Welcome to volume one of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume two of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Heybridge Swifts

 Heybridge Swifts FC is a non-league football club from the small town of Heybridge, near Maldon in Essex. The club was founded in 1880 as Heybridge FC and initially competed in the Mid-Essex League before progressing to the Essex & Suffolk Border League.

In 1890 the club moved to their new home of Bentall's Sports Ground. After success, including a league title win of Division Two (West) in 1929-30 the team moved up to Division One, being crowned champions in 1930-31 and winning promotion to the Senior Division.

A return to the Mid-Essex League followed World War II, before Heybridge joined the Premier Division of the South Essex League for a solitary season in 1949-50, before heading back to the Mid-Essex League; winning the Division One title in 1955-56.

The Essex & Suffolk Border League was the clubs next destination, as the club were evicted from their home in 1964 as it was designated to become a shopping centre. Heybridge shared with Sadds Athletic for a couple of seasons, where they ended as runners-up of the Premier Division in 1965-66.

A move to a new ground on Scraley Road followed, on what was previously a carrot field and 1969-70. Swifts became founder members of the Essex Senior League for the 1971-72 campaign.

After an early struggle Swifts found their feet at senior level and went on to be crowned as Essex Senior League champions for three consecutive seasons; 1981-82, 1982-83 and 1983-84. The final title led to promotion to Division Two North of the Isthmian League.

The Division Two North title was won in 1989-90 as Swifts won promotion to Division One. Garry Hill arrived at Scraley Road as manager taking the team to the FA Cup first round; where they went down 1-0 to Gillingham in a home fixture that was switched to Layer Road in Colchester in front of 4,614 spectators.

Hill led the side to promotion to the Premier Division after finishing as runners-up in 1995-96, with Swifts reaching the first round of the Cup once again the following season. On that occasion the side were defeated 3-0 away to AFC Bournemouth.

Roy McDonagh took over from Hill who departed for St Albans City, but he struggled to secure Swifts Premier Division status and was replaced by local lad Robbie Nihill, who managed to turn fortunes around.

Former player Liam Cutbush was the next manager at the club before he was replaced for a short spell by Steve Dowman, who was quickly succeeded by another former Swifts player, Dave Greene.

The team once again reached the first round of the FA Cup in 2002-03. The game was covered for highlights by Match of the Day and ended in a 7-0 home defeat to Bristol City. The end of the 2003-04 season saw Heybridge lose 4-3 to St Albans City in a match to reach the newly formed Conference South.

Brian Statham was at the helm for the 2005-06 season, as Swifts finished as Premier Division runners-up. Their hopes of promotion was extinguished in the semi-final of the play offs by way of defeat on penalties to Hampton & Richmond Borough.

Swifts remained in the Premier Division until the completion of the 2008-09 campaign when they were demoted down to Division One North of the Isthmian League. Statham departed and was replaced by reserve manager Wayne Bond.

Bond remained in place until January 2011 when he was succeeded by Mark Hawkes. Hawkes departed to take the Chelmsford City managers job in December 2013, with Jody Brown replacing him.

Brown took Swifts to the play-offs in 2013-14, where they were defeated at home to Harlow Town in the semi-finals. Cliff Akurang took over from Brown who headed off to Grays Athletic, before returning to the job in September 2015.

The 2017-18 campaign saw Swifts’ fourth appearance at the first round stage of the FA Cup, where they were defeated 3-1 away to Exeter City. Sam Bantick scored the clubs first ever goal at that level of the competition. The team ended the season in the play-off places.

Heybridge Swifts will play in the Isthmian League Division One North in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Heybridge Swifts 0 Potters Bar Town 0 (Thursday 12th April 2018) Isthmian League Division One North (att: 271)

It was my first day back after my annual cricketing holiday to Thailand and I wanted some football action. The awful winter weather had led to a fixture backlog, so there was plenty for me to choose from.

A train ride to matches at either Kings Lynn or Banbury looked tempting, before my regular travelling pal Tony Foster gave me a shout. After having a think about it he decided to drive to Heybridge. I wasn’t going to turn down such an opportunity.

Getting to Swifts looked an awkward journey at the best of times by public transport, so a lift in a car was too good to refuse. We met at 5.15 at Stanmore station to embark on the long trip east.

It was good to catch up with my old pal for a chat. It was a special day in my calendar as it marked the third anniversary of the passing of my much missed Dad. He would have been delighted to see me continuing a hobby he started for me.

We made decent time and arrived at around 7.15. Heybridge certainly wasn’t a very big place. It was nice to be somewhere that looked pleasant enough and felt like been in England rather than a big cosmopolitan city.

Admission cost £8, with a decent match programme a further couple of quid. Entry to the ground was from behind a goal, with the initial impressions of the venue being very favorable. We grabbed a warm drink for £1 and had a walk around.

The grandly named Aspen Waite Arena, as Scraley Road had been branded in a sponsorship deal, boasted a very decent covered seated stand, with an original cover opposite with deep bench seating. The far end was covered standing, with plenty of open flat areas offering alternative views around the ground.

Potters Bar arrived in second place in the league, but having played more games than some rivals. Swifts were virtually confirmed for a play-off place, but no doubt eager to make their mark on a potential rival a few weeks later.

Manager Brown opted to rest some players as they were in the middle of a gruelling schedule looking to catch up on their games. The Scolars looked a big strong unit. They were very well organised and fielded former Hendon keeper Berkley Laurencin between the posts.

The match was an increasingly bruising encounter. Potters Bar looked decent on the break, while Swifts looked to fashion chances by playing clever balls into the channels. The visiting defence stood firm throughout.

The referee certainly took no nonsense. He was a giant of a man who ended up showing eight yellow card throughout the match. Lewis Godbold saw an effort blocked by Laurencin as the match ended blank in the first half.

The weather was getting cold as the night continued. It was remarkable to think that the following morning would see the start of the County Cricket Championship. We were praying for warmer weather as we were both going to head to Lord’s.

The talk and general feeling at half time was that the game would be lucky to end eleven a side. Fortunately the break seemed to calm a few fraught tempers as the teams decided to play football on the restart.

Swifts substitute Juan Luque had a long range shot saved by Laurencin, while Bar’s Ben Ward-Cochrane and George Nicholas kept the home side’s defence on alert. Portuguese wide man Sandro Costa Dias Fernandes also looked dangerous, if a little lightweight.

Both defences had good games, with the midfielders closing each other down and making the creation of chances difficult. It was a high tempo encounter and we’d certainly seen far worse games ending 0-0.

Tony had parked slightly up the road for a quick getaway and this proved prudent at full time. However, he hadn’t envisaged what was in store.

The A12 was closed in the direction of London for roadworks. This caused untold confusion with the diversion signs not being very clear. We went to the edge of Chelmsford twice, such was the poor signage.

Eventually my pilot found the intended route, but it took us miles out of our way. My jetlag was still playing havoc and I ended up nodding off. Tony did the business and I awoke as we were heading back down the A1 towards Edgware.

It had been a decent night out. I couldn’t have thanked my mate enough. I was home and in bed for midnight in readiness for the following day’ adventures.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Aberdeen FC is a football club from the Scottish city of the same name that was officially formed on April 14th 1903 following a merger of three local clubs.

Aberdeen had started out life in 1881 playing at Pittodrie Park, with Victoria United playing out of Central Park being founded in 1889. Orion FC were based at Cattofield from their formation in 1885. The new club moved in to Pittodrie.

After a season in Scotland’s Northern League, Aberdeen were elected into the Second Division of the Scottish League for the 1904-05 campaign; playing in gold and back and being nicknamed The Wasps under manager Jimmy Phillip.

Aberdeen were promoted to the First Division, despite only finishing seventh in their inaugural League season. The club would remain in the top tier of Scottish football throughout their history.

The team progressed to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup in 1907-08 and 1910-11 but progress was steady. From 1917 the club dropped out of competitive football for a couple of years as finances were desperately tight owing to the ravages of war.

The retiring Phillip was replaced by Paddy Travers in 1924 who led the team to the Cup final of 1936-37 following three more semi-final appearances. The match attracted a European record attendance of 147,365 to Hampden Park as Celtic won 2-1. Travers departed to Clyde, with Dave Halliday his successor.

Donald Colman had been coach under Travers reign. He was a deep thinker about the game who believed in studying players feet while they played. It was because of this that the club introduced dug outs, with Everton following suit after a visit north.

George Hamilton was one of Halliday’s early signings, with the forward becoming highly successful while with ‘The Dons’. The club were playing in red after World War Two, as they won the Scottish Cup in 1946-47 with a 2-1 win against Hibernian.

Further Cup finals were reached in 1952-53 and 1953-54, which ended in defeat to Rangers after a replay and then Celtic. However, the side were not to be denied honours as they were crowned as champions of Scotland for the first time in 1954-55.

Davie Shaw came in as the new manager following the title winning campaign, leading the team to a League Cup triumph over St Mirren in 1955-56. Shaw’s side also reached the Cup final of 1958-59, where St Mirren exacted revenge, before the manager departed with Tommy Pearson coming in.

Eddie Turnbull took over from Pearson in 1965; leading Aberdeen to the Scottish Cup final of 1966-67 where the team lost to Celtic, before defeating the same opponents 3-1 in 1969-70 with a brace from Derek McKay and a Joe Harper penalty.

The final appearances led to Aberdeen to appear in the European Cup Winners Cup, while decent league finishes also qualified for the UEFA Cup. The team didn’t progress beyond the second round in either competition.

Jimmy Bonthrone became team manager from 1971 to 1975, when he was replaced by Ally MacLeod who departed two years later to become the Scotland manager after leading the Dons to the League Cup in 1976-77 after defeating Celtic 2-1.

Billy McNeill arrived at Pittodrie and took the team to 1977-78 Cup final; going down 2-1 to Rangers. Alex Ferguson was McNeill’s replacement as he became Aberdeen manager in June 1978 as the club were to begin a golden period under the new man.

Veterans Joe Harper, Drew Jarvie and keeper Bobby Clark were coming to end of their careers. Ferguson set about building a new side. Players such as Jim Leighton, Willie Miller, Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan quickly began to develop at Pittodrie.

The Dons were beaten League Cup finalists against Dundee United in 1979-80 after a replay, as the Glasgow dominance of Scottish football was transferred to the north east for a few precious years.

Aberdeen claimed their second Scottish title in that same season to compensate for the League Cup defeat. In 1981-82 the team hammered Rangers 4-1 after extra time to lift the Scottish Cup with goals from McLeish, Mark McGhee, Strachan and Neale Cooper.

This led to the club playing in the 1982-83 European Cup Winners Cup. Wins against FC Sion, Dinamo Tirana, Lech Poznań, FC Bayern München and Waterschei Thor took the team to the final.

The showpiece against Real Madrid was held at Nya Ullevi in Gothenburg, with Aberdeen winning the match 2-1 after extra time thanks to goals from Eric Black and John Hewitt. The action can be seen here.

To round off a fine season the team retained the Scottish Cup as an extra time Black goal defeated Rangers once again the form continued the following 1983-84 season as the Dons reached the semi-final stage of the Cup Winners Cup; going out to FC Porto.

Despite that disappointment, Aberdeen were crowned as Scottish League champions, with the double being completed with a Scottish Cup win in extra time over Celtic, with Black and McGhee scoring.

In 1984-85 Ferguson’s majestic team retained the Scottish Premier League title; going on to reach the quarter final of the European Cup in 1985-86; going out on away goals to IFK Göteborg but defeating Hibernian 3-0 to lift the League Cup for a third time.

Ferguson was lured away to Manchester United in November 1986. His assistant Archie Knox had a spell in charge before Ian Porterfield arrived at the club. He lasted until May 1988, when he was replaced by the partnership of Alex Smith and Jocky Scott.

In 1989-90 the Dons lifted the League Cup with a 2-1 extra time win against Rangers, before lifting the Scottish Cup as Celtic were defeated 9-8 after penalties with the likes of Stewart McKimmie, Jim Bett, Brian Irvine and keeper Theo Snelders enhancing their legendary status.

The 1990-91 season saw Aberdeen ahead of Rangers on goal difference going into the final game of the season at Ibrox. A double from Mark Hateley ended dreams of another Scottish title. Former playing hero Willie Miller took over as manager in 1992.

Unfortunately, Miller’s spell ended in disappointment as the team only preserved their top flight status with a play-off victory over Dunfermline Athletic after Roy Aitkin had taken over as team boss.

In 1995-96 Aberdeen defeated Dundee to win the League Cup before Alex Miller had a spell as manager. The club was struggling financially following the construction of the new Beach End Stand as Ebbe Skovdahl, became the clubs first overseas manager in 1999.

The Dane took the team to the League Cup and Cup finals in 1999-00; which ended in defeat to Celtic and then Rangers. Skovdahl lasted until December 2002 when he was replaced by Steve Paterson who lasted eighteen months before Jimmy Calderwood became the new manager.

Some decent league finishes saw Aberdeen compete in and reach the Round of 32 in the 2007-08 UEFA Cup; where they were defeated by FC Bayern München. Calderwood departed in May 2009 after leading the team to a fourth place finish.

At the same time the club announced plans to move to a new stadium to replace the ageing Pittodrie. It was initially suggested that it could be built at Nigg, although supporters were not in favour.

Former striking legend McGhee had a spell in charge of the team before Craig Brown was the next in the Pittodrie hot seat. Scott Vernon and then Niall McGinn scored the goals to keep the locals happy.

In 2013 the club put forward proposals for a new stadium development at nearby Calder Park that would benefit the community and also house neighbours Cove Rangers, but the plans were rejected the following year.

Derek McInnes was appointed as manager as he arrived from Bristol City in March 2013. The goals of Adam Rooney helped the team finish in third place in 2013-14 before ending as Premiership runners-up in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The 2016-17 campaign also saw Aberdeen fall in the final hurdle of the League Cup and Scottish Cup, with Celtic being the victors on both occasions. The club put in an application to build a new stadium at Kingsford to the west of the city in 2017. The project was approved by Aberdeen City Council in January 2018.

Aberdeen FC will play in the Scottish Premiership in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Aberdeen 0 Celtic 2 (Sunday 25th February 2018) Scottish Premiership (att: 17,602)

My planning for the visit to Aberdeen had begun several weeks in advance; like many of my adventures. Obtaining a ticket was not going to be straight forward because of crowd issues at previous encounters.

Police Scotland insisted that the club only sold tickets for matches against Celtic and Rangers to supporters who’d previously bought tickets through the club for other fixtures. However, I was to receive first class customer service from Aberdeen FC.

My email request was answered and told to resend my previous details. A note was added to my account to allow me to purchase my required match ticket over the phone. Having an updated seating plan enabled me to choose an ideal spot for £28.

It was a bit of a relief to be assisted as I’d already booked a flight for after the match back down to London. I’d arrived in the northern city after a wonderful two night stay in the company of pals Karl and Guy who’d travelled up from Yorkshire.

Amazingly I’d woken on Sunday morning in pristine condition, despite having a very good drink the day before. A walk from the Easy Hotel and a brekkie in McDonalds got my motor running once again before boarding the train at Queen Street.

I’d wondered if the service would be packed with Celtic fans? As it turned out it was a comfortable journey with plenty of space on board. The first part was through stunning countryside as The Jesus and Mary Chain provided my musical company.

From Dundee north there was spectacular views of the silvery ice cold North Sea and the coastline. Jean Michel Jarre was ideal music in the background. I arrived in the Granite City fifty minutes before kick off.

Google Maps on my IPhone has been a superb tool on my travels, but it doesn’t account for football matchdays, the traffic flow or special local deviations. I stood in the bus station for ten minutes before being told my required service wouldn’t stop at Pittodrie.

I headed back to the railway station and jumped into a cab for the slow ride along Union and then King Street. My friendly driver apologised as he hit heavy traffic and charged me £8, even though the metre said it was more.

The walk down Pittodrie Street became colder as I neared the stadium. I took a look behind the old Main Stand where I bought a programme for £3 and then took in the iconic turnstile block on Merkland Lane before entering the ground.

I probably upset several locals without realising as I headed straight to the counter of the tea bar to buy a Pittodrie Pie and a Bovril for £5.10. I didn’t notice the queue snaking up the steps behind me!

Pittodrie Stadium was showing its age, with the signs of its conversion to the second all seater football stadium in the UK after Clydebank back in 1978 very much evident, with plenty of terracing remaining in the corner by my entrance.

I was in the South Stand, which was bench seating for a while, before individual seats and a roof was erected. Several seats in the corner were in the open but offered a cheaper option and attracted the hard core support.

The Richard Donald Stand, named after a former chairman, was a two tiered modern cantilever stand at the Beach End. The Merkland Stand was behind the near goal with its cavernous low roof.

The final side was taken up by the Main Stand; which had a newer section of roof joining up with the old and a seated paddock in front of the main tier. Most pleasing was the sight of the remaining two floodlight pylons at the Merkland End.

My seat was about eight rows from the front and level with the edge of the penalty area. The DJ played some quality tracks and then ramped up the noise to encourage the home fans to get behind The Reds, without overdoing things.

Celtic came into the game six points clear of second placed Rangers, with Aberdeen nine points adrift. They really needed a win to put pressure on the reigning champions. The visitors had been dumped out of the Europa League by Zenit St Petersburg a few days earlier.

The Celts controlled the opening stages, playing the ball at ease between themselves. I was waiting for the Dons to try and take the game to them. Apart from a couple of sporadic attacks with Stevie May leading the front line, which looked threatening. Gary Mackay-Steven was a decent outlet on the left wing.

Scott Sinclair then saw a corner bounce off the top of the Dons bar before Olivier Ntcham beat Freddie Woodman in the Aberdeen goal, but saw his shot come back off the woodwork. However, the Celts weren’t to be denied nine minutes before the interval.

James Forrest crossed for Moussa Dembele to nod home at the back post. The goal brought about some real antagonism among the already very feisty atmosphere as four away fans were a little too vocal in celebrating the goal while in the home section.

They were sat next to the open corner, where several fans didn’t need a second invitation to show their anger. The visitors were taken to the front before the stewards and police tried to remove them from the ground back through the home fans.

This led to even more scuffles and missiles being thrown. Eventually the four were taken away along the front, but the incident fired up the Reds support who raised the decibels with referee Bobby Madden and Celtic skipper Scott Brown receiving plenty of feedback.

I remained in my position at the break and enjoyed some more quality tunes including Billy Ocean and The Killers. It was a bit of a shame that the players reappeared to kick off for the second half.

Aberdeen tried to make inroads and were having most of the possession, when with twenty minutes remaining Kenny McLean, Niall McGinn and Anthony O’Connor all had attempts blocked in front of goal in a prolonged attack.

Mikael Lustig received a second yellow card with fifteen minutes left on the clock as Celtic were reduced to ten men. Manager McInnes immediately introduced forward Sam Cosgrove to try and boost the hosts attacking force.

Celtic increased their lead when a fast counter attacking move saw the Aberdeen defenders, including the otherwise impressive and reliable Shay Logan backtrack too far to allow the move to flourish. The ball eventually found full back Kieran Tierney who smashed home at the near post.

Cosgrove was shown a straight red car from Madden for scything down Brown just eight minutes after his introduction, as Aberdeen’s frustrations grew. Shortly after I decided to make my way to watch the closing stages on the open section.

It was absolutely freezing. It hit home just how tough the folk must be living by the coast so far north as many didn’t even bother wearing hats. At full time I headed off at a bit of a pace to try and warm up and to find a pub to have a quick drink.

I’d sussed out the Blue Lamp on Gallowgate as somewhere worth visiting with its interesting range of ale. However, it was shut. The Brew Dog establishment nearby was full of hipsters stroking their beards, so I passed by. I wasn’t much of a fan of their beers anyway.

My App suggested The Triplekirks on Schoolhill, but there was no cask ale to be seen, before I eventually ended up in Ma Cameron’s; an old coaching inn with multiple rooms. A pint of Ossian from the Inveralmond Brewery and a Laphroaig whisky hit the spot.

Time caught up with me all too quickly. No doubt I’ll visit Aberdeen once again in the future. In the meantime, I caught the number 16 bus on Union Street to the airport to catch my flight at 5.40pm back to Heathrow. I took the bus option home where I warmed up before an early night.

My visit was well timed as in the following few days the whole of Scotland was hit badly as the UK encountered some very cold weather and heavy snow.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

CE Europa (Spain)

Club Esportiu Europa is a football club from the district of  Gràcia in the Spanish city of Barcelona that was formed on June 5th 1907 as Club Deportivo Europa following a merger between Madrid de Barcelona and Provençal.

Europa’s first proper ground was on Carrer de la Indústria; where the team played until 1909. For the following three years home games were played on fields in front of Sagrada Família before moving a few hundred metres south to a ground on Carrer de la Marina in 1912.

The first honours arrived at the club arrived in the 1918-19 season as Europa won the Division B title of Campionat de Catalunya, and then promotion following a play-off against Athletic Sabadell.

In 1920 Europa were on the move again; this time to a ground on the corner of Carrer de Sardenya and Carrer de la Indústria. The early part of the decade saw Europa become the second biggest club in Catalonia.

The club finished as Campionat de Catalunya runners-up in 1920-21 and 1921-22 before winning the title in 1922-23 under English coach Ralph Kirby after defeating FC Barcelona 1-0 in the play-off.

The club moved home ground once again following this success as Europa found themselves at a new venue on the corner of Carrer de Sardenya and Carrer de Taxdirt; a few hundred metres north.

Europa moved on to represent Catalonia in the Copa Del Rey the following season, where they beat Sevilla FC and Sporting Gijón on their way to the final; where they were defeated 1-0 by Athletic Club at Les Corts, before Kirby headed across the city to manage Barca.

Further second place finishes followed in the Campionat de Catalunya in 1923-24, 1926-27, 1927-28 and 1928-29. Europa’s impressive record saw them become founder members of the national Primera División, as La Liga was formerly known.

The 1930-31 season ended in relegation to Segunda División, at which time the club merged with Gràcia FC to become Catalunya FC. The merger was not a success, with the club failing to fulfill their fixtures and being relegated to the Tercera División.

1931 saw yet another change of home ground, moving to Paseo Mariscal Jofre and then another venue in Providència before the Spanish Civil War disrupted all football. A new ground; Sardenya on Carrer de les Camèlies was created.

The club reverted to being called CD Europa where they continued in the third tier, before dropping down to the Primera Catalana at the end of the 1940-41 season, before being relegated again twelve months later to the Segunda Catalana.

In 1942-43 ‘Escapulados’ progressed back to the Primera by way of a title win; where the team would remain until 1950-51 when they were crowned as Catalan champions and won promotion to the Tercera División.

Europa enjoyed several top five finishes before winning the Grupo VII title in 1961-62 before losing in the play-off to UP Langreo. The team retained their title the following season. This time they made no mistake by defeating Maó and then Caudal Deportivo to win promotion to Segunda División.

The Copa del Generalísimo; later the Copa Del Rey, of 1965-66 saw Europa defeat CD Badajoz before going out in the Round of 32. Wins against Club Ferrol and Real Zaragoza CD saw the team go a round further before bowing out to Córdoba CF.

Europa were relegated back to the Tercera in 1967-68; where they remained until the end of the 1973-74 season, as the club returned to the Catalan top flight Regional Preferente. A title win in 1976-77 saw a return to the Tercera División; which had now become the fourth tier of the national game.

In the summer of 1985 the club changed their title to Club Esportiu Europa. The team were relegated a year later, to the top level of regional football, after several lower third finishes. A place in the Tercera was regained with promotion in 1988-89.

Five seasons were spent at that level, before Europa were promoted via the play-offs in 1993-94 to Segunda División B. The club was relegated from Grupo III after just one season at the higher level. A new remodelled Nou Sardenya was opened in 1995.

Europa returned to the Tercera División, from where they lifted the Copa Catalunya in 1996-97 before retaining the trophy. Both victories came against FC Barcelona. On the first occasion their opponent’s side included Hristo Stoichkov and was coached by Bobby Robson.

In the 1997-98 final, Barca fielded Sergi, Iván de la Peña and Michael Reiziger in their side. The teams drew 1-1 at Mini Estadi before Europa won the penalty shoot out 4-3.

Europa qualified for the Tercera División play-offs in 1998-99 and 2000-01 without being promoted. The team was relegated to Primera Catalana in 2003-04 before returning to the fourth tier at the first time of asking.

The team continued competing in the Tercera, with goalkeeper Rafael Leva picking up the plaudits as the star custodian in Grupo V in the 2012-13 season as the team finished third before going out to Arandina CF in the play-offs.

2013-14 saw another third place finish before defeat in the play-offs to UD Socuéllamos, after a victory over UD Mutilvera; as Javi Sánchez banged in the goals. Europa completed their third Copa Catalunya triumph in 2014-15 as they defeated Girona FC 2-1 in the final.

In the league a third consecutive third place was achieved. On this occasion Europa would be defeated by Jerez CF in the play-offs. The team finished in the same position in 2015-16 before bowing out in the play-offs to San Fernando CD.

Joan Esteva’s side came up with a twelfth place finish in 2016-17, with the coach being replaced by Pedro Dólera for the 2017-18 campaign.

My visit

CE Europa 2 CF Gavà 2 (Sunday 21st January 2018) Tercera División Grupo V (att: 500)

When I booked my long weekend to Barcelona, I was really hoping for a Europa home game. I’d been close to Nou Sardenya several years earlier without realising, when visiting Parc Guell. It looked my type of small stadium, so I was delighted when my wishes were granted.

It was a lovely Sunday lunchtime when I alighted on the Metro at Alfons X. I’d already visited the ground of UA Horta and then the first fifty five minutes of the Segunda Catalana clash between CF Besos Baron de Viver and CD Masnou in Trinitat.

It took just a couple of minutes along the busy Ronda del Guinardó before I came to the ticket office outside the top corner of the ground. I paid €10 and wandered behind the stand; where I gained admission, walking through to the large aisle in the stand; picking up a free club newspaper as I went.

The teams came out as I headed to the bar and café, from where I purchased a bacon and cheese bocadillo and a beer. I decided to sit on the deep steps behind the goal as I enjoyed my feast to take in the superb venue, which was built in to the side of a hill.

The Main Stand was the stand out feature, with its raised covered deck. The rest of the ground had a few deep steps of open terrace; with seating down the far side. A wide path went round behind so you could perambulate while seeing the action on the artificial pitch. Each corner had a raised standing area. The stands were high above the surrounding streets.

Europa was quite evidently a proud historic club; being founder members of what has become La Liga. There was a decent mix of spectators, with an atmosphere being created behind the goal by vocal thirty somethings.

The visitors from up the coast were towards the wrong end of the fourth tier table for Catalan clubs, and lost two or three players during the winter break, before recruiting a couple from the youth system of UE Sant Andreu; while the hosts were pushing for a play off place.

Europa came close to opening the scoring in the first minute, when Gavà keeper Pol Busquets kept out a shot by David Jiménez, with Javi Navarro spurning the rebound. The visitors defended well and with a bit of luck, but also looked dangerous on the break.

They took the lead on twenty six minutes. Arnau saved a header from Sani, but Ao followed up to cross for Alk to volley home at the back post. The hosts fought straight back and came close to equalising, as Javi Navarro received a David Jiménez cross, but fired his effort against the body of Pol Busquets.

Five minutes before the break Alberto somehow managed to miss an easy chance, which had the Nou Sardenya regulars holding their heads in disbelief. At the interval I swapped ends with the other Europa fans.

The mood of the home fans darkened further just a couple of minutes after the restart as Ao slotted past Arnau, making the score 0-2. The Gavà players and bench celebrated wildly. Europa huffed and puffed, while Gavà made sure they consumed time in many inventive ways.

The home team was offered a lifeline with fourteen minutes remaining, when referee Juan Garcia pointed to the spot, having decided harshly in my opinion, that a Gavà defender handled the ball. Raillo saw his penalty easily saved; which can be seen here from my own video.

Europa carried on pouring forward and grabbed a goal on eighty three minutes, when substitute Prat set up Javi Navarro who fired the ball home via the crossbar. I decided to take an elevated view up in the stand for the final few minutes.

Prat was really making a difference. Just two minutes later he played a fine pass to skipper Cano, who fired into the corner, when my initial reaction was that Pol Busquets could have done a lot better. The pressure continued until full time but there was to be no further goals.

At the end I filed out before going across the road to the Sardenya – Camèlies bus stop on Carrer de Sardenya, to catch the first of two buses towards UE Sant Andreu to take a look at their fine stadium. I’d loved the Nou Sardenya experience. Europa would have a good chance of been my team if I lived in Barcelona.