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
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Farleigh Rovers FC are a non league football club located in the village of Farleigh in the North Downs a few miles south of Croydon in Surrey, who were formed in 1922.
For sixty years 'The Foxes' competed in the local Edenbridge & Caterham and Croydon Leagues and then the Surrey Intermediate League. In 1982 the club became founder members of the Surrey Premier League, going on to become champions. Within two years Rovers had joined the Combined Counties League, where they remained until 1994 before slipping back into their previous domain.
That competition became the Surrey County Premier League and in 2003 it became Division One of the Combined Counties League. The club introduced youth teams, known as Farleigh Foxes.
Farleigh Rovers FC will play in the Combined Counties League Division One in the 2013-14 season.
Farleigh Rovers 4 Mole Valley SCR 5 (Wednesday 8th May 2013) Combined Counties League Division One (att: approx 20)
The back end of any football season often sees random midweek fixtures crop up, especially when bad weather intervenes. The 2012-13 season had suffered with lots of rain waterlogging pitches. I scanned my weekly Non League Paper looking for a game at a new venue.
The game at Farleigh grabbed my attention. Years ago I came across some of their match programmes when not too many clubs of their level produced them. The match was to kick off at 6.45pm as Parsonage Field didn't have floodlights, so this would get me home a little earlier. This was an added attraction as I was at work at 6.30am the following morning.
I caught a train to East Croydon and then hopped aboard the 403 bus, which went to Warlingham. This large village was nearly two miles from Farleigh, but a walk didn't bother me. I set off down to a field, which on Google maps looked like a huge playing field. I was disconcerted to find it surrounded by a fence, but I didn't have any other options apart from a huge detour, so I clambered over and marched through the field like some pioneer.
I could see the near goal of Parsonage Field in the distance. The game was kicking off as I climbed out of the field at the other side as the referee sensibly kicked off five minutes early with the skies darkening earlier than expected. I was directed to the bar where I parted with the best three quid I was to spend all season and received a programme and my admission in return.
The ground was basic with standing spectator accommodation down just one side, including a overhang roof from the changing roof and clubhouse, but I loved it. It had atmosphere and character. The ref showed further initiative by playing just forty minutes each way with a shortened interval. I stood near the benches and got incredible value for money on and off the pitch, though it has to be said that the game was played in good spirits from both sides with a bit of humour chucked in.
Rovers near the bottom of the table took the lead against promoted SCR as Ross Price finished a nice move. The visiting skipper and centre forward Phil Page restored parity soon after he had missed a guilt edged chance that he had created himself with a powerful run I expected them to go on after that, as it would seem did their manager. However, a fine lob from Rob Depeazer after a keeping calamity made it 2-1 to Rovers. Indeed they should have made it three in stoppage time, but a forward missed a one on one when sprung from a long pass.
At half time SCR stayed outside and their manager really got stuck in. I don't think the players were in any doubt as to his feelings. It was rather apt on the day the man of the famous hairdryer had retired. It was too much for the number seven who stormed off, never to return! Meanwhile I enjoyed a bottle of Spitfire for a very reasonable £2.80.
The 'pep' talk seemed to work as SCR were level within a minute of the restart as Jack Wightwick finished. However a daft penalty was given away to see Rovers regain the advantage. Fabian O'Brien made no mistake from the spot.
The lethal Page hammered in an equaliser as the home keeper, nicknamed Gonzo by his team mates, stood motionless. A lovely flowing passing movement on the decent pitch which had drizzle landing on it led to SCR grabbing the lead for the first time when Lauris Chin scored.
Phil Page completed his hat trick when through as he cleverly lobbed Gonzo to make it 3-5. Farleigh weren't done yet after they were assisted with a lovely glancing header from the SCR full back Mark Toomey-Layne who found the corner of his own net. They also missed a couple of half chances to draw level while they had their own bar rattled by Wightwick at the last knockings and Gonzo also produced a great stop from Page.
Everyone deserved great credit for the display. It was certainly full on entertainment. I walked back over the now damp deserted field to Sainsburys in Warlingham for the bus back to Croydon. I was back indoors in Kingsbury at 10.15 and most pleased that I made the effort.
It was probably my match of the season and definitely the best value!
Monday, April 22, 2013
BB-CU FC (Big Bang Chulalongkorn University F.C. to give them their full name) is a football club from Bangkok, Thailand. Formed in 1976 as Bangtoey Football Team, they were originally based at Chululalongkorn University in Bangkok, who have played in the Chula-Thammasat Traditional football match since 1934 (a bit like the Varsity match in the UK)
In 2004, Chulalongkorn University FC was combined with Sinthana FC (Chula-Sinthana FC) to play in Division 2 in 2005 until Chula-Sinthana FC was promoted from Division 1 to the Thai Premier League in 2008. On August in 2008 season, They changed their club name again from "Chula-Sinthana FC" to "Chula United"
Relegation followed in 2009 and the club changed their name to their current title in January 2011 as the club moved out to share with Army United as the TPL, where BB-CU aimed to be, required all clubs to be PLC's and this did not fit in with the university. Instead they formed their own club, Chamchuri United.
See http://worldgroundhop.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Chamchuri%20United%20%28Thailand%29for details.
The change of name obviously brought them luck as BB-CU were promoted at the end of the season. Once back in the TPL they were forced to moved home grounds once again to play at the national Rajamangala National Stadium as TPL sides were not allowed to share with other member clubs of that division.
However, BBCU were relegated at the end of the 2013 season, as they played home games in front of sparse crowds at Rajamangala. Their demotion allowed them to move back to Army Stadium for the 2013 season.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Oxford United FC are a football club from the historical university city of Oxford, which is located fifty one miles west of London. The club was originally formed as Headington FC in 1893 after the district of the city that the club was based.
The football club was formed for the cricketers to stay fit during the winter months, playing only friendly games, with the first match taking place at Cowley Barracks. In 1911 the club added 'United' to their name as they continued without a permanent home ground, with fixtures taking place at Quarry Recreation Ground, Wootten's Field, Sandy Lane and Britannia Field. They purchase Wootten's Field but this was redeveloped in 1920.
A year earlier the club entered competitive football for the first time by joining the Oxfordshire District League. In 1925 a permanent home was found as the club moved into The Manor Ground to share with Headington Cricket Club. After playing in other local leagues, United played in the Spartan League in 1947 and 1948 and then successfully applied to join the Southern League the year after, at the same time the cricket moved out to a new ground in Cowley.
In 1950 the former First Division player Harry Thompson was appointed as manager as United became the first professional club in the UK to install floodlights. The Southern League title was won in 1952-53 with a runners up spot to follow the season after. Arthur Turner took over as manager in 1958 and after another second place league finish, back to back championships were won in 1960-61 and 1961-62. By now the club had changed their name in 1960 to Oxford United, to try and gain a higher profile, as wing half Ron Atkinson embarked on the start of a glittering career.
Their success paid dividends when the club were elected to the Football League for the 1962-63 season to replace the bankrupt Accrington Stanley. By 1965 'The U's' had progressed to the Third Division, where they remained until the end of the 1967-68 when promotion to Division Two was secured. They lasted at that level for a spell of eight seasons before suffering relegation back to their previous status.
In 1982 United were close to bankruptcy as the club were in debt to Barclays Bank. However, businessman and media magnate Robert Maxwell arrived to save the day. Maxwell unveiled a hugely unpopular plan to merge United with Reading in March 1983, moving the new club to Didcot and naming them Thames Valley Royals. U's boss Jim Smith was to manage the side, with Reading supremo Maurice Evans to assist. The merger was only averted after mass protests from supporters, despite Maxwell threatening to fold the club if the move didn't go through.
Instead Smith led the team to the Third and then Second Division titles in consecutive seasons, with the club finding itself in the League's top tier for the first time in their history for the start of the 1985-86 season. The good times continued to roll as the League Cup was lifted in their new found level following a 3-0 win over Queens Park Rangers at Wembley, with the likes of Ray Houghton, Kevin Brock, John Aldridge and the fearsome defensive combo of Malcolm Shotton and Gary Briggs starring. By now Maurice Evans had taken over as manager after Smith had moved to their opponents in the final to make success that little bit sweeter.
To see action from the historic day, click on:
This win was probably the highlight, as the following season saw the team narrowly avoid relegation. Robert Maxwell resigned as chairman in May 1987 to take over at Derby County, handing the club over to his son Kevin. The 1987-88 season ended in relegation with Evans replaced by Mark Lawrenson to wards the end of the campaign. He didn't last too long as he walked out after the a disagreement over selling Dean Saunders to Derby!
When Maxwell met his demise in 1991, his estate including United became insolvent. A new owner was searched for, and eventually BioMass Recycling Ltd took over. Brian Horton steadied the ship before moving on and after another brief shift from Evans, Denis Smith took over at the helm. Sadly he could not prevent relegation at the end of the 1993-94 season.
Smith signed some experienced players as Robin Herd took over the club in 1995. Plans were announced for a new stadium at Minchery Farm near to the Blackbird Leys housing estate. In early 1997 construction began, but it was suspended a year later after monies were not paid to Taylor Woodrow the company building the stadium. Former playing hero Malcolm Shotton was next in charge of the team as the clubs finances once again put their future in jeopardy.
Fans set up FOUL (Fighting for Oxford United's Life) to raise awareness of the situation. Firoz Kassam bought the club from Herd for just £1, but he inherited the £15M debts. He sold the Manor Ground to another of his companies for £6M and then reduced the other £9M down to £900,000 by setting up an acceptable CVA with the creditors. The stadium work was restarted as well as the gaining of planning permission for Kassam to construct a bowling alley, cinema and hotel next to the new venue.
Several managers tried their hand, but the club found themselves back in the League's basement division in the summer of 2001, just as they moved into the Kassam Stadium. By March 2006 the club had gone through another six managers, but still found themselves in the same division. At that point Kassam decided to sell the club for £2M, which included all the debts to former youth team player Nick Merry. Kassam kept the ownership of the stadium, with United paying rent to play there.
Jim Smith was brought back as team boss, but he could not prevent a poor run which ended in relegation to the Football Conference in 2005-06. Ironically it was Accrington Stanley who took United's place in the League. The crowds stuck with The U's as a record regular season gate of 11,065 turned out for the Boxing Day clash with Woking. Smith could not repeat his former glories and after Darren Patterson having a short spell in the hot seat and a the club undergoing a change of ownership, Chris Wilder was appointed.
After a promising start to his spell, Wilder took the team back to the League in 2009-10 via a Play Off Final victory over York City at Wembley. After a season of consolidation, United finished just outside the play offs in 2011-12, before owner Ian Lenagan also took on the role as club chairman.
Oxford United FC will play in Football League Two in the 2012-13 season.
Oxford United 1 Hull City 1 (Saturday 29th October 1983) Division Three (att: 7,884)
As a student in Borehamwood on the outskirts of London I was enjoying the cartography part of my course while struggling badly with the mathematics involved with the land surveying. I needed some relief and it was offered with a trip to a new ground to watch The Tigers. I set out to the city proudly wearing my Tigers shirt and a borrowed Union Jack, on which I had taped 'Hull City' across the middle. I got a few looks from the locals as I headed to the station.
Unfortunately back in the day, I had a terrible problem with gambling on fruit machines. I managed to blow all my spare money at Kings Cross. This meant on arrival at Oxford station I had to walk the three or so miles to Headington. I stood outside the away end hoping for a solution to getting in after explaining my predicament to the police. I told them that I lost the money when walking to the ground. Just after kick off I asked if there was any way I could go on and repay later. One of the coppers took pity on me and another fan in a similar situation and took us in through the gate to join the thousand or so City fans behind the goal.
City went into the game in third place after being defeated in the league for the first time the week before, while United were unbeaten at the top. Jim Smith was in the process of taking his team to the title, while Colin Appleton also had a good side who were coping easily after their promotion the campaign before.
I took stock of my surroundings. We were on the Cuckoo Lane End, which was an open terrace wedged into the space available. Opposite was the London Road End, which had a large fence at the front owing to the badly sloping pitch and a roof over the vocal locals. In the corner on our right were two little pavilion like structures which were the grounds original seating, but by now hosted sponsors and players. Alongside was the main Beech Road Stand, with a large bank of seating behind a terraced paddock. The stand ended just past the half way line, where open terracing took over. The final side consisted of the small Osler Road Stand and then a few rows of open terrace. It was a ramshackle arrangement and one that the club would struggle with as it progressed. By the time it was demolished additional seated stands had been added down the Osler Road side.
City attacked down the hill in the first half and went in ahead at the interval following a Brian Marwood strike. The U's piled on the pressure in the second period, with The Tigers defence holding firm and Tony Norman having another fine game until they were finally breached.
There had been the odd scuffle around the ground during the afternoon and at full time plenty of likely lads from the London Road End piled onto the pitch and advanced towards us throwing missiles, some of which were picked up from the crumbling terracing. I wasn't especially looking forward to the walk back.
Luckily the home fans looking for trouble congregated near the away coaches so I was fine. Along the trek back I was behind a few United fans, with one saying that they'd have been sick if they were a City fan only drawing the game. I got chatting and they were good fans. It made the journey go quicker. I met some Tigers fans from Ipswich on the train back and we got chatting to some Chelsea fans on the tube who extolled the qualities of Kerry Dixon and David Speedie.
Oxford United 2 Accrington Stanley 0 (Tuesday 18th December 2012) FA Cup Round Two Replay (att: 2,566)
It was early shift time and I pondered between a relatively local revisit to Brentford and Bradford City at the same stage of the competition, where they were only charging £12 admission, or a new ground. I had put off a visit to the Kassam for far too long as I'd read about the awkwardness of getting there from the station.
After much musing I decided to bite the bullet, so with advanced rail tickets and match ticket booked saving me money on the day I headed for Paddington. It was a pleasant surprise to get on a high speed direct train for the journey and just over an hour later I was in the university city. Eventually after getting through the congestion I got outside where the number five bus was awaiting. I paid £3.20 return to Blackbird Leys, which seemed very good value for a four mile ride either way.
Although it was dark, the city's buildings still looked stunning as the bus wound its way along the narrow streets that were becoming busier as the workers headed home. The ride along the ethnically diverse Cowley Road showcased a plethora of eateries and drinking establishments and looked a good night out for future reference. I jumped out near the Blackbird pub on the sprawling estate with the glow in the dark pointing me in the right direction through various snickets to the stadium.
After collecting my ticket from reception I took a few photos before following a few others for a couple of hundred yards to pub intriguingly called The Priory and ?. I was directed to a huge marquee outside for real ale, which was no doubt a hub of activity when London Irish played their home games from 2012 at the Kassam. Sadly the beer was in keg form, bu at least it was only £2.50 a pint with Tetley's and Hobgoblin on offer. The locals seemed friendly and a jolly bunch. I had a warm inside the pub before heading back to the game. The portable burger van on the car park seemed busy, which pointed towards a poor catering experience inside judging by experience. Once through the turnstiles I immediately regretted not bringing food from the van in with me as the queues at the only open concession were large. Instead I went inside the stand to get my photos and to have a look.
The stadium was excellent if a little soulless. The South Stand was the main structure, with two tiers of seating separated by corporate boxes. It was almost identical to the one at The New Den. A nice touch along the balcony wall was a board commemorating each of the clubs honours. Opposite, home and away fans shared the single tiered seated North Stand. I was in the East Stand behind the goal. Again this was a single block of seating, although there were a few rows walled off at the back for further seating if required in the future. The other end was totally unoccupied with just a fence to stop errant shots from flying into the car park behind. Foundations are in place for a fourth stand, should the need arise.
Just after kick off I popped downstairs for some much needed food, to find two poor blokes looking like they were ready to collapse. The club had totally underestimated the demand for catering and they'd been left on their own with a poor supply of stock. I purchased a small Cornish pastie, which was most tasty and a watery cheeseburger, which was definitely not. A bovril was much needed as the cold was beginning to bite.
The highlight of the first half was seeing a bloke near me skillfully lick the open top of his Muller yoghurt carton. There was a couple of half chances for the U's but they were up the other end so it was hard to judge how close they got. It was dire stuff.
sometimes feel sorry for Accy and the stick they get as they punch above their weight, a bit like Scarborough did during their League days, but last night any sympathies went out of the window, even though I admired the thirty or so loyal fans who'd made the journey south. Their players showed a couple of pieces of gamesmanship which I found disgusting. United were breaking when a challenge was shrugged off. Luke Clark went down clutching his head and looking in distress. The generally inept and definitely overweight ref James Adcock stopped play, only for Clark to be up as soon as the physio touched him. Either the mediacal man had healing hands or Clark was cheating. I know which I think. The keeper Paul Rachubka also auditioned for panto trying to get a U's forward into trouble. Even I joined in the chant of "you're just a team full of w*****s".
Therefore I was delighted when James Constable glanced home from a corner and Peter Leven added the second 11 minutes from time. Alfie Potter was the best footballer on show by a mile in my humble opinion.
I dived out five minutes from time, finding the return bus stop with remarkably little trouble and caught the bus back to the station and managed to get the 22:11 back to the smoke. I fell asleep in an instant and only woke properly as we pulled into Paddington. I was home and in bed for midnight.
In short it had been a dreadful game, a decent new ground amongst friendly home fans.
The photos of the Manor Ground have been taken from the internet as I didn't take a camera on my visit and the ground was demolished by the time I got round to taking them elsewhere.
Horley Town FC are a football club from the Surrey commuter town of the same name, which is located just north of Gatwick Airport around twenty miles south of London. The club were formed in 1896 as Horley FC, before they merged with Gatwick Rovers in 1908.
For the best part of eighty years the club competed in local competition, adding Town to their title in 1975, before moving from the Surrey Senior League to the London Spartan League in 1978. Three years later 'The Clarets', playing at The Defence which was named in memory of those who lost their lives defending the country, moved to the Athenian League.
After that league was disbanded Horley joined the Combined Counties League in 1984. The club left that competition between 1996 and 2003 to play in the Surrey County Senior League before rejoining the former. At the same time Town moved into The New Defence, which was located next to the towns rugby club and sports centre.
Horley were demoted to Division One owing to ground grading issues in 2006, but these were soon corrected with the team winning promotion back to the Premier Division a season later. Town continued to build its youth structure with teams from the under sevens age group upwards representing the club.
Horley Town FC will play in the Combined Counties League Premier Division in the 2012-13 season.
Thursday 25th October 2012
After finishing work for the weekend I had alighted at Redhill station and visited the towns' club, before taking a walk and a number 100 bus which dropped me off on Court Lodge Road, virtually outside the ground. I was in a good mood as this was on the way to my hotel where I'd spend the night before heading to Germany for four days of football, sightseeing and socialising. I couldn't see the point in wasting opportunities, so visiting the two extra grounds was a no brainer.
The ground was through the leisure centre car park next to the rugby club. The gates were open with the groundsman working on the pitch and a gent coming out of the clubhouse who gave me permission to click away.
The New Defence was a neat functional venue with some hard standing going all the way around the pitch along with plenty of turf. The clubhouse was upstairs in a two storey building with changing rooms and other facilities below. A roof overhang gave shelter to the seating at the front. There was another small cover for standing spectators behind the goal by the turnstiles.
I went on my merry way, nearly getting lost in the warren of little streets in the housing estate. Eventually I went back to the original bus stop and following a tour of the perimeter of the airport I alighted at the Ibis Hotel to check in for the evening.