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 their maintenance.

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 fortunate 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 heightens 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 try today. They'll be delighted 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. Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby as he grows into a young man!

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


November 2018

Monday, December 10, 2018

Klong Chan Stadium (Bangkok)

Klong Chan Stadium is also known as Osatspa Stadium, Klong Chan Sports Centre or Klong Chan National Housing Stadium. Over the years the venue staged regular home matches for at least three different Thai League football clubs.

Osotspa FC played when it was called Osotspa Stadium in 2007 and 2008. The club would later be known as Osotspa M-150 Saraburi FC, Osotspa M-150 Samut Prakan, Super Power Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon City Power before moving north to become Jumpasri United, where they failed credentials for a club license and were banned until 2020.

Rajpracha FC were the next club to give the ground a go before Seeker FC spent some of the 2014 season in situ before moving to Boomyachinda Stadium and eventually changing names to PTU Pathumthani FC.

My visit 

April 2007

I was in Thailand, resting after the Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes keen to visit some Thai football clubs after doing previous research on Wikipedia. As I was staying with my good friends Steve and Ea in Minburi on the outskirts of Bangkok, I decided a taxi was the easiest form of reaching the Osatspa Stadium as it was called at the time.

It was quite a basic stadium, not unlike those found down the English non-league pyramid. It had a main stand which can seat around 600 fans and contained the changing rooms and a press box. The remainder of the 3,000 capacity was made up of flat standing around the perimeter of the cinder running track that surrounds the pitch.

The stadium was located on Nawamin Road not too far from the large Bangkapi Mall and Market. I went by taxi but there is a bus stop outside servicing many routes, no doubt including Bangkapi. 

My thoughts at the time were that if the Sky Train ever extended out there, that would be the easiest route from Bangkok city centre. The nearest Metro was Lat Phrao but a taxi ride of around 10 minutes is still required.

I gained access through a nice communal garden where there was a court that seemed to be for boules or something similar. Despite our limited communication, the staff appeared very friendly. It is amazing what a smile can do wherever you are in the world!

Basingstoke Town

Basingstoke Town FC is a non-league football club formed in 1896 following a merger of Aldworth United FC and Basingstoke Albion FC, who play in the town of the same name in North Hampshire, around fifty miles south west of London. The club initially played at the Castlefields ground.

The club became members of the Hampshire League in 1901; being placed in the North Division where they made a most inauspicious start over their first few years in the competition before being crowned champions in 1911-12.

A further North Division title followed in 1919-20 before league re-organisation in 1929 saw ‘The Dragons’ being placed in Division One. A new ground on land belonging to Lord Camrose was opened in 1945 with the venue initially being called Winchester Road.

Town reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup in 1959-60 before finishing as league runners-up in 1965-66 and 1966-67. The Hampshire League title was secured in 1967-68 before ending in second spot the following season.

The excellent spell continued as further championship seasons arrived at The Camrose in 1969-70 and 1970-71, which led to election to Division One South of the Southern League. The 1971-72 season saw Basingstoke reach the first round of the FA Cup before going out to Northampton Town.

League restructuring in the summer of 1979 saw the club placed in the Southern Division of the Southern League from where they won promotion to the Premier Division in 1984-85 following a title winning campaign.

The 1987-88 season saw Basingstoke make the move to the Premier Division of the Isthmian League. Their debut season in new surroundings ended in relegation, but an Isthmian top flight spot was secured with promotion at the first time of asking.

In 1989-90 Town reached the first round of the Cup once again; defeating Bromsgrove Rovers before going out in round two at home to Torquay United. They returned to the first round the following campaign, eventually beating Wycombe Wanderers on penalties after a replay.

The Wycombe tie attracted a record home gate of 5,085, before the second round tie against Northampton Town went all the way to penalties in a Camrose replay. The Cobblers went on to win the shoot out.

The 1998-99 FA Cup run also reached the first round. AFC Bournemouth defeated the Dragons at The Camrose. In the meantime, the teams league form had been steady in unspectacular; with third place in 2000-01 their best return.

Non-league football was restructured at the end of the 2003-04 season. Town lost a play-off to Lewes for a place in the newly formed Conference South. However, the club was still promoted after Hendon declined a place in the new set up with Ernie Howe as head coach and striker Sergio Torres starring.

Howe departed in April 2006 after a spell of thirteen years with the club with Francis Vines replacing him. In 2006-07 Town defeated Chesterfield at Saltergate in the first round of the FA Cup before going out in the next stage in a local derby replay to Aldershot Town.

Vines resigned in March 2008 before former Leeds United and Scotland star Frank Gray coming in as permanent manager arriving in the close season of the same year. Gray departed in February 2012 after another FA Cup first round appearance; this time ending in defeat at Griffin Park to Brentford.

Jason Bristow took over from Gray, with the new man taking Basingstoke on a tremendous run to reach the play-offs in 2011-12 where they were defeated in the semi-final by Dartford. The play-offs were reached again in 2014-15 before being beaten in the semi-final by Whitehawk.

In 2015-16 saw Bristow being replaced by Michael Gilkes as Town lost to Cambridge United in round one of the Cup, in a season that ultimately ended in relegation to the Southern League with Gilkes departing a couple of months before the drop was confirmed.

Experienced boss Terry Brown was unable to save the side from relegation, but he reignited enthusiasm at the club as a young vibrant squad was introduced. However, long standing chairman Rafi Razzak announced plans to leave the club at the end of the 2016-17 season and reclaim his investment through the sale of The Camrose.

Razzak was to be frustrated as Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council turned down a plan for the club to leave their home and move to a proposed new stadium at Old Common Road. On the pitch, Brown’s side finished in twelfth place in 2016-17 in the Southern League Premier Division.

Meanwhile, the Hampshire FA looked to develop a site at Winklebury to include a stadium to enable Basingstoke Town to become anchor tenants and to redevelop The Camrose. The plans were given the all clear by the local council.

Razzak had become an unpopular figure by this time among supporters who didn’t want to leave their spiritual home. Plans for the club to become community owned were drawn up in readiness for the ground move and Razzak’s departure.

The Dragons finished in tenth place in 2017-18 as Brown moved to a Director of Football role before the club was placed in the Premier Division South of the competition for the 2018-19 season. Bristow returned for a second spell as boss before departing in November 2018.

Brown had a spell as caretaker before the appointment of experienced Football League midfielder and coach Martin Kuhl in December 2018.

Basingstoke Town FC will play in the Southern League Premier Division South in the 2018-19 season.

My visit

Basingstoke Town 2 Hendon 1 (Saturday 8th December 2018) Southern League Premier Division South (att: 283)

The fixtures fell nicely for me during my spell of night shifts, with Basingstoke being one of the nearer Southern League destinations for Hendon. Lee Cousins offered me a lift, coming straight back after the game, so all was good.

Bob was already waiting at Harrow-on-the-Hill as I arrived just before 12.30. Lee was not long after as we chatted about the usual football stuff and rumours. Our mood was good after the Dons fine home win the previous week.

While some of the away match distances were a bit of a pain, we were visiting some proper football grounds by way of compensation. I was looking forward to seeing The Camrose after seeing images and hearing good reviews from mates who’d been in the past.

The journey down was smooth and easy, arriving in the car park well over an hour before kick-off. The fella on the car park immediately heightened our good mood with his repost to Lee jokingly telling him that we were the team when asked for £1 to park up.

The clubhouse was outside the ground with friendly fans manning a pop-up real ale bar just outside serving a selection from two local brewers. The choice was three different bottles from Andwell Brewery or Longdog Brewery Red Runner from straight from the box, which we opted for, at £3 a pint.

The spacious area inside was showing the live lunchtime game and we joined other Hendon fans to discuss the decline of local Sunday football among other subjects. I had a chat with the host real ale gents about their club.

They confirmed that the fans were to take over and they were to leave their ground at the end of the season. They were sad about it. As one said, “It might be a s**thole, but it’s our s**thole.” The feeling was that they thought that they had been let down by the current owner.

Admission was £12. We’d already bought our programmes in the bar for a quid and once inside I opted for a good portion of chips and curry sauce for £3. The weather was beginning to get worse, with a strong wind and rain beginning to fall.

The Camrose had certainly seen better days; though in mitigation the end had been on the cards for a few years, so any investment would have been dead money. It was certainly large and offered three sections of covered standing as well as a raised seated Main Stand.

My only criticism was that the standing areas down the sides were a bit of a way from the pitch, with flat open standing in between. Nevertheless, the areas proved to offer us good protection from the biting gusts. The pitch had a slope from side to side.

My fear was that Town would profit from the boost of a new manager, which was a regular occurrence at clubs. Unfortunately, at least for Hendon supporters, this proved to be the case. After a tight opening the Dragons looked to take the initiative

Dean Stow put in a dangerous cross which nobody could get on the end of before Basingstoke went ahead on seventeen minutes. Sam Deadfield crossed following a short corner for Dan Bayliss to rise unchallenged at the back post to head home.

A couple of minutes later Ricardo German capitalised on a home error to get through on goal, but Colm McAdden made a good stop. Half way through the opening period it was 2-0 when Deadfield whipped in a corner. It somehow found its way into the net via the hands of keeper Danny Boness.

There was a suspicion about how weather worn and dogged one or two individuals were in the Hendon squad. The sort of non-league equivalent of how would a ball playing foreign star go on a Tuesday night in Grimsby, in old parlance. Here was an opportunity to find out.

Basingstoke continued to look dangerous when attacking before the Greens were given an almost comical lifeline on thirty seven minutes. German latched onto a pass. From our angle he slightly overran it and fell over the diving keeper McAdden.

Remarkably, referee Adam Baker, pointed to the spot. We were howling with laughter at the decision. It’s fair to say that the home fans were not as amused and rightly so; at least from our angle. The man in black conferred with his linesman and stuck with his original decision.

German stroked the penalty home down the middle of the goal to make it 2-1. I reasoned that it made up for the stone wall penalties Hendon had turned down at Dorchester and Salisbury. Surely, they would grab their fortunate opportunity of a leg up?

Approaching the half time whistle Zidan Akers cut inside from the left and sent a curling shot past the beaten Boness which came back off the post and away from danger as Town came desperately close to restoring their two goal advantage.

As a man of nostalgia, I was grateful for a trip into the gent’s toilets underneath the stand at the break to take me right back to my primary school years. A Basingstoke fan mentioned that he feared that Hendon would take advantage of the conditions after the break.

While I’m no Pep Guardiola, as my past record as a Sunday League manager would testify, I thought it was fair enough to mention to the subs warming up that getting some shots in might be an idea if they got on, considering the increasing wind and rain at their backs?

Lee Chappell obviously agreed, but his thirty yarder went high wide and not so handsome. At the other end Ben Wright had an effort deflected for a corner. The game was stretched as Hendon pushed forward with Sam Argent seeing an effort closed.

Diminutive striker Sam Smart had impressed throughout and was now having an increasing influence on the game. Half chances continued to fall to the Dragons who were managing the conditions the better of the sides.

With fifteen minutes remaining Akers somehow headed wide when set of beautifully by Smart. Seven minutes later German missed a guilt edged opportunity when he headed a fine delivery from substitute Shaun Lucien over the bar when unmarked.

I must confess to becoming more and more frustrated at some of the decisions made by certain Hendon players. The conditions were poor but were there to be taken advantage of. Smart ran full back Taishan Griffiths ragged to earn a penalty just before the board went up for stoppage time.

Stow sent his spot kick over the bar, to offer a final possible hurrah for the visitors. It wasn’t to be. We left the ground extremely frustrated, but ready to dust ourselves down for the visit of Metropolitan Police to Silver Jubilee Park a few days later.

The Basingstoke fans forum match reporter described Hendon’s performance as dismal, no fight, no character, no ability to handle the conditions and an ill-deserved goal. Probably a bit on the harsh side but certainly along the right lines on the day.

The Dragons fully deserved their win. Hendon had a "bad day at the office", but they'd come again. All the home fans I came across were fair, friendly and knowledgeable and I certainly wished them all the best in their forthcoming adventure in new surroundings as a fans owned club.

Our particular adventure was far from over, as the back left tyre of Lee’s car punctured the London side of Fleet services on the M3. Our pilot sprung into action with Bob on the jack and me on torch to run repairs in the dark and cold. It probably wasn’t Ferrari F1 standards, but bloody impressive under the circumstances.

We were deposited back at Harrow in time for me to take a siesta before night shift. Some sensible Tweets from Hendon team boss Jimmy Gray put things into perspective. Bring on the Met and car park duties. Up the Dons!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Gosport Borough

Gosport Borough FC is a non-league football club formed in 1944 in the Hampshire town of Gosport, which is located on the south coast peninsula on the west side of Portsmouth Harbour. The club was originally formed as Gosport Borough Athletic Club.

The clubs’ formation was initiated to bring organised football, athletics, swimming and cycling after World War Two. Former Southampton player Stan Cribb was put in charge of the football section, with the team including future international players Jimmy Scoular and Peter Harris.

Gosport won Portsmouth and District League Division One in 1944-45; their inaugural season, which led to a move to the Hampshire League in which the club won the Division One title at the first attempt. The team settled as a force in non-league Hampshire football without repeating the feat.

In 1966 the club became Gosport Borough and focussed on football, remaining as members of the Hampshire League and going on to win consecutive titles under the management of Tony Brickwood and Peter Edgar in 1976-77 and 1977-78.

The triumphs led to election into Division One South of the Southern League for the 1978-79 season. Their first four seasons saw top four finishes, leading to a place in the Premier Division for 1982-83 campaign as the Southern League was restructured.

Boro were relegated to the Southern Division at the conclusion of the 1983-84 season where they finished as runners-up and reclaimed their Premier Division status at the first attempt, winning their final home game against Salisbury in front of 1,500 fans.

After avoiding relegation in 1987-88 and winning the Hampshire Cup in the process, Gosport went on to finish in a best ever seventh place in the Premier Division of 1988-89. Unfortunately, a change of management saw many players depart Privett Park which led to relegation in 1989-90.

Boro suffered a further relegation from the Southern Division to the Wessex League in 1991-92. Roger Sherwood was appointed as manager and settled the ship for three seasons before former players John Hawes, Dave Pitt and Barry Cook were put in charge of the side.

The trios brief was to develop the club youth policy and to build a team of locally based players. An affiliation was formed with successful local youth side Gomer FC. However, the teams Wessex League form didn’t improve.

The club was restructured financially off the pitch, with reserve team boss Mick Marsh taking control of the first team in December 1999. Marsh halted the decline with his side putting in four top four finishes and reaching the last eight of the FA Vase in 2003-04.

Marsh retired in the summer of 2005, with John Robson coming in to take his place, but only lasting a few months before being replaced by Alex Pike. The new manager arrived with a great reputation having led Wimborne Town to win the FA Vase in 1992.

Boro won the Wessex League in 2006-07 to reclaim their position in the Southern League where they were placed in Division One South & West. A mid table finish in Gosport’s first season back before the 2011-12 season saw them reach the play-offs.

Sholing were defeated at Privett Park before Boro sealed promotion to the Premier Division by winning 3-1 away to Poole Town as the goals of Justin Bennett led the way. In 2012-13 the club matched the feat of 1980-81 by reaching the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.

The run ended in a replay against Slough Town before league form picked up to again reach the play-offs. Boro did it the hard way by winning away to Stourbridge and then defeat Hemel Hempstead Town at Adeyfield on penalties to reach the Conference South.

In 2013-14 Boro eventually finished in twelfth position, but it was in the FA Trophy that the team excelled. Wins against Dorchester Town, Concord Rangers, Nuneaton Town, Hungerford Town, North Ferriby United and then semi final victory over Havant & Waterlooville took them to the final.

Gosport went down 4-0 to Cambridge United at Wembley in front of an attendance of 18,120. The following season saw further glory; this time in the FA Cup. Boro reached the first round for the first time before losing 6-3 at home to Colchester United in front of over 2,000 fans.

The team went on to finish just outside the play-off places in the Conference South season of 2014-15, before the competition was retitled as the National League South. Financial problems in 2015-16 led to players departing and club being hit with an embargo.

Among those to go was legendary striker Bennett. The troubles continued into the 2016-17 as a potential financial backer pulled out. The club was to be hit with four winding up orders from HMRC throughout the season. A traumatic campaign ended in relegation back to the Southern League.

Pike was sacked in September 2017, after a dozen years as manager, with Boro sitting bottom of the Premier Division. His former assistant Mick Catlin took over at the helm. The former Portsmouth chairman Iain McInnes took control of the club a few months later and reinstalled Pike as manager.

The teams form didn’t improve, despite the returning boss being able to bring in players. He was sacked for a second time in March 2018 as striker Rowan Vine was put in temporary charge, while the HMRC threatened to dissolve the club at the end of the season if accounts weren’t forthcoming.

Gosport survived relegation on the final day of the season before Ryan Northmore was appointed as manager in May 2018. However, the new man decided to resign within a month after his Colombian wife was refused entry into the UK.

Experienced and well travelled striker Craig McAllister was appointed as player-manager, with Matt Tubbs; a man of similar credentials coming in as assistant. The Southern League added a secondary top flight with Gosport being placed in Premier Division South.

Gosport Borough FC will play in the Southern League Premier Division South in the 2018-19 season.

My visit

Gosport Borough 3 Hendon 1 (Saturday 24th November 2018) Southern League Premier Division South (att: 201)

I’d arrived back to the UK on a cold, dark and damp Friday lunchtime after a couple of weeks in the beautiful weather of Thailand. Despite that, I was desperately keen to follow Hendon to another new ground on my tick list.

I must have been keen, or else I’d have had an extra day or so in the heat. Steve Barnes was also up for the trip and he had kept his eyes on any possible disruptions on the train owing to the continuing strikes on South West Trains.

I’d tried to reacclimatise with a few pints, a good feed and a long kip on my return before heading to Wetherspoons in Kingsbury for a decent feed. I met Steve at the station at 9.30am as we headed to Waterloo where I updated my Network Rail pass and bought the day’s tickets.

Some other regular Dons fans had related the tale of virtually empty trains on their trip to Salisbury a few weeks previously, as customers were put off by the strikes. It was the same on this occasion as it was a case of choose wherever you want.

Steve proved to be a good travelling companion as ever. He listened to my cricketing and Thai adventures while also trying to plan our real ale stops for the day. The journey was bang on time when we alighted at Portsmouth Harbour station.

There was a bit of confusion regarding buying tickets for the Gosport Ferry, but we were soon crossing the water and finding the bus station ready for our real adventures to commence. I was soon in for an inadvertent surprise as we jumped off our first bus ride.

The stop was right outside Siam Thai Market; a shop selling Thai produce as well as selling and displaying Thai league football club shirts on the wall. The staff let me take a photo, which I got a good response to when I posted it on Facebook.

A couple of doors along we found the Four-Ale Taproom, where John Rogers, a fellow Hendon fan and reporter for the day, was already enjoying a pint. It was a decent enough establishment with the lass serving was being bored rigid by a bloke taking about historical wars.

We left them to it to take the Eclipse E2 bus to Station Road, where we found the Queen’s Arms. This pub had a magnificent traditional frontage bus was lacking in a choice of ale. After a pint we decided to get our steps in for the day by walking along a footpath that was once a rail track.

It brought us out at the Junction Arms, where the welcome was warm and the beer in top nick, even with the limited options. A fella, who I presumed was a Gosport fan recognised my Hendon scarf. We sat with him.

It turned out that Andy was a Lewes fan who formerly ran the Gardeners Arms, an excellent boozer that Steve and I had enjoyed visiting around a year earlier. He was in absolute awe when I mentioned that my mate was the publican of the Wenlock Arms for many years. It was like pub deity.

Andy like many football fans over 50 had fallen out of love with the professional game. For many years he never missed a Swindon Town game but a mixture of overpaid egotistical players, admission prices and dodgy owners had taken its toll. He now groundhopped non-league games.

Our new friend went on his way while we decided to have another beer; such was its quality. The landlady rung as a cab and a friendly Indian cricket mad driver dropped us at the gates of Privett Park for just £3.20 ten minutes before kick off.

Admission was £10, which included a basic four page programme. A more comprehensive issue could be downloaded from the club website free of charge. It was an initiative that a few clubs seemed to be favouring.

The weather was closing in, with the predicted heavy rain beginning to fall, as well as the winds picking up. I grabbed a bacon cheeseburger with onions and Bovril for a very reasonable £4.40 before we took shelter in the Main Stand.

This magnificent raised wooden seated structure was the showpiece of Privett Park. The pillars obstructed one or two views, but it exuded character and had a warmth that the smaller modern seated structure on the far side could only dream of.

Both ends were predominantly open flat standing, save for some cover provided with a lean-to roof on the side of the clubhouse at the Privett Road End of the ground. It was a neat and tidy venue if a little open at the Park End to the winds.

Hendon set off in the game like a house on fire with the diagonal cross pitch wind in their favour. The conditions were to make it difficult for both sides. Danny Boness in the Dons goal struggled with a punch. It fell to Sam Lanahan whose effort was blocked close in.

Then the visitors took control. Pat O'Flaherty was to make the first of several fine stops when he denied Shaun Lucien on seven minutes. The same player was denied shortly after from twenty five yards as the custodian completed his save at the second attempt.

Connor Calcutt and Ricardo German both bought the best out of O’Flaherty as he produced fine low saves. We felt that Hendon had to take advantage while they could taking into consideration the slightly favourable conditions and their dominance.

Hendon’s in form Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick was fortunate not to be booked for a blatant dive, while his teammate Lucien perhaps paid the penalty of the inconsistency of referee Stu Kyle when he was blatantly brought down by a defender in the box but received a yellow card for supposed simulation.

Lucien saw O’Flaherty keep him out for a third time before the keeper somehow managed to deal with a Taishan Griffith cross. Boro’s player-manager Craig McAllister and then Lanahan responded for efforts as the hosts began to get into the game.

German was correctly cautioned for an act of petulance in kicking the ball away. Tony Lee saw Boness punch away a fierce effort before Hippolyte-Patrick opened the scoring seven minutes before the interval with a good low shot that skipped off the wet surface from outside the box.

The advantage lasted less than two minutes before Luke Tingey slipped in the box to allow McAllister to finish in expert fashion. Somehow Lee put a simple chance wide following another Tingey slip as the match followed a similar pattern to Hendon’s game at Salisbury a few weeks before.

The ref failed to book Lee for kicking the ball away in the same fashion as German to raise the ire of the Dons bench. At the break we went for a wander and had a look inside the vibrant clubhouse before taking a seat in the newer stand for the second period with other away fans.

McAllister nearly made it 2-1 when he really should have scored with a header shortly after the restart. Patrick Suraci saw a free kick brilliantly saved by Boness as Gosport turned up the pressure against a Hendon defence missing a couple of regular centre backs.

Joe Lea came close for Boro before they inevitably took the lead as Boness badly misjudged a long ball, to allow it to bounce over his head, where Lee followed up to tap into an empty net. While it was a blow, it wasn’t good to see one or two too many Hendon players heads drop.

With twenty minutes remaining Gosport had a goal disallowed for the second time in the game before Lee saw an effort come back off the bar as Hendon manager Jimmy Gray made a couple of substitutions to little effect.

Eventually the pressure deservedly told in the last few minutes of the game when lively sub Ryan Pennery laid the ball square for Suraci to finish at the back post. We headed round towards the exit past the cock a hoop home fans who were relieved to see their side win after five consecutive losses.

The Gosport fans were passionate, knowledgeable and fair from those we came across. I managed to have a spat on Twitter with someone who only went occasionally and was mainly a Pompey fan, but saw fit to try and wind me up. Wrong person in the wrong mood I’m afraid.

We caught a bus back into the town centre, catching up with Andy again who offered a fair and accurate summary of proceedings. Steve had located somewhere to cheer the pair of us up, even if it did take a bit of finding!

The Fallen Acorn Brewing Co. was in a cul-de-sac on a small industrial estate. It served the public on a weekend inside the actual brewery. We enjoyed a good chat and a couple of pints. The only issue was that the building needed to be cold and I was already wet from the game and adjusting from my holiday.

We took the ferry back into Portsmouth in driving rain. The Ship Anson was busy, including the East Cowes Victoria FC squad awaiting their ferry back to the Isle of Wight and wasn’t offering anything too exciting beer wise, so we headed to The Old Customs House.

This was a fine Fullers house in the redeveloped Gunwharf Quays. Again, it was very busy, but the ale was good, and we got warm. Finally, we braved the conditions to walk along Park Road, where memories of seeing Hampshire’s last ever county cricket game in the city came flooding back.

We were very damp when we entered the Brewhouse and Kitchen on Guildhall. We managed to get some seats to enjoy the ale that was brewed on the premises. It was soon time to walk up the street and catch the London bound train at Portsmouth & Southsea station.

I’d comment on the journey back, but to be honest I remember very little of it. The jet lag, weather and booze had taken effect and I was shattered, sleeping much of it. I must have been done for, as I even turned down a night cap back in Kingsbury!

Summing up; it was a top day out in good company in some excellent pubs, spoiled by a shocking hour on the pitch by Hendon, but that’s football! Well played Gosport We’d both be back to cheer on The Dons as soon as possible.

Friday, October 12, 2018

SpVgg Greuther Fürth (Germany)

Spielvereinigung Greuther Fürth e. V. is a professional football club from the north Bavaria German city of Fürth, which neighbours the larger city of Nürnberg. The origins of the club come from the formation of the football section of Turnverein 1860 Fürth on September 23rd 1903.

This was primarily a gymnastics club, with the footballers breaking away in November 1906 as SpVgg Fürth after citing a lack of support from their parent club. The team participated in the regional Ostkreisliga, becoming divisional champions in 1912,1913 and 1914.

A fierce local rivalry had already been forged with neighbours 1. FC Nürnberg by the time Fürth reached the south German Süddeutsche in a bid to qualify for the national championships.

In 1910 the club opened their own home; originally titled Sportplatz am Ronhofer Weg gegenüber dem Zentral-Friedhof and later to become Sportpark Ronhof. By 1914 the club had become the largest in the country.

Fürth went on through the rounds to become German champions in 1914 after VfB Leipzig were defeated 3-2 after extra time in the final at Victoria 96-Platz in Magdeburg in front of 6,000 fans. Karl Franz netted a couple, with Fritz Weicz scoring the other under English coach William Townley.

The club continued to be a prominent force after World War One finishing as national runners-up after losing the 1920 final 2-0 to 1. FC Nürnberg in Frankfurt. A second Süddeutsche Meisterschaft followed in 1923, before further glory arrived at Ronhof.

Fürth were crowned as German champions for a second time in 1926 as 40,000 spectators flocked to the Waldstadion in Frankfurt to see Hertha BSC beaten 4-1 thanks to an own goal and efforts from Lony Seiderer, Karl Auer, Willy Ascherl.

Townley had moved on to be replaced at the helm by Hans Krauß as a third national championship was celebrated in 1929. Hertha were overcome once again, this time 3-2 at Club-Stadion im Zabo in Nuremberg.

A crowd of 50,000 saw Heinrich Auer, Georg Frank and Karl Rupprecht score for Fürth. The club was boosted on August 27th 1929, as another local club FC Schneidig Fürth joined forces at Ronhof with ‘Kleeblätter’ (Shamrocks).

Under the rule of the Third Reich football in Germany was organised into sixteen top flight Gauligen. Fürth were placed in Gauliga Bayern without too much success, aside from a divisional title in 1935.

The team enjoyed a few fruitful runs in Tschammer-Pokal, the forerunner of the DFB Pokal, German Cup. Following World War Two, German football was divided into five top flight Oberligen. Fürth were relegated from Oberliga Süd to Landesliga Bayern in 1947-48.

The club recovered and won promotion at the first attempt before becoming Oberliga Süd champions in 1949-50. VfB Stuttgart ended any dreams of a fourth German title in the semi-finals of the national championships.

Two SpVgg players, Karl Mai and Herbert Erhardt became World Cup winners in 1954 as Germany lifted the trophy against Hungary. Fürth remained in the top tier until the formation of the national Bundesliga in 1963. The club didn’t qualify as one of the sixteen members.

The club was placed in Regionalliga Süd, finishing in third position in 1966-67. 2. Bundesliga was formed in 1974, with Fürth becoming founder members in the Süd division. In 1978-79 the team finished in fourth place, but generally ended in a mid-table position.

The second tier became just one division from 1981-82 with SpVgg being relegated to the Bayernliga at the completion of the 1982-83 campaign, despite the goals of Wolfgang Metzler.

A fourth place finish came in 1985-86 thanks to the goals of Manfred Kastl and Siegfried Susser. However, the team was relegated to Landesliga Bayern-Mitte in 1986-87 to the fourth level of German football.

The Bayern-Mitte title was won in 1990-91, going on to a third place ending in the Bayernliga the following season. A runners-up berth in 1992-93 led to a play-off round, from where Fürth failed to progress toward promotion.

However, a place in the reorganised third tier Regionalliga Süd was secured for the 1993-94 season. Financial troubles blighted the club at the time forcing SpVgg to sell Sportpark Ronhof to a local businessman and pay rent to remain.

Club President Edgar Burkhart arranged a deal with the President of successful local club TSV Vestenbergsgreuth for the clubs to merge at in the summer of 1996 to become form SpVgg Greuther Fürth.

TSV Vestenbergsgreuth, formed in 1974 went out in style, defeating German champions Bayern München 1-0 in the DFB Pokal of 1994-95 at the Frankenstadion in Nürnberg in Bayern’s first competitive game under manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

TSV Vestenbergsgreuth didn’t compete in senior football after the merger with Fürth until the 2006-07 season when they began again in the tenth tier A-Klasse Erlangen/Pegnitzgrund-Gruppe 3 from their Am Schwalbenberg home.

Both clubs were competing in Regionalliga Süd at the time of the merger with the squad being immediately strengthened. The team finished runners-up to 1. FC Nürnberg, winning promotion to 2. Bundesliga with the goals of Frank Türr giving the fans plenty to cheer in 1996-97.

The return to the second tier heralded a couple of finishes around midway in the table, with Arie van Lent finishing as top scorer in 1998-99. The team continued to gradually progress, coming in fifth in 2001-02 with Rachid Azzouzi leading the scoring charts.

Sportpark Ronhof had been renamed the Playmobil Arena in a sponsorship deal and had received its first redevelopment for several decades with new stands and the inauguration of the first set of floodlights.

Another local club, Tuspo Fürth joined forces with SpVgg Greuther Fürth in July 2003 as strikers Petr Ruman and Marcus Feinbier did the business on the pitch. Three repeated fifth place finishes were achieved as Christian Eigler and Christian Timm weighed in with the goals.

Stefan Reisinger was top scorer in the 2007-08 as Fürth finished sixth. Sami Allagui was the Kleeblätter hero for the next couple of seasons as the team continued to plug away. A fourth place finish in 2010-11 was a taster of greater things to come.

Greuther Fürth won promotion to the top flight in 2011-12 as they were crowned as 2. Bundesliga champions as Olivier Occéan and Christopher Nöthe proved too much for opposing defenders under head coach Mike Büskens.

A new South Stand was built for the demands of top flight football. Unfortunately, the spell would only last one season. Büskens was replaced by Frank Kramer but the team finished in bottom place completing just four victories.

The team and club regathered and ended the 2013-14 season in third place leading to a play-off with Hamburger SV, who triumphed on aggregate by virtue of an away goal in the second leg at the re-sponsored Trolli Arena as Kosovan striker Ilir Azemi led the way.

Büskens was reappointed as head coach to take over from Kramer in February 2015 as Greuther dropped down the table at Ronhof’s latest guise; Stadion am Laubenweg, which became Sportpark Ronhof Thomas Sommer from the summer of 2015.

The goals of Sebastian Freis took SpVgg to ninth place in 2015-16 before Stefan Ruthenbeck took over team affairs. Serdar Dursun netted ten times the following season as the side ended in ninth position.

Janos Radoki had succeeded Ruthenbeck in November 2016, lasting until the following August before being replaced by Damir Burić, whose side finished disappointingly just above the relegation zone.

SpVgg Greuther Fürth will play in 2. Bundesliga in the 2018-19 season.

My visit

SpVgg Greuther Fürth 0 Hamburger SV 0 (Thursday 27th September 2018) 2. Bundesliga (att: 14,965)

I’d taken advantage of a week off work by enjoying a bit of cricket before heading to Germany for three days. The previous evening I’d been to see Fortuna Düsseldorf go down 2-1 at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

It had been an early start by train south, but the stunning views along the Rhine Valley more than compensated. It took me back to the towns of my first foreign adventure back in October 1989. It looked just as beautiful as the sun came up.

Unfortunately, it seems that the driver was also enjoying the vista as we arrived late into Mainz meaning that I’d missed my connection. I took an SBahn on the advice of the Bahn App on my phone, changing at Frankfurt Airport.

That would have been Plan B if I’d realised just how far it was between the suburban and inter city platforms. It meant a run, OK jog, over several hundred metres. I caught the Munich bound service in the nick of time, getting me to Nuremburg around 1pm.

By now I was hungry, so I went for some comfort food in the form of goulash soup and an apple strudel at the station. The forecourt had some unsavoury characters gathered as I attempted to make some plans. I chose to check into my hotel and have a siesta.

The Hotel Continental was not anywhere near the list of my best hotels visited, but it did the job. I woke after a couple of hours and caught a tram to Doku-Zentrum to take in some beauty as well as dark history.

The Kongresshalle looked stunning on a sunny warm afternoon, as did the view over Grosser Dutzendteich lake. I walked along the impressive Große Straße, which was to be the main thoroughfare around Hitler’s little empire of showgrounds in the city.

Families walked, jogged and enjoyed the facilities. It is fantastic that somewhere so evil has been adapted and used for recreational purposes, with many of the half built marching grounds and arenas bulldozed after the War.

I was listening to a brilliant last session of the County Cricket season live from The Oval as Essex just got over the line to end the unbeaten record of champions Surrey. I was happy in several ways with my day!

The walk took me past Max-Morlock-Stadion, thankfully renamed to honour a city legend and to show that fan power can work. Opposite was Arena Nürnberger Versicherung, home to concerts, basketball and Nürnberg Ice Tigers ice hockey side.

Finally, I walked to the platform in Zeppelinfeld, where Hitler preached to the naïve. Lest we never forget. It was then time to head to Frankenstadion station for a train back to town. A large KFC later it was time to head to Fürth.

The match wasn’t kicking off until 8.30pm for TV coverage. This was such a game that fans across the country were protesting against at all midweek games for the first twenty minutes. They were sick of increased ticket prices, commercialisation by the German DFB.

The train took around fifteen minutes, leaving me plenty of time to have a look around. My pal Carl Ellis had been for a game and said that courtesy buses took fans to the stadium. He thought it was from the main station.

There was some outside, but they were marked for visiting fans. I most certainly didn’t want to be part of any police escort. Instead I decided to look for a suitable bar on one of my Apps. I was pointed in the direction of a bar in a nearby park, but it was closed.

Gustav-Schickedanz-Straße from the station and the car park at the end, along with Königstraße was packed with stalls and rides getting ready for what I later discovered to be Michaelis-Kirchweih.

This was the oldest fair in Bavaria, going back nine hundred years. The vendors and stall holders were in preparation for its opening a couple of days later. It appeared that one or two may be trying their luck later in the evening.

Königstraße took me to the main Rathaus area of what was a pretty city. The stalls finished with the wide pavement further along looking to have fans sat outside bars enjoying pre- match beers. Some fans stood opposite waiting for the buses to the stadium.

This was ideal. I entered Zum Schlawiener, a busy SpVgg fan pub where I enjoyed large sized bottles of locally brewed Gruner Vollbier and Zirndorfer from a nearby town. Both were excellent, and even better at just €2.20 a bottle!

I decided to head towards the stadium just in case anything went wrong on one of the free buses, which rather conveniently dropped us right outside Cafe-Bar RUINE, which although full of fans, also had plentiful quick serving staff. It’d have been rude to blank such an invitation!

The bar was on Erlander Straße, from where it was just a short walk down an alley to Laubenweg, with the stadium on the other side of the road. Various souvenir, food and beer stands were along the pavement.

Despite it being well before kick-off time I decided to enter the stadium to have a look and hopefully grab a decent place on the Nordkurve. I’d paid €17 plus a rather steep €10 surcharge for overseas posting, but I wanted to be guaranteed entry for this big game as both sides both were around the promotion places.

After one grumpy steadfast refusal, a second steward was most accommodating in allowing me inside the East Stand to take photos of the area I was going to stand in. The arena was fans friendly out the back with a beer garden and easy access, though it could have done with some extra toilets.

Beer was priced at €3.90, which was a hike, but still reasonable. Under the terracing there was a combination of fans stalls and refreshments. Free programmes and flyers about the protests were handed out.

The stadium showed signs of being put together bit by bit. My stand was a separate covered terrace. The far end Südkurve was higher and a combination of standing and family seating going around the east corner.

The East Stand was impressive but didn’t look fully complete as it stopped near the far end eighteen yard box and blocked some views in the adjoining terrace. It had been badly planned. The North Stand was a separate seated structure.

Experience told me to try and get a place near the end of a terrace as it wouldn’t be so crowded. It gave me a view of the whole pitch and a decent elevation. The fans around me were friendly and I had a ledge for my jacket and scarf on a pleasant evening.

The Fürth players went through some excellent warm ups and practise moves as I enjoyed the work of the stadium DJ. Perhaps this was now the norm, but I was usually in a stadium bar or nearby pub when teams go through the drills?

The Hamburg fans had travelled in force, filling their allocation as well as some home seats. As ever, there was no hint of any bother. The first twenty minutes of the game was a cagey affair, played out to polite applause before the fans ended their protest and turned up the volume.

Fürth’s Maximilian Wittek fired in a free kick that came back off the bar with keeper Julian Pollersbeck well beaten in the second minute. The rest of the period was scrappy. You can see a short video of the twenty minute mark here.

The hosts were the better side in those early stages. Hamburg were in their first season of second tier football after several escapes from relegation and were not finding it easy; having been thumped 5-0 at home to Jahn Regensburg in their previous game.

Hamburg were kicking towards their support after the break. They had the better of the play with Khaled Narey and Vasilije Janjicic having efforts on goal. The hosts were pushed further back and were fortunate when substitute Jann-Fiete Arp missed from close range.

Fürth pressed a little more in the closing stages. The referee didn’t adhere himself to the locals, although I thought he was more than generous on occasions by not pulling up Maximilian Sauer for what looked suspiciously like several foul throws.

Neither side could break the deadlock, but I’d still enjoyed myself; having grabbed another beer at the interval to enjoy on the terraces. Just how have Germany got it right with regards to fans culture. Perhaps it’s because the fans demand it?

Within ten minutes I was back on one of the buses from the same place and deposited at Rathaus to take the UBahn back to Lorenzkirche in the heart of Nuremberg. It was around 11.30pm but still time for a couple of nightcaps.

The friendly waiter at Barfüßer Brewery sorted me with a large dunkel as I took in the old disused pub signs that had been brought over from the UK. It’s always sad when a pub closes, but its good when its heritage is remembered.

Finally I crossed the road to Finnegan's Harp Irish Pub for a pint of Warsteiner to round off a brilliant long day. The hotel décor meant very little to me as I was soon sound asleep.