Welcome to volume two 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 one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Friday, February 2, 2018

Stirling Albion

Stirling Albion FC is a football club from the historic city of Stirling, in Central Scotland, that was formed in 1945 to replace King’s Park who formerly represented the city in the Scottish Leagues.

King’s Park had been formed in 1875, playing at Forthbank Park, after moving from the King’s Park area of Stirling. In 1881 the club became founder members of the Scottish Alliance before leaving after just one season.

King’s Park would go on to play in some lower level league’s before joining the Central Football League in 1909; remaining there until 1921, when they joined the newly formed Division Two of the Scottish Football League.

The team just missed out on promotion in 1927-28, before debutant Jim Dyet netted eight times in one game against Forfar Athletic in January 1930. Alex Haddow became another fans favourite with his scoring feats.

King’s Park played a few friendlies during World War Two until the club went into hibernation. They were dealt a blow when Forthbank Park was bombed by the Luftwaffe. The club folded in 1945 and were replaced by Stirling Albion FC.

Thomas Fergusson, a local coal magnate, had been in charge at King’s Park before becoming the driving force behind Albion. He purchased the Annfield estate, a quarter of a mile from the city centre, where Annfield Stadium was constructed.

Stirling had several promotions and relegations over their first twenty years. In 1948-49 Albion were promoted to the top flight from Scottish League Division B, but went back down just twelve months later.

The team went back up at the first attempt in 1950-51 but finished bottom in Scottish League Division A and returned to the second tier. The Scottish League Division B title was secured in 1952-53. This time ‘The Binos’ lasted three seasons in the top division.

Albion won the retitled Scottish League Division Two championship in 1957-58, before the side was relegated again in 1959-60. Another second tier title arrived at Annfield in 1960-61, but yet again Stirling lasted just one season in the top flight; as the club earned the nickname of ‘The Yo-Yo’s’.

Albion finished bottom of Division Two before winning the title twelve months later in 1964-65. The team lasted until the culmination of the 1967-68 campaign before dropping back down. The Binos remained there until league restructuring in 1975; when they were placed in the third level Scottish League Division Two.

Stirling won that league in 1976-77, and moved up to Division One; where they remained until being relegated in 1980-81. Alex Smith took charge of the team as they finished regularly in mid table.

Smith was replaced by George Peebles in 1986 as the council bought Annfield to save the club from financial strife, before installing an Astroturf pitch to maximise profits. The Main Stand was demolished owing to safety concerns.

Peebles, then Jim Fleeting and then star striker John Brogan took turns as manager; with Brogan leading Albion to the Division Two title in 1990-91. The new Forthbank Stadium, a mile from the city centre, was opened in 1993 to replace Annfield Stadium.

Albion went up in 1995-96 under Kevin Drinkell, before going down to the third tier in 1997-98, a year after the league’s were restructured once again to include four divisions; despite the goals of Alex Bone. John Philliben took over in charge of the team, before former international Ray Stewart arrived as the new team manager in 2000.

The team was relegated from the Second Division in 2000-01 with Stewart being replaced by Allan Moore in the summer of 2002. Promotion back to the Second Division followed a few months later, as fortunes continued to improve.

Albion won a place in the First Division after clinching promotion via the play-offs in 2006-07 as a Stewart Devine goal along with a brace from Robert Snodgrass defeated Airdrie at the Excelsior Stadium. However, the part-timers were relegated after just twelve months.

Moore took the club back to the second tier after the team lifted the Second Division title in 2009-10 before Moore departed to Greenock Morton, while Chairman Peter McKenzie agreed to sell the club to the Stirling Albion Supporters Trust.

John O’Neill took over as manager before he was replaced by Jocky Scott in January 2011. However, the change couldn’t save The Binos from relegation back to the Second Division a few months later. Defender Greig McDonald was appointed as manager in December 2011.

Stirling were relegated to the Third Division at the end of the 2011-12 campaign. Jordan White lifted the gloom at the Forthbank Stadium with his goals. Promotion arrived with a play-off final win against East Fife in 2013-14.

Stuart McLaren arrived as manager in the summer of 2014 but he couldn’t prevent Albion from finishing bottom of the table and being relegated to Scottish League Two for the 2015-16 season. Dave Mackay replaced McLaren in November 2016, as Ross McMillan captained the team.

Stirling Albion will play in Scottish League Two in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Stirling Albion 1 Cowdenbeath 0 (Wednesday 31st January 2018) Scottish League Two (att: 395)

My trains and hotel in Glasgow had been booked for a few weeks, with my intention being the Premiership match between St Johnstone and Hamilton Academical. However, the game was postponed owing to the Saints involvement in a rearranged Scottish Cup tie.

Other matches had also been deferred owing to bad weather when the Cup ties were originally scheduled. Fortunately Albion’s match with Cowdenbeath was rescheduled so I could tick off another new ground.

After a smooth journey, the beauty of social media came to the fore as it transpired that Patrick Waterhouse and I would be in Glasgow at the same time. We enjoyed a couple of convivial beers in The Horse Shoe.

There was time for me to jump in a cab and enjoy a couple more in the fabulous Bon Accord; where the Partick supporting barman Craig was on hand for a natter. I took the train around the corner at Charing Cross, before changing at Queen Street onto a fast service north east.

Fortunately, I woke from a brief slumber to alight and then walk the twenty minutes to Forthbank Stadium. Admission was £13, with a basic programme another quid. Teamsheets were handed out free of charge.

The unmistakable aroma of the catering drifted through a door and I was soon enjoying a steak pie and Bovril for £4 up in the seats as I took in the stadium. Two seated stands faced each other across the pitch, while both ends had sections of open terracing.

It was neat and had a bit more character than several modern builds. Only the one stand was open for the match; with fans of ‘The Blue Brazil’ having a couple of blocks at the far end. The pitch looked in immaculate condition in the dipping temperatures.

The club song of ‘Beautiful Sunday’ was played with one fan miming along with his guitar while trying to get others to sing along. The teams came out and congregated for a minute’s applause for ‘Mr Stirling Albion’ Peter McKenzie who had recently passed away.

Cowdenbeath came into the game cut adrift at the bottom of the table and already looking like they would need to prevail in the play-offs to secure their Scottish League status for the second consecutive season. Albion were placed just outside the play-off positions.

It is fair to say that the match wasn’t a classic. Home keeper Cammy Binnie made a relatively easy save look spectacular from a shot from outside the box. Albion probably had slightly better quality, but little cutting edge. Cowdenbeath huffed and puffed throughout.

The only goal sunned the game up. Visiting goalie David McGurn parried out a corner, but the ball went straight against defender Jamie Pyper who inadvertently turned it in to his own net for an own goal ten minutes from the break.

Blair Malcolm tested Binnie on the stroke of half time before I went for a stretch. I’d already indulged in an extra Scotch pie and I couldn’t find access to the bar, so I just had a wander about and took some extra photos.

Brad Smith had the next attempt for Cowdenbeath, but Binnie tipped the ball over the bar in extravagant fashion. Feisty forward David Cox was trying his best to get the Blues back into the game, but he lacked pace. He was doing a fine job of upsetting referee Gavin Ross, who eventually showed him the yellow card.

I enjoyed the play of the visitors left back Harvey Swann, who contributed regularly, but it wasn’t going to be his sides night. Seven minutes from time Albion came close to doubling the lead when another corner caused more confusion.

Cox’s lack of pace denied him getting on the end of a fine probing Swann centre. Albion held on to take all three points and move into a play-off place. The visiting team players sank to their knees. They gave it their best, but they lacked quality and looked a poor outfit.

It was time for me to get a move on back to the station. Trains were replaced by buses owing to the electrification of the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was good to jump on the warm bus out of the freezing conditions.

I started listening to the whining Manchester United and Chelsea fans ringing the phone in on TalkSport and awoke outside Queen Street station just forty five minutes later. A train took me on to Charing Cross and I was back in the Bon Accord at 10.50.

A very convivial few drinks and chat followed in a place that made me feel like a regular, despite my fleeting appearances. I took a sausage supper back to my tiny Easy Hotel room before heading back to London on the 8am train the following morning.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Dorking Wanderers

Dorking Wanderers FC is a non-league football club from the Surrey market town of Dorking; located around twenty miles south of London. Wanderers were formed in 1999 by founder members Marc White, Peter Buckland, Mark Lewington, Ian Davidson, Lee Spickett and Penny Gregg.

The club initially competed in the Crawley and District Football League, playing at Big Field Brockham. After just one season Wanderers moved to the West Sussex League; winning Division Four at the first attempt in 2000-01.

The Division Three title was secured in 2001-02; before a third place Division Two spot in 2002-03 was enough to secure promotion to the Premier Division.

Dorking Wanderers won West Sussex League's Premier Division in 2006-07 to gain promotion to Division Three of the Sussex County League, as the club moved to the Westhumble Playing Fields on London Road; before lifting the divisional title in 2010-11 to gain promotion to Division Two.

A third place finish at the first time of asking was enough to see the club elevated to Division One in 2011-12; but only after a successful appeal as the FA initially denied Wanderers promotion owing to ground grading issues.

This was an interesting time for senior football in the town of Dorking, as historical Dorking FC, who had been formed in 1880, had hit difficult times in Division One of the Combined Counties League with gates plummeting at an increasingly dilapidated Meadowbank.

Dorking FC were forced out of Meadowbank; to share with Horley Town in the summer of 2014, owing to health and safety issues at the ground.

The completion of the 2014-15 season saw Wanderers win promotion to Division One South of the Isthmian League after finishing as runners-up in Division One of the Sussex County League.

The meteoric rise at Wanderers continued under manager and chairman Marc White in the 2015-16 campaign, as the side reached the play-offs in the league; where they were defeated 2-1 by Faversham Town.

In March 2016 the Dorking Football Development Alliance was formed between Wanders and Dorking FC with an aim of both clubs benefitting from the move to the redeveloped Meadowbank when complete. Dorking FC moved into Wibbundune for the 2016-17 season.

Dorking FC announced that they would be disbanding at the end of the 2016-17 campaign to allow Wanderers to become the senior club in town and to give them the best chance of bringing a higher standard of football to Dorking.

To read the full story of Dorking FC and see photos of the old Meadowbank; please click here

Wanderers reached the Isthmian League Division One play-offs in 2016-17; defeating Hastings United on penalties and then Corinthian Casuals; again on spot kicks to secure a place in the Premier Division.

Meanwhile, the development of Meadowbank continued, with delays. It was announced that the Surrey FA would also be based at the new complex.

Dorking Wanderers FC will play in the Isthmian League Premier Division in the 2017-18 season.

My visits


Friday 30th December 2017

My good pal Steve Walker needed some provisions delivering out to Bangkok after the package had initially been returned. His mate, colleague and my mutual friend Mark Dunmall was over from Bangkok in his home town of Dorking.

As I was on nights, I took the opportunity to have a ride into deepest Surrey and to also grab a look and see how the redevelopment of Meadowbank was going on? I went there first while there was still some light.

It was certainly very much a work in progress, but at least it was ongoing; something the football supporting public of the town deserved. I had my doubts as to whether it would be ready for the commencement of the 2017-18 season.

It was good to see Mark; albeit briefly. I also got chance to have a brief look at the attractive little town centre, and promise myself an early arrival to try out some promising looking pubs before attending a match.

Little did I know at the time, but when I would get round to seeing a game at the revamped Meadowbank, Dorking FC would be no more and it would have to be for a Dorking Wanderers match. At least the situation appeared to be amicable.


Dorking Wanderers 0 Hendon 0 (Tuesday 19th December 2017) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 184)

Our little gaggle of Hendon fans had a tremendous afternoon and post match celebration following the Greens FA Trophy victory against Bath City the previous Saturday. It was decided we should head to Dorking to cheer on the boys a few days later.

The line up was always going to be a bit of a guess, so it was good to turn up at Wetherspoons in Victoria station to find four pals in attendance. Neil, Dean, Steve Speller and Keith were all in good spirits.

The beer choice was a help as the chat was about the Trophy draw away to Sutton and should we have an extra beer and catch a later train. The beer was flowing as we watched our original choice; the 18.02 depart. while also chatting to a Chipstead fan who was on his way to watch his side at Enfield Town.

It was therefore a bit of a blow when we headed downstairs to find that our 18.20 service was delayed by fifteen minutes. This would mean we’d be cutting it fine for kick off at the other end.

However, some stations were missed out on route because of the delay and we arrived at Box Hill and Westhumble just before 19.30. Our fare was a bargain £6 return thanks to the discount from my Network railcard.

We certainly appeared to be in a pretty part of the world. Even in darkness, the way down to London Road was very nice, if a little precarious to negotiate at times. Even the main road was in semi-darkness. It was good to see the floodlights across the field.

The lane up to the Westhumble Sports Ground was also uneven and dark. It really did look a pleasant location; even without the views of Box Hill in the distance. Admission was £10 at the neat hut, with a very professionally produced programme costing a further couple of quid.

Wanderers had made the very best of an admittedly basic venue. There was no spectator access down one side, where just a fence and the benches separated the pitch from a second one behind.

The near end goal had hard and grass flat standing, a small modern covered metal terrace and the wooden changing room huts. Meshed fencing protected the players from spectators to the pitch. The far end goal had a strip of open flat grass and hard standing.

The main spectator facilities stood down the Railway Side, with the same open standing arrangements and then three covered structures, offering standing and seats, along with the refreshment hut and clubhouse.

Wanderers had certainly used timber as the main source of the ground. All fencing and many of the buildings were made of wood. I would imagine a local DIY superstore would have done very well out of the venue!

Hunger had kicked in, so I went for a cheeseburger for £4.20; which was OK, along with a cup of tea for £1. Steve selected a hot dog later in the game and said it was pretty good. Cans of beers were available for £3.

Hendon, playing in all navy blue, took the lead early in the game when the prolific Niko Muir slotted home a fine pass from Zak Joseph past Slovakian keeper Slavomir Huk who had rushed to the edge of his box.

It was good to see and have a quick chat with former Hendon legend Kevin Maclaren who was at the game supporting his old club and brother, Casey; who was captaining the team. He was as amiable and gentle as ever, despite having a rather different demeanour on the pitch.

Joseph was to be the provider once again on ten minutes as Hendon were running their hosts ragged. His cross was volleyed home at the back post by Michael Corcoran. A big away win looked a distinct possibility. Muir spurned an opportunity to make it 3-0 shortly after.

The Wanderers players and management were not slow in complaining to the referee about anything and everything. They looked to put pressure on the officials at every opportunity and became tiresome very quickly.

We’d been told that referee, Mr S Williams, was been assessed by an official in the crowd. Nothing created a more panicky performance from an official than been watched, in my experience over the years. And so it was to be once again.

I got chatting to a couple of friendly locals under the cover, who told me that the former fans of Dorking FC had been made most welcome and that Meadowbank was progressing and scheduled to be open with the local derby with Leatherhead a couple of months later.

A direct merger was decided against, as it was believed that a merged club would take on the league status of the lower of the ranked clubs. That would have meant that Wanderers achievements and remarkable rise would have gone to waste.

I also read later in the informative programme, that Westhumble would be downgraded once Meadowbank opened and return to being a sports ground with just minimal structures; as agreed with local residents when the club had to upgrade to meet FA stipulations.

Meanwhile, Hendon were still going great guns out on a firm pitch with a wet and slippery surface; which wasn’t the easiest at times to play on. Half chances were still being created; while the defence was doing a fine job in restricting the occasional Dorking attack.

Muir was once again set free. He went round Huk, but found himself at a narrow angle. He tried to lay the ball square, but the danger was snuffled out.

Substitutions to both starting eleven’s were made throughout the game. The same pattern to the match continued after the interval. Hendon were pretty much in control. The referee continued to frustrate. He’d handed out an early needless yellow card and made a rod for his own back.

Muir and Joseph continued to cause trouble for the Wanderers defenders; while Huk didn’t fill me with lots of confidence behind them. The home teams number four; David Ray, was having a particularly awkward evening.

Referee Williams upset the visiting team with half an hour to go. Dorking’s James McShane made a poor challenge when attack, which upset the Hendon players. Harley Wise was particularly upset. There was a brief melee, from which the official decided he should be given a straight red card.

It said something about the professionalism of Hendon’s performance that there was no notable difference to possession or the pattern of the game when they were a player short. Chances were still being created.

The quality attacking finally took its toll on the overworked Dorking defenders. Joseph made his way to the byline from the right wing. His fierce low cross was diverted into his own net by substitute Isaac Philpott.

Muir missed another guilt edged chance when put through. He was one on one with the keeper but put his shot wide of the far post. Joseph’s lob landed on the top of the net as the game came to a conclusion.

The three elder chaps in our party had missed the final chance. The game had kicked off late and the ref added five minutes injury time in the first half. It meant that we may struggle for the 22.02 train.

As it transpired, the service was five minutes late arriving. We were glad to get on board a quiet and warm train as we finished off the last of the Glenfiddich whisky from my hip flask; which had helped keep out the cold throughout the night.

We arrived back at Victoria just before 23.00 with many Arsenal fans waiting to board their trains south of the river after their League Cup tie with West Ham. I know who had the better evening, judging from the texts from my Hammers supporting friends.

Steve and I were back at Kingsbury before 23.45. I left my pal to head off for last orders, while I needed some shut eye before a 5.30 alarm call for work. It had been another top night supporting our local club.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Vitória SC (Portugal)

Vitória Sport Clube, or Vitória de Guimarães, as they are more commonly known, is a professional football club from the historical northern city of Guimarães. The club was formed on September 22nd 1922.

The club started out playing matches at Campo da Atouguia, before the inauguration of Campo José Minotes on January 27th 1924. A further move to Campo da Perdiz came on June 6th 1925, before Vitória relocated to Campo do Benlhevai on January 24th 1932.

Vitória spent several seasons playing in the leagues of the Associação de Futebol de Braga (Braga FA) before securing a spot in the national Primeira Divisão, as the league was titled at the time, in 1941.

The team reached the final of the national cup; Taça de Portugal in 1941-42, where they were defeated 2-0 by Belenenses at Estádio do Lumiar. ‘Os Vimaranenses’ finished towards the bottom of the table for several seasons in a row, before improving their standing in the late 1940’s.

By then the club had moved into a new home; Campo da Amorosa on January 13th 1946. Boavista were defeated 3-1, with Alexandre scoring the first goal on the new turf.

The early 1950’s saw form dip with Vitória being relegated in bottom place in 1954-55 before regaining their top flight place at the end of the 1957-58 campaign. Edmur Ribeiro was among the goals for the team at the start of the 60’s finishing as league top scorer in 1960-61.

The 1962-63 campaign saw the team finish as beaten finalists in the Taça, as they went down 4-0 to Sporting CP. Estádio D. Afonso Henriques opened in 1965; originally as Estádio Municipal, with a match between Vitória and 1. FC Kaiserslautern.

Guimarães weighed in with a fourth place finish in 1963-64, and then a third place in 1968-69. The club played in the European Inter City Fairs Cup in 1969-70 and then the following season; going out in the second round to Southampton and then Hibernian.

The 1975-76 season saw another Taça de Portugal final appearance; going down 2-1 to Boavista at Porto’s Estádio das Antas. A series of top six finishes in Primeira Divisão saw the team qualify to play in the 1983-84 UEFA Cup; where Aston Villa were victorious in the first round tie.

In 1985-86 a fourth place league ending led to a place in the UEFA Cup the following season. Borussia Mönchengladbach ended the run at the quarter final stage after victories against AC Sparta Praha, Atlético Madrid and Groningen.

The UEFA Cup campaign was followed up in the same competition in 1987-88 after another third place finish, which saw Paulinho Cascavel finish as league top scorer; ending in a third round defeat to Czech side TJ Vitkovice. Another Taça final defeat in the same season; this time it was a 1-0 loss to FC Porto.

Brazilian coach Paulo Autuori led Vitória to fourth place in 1989-90 before being replaced by Pedro Rocha in September 1990, who in turn remained in the post until January 1991, when former Portuguese international João Resende Alves was appointed.

Marinho Peres was in charge of the side in 1992-93; presiding over a fifth place finish before Bernardino Pedroto took charge in 1993-94. Quinito had a spell as coach before Vítor Oliveira led the team to fourth place in 1995-96.

Jaime Pacheco lasted two seasons in charge at Estádio D. Afonso Henriques before being succeeded by Zoran Filipovic as short runs in the UEFA Cup continued at the club. The top flight was retitled the Primeira Liga for the 1999-00 campaign, with António Valença and then a returning Quinito taking charge of the Vitória team.

Paulo Autuori returned for a second spell at the helm before being replaced by Álvaro Magalhães in February 2001 as the side averted relegation. Augusto Inácio lasted in charge until October 2003 before Jorge Jesus became the latest head coach at Guimarães.

The new man lasted until Manuel Machado arrived and took the team to fifth place in 2004-05. Vítor Pontes was in charge of the side the following season as Vitória reached the group stages of the UEFA Cup but finished second bottom in the table and were relegated.

A runners-up spot in the 2006–07 Liga de Honra saw Vitória regain their Primeira Liga place. With Manuel Cajuda in charge, the club continued their ascendency with a third place finish to win a place in the qualifying round of the Champions League; where the team went out to FC Basel.

Paulo Sérgio and then Basílio Marques had spells in charge of the team in 2009-10 before Manuel Machado returned for a second spell for the 2010-11 campaign; leading the team to a fifth Taça de Portugal final; which ended in a 6-2 defeat to FC Porto.

The aptly named Rui Vitória became head coach in August 2011. He would be in charge as the team, captained by Alex finally laid their Taça hoodoo to rest as SL Benfica were beaten 2-1 in the 2012-13 final thanks to goals from El Arabi Hillal Soudani and Ricardo Pereira as Guimarães came from behind to lift the trophy.

André André scored the goals for Rui Vitória’s team in 2014-15 before Sérgio Conceição arrived to take charge of the team in the September 2015 following a short spell in charge from Armando Evangelista.

Pedro Martins was appointed as head coach in the summer of 2016; taking Vitória to fourth place in Primeira Liga as well as the final of the Taça de Portugal. Bongani Zungu scored a consolation goal in a 2-1 defeat to SL Benfica.

The team captained by Josué Sá competed in the 2017-18 UEFA Europa League; where the run ended at the group stage.

Vitória SC will play in the Primeira Liga in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Vitória SC 1 Konyaspor 1 (Thursday 7th December 2017) UEFA Europa League Group I (att: 9,040)

The fixtures had fallen beautifully as I planned a two night stay in Porto. I was joined by my friend and manager of Silver Jubilee Park; Tom Stockman. We’d had a superb first day and night around the city with the Champions League between FC Porto and AS Monaco offering great entertainment.

Day two had included a tasting session at the Cockburn’s Port Warehouse and plenty of walking to rid the calories from a tasty breakfast in the excellent Padaria e Pastelaria D. João IV. We’d been recommended the local speciality; Francesinha, as a main meal from the management of our apartment.

We tucked into the superb meal containing bread, cheese and several meats covered in a spicy beer and tomato sauce at the highly recommended Cervejaria Brasão; which also had a good selection of beers.

Once we’d had a rest it was time to head to Porto – Campanha railway station, from where a busy commuter train took just over an hour to take us to Guimarães for €3.95 each way. We’d been told that it was the birthplace of Portugal and well worth a longer look.

Even in the dark it looked a pretty and interesting place. It took ten minutes to walk to the main square in the town centre, by Largo do Toural; featuring a well decorated Christmas tree and fountains. It was a further ten minutes to the ticket office of Estádio D. Afonso Henriques.

Tom’s Brazilian Portuguese cam in more than handy once more, even though the young lady behind the counter was keen to practise her English. We were sold tickets down the side and in the upper tier under a roof for €20.

There was time to find somewhere for a pre match beer. Cafė Pastelaria F.M. was busy with Vitória fans watching local rivals Braga on the TV’s. It’s fair to say that they weren’t too upset when opponents, İstanbul Başakşehir conned the referee into giving them a penalty.

After a glass of Super Bock, we headed round to the stadium as the rain began to fall. It was obvious that it wasn’t going to be a full house as it was a dead rubber; with both sides already eliminated from the competition.

Estádio D. Afonso Henriques was impressive after its 2003 upgrade for Euro 2004. Three sides were a continuous stand, with the upper tier bending round behind an open lower tier. The final stand was a two tiered affair behind the city end goal; with the upstairs seats having a steep rake.

Our seats were pretty good; level with the penalty area at the end where the sparse Turkish following was congregated. The locals made plenty of noise; although not large in numbers. Their patience was to be tested throughout the evening.

The home side started off with a low tempo allowing the Konyaspor defenders plenty of time to regroup in wet conditions. They played far too many unnecessary passes and lacked a cutting edge.

The game was already drifting when ‘Anadolu Kartalı’ took the lead out of nowhere on fifteen minutes. Mehdi Bourabia picked the ball up in midfield, progressed a few yard and then unleashed a thunderbolt from nearly thirty yards beating Vitória keeper Douglas all ends up.

The Konyaspor side sat on their lead and committed several niggly fouls as referee Daniel Siebert became unpopular with the home fans. An old fella along the row from us was on the verge of exploding and offered better entertainment than the players.

Rafael Martins huffed and puffed and then made little effort when a cross to the far post looked to be perfect for a diving header. Our friend along the row went absolutely berserk. Tom translated for me. It wasn’t pretty. He described the referee as “the son of a whore” on several occasions.

While the game was poor, we weren’t too upset. It was an experience and the people behind the refreshment counters served bottles of Sagres; taken from a fridge but poured under the counter. It would have been rude not to join in with the blatant disregard of UEFA’s rulings.

There was a worrying incident soon after half time when Guillermo Celis of Vitória Guimarães went down dramatically, with players of both sides frantically signalling for urgent medical assistance. It was a huge relief when the player left the pitch on his feet.

Raphinha and then Martins had shots blocked as Vitória tried to press. Konyaspor had sporadic breaks; but we couldn’t see another goal coming. Hosts boss Pedro Martins rang the changes with substitutions looking for a lifeline.

His side eventually levelled in slightly fortunate circumstances. Pressure of sorts had been asserted, when Ali Turan sliced a low cross into his own net. Vitória carried on going forward with Oscar Estupiñan having an effort blocked.

Wilfred Moke nearly secured an away win with four minutes remaining, when his glancing header from a corner came back off the crossbar. Raphinha fired high and wide at the other end. The home side continued attacking with João Aurélio missing a decent opportunity with his head before full time.

There had been more excitement in the final fifteen minutes than in the rest of the match. We returned back to the station in plenty of time for the last train back to Porto; which got busy with students as we got closer to the city.

We’d hoped to find a bar still open near the stunning Porto São Bento station. Despite the streets being busy with people, we could find anywhere until a crowd of people along a small pedestrian area alerted to possibilities by Praça dos Poveiros.

The evening was perfectly ended with a Super Bock and then a Jameson’s whisky before we decamped to our Porto D'Época II apartment in readiness for the flight back to the freezing UK the following lunchtime.