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

Friday, September 15, 2017

Crossing Schaerbeek (Belgium)


Crossing Schaerbeek is a Belgian football club from the Schaerbeek district of Brussels, who were originally formed as Union Sportive Albert Schaerbeek in 1945. As with many other Belgian clubs, their history is complicated.


RUS Albert Schaerbeek (RUSAS) played in the Chazal stadium in Schaerbeek and had green and white as colours while competing in the lower levels of Brabant provincial football. However, progress was made in the new millennium.

RUSAS climbed to the top level Brabant 1ère Provinciale before entering into a merger with RFC Evere.


RFC Evere

RFC Evere was a Belgian football club from Evere, the district to the east of Schaerbeek. The club played all its existence as a provincial club and was originally formed for officers of the Belgian Air Force as SC Evere.


The club earned the nickname, ‘Les Aviateurs’ soon becoming attractive to the youth of the area, leading to non-military players joining the club in 1934. Until the Second World War, the club continued to play at the military airport.


In 1945 the club merged with another team, Evere HO, thus forming SC Evere HO. In 1989, the team merged with Young Fellows Evere, and in 1994 Red Star Evere also joined up. In 2011 the club became champions and won promotion from the second level of provincial football.

Crossing Schaerbeek

2012 saw a complicated twist, as Evere merged and took the license of another local club; RUS Albert Schaerbeek (RUSAS) to become Crossing Schaerbeek Evere. Meanwhile, RRC d'Etterbeek bought the license number of Evere to play in the top level of the provincial league.


The new club name was a reference to Royal Crossing Club de Schaerbeek, a former top level provincial club who moved to Elewijt after mergers of their own in the 1980's.

Crossing Schaerbeek Evere moved to the rebuilt Crossingstadion in the Josaphat Park in Schaerbeek. Crossing started in 2012 in the Brabant First Provincial league, where it immediately merged with another and recently promoted Schaerbeek club, RC de Schaerbeek.


In 2013, the club name was shortened to Crossing Schaerbeek as the team progressed to a third place finish in Brabant 1ère Provinciale in 2014-15, which was followed up by a couple of mid table placings.


Crossing Schaerbeek will play in the Brabant 1ère Provinciale in the 2017-18 season.



My visit


Saturday 19th August 2017

I’d just arrived in Brussels from my visit to Liége for the Standard home game the previous evening. I’d prepared a list of venues that I wanted to visit over the long weekend and had considered heading straight to my hotel to check in. However, I had a Plan B.


As I was already at Centraal Station I thought it a bit of a waste not to set off and buy my 48 hour travel pass on a MOBIB card from the Metro station kiosk. I dropped my rucksack off in the left luggage lockers and set out on my adventures.

Fortunately for me, the buses departed from outside the Metro station. I soon located my stop and awaited the number 66 bus north east, past my hotel; giving me a handy sighter, and through the streets to Crossing.


I alighted on the corner of Avenue Louis Bertrand and Avenue Voltaire, where there was a police presence ahead of an event in the adjacent Parc Josaphat. Going over the railway bridge I was soon outside the large venue with its imposing end stand.


Both Crossing and Racing had separate offices and clubhouses in the rear of the stand, which looked like its upper tier had gone since the big match days. The gates weren’t open to head inside, but I wasn’t to be beaten.

A walk down the park side took me to a gate which offered an excellent view of an impressive stadium. The far end had terracing in front of the offices, while the far side had a raised seating deck running the full length of the pitch.


The artificial pitch continued behind the near goal to provide a practice area, while the open side had a few steps of open terracing, where I presume a stand once stood in the 70’s? The local authorities had dome a magnificent job of keeping the venue alive and fit for modern football.

I headed off through Parc Josaphat, where sound checks were underway as I looked to find the far end and take a look at the Stade Chazal home of FC Kosova Schaerbeck.








Renaissance Club Schaerbeek (Belgium)


Renaissance Club Schaerbeek is an amateur football club from the Schaerbeek district of the Belgian capital of Brussels. Although the club lay claim to have been originally formed in 1934, there is far more than meets the eye; as is common with many mergers in the country.

Renaissance actually came into being in 2014, but there is a lot of history and heritage belonging to those clubs, as well as the current stadium, which are part of the story.


Royal Cercle Sportif de Schaerbeek

The major club in the district for many years were Royal Cercle Sportif de Schaerbeek, who had been formed on May 29th 1912 progressing to the second level of national football for the 1922-23 season and playing at Crossingstadion or Stade du Crossing.

In 1926 Cercle found themselves in the Third Division before winning the league title in 1929-30 and winning promotion. The club maintained their Second Division place before being relegated once again in 1946-47.


In 1959-60 the club dropped down a further step before becoming champions of Vierde Klasse B to make the step up, before returning two campaigns later. At the completion of the  1967-68 the club dropped down to Brabant Provincial football.

A year later Cercle merged with Royal Crossing Club Molenbeek to become Royal Crossing Club de Schaerbeek and taking Crossing’s position in the league. RCC Molenbeek had been originally formed as Crossing FC Ganshoren in 1913.

Royal Crossing Club de Schaerbeek

Crossing had finished the 1968-69 season in second place in the Second Division; with the newly merged club finding themselves playing in the First Division at Crossingstadion; which was extended to accommodate the crowds.


The club struggled along in the top tier Division One before being relegated in 1972-73. Further relegations were suffered in 1974-75, 1979-80 and 1982-83 leaving the club playing in Brabant Provincial class football.

In the summer of 1983, Royal Crossing Club de Schaerbeek moved to the town of Elewijt to become known as Royal Crossing Elewijt. In 1991 Crossing would merge with another local club; VV Elewijt to become KVV Crossing Elewijt.

Racing Club de Schaerbeek

In 1968 Racing Club de Schaerbeek was born, playing in the lower divisions of Brabant provincial football until finding success from 2007. Promotions in 2006-07 and 2009-10 elevated Racing to the second level of Brabant Provincial football.


In 2011-12 yet another promotion arrived at the club to elevate the team into the 1ère Provinciale league. The side came close to promotion on a couple of occasions before being relegated in 2013-14, where the club merged with Renaissance Club Schaerbeek.

SK Terjoden-Welle

As was mentioned at the top of this page, Renaissance claim that their heritage goes back to 1934. However, that was the date that SK Terjoden was created in the district of Terjoden in Aalst.


The club played in Van Roystadion, which was shared with FCV Dender EH. The team played in the lower divisions of provincial football for many years, going on to win the fourth level provincial league before winning another promotion the following season.

A further elevation came as Terjoden secured a spot in the top tier of the area provincial competition in 2003. At that point a neighbouring club, SK Welle appeared on the scene and merged to form SK Terjoden-Welle.

In 2007-08 and 2008-09 the club came close to winning promotion to national football, but fell at the final hurdle in the play-offs. The team went on to win their league the following season to win promotion to the national fourth Vierde Klasse.


Finances became an issue for SK Terjoden-Welle at their higher grade. A merger with FCV Dender EH came close to going through before it was decided to sell the club license to RC de Schaerbeek in the Spring of 2014, who proceeded to moved Terjoden-Welle to Brussels and rename them Renaissance Club Schaerbeek.

Crossingstadion/Stade du Crossing – Gemeentestadion

While all the shenanigans involving closures, mergers and displacements was going on, the stadium that had been home to Royal Cercle Sportif de Schaerbeek and their successors Royal Crossing Club de Schaerbeek before laying empty from 1983.


It was used occasionally including a Bob Dylan concert in 1984, while several amateur sides sometimes played matches inside. However, the stands and buildings fell into decline because of a lack of maintenance since the mid 1970’s.

The stands were closed and the parts of the buildings were forbidden to use. In 2009 a plan was made for a large scale renovation. A modernized sports complex was built; of which two stands were maintained.

The other side opened open to the rest of the sports facilities in the park. The newly renamed Gemeentestadion was opened with a capacity of 7,500. On December 2nd 2012 the stadium was opened with Racing Club de Schaerbeek and Crossing Schaerbeek using the venue for home games.


Renaissance Club Schaerbeek

Renaissance took the league placement of SK Terjoden-Welle in the fourth tier of national football before being relegated in 2014-15 to the 1ère Provinciale; the top level of provincial football in Brabant.

The club struggled in both 2015-16 and 2016-17 with two finishes just above the relegation zone while playing at the Gemeentestadion as Crossingstadion had been renamed.


My visit


Saturday 19th August 2017

I’d just arrived in Brussels from my visit to Liége for the Standard home game the previous evening. I’d prepared a list of venues that I wanted to visit over the long weekend and had considered heading straight to my hotel to check in. However, I had a Plan B.


As I was already at Centraal Station I thought it a bit of a waste not to set off and buy my 48 hour travel pass on a MOBIB card from the Metro station kiosk. I dropped my rucksack off in the left luggage lockers and set out on my adventures.

Fortunately for me, the buses departed from outside the Metro station. I soon located my stop and awaited the number 66 bus north east, past my hotel; giving me a handy sighter, and through the streets to Crossing.

I alighted on the corner of Avenue Louis Bertrand and Avenue Voltaire, where there was a police presence ahead of an event in the adjacent Parc Josaphat. Going over the railway bridge I was soon outside the large venue with its imposing end stand.


Both Crossing and Racing had separate offices and clubhouses in the rear of the stand, which looked like its upper tier had gone since the big match days. The gates weren’t open to head inside, but I wasn’t to be beaten.

A walk down the park side took me to a gate which offered an excellent view of an impressive stadium. The far end had terracing in front of the offices, while the far side had a raised seating deck running the full length of the pitch.

The artificial pitch continued behind the near goal to provide a practice area, while the open side had a few steps of open terracing, where I presume a stand once stood in the 70’s? The local authorities had dome a magnificent job of keeping the venue alive and fit for modern football.


I headed off through Parc Josaphat, where sound checks were underway as I looked to find the far end and take a look at the Stade Chazal home of FC Kosova Schaerbeck.





Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Maryhill


Maryhill FC are near neighbours to Partick Thistle FC in Glasgow. The club were formed in 1884, originally as a senior club so it could compete in the Scottish FA Cup, before reverting to Junior, non-league football and competing in the West Region leagues.


Maryhill were runners-up in the second ever Scottish Junior Cup final in 1887-88 when they went down 3-1 to Wishaw Thistle before lifting the trophy in 1899-00 when they defeated Rugby XI 3-2.

The team went close to retaining the trophy but lost the 1900-01 final 2-0 to Burnbank Athletic, before suffering a similar fate the following season. On that occasion it was Glencairn who inflicted defeat with a 1-0 victory.


However, Maryhill would go on to win the Junior Cup on a second occasion and again in 1939-40 when Morton Juniors were beaten 1-0 a couple of decades after the club produced Rangers and Scotland player Davie Meiklejohn through their youth set up.

Future Celtic and Scotland legend Danny McGrain spent his youth career at Maryhill in the late 1960’s while club and country colleague Paul Wilson also had brief spell on loan at Lochburn Park around the same period.


Tommy Burns, who would later become a playing and managerial legend at Celtic Park and Kilmarnock, as well as making appearances for the national team, spent the 1973-74 season with Maryhill.

Maryhill are not one of the bigger junior clubs, but investment from a wealthy backer, who was to be a future owner of Hamilton Academical FC, in the 1990s brought a period of success at their Lochburn Park home.


‘The Hill’ won the Central League Premier Division in 1996-97 and 1997-98 before lifting the prestigious West of Scotland Cup in 2001-01 and 2003-04.

There was talk of a proposed move to a new ground in the future, as Maryhill won promotion as runners-up of the West of Scotland League Central District Second Division in the 2012-13 campaign.


Maryhill finished the 2014-15 campaign in third position, before improving on that with a runners-up finish the following season to win promotion to the West of Scotland Super League First Division.

The 2016-17 season resulted in a tenth place finish under manager John Hughes.


Maryhill FC will compete in the SJFA West of Scotland Super League First Division in the 2017-18 season.


My visits

Wednesday 27 January 2010


I was staying in Glasgow for a couple of days to visit some new grounds as well as take in the matches between Hamilton Academical, and then Celtic v Hibernian. The weather was cold and wet, but I was determined to enjoy my time.

After popping by at Firhill I took a bus up Maryhill Road to see what Lochburn Road had to offer? I was extremely impressed as I entered the open venue.


The far side had a decent bank of covered terracing with an unusual roof. The near end had a few steps of open terracing, while the far end had a section of uncovered seating; the sort I'd expect to be erected for a special event.

The near touchline had open standing and a few steps with some kind of a gym and leisure facility as well as what looked like a catering outlet. The whole of the spectator views were above pitch level meaning that fans would look down on the action.


Once done with the impressive ground I took another bus to Maryhill station, from where I took a train to Partick before changing for a service to head to Dumbarton.

Thursday 18th May 2017


With a couple of days off work I was delighted to see that Partick Thistle were at home to Celtic to allow me to tick off another Scottish venue on my list. While in Glasgow I decided to also visit a few junior clubs.

I was rather hoping that the Lochburn Park ground would be open to add to my photos. Unfortunately I had to make do with taking some from outside the ground before heading back to the city and enjoying pre match beers.














West Auckland Town


West Auckland Town FC is a non-league football club from the old mining community of West Auckland in County Durham in the north east of England who were formed in 1893 as West Auckland FC.

A fascinating history of competitive football began in 1896 as the club competed in the Wear Valley League before moving to the South Durham Alliance in 1900 and then the Mid Durham League from 1905.


The club had yearned to join the Northern League for a few years, and they eventually became members for the 1908-09 season. However, a far greater adventure was to befall West Auckland later that campaign.

Businessman, tea magnate and sports enthusiast Sir Thomas Lipton wanted to hold a football tournament featuring the leading clubs of Europe. The Italian, German and Swiss FA’s complied but the English FA refused to send a team.


Sir Thomas selected West Auckland; a team of coal miners to represent England. The reasons for their selection have never been established, although there have been a couple of theories.

One was that an invite was mistakenly sent to the north east when it was meant for Woolwich Arsenal. The other was that the businessman had received a touching letter from a young member of the West Auckland team and decided that they deserved an opportunity.


The team travelled to Turin in April 1909, with several players having to raise the money themselves. Despite the long trip, Auckland defeated German side Sportfreunde Stuttgart 2-0 with goals from Whittington and Dickinson.

The final ended in a 2-1 victory over Swiss club FC Winterthur with J. Jones and R. Jones scoring the goals. West Auckland were awarded the magnificent trophy to become the unofficial champions of the world.


West Auckland returned to Turin in 1911 to retain the trophy following wins against Zürich and then host club Juventus; who were hammered 6-1 to keep the trophy in perpetuity. The cost of the trip took its toll, so the trophy was pawned to the landlady of the local hotel on the team’s return.

The club folded in debt and left the Northern League in 1912, before being reformed in 1914 as West Auckland Town FC. After competing in regional league football, the club was admitted to the Northern League in October 1934 to replace Esh Winning.


The 1950’s were a boom time in the area as neighbours Bishop Auckland dominated the first half of the decade in both the Northern League and FA Amateur Cup. ‘West’ followed on with a golden period of their own.

In 1956-57 and 1958-59 the team finished as league runners-up. However, West Auckland weren’t to be denied in the 1959-60 season as they were crowned as Northern League champions as well as reaching the FA Cup first round, before retaining the league title the following season.


In 1960 a village appeal managed to raise enough money to buy back the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy for the football club.

The 1960-61 season also saw a magnificent season in the Amateur Cup as Penrith, Walton & Hersham and Leytostone were defeated to set up the final at Wembley against Walthamstow Avenue, which the Londoners won 2-1.

The 1961-62 season saw West reach the first round of the FA Cup once again; where they went out to Barnsley in a replay. The team also reached the semi-final of the Amateur Cup before being defeated by Crook Town at Ayresome Park.


Following this the club became a middle table Northern League club before being relegated to the recently formed Division Two in 1982-83. The 1990-91 campaign saw West crowned as Northern League Division Two champions, and win promotion.

The famous Lipton Trophy was stolen, and never recovered despite a £2,000 reward being put up on offer. A replica was later made thanks to sponsorship from Unilever, the owners of the Lipton brand.


In 1996-97 the team finished bottom of the table and were relegated, but they recovered twelve months later to regain their Division One place after ending the season as league runners-up.

The 1998-99 season saw West Auckland reach the FA Cup first round for a third time; on this occasion they went out in a replay at Darlington Road to Yeovil Town following a penalty shoot out.

Several managers such as David Bayles, Lee Ellison, Phil Owers, Brian Fairhurst and Ray Guthrie all had spells at Darlington Road. The team finished in the relegation places in 2008-09 but were saved from the drop after Sunderland Nissan pulled out of the league.


Former Hartlepool United legend Brian Honour was appointed as the new team manager, while the club embarked on a dream journey to commemorate the centenary of the Lipton Trophy win with a trip to play Italian giants Juventus.

However, the trip didn’t quite work out as expected. Read the report from the Northern Echo here:

Honour and then Wilf Constantine both left after brief spells as manager with Peter Dixon arriving to steer the side away from a relegation battle. He continued to build a fine side which finished as Northern League runners-up in 2011-12.


The same season saw the club reach the FA Vase final at Wembley after fine run which culminated in a aggregate victory over Herne Bay in the semi-finals before West went down to fellow Northern League side Dunston UTS in the final.

West Auckland returned to Wembley in 2014 after defeating St Andrews of Leicester in the FA Vase semi-final. In the final at the national stadium, Dixon’s side were defeated 1-0 to Sholing.


Dixon resigned as West Auckland manager in August 2014. Steve Skinner and Darren Williams had a spell as joint managers before Skinner took on the role alone. He departed in January 2017 to be replaced by the former Shildon boss Gary Forrest, who led the team to  safety at the end of the 2016-17 campaign.

West Auckland Town FC will play in the Northern League Division One in the 2017-18 season.


My visit

Wednesday 25th January 2017

The start of my week on the road had begun well; especially now that the sun had broken through the fog. I’d visited two clubs in Darlington and well as the homes of Shildon and Bishop Auckland before a bus deposited me in the centre of West Auckland.

The statue commemorating the ‘World Cup’ win on the green separating Front Street was the first thing that caught my eye. It never failed to captivate me how a small mining town could achieve such a magnificent thing.


It was just a short stroll down Darlington Road to the entrance to The Wanted Metal Stadium, as the ground had been renamed in a sponsorship deal. Unfortunately the gates were locked, but I hadn’t travelled all that way to be disappointed.

I wandered down Oakley Manor; a new cul-de-sac with neat housing. Towards the bottom of the road the housing gave way to allow me a view for photos. I also straddled a gate to enter a field at the bottom end to enhance my options.

The ground was neat and tidy, but mainly open flat standing, apart from along the road side, where there was a seated stand with players tunnel in the middle, and a small covered standing area.


I’d been keeping an eye on bus times towards Crook via Bishop Auckland, which was my destination. I was also trying to work out how much time I had to fit in all my plans. I managed to find a spare thirty minutes.

I entered the quiet West Auckland Working Men’s Club & Institute where the friendly lady behind the bar served me a pint of Sam Smith’s Sovereign Bitter. I asked if I could see the famous trophy. It was no problem!

The replica was kept in a secure cabinet in the club since the original had been stolen. The lady put the lights on for me so I could have a proper look. She said it was a fairly regular request from visitors.


The club was pretty typical of many such places in the north east. The non nonsense punters said what they thought while watching the Racing Channel on TV. I enjoyed listening to them relate tales about the price of ale in London. I kept silent!

My visit to West Auckland had been relatively short, but it ticked all the boxes. I really needed to return for a match at some point.