Welcome to my blog covering clubs and stadiums in the English League System along with 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 here to see Volume Two of HAOTW, which covers everything non English.

Rob Bernard


May 2020

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Folkestone Invicta

Folkestone Invicta FC is a non-league football club from the Kent coastal town of Folkestone who were formed in 1936. However, to solely concentrate on Invicta would be doing football in the town a disservice.

A club called Folkestone FC was formed in 1894, becoming founder members of the original Kent League before departing ten years later. In 1923 the club entered the Southern League before it folded as war broke out in 1939.

A ‘new’ club, Folkestone Town FC was formed in 1945 carrying on playing at Cheriton Road in the Kent League where they were crowned champions in 1950-51 and 1952-53, before moving to the Southern League in 1959.

A promotion and relegation was followed by becoming Division One champions in 1963-64, where their spell in the Premier Division lasted three seasons. In 1968 ‘Town’ was dropped from the club name.

A further change came in 1974 when the club became Folkestone & Shepway FC, winning promotion in 1978-79. In 1980 they returned to their original name of Folkestone FC.

Another promotion to the Premier Division arrived in 1982-83, but they went down once more four years later. The club folded owing to financial troubles. Quickly a new club; Folkestone Town (1990) was formed but they didn’t even last a full season, with their record being expunged.

Meanwhile across town, Invicta had been playing in the East Kent Amateur League. Following the demise of the senior clubs they took their opportunity and moved into the Cheriton Road ground in 1991 while playing in Division Two of the Kent League.

Promotion was secured to Division One in 1992-93 under manager Gary Staniforth. Tim Hulme was appointed as player-manager for the 1994-95 campaign before being replaced in the summer of 1996 by Darren Hare. A club record crowd of 2,332 attended a friendly against a star studded West Ham United side in a benefit game to raise money after freak floods in the town.

Neil Cugley arrived from Ashford Town as the new team manager in 1997 to start a great period of progress for ‘The Seasiders’.

In his first season at the helm Invicta finished as Kent League runners-up and promotion to the Southern League Southern Division; which was renamed the Eastern Division a year later.

The turn of the millennium saw Folkestone reach the Premier Division as several crowds rose to four figures. However, this wasn’t enough to stop financial constraints kicking in. Players were released but the side went back down to the Eastern Division at the end of the 2002-03 season.

A decent following campaign saw a fifth place finish and promotion, thanks to the restructuring of non-league football. Invicta were placed in the Isthmian League Premier Division. The 2005-06 season saw Folkestone reach the first round of the FA Cup for the first time where they went out 2-1 away to Chester City.

Jimmy Dryden signed from neighbours Dover Athletic to bang in the goals but in 2008 the club struggled financially with monies being owed to HM Custom & Excise. The club became insolvent and reformed during the 2010-11 season and had ten points deducted. Despite this Invicta finished in second place in the league.

Leatherhead and then Godalming Town were defeated in the play-offs to secure Premier Division football for the 2010-11 season. Their spell in the top flight lasted just twelve months.

In 2011-12 Invicta ended again in the play-off places, but went out 2-1 in the semi-final to Dulwich Hamlet. They reached the same stage the following season. This time a 1-0 defeat to Maidstone United ended the promotion dream.

2012-13 saw Invicta end in second place. Hastings United were defeated but a penalty shoot out defeat to Leatherhead at Cheriton Road saw the team fall at the final hurdle. It was to be a fourth successive season of play-off agony for the men in stripes as Merstham won the final after Whyteleafe had been defeated.

Folkestone Invicta FC will play in the Isthmian League Division One South in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

Folkestone Invicta 1 Hastings United 0 (Tuesday 8th September 2015) Isthmian League Division One South (att: 343)

Following a week of night shifts I wanted some adventure and to catch what could have been the last of the later summer nights. I had a plethora of fixtures to choose from, but in the end it was a conversation many years earlier that had swung it.

Mum and Dad had visited Folkestone during a weeks holiday in Kent as they also enjoyed a ferry ride over to Boulogne for the day. Dad said that Folkestone had a nice old town around the harbour. I had to have a look and the chance to take in a derby game also added to the attraction.

My network railcard was renewed before I jumped on board the Javelin train from St Pancras. I listened to the England v Australia ODI as the fast service hurtled towards the Kent coast. In less than an hour I was getting out at Folkestone Central station.

It was just gone 5.30 so I had a bit of time to look around. The Samuel Peto Weatherspoons pub was an outstanding building inside and out, but the beer was uninspiring and it stank of food. Instead I followed my research and had a fine refreshing pint of Brighton Ale in Kipps Alehouse on The Old High Street.

Continuing down the hill I arrived by the harbour. It turned out to be a bit of a disappointment if truth be told.

The Folkestone Harbour station was closed a few years earlier and was in a terrible state. A few nice yachts and boats sat in the water, but there wasn’t a lot else. The large Grand Burstin Hotel had seen better days. A coach party from Scotland were alighting. From posters it appeared the area was looking towards attracting a niche Ska music market.

The areas I guess that were once packed with visitors parking and waiting to catch the passenger ferry looked old and unloved. A fairground was beginning to arrive and set up. The sky threatened a drop or two of rain so I headed up the extremely steep steps built into the cliffs back into town.

I was finding my bearings pretty well and was soon in the Firkin real ale establishment in Cheriton Place. It was small and homely and most importantly, the beers were good. A couple of blokes were sat in the corner; one in an Invicta top. They confirmed that I was in the best boozer in town.

We went together round the corner to the main bus station and jumped on the service to Cheritan. It dropped us at the stop for Morrisons which was bang opposite the Stripes club. I was introduced to more fans and enjoyed a beer from a box before paying my £8 admission along with £1.50 for a programme and a £1 go on the golden gamble and golden goal time.

The Fullicks Stadium, to give Cheriton Road its sponsor’s title of the time really was a gem. It was everything I was hoping for from a venue I hadn’t previously visited.

As I walked in an open grassed area in front of the Stripes Club greeted me, along with refreshment hatch. Further along was the covered seated Brian Merryman Stand. This was formerly for standing spectators and was known by everyone as The Grandads Stand. Its conversion to seats was required when the roof was damaged on the former seated facility opposite in the summer of 2004. This was now an open terracing with the changing rooms, club offices and Wilf Armory (Invicta Club) Bar & Suite further along. To my left was the Cheriton End Stand, which was a long low terraced cover along the full length behind the goal. The Cricket Ground End was an open terrace.

As usual at a new ground I watched proceedings from several various vantage points. Invicta started the game as unbeaten league leaders, with Hastings just outside the play-off zone. The sides had already fulfilled their league fixture at Pilot Field with Folkestone coming away as 4-1 victors.

United should have taken a very early lead, but they fluffed their lines before their keeper Josh Pelling came out to clear a through ball. It fell to Ronnie Dolan who smashed home against his former club from outside the area on just three minutes.

Ashley Miller came close to doubling the lead when his shot hit the post with Pelling stranded. He was then denied by the linesman’s flag; which was not exactly a popular call.

Hunger got to me so I perambulated to purchase a pretty good cheeseburger. I headed back to the cricket field end. The ground behind, which formerly hosted Kent CCC games, was now missing it’s roof over the terrace and had a new pavilion and leisure centre.
My friends caught up with me and we headed upstairs to the bar, which had a view of the pitch. The England v Switzerland game was on the TV. It probably accounted for a few not attending the match?

Just before the break Hastings were correctly awarded a penalty by referee Philip Rowley after Sam Adams had been upended by Nat Blanks. A diving Tim Roberts pulled off a fine save from Adams spot kick to preserve the slender lead.

After the interval, the game went from end to end. It was a decent affair, with no lack of passion. In the sixty fourth minute the referee made what was said to be a controversial decision.

I don’t wish to sound like Arsene Wenger, but I genuinely didn’t see the incident. I was in the loo with a couple of old regulars. We heard shouts of “Off, off, off”. I remarked jokingly that they’d probably tasted the pies. They laughed until one said “Hang on, we don’t sell pies!”

A fan told me that Hastings skipper Jack Walder had put in a terrible challenge worthy of a straight red card. Invicta’s Liam Friend took exception and brushed his head against Walder’s. The livid home fans were taken aback when Walder received a caution, while Friend was sent off.

The decision fired up all the players as well as the crowd who were most unimpressed. Wave after wave of United attacks were thwarted as Frankie Chappell and young substitute Callum Wraight put in outstanding displays, while Invicta’s front two worked tirelessly on the break.

Hastings carved out a chance for Jack Harris, but his shot in the final minute was deflected over the bar for a corner. The final whistle blew to joyous scenes from the vast majority of the crowd.

I wandered back the five or ten minutes to Folkestone West station with one of my new pals. It had been an excellent choice of games. To round off a good night England had won at football and cricket, and I was back in my local in Kingsbury in time for a couple of nightcaps.

Even better, my pals started arriving the next morning as Yorkshire retained their County Championship title at Lord’s against Middlesex. Life was good!

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