Broadfields winning the title in 1996-97, winning promotion to the Premier Division. After two bottom finishes in consecutive seasons, United left the league before returning for the 2007-08 campaign, after the devastation of fire to the clubs’ complex.

‘The Fighting Cocks’ were placed in Division One West, before winning promotion to the Premier Division in 2008-09 under manager Chris Webster. The club left the Middlesex League again in 2009-10 before returning to the Premier Division the following season with Dene Gardner in charge of the side.

Ryan Duffy was appointed manager for the 2011-12 season, going on to win the Premier Division Cup. The trophy was retained the following season. Duffy’s team finished fourth in the Premier Division in 2014-15.

An injury time Sam Horan goal against Cricklewood Wanderers led to United winning promotion to Division One of the Spartan South Midlands League, while midfielder James Brophy was snapped up by Swindon Town.

United became tenants to Harefield United at Preston Park, with Mark Barham joining the club coaching staff before taking over as manager in 2016-17, with Broadfields lifting the Middlesex Premier Cup after victory over Hillingdon Borough.

The Middlesex Premier Cup was retained in 2017-18 after defeating Harefield United in the final, with United finished in fourth place in the league. Liam Bird took over as manager in the summer of 2018.

Broadfields United FC will play in the Spartan South Midlands League Division One in the 2018-19 season.

My visit

Broadfields United 2 Edgware Town 0 after extra time (Sunday 16th September 2018) FA Vase Second Round Qualifying (att: c100)

It was a lovely, if windy day as I awoke after night shift around 1pm. I’d contemplated heading to Lord’s for the National Village Knock Out Final, featuring Folkton & Flixton CC from the outskirts of Scarborough.

It was tempting but I knew that it would be a very ‘social’ day. Work restricted me in partaking in drinks, and I knew I could easily become rattled if tired and sober around those imbibing, especially if it led to high jinks.

I’d have only of caught the second innings anyway, so I decided upon the alternative of some beautiful scenery, exercise and to cheer on Edgware Town, who had an affinity with as joint tenants of Silver Jubilee Park.

A bus and tube took me to Northwood station, from where I caught the 331 bus in the nick of time for the pleasant route to Harefield from where I walked a few hundred metres down Breakspear Road North to Preston Park.

The clubhouse was busy on arrival. I had a quick chat with two fellow ‘hoppers’ from Northampton over a quick drink before paying £6 admission including a programme to enter the ground.

Preston Park looked in beautiful nick. The wide pitch looked pristine but would later prove to be a little firm and have a few bobbles under the lush green covering. I was about to have a walk round when I came across another familiar face.

Mishi Morath, the loyal Dulwich Hamlet fan also fancied this match. We had a good chat about all things Hendon and Hamlet, the new divisions we found our teams in and the infamous play-off final from the previous May.

Harefield United’s PA man had received some uncomplimentary reviews on the Non-League Matters website in the past. The same fella was on the mic for Broadfields. The substitutes received a reprimand from him for warming up on the pitch before the game.

The ground had two warm up pitches outside the main arena. Before kick-off our announcer made a few fans days when trying to read out the two teams. Some of the foreign names had him struggling! He then gave the good news that extra programmes had been sourced for those who’d missed out.

There were plenty of familiar faces in the crowd as Wares started slightly the better of the sides. The visitors plied their trade in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League; one above the hosts.

A good move put in Edgware’s Onalolu Onabolu, but his low shot was kept out by the feet of United keeper Matt Faley, before both sides squandered chances with the ball finding the high netting behind the goals.

A diligent Broadfields official was busy counting the crowd in small sections and writing it down. An Edgware fan suggested we kept moving to bolster the gate and their half of the receipts!

On thirteen minutes Wares stopper Sam Irish made a fine save from a powerful Ronny Mfinda effort. The game was becoming stretched from an early stage in warm conditions, with both sides stringing some nice moves together.

Edgware boss Fergus Moore shouted instructions from the bench as though he was kicking every ball. His counterpart, Liam Bird barked his order rather more vociferously and with much less subtlety.

Just before the half hour mark, Broadfields mounted an excellent fast move, but Dene Gardner dragged his effort wide. The teams cancelled each other out for the remainder of the half, when I grabbed a cuppa from inside the bar.

The second half became rather scrappy with lots of poor ball retention not helped by the firm surface. It mirrored the Aylesbury United v Marlow game I’d seen seven days previously; which coincidentally featured teams also playing in green and white, and all blue.

The hosts began to gain the upper hand, with Rex Kimona seeing his shot saved by Irish after being put in by Mfinda. Faley scuffed a clearance at the other end, redeeming himself by tipping over a shot from Wares’ Tomasz Siemiemzuck.

A foray from the Fighting Cocks full back Paul Sommer saw his low cross attempted to be put in by a combination of Mfinda and Kimona, but they made a bit of a hash of the opportunity.

An excellent long low ball from the hosts other full back, Damion Cruickshank sent in Kiona who blasted his effort high over the bar when in on goal. The game looked destined for extra time with half chances being wasted.

A huge scramble in the United six yard box somehow saw the ball kept out by several defenders and the keeper as Edgware seemed certain to break the deadlock with five minutes remaining.

United wasted the best chance of the game in the last few minutes after skipper Harry Henry had a shot saved by Irish. Mfinda put the rebound over from just eight yards. The decent referee Thomas Baines blew his whistle for full time shortly after to signal extra time.

The intrepid announcer continued to amuse himself, but not many others by giving out the West Ham score and generally waffling on. It was a great excuse to put my earplugs in and listen to the live game; although Dion Dublin's punditry made that tiresome after a while.

Broadfields' ascendancy continued when Sam Horan saw his cross bounce off the top of the Edgware bar, before the visitors got a foothold and produced their best spell of the encounter without creating a clear cut chance aside from Onabolu hitting the side netting.

United went ahead just before the turnaround when Irish dropped a corner. The ball eventually fell to Kimona. The keeper got a good hand on the shot but could not keep it out. Players were becoming tired in the second period as the one goal looked like it would decide the tie.

Cruickshank put any doubts to bed late on as he summoned the energy to go on a fantastic long run, playing a one two with a colleague before hammering the ball across into the far corner to make it 2-0.

Edgware’s day was summed up when substitute Rio Beach miscued a pass that inadvertently found fellow replacement Stanley Anum whose weak effort was gathered at the second attempt by Faley. United thoroughly deserved to progress.

There was quite a bit of time before my return bus, so I walked into the centre of the pretty village to grab some water and relax taking in the scene. I had a chat to the Northants fraternity and Mishi at the bus stop before my return journey in time for some shut eye before work.

Details of my visits to Preston Park for Harefield United can be seen here.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Silver Jubilee Park 2018-19

My matchday visits to Silver Jubilee Park for the 2018-19 season.

Hendon 9 Edgware Town 1 (Thursday 12th July 2018) Pre Season Friendly (att: 101)

An impressive performance from the new look Dons against Wares who were missing a regular keeper, but still offered plenty of hope. Tyriq Hunte scored a hat trick after coming on as a second half substitute.

 Hendon 1 St Albans City 2 (Saturday 14th July 2018) Pre Season Friendly (att: 95)

Dons didn’t get going until late in the game and 2-0 down. Dylan Kearney pulled a goal back before missing a penalty in the last minute on another scorching day.

Edgware Town 1 Potters Bar Town 3 (Wednesday 18th July) Pre Season Friendly (att: 60)

Wares gave it a good go against visitors from two divisions higher but were eventually undone. Mikkel James scored their goal.

Hendon 2 Haringey Borough 3 (Saturday 21st July 2018) Pre Season Friendly (att: 119)

Hendon led through Marvin Morgan at the break before falling 3-1 behind. Once again ten outfield changes were made on the hour mark as Jimmy Gray evaluated his fledgling squad. Again, the better Dons football came in the closing stages leading to Dean Mason grabbing a goal back.

Edgware Town 3 Hanwell Town 3 (Monday 23rd July 2018) Pre Season Friendly (att: 45)

It was a pity that more fans didn’t attend what was an excellent game of football, as Edgware’s goals game through a comical own goal, the impressive Ethan Mooney and Andrew Manitou

Hendon 1 Royston Town 1 (Tuesday 24th July 2018) Pre Season Friendly (att: 66)

This friendly was rather tetchy in the first half with the visitors going ahead. Kearney equalised after the break as Hendon improved again after the mass substitutions.

Hendon 3 Walton Casuals 0 (Tuesday 14th August 2018) Southern League Premier Division South (att: 236)

A great start for the Dons in their first home game in their new league. Luke Tingey powered home a header from a Lee Chappell corner before Ricky German scored a fantastic individual goal.

Hunte added a third goal from the bench in the second half as Hendon saw out the game with ease to the joy of a decent midweek gate.

Hendon 2 Farnborough 1 (Saturday 18th August 2018) Southern League Premier Division South (att: 278)

The impressive debut season continued. Cole Brown put the Greens ahead on thirty four minutes. The defence were doing a decent job with impressive young keeper Danny Boness looking confident despite arriving just minutes before kick off.

An excellent goal featuring Stephane Ngamvoulou and some excellent hold up play from the veteran Morgan set up Laste Dombaxe to curl the ball past flat footed keeper Lenny Pidgley.

Boro piled on pressure and scored a fine goal ten minutes from time. It was nail biting stuff for the remainder of the game as Dons threatened to break away but their ball retention was poor as they squandered some chances.

Boness pulled off a marvellous save after a visiting player missed a relatively simple chance to the amazement of the crowd. The final whistle was met with relieved and happy cheers from the home fans as their unbeaten league run continued. I also had the pleasure of meeting comedian and Farnborough fan Andy Smart.

Hendon 2 Harrow Borough 4 (Monday 27th August 2018) Southern League Premier Division South (att: 381)

A bumper Bank Holiday crowd saw Harrow deservedly take the points, even if their goals as they went into a 3-0 win were slightly fortunate. All three goals went in off Hendon players, with the second being an uncharacteristic goalkeeping howler.

Gray pushed the excellent defender Guri Demuria forward to try and salvage something from the game. His presence and the delivery of Chappell led to Hunte being fouled in the box and for German to stroke home the resulting penalty.

The pressure was being applied, but Harrow broke away to add a fourth. George Moore and Mitchal Gough had been excellent throughout leading the visitors defence. German still found time to add a second in the final few seconds.

Hendon 1 Poole Town 0 (Saturday 15th September 2018) Southern League Premier Division South (att: 263)

This was a tetchy game as it progressed. The three points came after debutant Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick was brought down in the area on ten minutes with German firing home from the spot.

It looked like a comfortable home win was in store. Chappell was providing some fantastic deliveries, but they lacked conversion. Poole gradually got into the game. They hit the bar before the break and then piled on the pressure after half time in spells.

Dons defended valiantly, with Boness having another fine game in goal. There was plenty of tension and Hendon made up for poor ball retention with effort and commitment. Hunte missed a great chance to double the lead late on.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Northumberland FA

The Northumberland Football Association was formed on May 11th 1883 at a meeting at the Alexandra Hotel in Newcastle having broken away from the Durham & Northumberland FA, which had been formed in 1879.

The association’s first secretary was Aleck Peters, with the Lord Bishop of Newcastle becoming the County FA’s first President. The major clubs of the day were Tyne Association, Newcastle Rangers, Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End.

The Northumberland Senior Cup was first played for in 1884, with Tyne FC lifting the trophy in the inaugural competition.

The Northumberland FA became a limited company around the turn of the millennium before moving into impressive new premises at Whitley Park in Benton in 2001, which included several pitches and a cricket ground along with the Blue Flames Club.

West Allotment Celtic FC became tenants at Whitley Park upon its opening, before leaving owing to a rent increase in 2016.

My visit

Saturday 3rd October 2008

During a short break on Tyneside I visited Whitley Park; which was West Allotment Celtic’s home of the time. I was on my way to Esh Winning v Scarborough after some heavy groundhopping the day before. I had left my less than sumptuous B&B in Whitley Bay, ready to visit five more venues.

Alighting from the metro at Benton station, I made the short walk to Whitley Road where I found the car park and entrance to the complex. A junior team was meeting there for a game elsewhere, so I got a few hello's as they probably thought I worked there.

I found an open gate and walked into the ground to find quite an impressive venue. I was on top of a grass bank looking down to a path by the pitch side fence. At the top of the bank was one small covered shelter.

Further along was two small seated stands separated by the players tunnel before some steps led down to the pitch, meaning spectators can get an excellent elevated view of proceedings.

A path and grass standing were behind the goal to the left while just an expanse of grass stood on the other two sides with more pitches. Lots of buildings containing offices, sports facilities and changing rooms were behind the stands on top of the bank. All the pitches looked in immaculate condition.

As I left I wondered just how some clubs and grounds seem to be held to ransom by the stringent ground graders while some get away with it. Whitley Park was very neat and tidy but I was under the impression that hard standing was required more than was in evidence here.

Then I looked behind me and saw a sign that may have given the game away. Whitley Park was home to the Northumberland FA after all!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Witham Town

Witham Town FC is a non-league football club from the Essex town of the same name, with the original club being formed in 1876 as Witham FC, playing matches next to the River Brain, close to Saul’s Bridge.

After a few seasons the club moved to The Park, which was shared with Witham Cricket Club, moving in 1894 to The Grove; a large private house with expansive grounds. In those days the club was nicknamed the ‘Red Herrings’ owing to their red kit.

The club was disbanded in 1914 due to the outbreak of World War One. The entire team headed to Waverley Barracks near Brentwood to enlist in the 5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment. The club reformed in 1918.

The new team started out in the Braintree and District League, where Town were crowned champions in 1920-21, when ‘Town’ was added to the clubs title, and 1924-25 before progressing to the Chelmsford & Mid Essex League, lifting the Division Three title in 1935-36.

Albert ‘Summer’ Bickmore was the scoring hero of those early years after the conflict. Crittal’s Athletic, representing Crittalls Windows Works became local rivals as football became popular in the town. This had led to Witham Town being re-formed in 1933 with the club playing matches at Rickstones Road Recreation Ground.

World War Two saw the club disbanded for a second time before re-entering competitive football in the Mid-Essex League moving to use Crittal’s ground at The Park. The Division Three title was lifted in 1947-48 before becoming Division Two champions twelve months later.

A switch was made to the South Essex League in 1952 after a disagreement with their former competition, becoming league champions in 1955–56 before joining the Essex & Suffolk Border League in 1958. Witham won that league in 1964-65 and 1970-71.

Witham Town became founder members of the Essex Senior League for the 1971-72, becoming the inaugural champions. In 1975 the club moved to a new ground at Spa Road as another league title followed in 1985-86, a year after finishing as runners-up.

A second place finish was achieved again in 1986-87, leading to promotion to the Isthmian League, with Town being placed in Division Two North. Future Southend United player and manager Steve Tilson began his playing career with Witham at this time.

Town became members of Division Two in 1991-92 following league re-organisation. The team was relegated to Division Three in 1999-00. This was renamed Division Two in 2002, before Witham finished as runners-up in 2005-06; winning promotion to Division One North.

Cody McDonald starred for the club between 2003 and 2008 in a career which would see him go on to play for Norwich City, Coventry City, Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon. The club was relegated to the Essex Senior League at the end of the 2008-09 campaign.

Former player Olly Murs brought some publicity to the club when he became a top pop star as he finished runner-up in TV’s X Factor in 2009. Town finished as league runners-up in 2009-10, before Garry Kimble took over as manager the following season as the team finished third.

Kimble led the side to promotion back to the Isthmian League in 2011-12 as the team won the Essex Senior League title, the League Cup, Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy and the Tolleshunt D’Arcy Cup. Billy Hunt led the scoring charts, with John Watson and Rob Whitnell also contributing heavily.

In 2012-13 Town reached the play-offs in Division One North, going out to Thamesmead Town in the semi-final. The following season ended in promotion via the play-offs after wins against Needham Market and then Harlow Town.

The club lasted just one season in the Premier Division, as Spa Road received extensive improvements. The team was relegated back to Division One North. Kimble left the club in February 2016 when he was replaced by Adam Flint.

Flint’s side finished in mid table for two consecutive seasons, before he was replaced by Mark Ashford in the summer of 2018, as Witham’s league was retitled as North Division.

Witham Town FC will play in the Isthmian League North Division in the 2018-19 season.

My visit

Witham Town 1 Coggeshall Town 3 (Tuesday 4th September 2018) FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay (att: 379)

I was scheduled on an awful work course in the city which at least promised to finish in mid afternoon. I was counting the clock down as our condescending tutor rambled on. Another day, another dollar as the saying goes.

At 3.15 I was away and dashing down the escalator at Oxford Circus in the direction of Liverpool Street. My timing was impeccable; giving me just enough time to buy a single ticket to Chelmsford on the fast train towards Norwich.

I was meeting my fellow cricket and groundhopping pal Tony Foster, who was enjoying Day One of the County Championship game between Essex and Surrey at the County Ground. The train dropped me at just gone 4pm.

My research had said I should have been OK for free admission after tea, but I gave myself a little bit more time by revisiting the Excellent Railway pub for a rewarding pint of IPA while following the match via Ceefax on the pub TV.

Admission was free on arrival as I enjoyed the last ninety minutes or so of play while relaxing and having a good catch up chat with Tony. At the close of play we walked the ten minutes to his car before heading east.

We were in good time at The Village Glass Stadium, as the Spa Road ground had been renamed in a sponsorship deal. Tony parked up and we had a walk across the park to Asda so I could get my food for work the following day.

We grabbed a couple of programmes at £2 each just in case they were in high demand before entering the thriving clubhouse. I was impressed by the nice touch of asking if I wanted my bottle of Ghost Ship at room temperature or chilled from the cellar. Proper service!

The staff in the catering hatch, accessed at the other side of the clubhouse inside the ground, were also on top of their game, serving the hungry queues in quick time. My cheeseburger and tea did the job at the fair price of £4.10.

This was our first visit and we were both impressed with viewing and the amount of cover available on all four sides. The entrance side had a small seated stand and a long area of standing cover.

Both ends had similar low roofs over standing accommodation, whereas the far side by the rugby ground had a low cover in the centre, with standing flanking some seats. Open terracing stood either side of this.

The main railway between Ipswich and London was on a bank above the goal at the south end of the ground. The regular freight and passenger services made it an ideal venue for train spotting.

From the off it looked like we were in for a good cup tie, as both teams went straight on the attack. It became stretched at an early stage on a grassy but hard surface on the large pitch; especially in width.

I’d not read the form guide correctly and pronounced that I expected Witham to win through. How little I knew! It was nip and tuck with plenty of meaty challenges going in. However, Coggeshall began to look more dangerous going forward as they gained the upper hand in midfield.

Tom Monk impressed with his power, primarily on the right for the visitors. He was having a real battle with Witham’s Henry Fisher, giving him a tough time. Star of the show though was undoubtedly Nnamdi Nwachuku for the visiting Seed Growers.

He opened the scoring with an absolute beauty from twenty five yards leaving home keeper Luca Collins grasping thin air on sixteen minutes. It was at that point we realised that at least 100 fans had travelled down the road to support Coggeshall.

This created a good atmosphere inside the ground, with returning star Olly Murs in attendance. With total respect to Olly, I wouldn’t have had a clue if I’d bumped into him or not? Witham super fan James Beardwell was cheering his team on as ever.

Witham were denied an equaliser by a fine stop from James Bransgrove, as their centre forward L’Heureux Menga caused problems. Coggeshall took control of the game after the break and doubled their lead through Joshua Pollard just before the hour mark.

The hosts pushed forward trying to get into the game, but it was not to be their evening. Nwachuku really was a class act with his all round movement and hold up play. He added the third with fifteen minutes remaining.

Witham didn’t give up until full time. They were rewarded a little too late in the day, and probably later than their efforts deserved, when Danny Norton netted in the final minute of normal time.

We got a good getaway after an enjoyable evening and late afternoon. The only slight downer was the A12 being partially closed on our return, affording us a night time look at Ongar, North Weald and Epping. Very nice they looked too.

Tony dropped me off at Stanmore, allowing me to be home in Kingsbury for 11.15. A top day out, work aside, especially with my acca bet of Warrington Town, Scarborough Athletic, Leyton Orient and TSV 1860 Munich coming in to make the day cost neutral.