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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Barton Rovers

Barton Rovers FC is a semi-professional football club from the large village of Barton-le-Clay, located a few miles north east of Luton. The club was formed in 1898, playing village football until World War II.

Rovers joined the Luton & District League for the 1946–47 season, where they remained until becoming members of the Spartan South Midlands League in 1954. Rovers were placed in Division Two, going on to win the league title and promotion at the first attempt.

The fine run continued in 1955-56 as the Division One title was sealed as Barton progressed to the Premier Division. In 1962-63 the club suffered a relegation, but they regained their status in 1964-65 with another championship.

Rovers finished as league runners-up in 1967-68 before sealing the Premier League title in 1970-71. The club went on to become Spartan South Midlands League champions for three consecutive seasons as they celebrated again in 1971-72 and 1972-73.

Further Premier League titles followed in 1974-75 and 1975-76, before Barton had a couple of fantastic seasons competing in the FA Vase.

In 1976-77 a run which saw victories against Watlington Town, Hazells of Aylesbury, Ampthill Town, Tividale, Buckingham Town and Gosport Borough took the team to the semi-finals where they were defeated by Sheffield. Consolation came by way of a sixth South Midlands League title win.

The league championship was retained the following season as Rovers went on a run all the way to the final of the FA Vase by courtesy of wins against Leyton Wingate, Rushden Town, Kempston Rovers, Billericay Town, Haringey Borough and Hungerford Town.

In the 1978 final at Wembley, Rovers went down 2-1 with a young Kevin Blackwell in goal. The club built on their status by winning a fifth successive league title before becoming members of the Division Two of the Isthmian League in 1979-80.

The 1981-82 season saw yet another excellent FA Vase run. Wins against Stansted, Woodford Town, Ford United, Leyton Wingate, Knowle and Irthlingborough Diamonds set up a semi-final tie with Rainworth Miners Welfare who went through on aggregate.

In 1984-85 the club were placed in Division Two North after league organisation before they returned to a revamped Division Two in 1991-92. Rovers finished as runners-up in 1994-95; winning promotion to Division One.

The 2000-01 campaign saw Rovers relegated to Division Two. When the league was reorganised for the 2002-03 season, the club was placed in Division One North. Non-league football was restructured in the summer of 2004, with Barton becoming members of Division One East of the Southern League.

Following a further league re-organisation Rovers were placed in Division One Midlands, which was renamed Division One Central for the 2010-11 campaign. Barton reached the play-offs in 2014-15 where they defeated Royston Town before missing out on promotion after defeat to Bedworth United.

In 2016-17 the team, led by manager Jimmy Gray, once again reached the play offs where they defeated Marlow at Sharpenhoe Road before losing the final away to Farnborough, before forward Connor Calcutt departed to their final victors.

My visit

Barton Rovers 2 Marlow 0 (Wednesday 26th April 2017) Southern League Division One Central Play-Off Semi-Final (att: 319)

It was a midweek of play-offs for my pal Tony Foster and I. We hadn’t really planned to have gone to Greenwich Borough v Corinthian Casuals until a late stage the evening before and the same occurred with Barton. An average morning work and a text did the business!

Tony picked me up at Stanmore station just after 6pm in case of heavy traffic up the M1. As it worked out we had a decent run before pulling off at junction 12 and heading through some lovely countryside to the pretty village of Barton-le-Clay.

To enter the ground we went past some playing fields before pulling into the car park next to the ground. We were immediately impressed by the friendly welcome. The old chap directing cars saw my Scarborough Athletic jacket and we were soon talking about Kevin Blackwell.

Admission into the ground was £10 with the programme an additional £2. Tony gave this the thumbs up after a very poor effort for the same price at Greenwich the night before. We were very early so we headed to the bar where a pint of hand pulled Greene King IPA cost me £3.50.

Despite us being into the cricket season, the weather was pretty bleak. There was a fair nip in the air and dark clouds were abundant. We waited until the teams had gone past before we headed over to the far side.

The Sharpenhoe Road ground had a large sloping surface with plenty of turf between the touchline and side stands. A small main Stand had a glassed area at the rear for corporate clients, while opposite were several low covered terraces. That’s where we took up our position. Both ends were open standing.

Barton had the better of the early stages as a heavy shower landed on the hard bobbly pitch, which wasn’t helping fluid football. Former Wealdstone forward Connor Calcutt looked very useful for the home side.

Simon Grant was forced into a fine save for Marlow from a Jimmy Hartley shot in the early exchanges. Kyle Forster in the home net responded in like with a top stop from an effort by Marcus Mealing. A very tight first half ended at 0-0.

During the break we queued up at the excellently priced snack bar who were well organised and giving a cracking example of how to serve a large crowd in no time. I bought a Bovril and a pie for £4. It was that type of weather.

Marlow were the better side kicking up the slope at the start of the second half. The pace of Kameron English was causing havoc. Six minutes in he beat his man and put in a superb cross which Chris Ovenden somehow managed to head wide when it looked easier to score.

Shortly after Kelvin Bossman came close, but that was about it on an attacking front from Marlow. They would be made to pay for missing their chances.

On seventy one minutes Rovers went ahead. Grant punched weakly at a cross. The ball eventually fell to substitute Danny Watson, who forced in from outside the box. We were watching from the other side of the pitch in the second period as the threat of rain had passed.

Grant had to pull off a superb save, while Bossman cleared off the line in the follow up as Barton looked to get a decisive second goal. Ovenden had an effort on goal as Marlow tried to find a way back into the match, before victory was sealed with just a couple of minutes remaining.

Poor judgement from Grant saw him leaving his area; only for a Rovers player to beat him to the ball before crossing for Calcutt to head into an empty net and send his team to the final the following Bank Holiday Monday away to Farnborough.

We headed back via Luton and the M1. We were both glad we’d made the effort. Barton seemed a friendly club even if the match hadn’t been the best.

Greenwich Borough

Greenwich Borough FC is a non-league football club based in south-east London who were formed in 1928 as Woolwich Borough Council Athletic Club, playing in the Woolwich & District League and becoming champions in their first season playing at Danson Park in Welling.

In 1929 the club became members of the Kent County Amateur League, before moving to Harrow Meadow in 1937 and leaving to join the South London Alliance for the 1949-50 season. Consecutive promotions in the mid 50’s saw the club reach the league’s Premier Division.

Borough went on to win the Premier Division title in six successive seasons from 1960–61 to 1965–66. Following a change of London Borough boundaries, the club became known as London Borough of Greenwich FC for the last of the title wins.

A seventh South London Alliance Premier Division title was accrued in 1973-74, leading to a move to the London Senior League. Winning the Senior Division in 1979-80 led to promotion to the Premier Division as the club changed their title to Greenwich Borough FC.

Borough were transferred to the Kent League for the 1984-85 campaign with future Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright playing up front before Crystal Palace spotted him. Greenwich became league champions in 1986–87 and 1987–88 as well as lifting the League Cup on a couple of occasions.

The club were denied promotion because their Harrow Mead ground didn’t match the ground grading criteria. Borough decamped to Erith & Belvedere’s Park View home for the 1988-89 season, while works were carried out on their home venue.

Harrow Mean was sold to property developers in 2008, with the club moving to share with Holmesdale FC. Greenwich finished bottom of the Kent League in 2011-12 before the league was renamed the Southern Counties East League for the 2013-14 season as the club moved in with Dartford at Princes Park.

New owners arrived at the club with David Skinner providing the money to his brother Perry to run the club as chairman to enable the move as they searched for a new home ground back in the borough of Greenwich, while the team was managed by Ian Jenkins.

Borough submitted plans to rejuvenate football grounds at Avery Hill in Eltham in June 2015 as former regular Football League goalscorer Gary Alexander was appointed as manager to replace Jenkins, after the team ended in fourth place in the league.

Alexander’s team went on to lift the Southern Counties East League title and promotion to the Isthmian League in 2015-16 as the playing budget was extended. In the summer of 2016 the club signed a thirty year lease to share the Badgers Sports Ground with Cray Valley PM FC.

In the 2016-17 season Borough took to their new status instantly and ended the campaign in third place to qualify for the play-offs. In the semi-final at the Badgers Sports Ground Greenwich went down 4-3 to Corinthian Casuals.

Greenwich Borough FC will play in the Isthmian League Division One South in the 2017-18 season.

My visits

Wednesday 4th October 2006

On a day off from work I ventured to south east London and Kent to visit some grounds and update my photo collection. Having been to Welling United I took a bus to Sutcliffe Park, where the Harrow Mead ground was located.

A gent let me go in through the rather messy clubhouse which led me behind the goal where there was a couple of small covers. There was a small seated stand up on the left hand touchline, but the rest of the arena was all flat open standing.

To be honest, it wasn’t difficult to see why the Southern League had turned down the venue. It was showing sign of age and desperately needed a tidy up. Despite that, it was nice to be offered a welcome.

I departed to take public transport to head over the river towards Mile End to take a look at the home of Bethnal Green United.

Greenwich Borough 3 Corinthian Casuals 4 (Tuesday 25th April 2017) Isthmian League Division One South Play-Off Semi-Final (att: 427)

My pal Tony Foster texted me on the morning of the match with the news that he’d wavered after not been too interested a few days before, and fancied heading over the river. I was pleased with his decision as I enjoyed the play-offs and heading to new grounds.

We met up at Wembley Park before heading to London Bridge to catch the packed service to Eltham. As we were getting off the train we got chatting to John, a Casuals fan who ran the club shop and was trying to give the club’s profile a boost.

John was a good bloke. A Huddersfield Town fan on the side, he told us all about his club while we walked down to the ground. Casuals players were still strictly amateur, which Tony and I found remarkable. The walk took us around twenty minutes after we took a wrong turning. It was still only 7.15pm when we arrived.

The very smart social club outside the ground was doing a roaring trade. We got a pint each, with hand pumps dispensing a decent pint of ale before paying our £10 admission. We’d already bough the £2 programmes in case they ran out.

The Badgers Sports Ground had a slope across the pitch. There was a seated stand opposite a small covered enclosure. The remainder of the ground consisted of flat open standing. The pitch looked in poor condition considering Borough had spent a lot on it the previous summer.

I was pretty sure that I’d played on the ground before? If I was correct it belonged to Eltham Town FC when I played in a veterans team for a season and a bit with Dave Cammish. It had certainly received some work on it since then.

Casuals had a very vocal following with a fantastic array of flags and banners. They were not dislike the support of Dulwich Hamlet only lesser in number. It wasn’t easy to get a good vantage point. We went over to the far side.

Within a few minutes Greenwich were ahead when Mohamed Eisa benefitted from the atrocious playing surface as his shot from the edge of the box hit a divot and bounced wickedly over keeper Danny Bracken and into the net.

Casuals were level on eighteen minutes when a late challenge sent Mu Maan sprawling in the box. Shaun Okojie sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot to make it 1-1. We moved to the other side of the pitch at that point as the wind was becoming bitter as it blew from the Thames.

We’d only just taken up our position when Casuals’ midfielder Coskun Ekim was shown a straight red card for a high challenge. The general consensus seemed to be that the referee had maybe acted a bit hastily and the player was unlucky.

The visitors front two continued to cause problems with their pace and skill. They went ahead when Reyon Dillon had a shot deflected into his own net by a Borough defender. Ten minutes before the interval it was 2-2 when Peter Sweeney scored with an exquisite free kick.

At the break we headed to the snack bar in the top corner, where hot drinks were the order of the day. It was good to see a club prepared for a large crowd and having enough staff to manage. Too often opportunities are lost, as disgruntled punters head off at the site of queues.

The visitors went ahead once again around ten minutes after the break. Maan saw his free kick deflected off the wall to leave Borough keeper Craig Holloway stranded. The visitors took charge of the game despite being a man light, keeping the home attack at bay expertly.

Casuals made it 4-2 with fifteen minutes remaining when Okojie turned in a cross with style. He looked about the best player on show. Borough continued to press and they got back into the game with seven minutes remaining through Glenn Wilson.

Despite plenty of pressure in the closing stages, Casuals held out with relative ease to win through to the final for a trip to Westhumble to take on Dorking Wanderers the following Saturday.

The visiting supporters celebrated wildly with their players. As we were making our exit we bumped into some of Tony’s West Ham mates who also fancied the game. They were heading to Lee station but Tony convinced them that Mottingham was a better bet.

What followed was the sight of several men over fifty years old walking, jobbing and doing their best to run as the station was far further than we thought. We managed to make the 10.05pm service, but only just.

There was plenty of sarcasm and humour as we pulled into Lee, the next stop, where the others had intended to go to. They had a point! We took the Jubilee line train home from London Bridge to arrive home at 11.30pm after a cracking evening out.

Newtongrange Star

Newtongrange Star FC is a junior/non-league football club from the former mining village of Newtongrange in Midlothian; located around ten miles south east of Edinburgh. The football club in ‘Nitten’, as the town is called by the locals, was formed in 1890.

After the town’s senior club, Newtongrange Athletic, folded in 1896, Star eventually managed to be registered as a Junior club in 1890. Junior indicates non-league status in Scotland, rather than meaning age.

Nitten were crowned as champions of the Midlothian Junior League winner in1905–06, 1906–07 and 1907–08. They added further titles after World War I in 1919-20 and 1920-21 before the club progressed to the Edinburgh & District League.

Star continued to lift titles as they crowned as league champions in 1921–22, 1922–23, 1923–24 and 1924–25 before the club moved into their Victoria Park home. Two more league titles followed in 1925–26 and 1926–27 before Newtongrange enjoyed their greatest season.

In the 1929-30 campaign Star won both the Edinburgh & District League and the Scottish Junior Cup as they defeated Hall Russell 3-0. The club were league champions once again in 1933-34 before the club disbanded in 1934 before resuming in August 1936.

William Bauld and Fred Glidden were the teams leading lights before Star embarked on a very successful 1950’s as the club won the Edinburgh & District League in 1950–51, 1951–52, 1954–55 and 1958–59, as well as continuing to add several cup competitions to the honours board with Dave Mackay, Charlie Elms and Robbie Kinghorn the stand out players.

Junior football was in decline in the early 1960’s. The team lifted two trophies at the end of the 1961-62 season to convince the committee to carry on with the club. Star reached a second Junior Cup final in 1971, before being defeated 2-1 by Cambuslang Rangers.

The team was relegated in the 1973-74 season but still lifted the National Dryborough Cup by defeating Petershill in the final, as the committee continued to run the club in difficult times following the decline of the mining industry.

In the 1980’s Nitten played in the East Region League. Laurie Dunn took over as manager and did a fine job reinvigorating interest in the club before John Buckley took over. The 1990-91 season saw the club celebrated their centenary by lifting the East Region League championship.

The team also reached the final of the 1991 Scottish Junior Cup where they lost to Auchinleck Talbot at Brockville Park in Falkirk. Star retained the league title in 1991-92 as players Gordon Fraser, John Coughlin and Paul Ramsay were all capped for the Scottish Junior side.

The side went on to finish as league runners-up in two successive seasons before the club left their Victoria Park home in 1994 to move to New Victoria Park, which was built on the site of Redwood Bing.

Ronnie Tolmie and then Willie Garner took over as manager as Star lifted the East of Scotland Cup for the eleventh time in 1996-97. Following a couple of league re-organisations Star found themselves playing in the third tier in East of Scotland Junior Football.

Nitten finished as runners-up in the SJFA East Region Premier League in 2008-09 to be promoted to the Superleague as Graeme Armstrong put together a team with a mixture of youth and experience.

Armstrong departed as the skills of Damien Gielty flourished on the pitch. Alan Miller arrived as the new manager as the team were relegated, but he restructured the squad and took Star to the Premier League title in 2012-13 to secure Superleague football at New Victoria Park.

Paul Tansey and Sean Jamieson became the latest Star players to receive Junior caps. In May 2016 manager Miller was replaced by Stevie McLeish. His side finished third from bottom of the table in the 2016-17 season, going on to be relegated after defeat on aggregate to Forfar West End in the qualification play-off.

However, the club were reprieved, keeping their Superleague status after Kelty Hearts transferred from Junior football to join the Senior set up.

Newtongrange Star FC will play in the SJFA East Region Superleague in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Tranent Juniors 1 Broxburn Athletic 0 (Wednesday 7th June 2017) Fife & Lothian Cup Final (att: 1,050)

My night shifts were over and I was keen to snatch another game before the end of the season. I knew from experience of scanning the excellent Non-League Matters Forum that Scottish Junior football continued into June.

It had been a very mild winter north of the border, so there wasn’t the backlog as on other occasions, but Andy (Prorege) from the forum alerted me of possibilities after I had messaged him; once again, proving the value of social media.

With flights booked in advance I headed to Stansted for the 12.30 flight to Edinburgh before taking the bus into the city, having a brief wander before checking in to the Student Destiny Murano Campus just off Leith Road where I had a brief siesta.

While there was an option of a semi-final at Musselburgh, it was the game at Newtongrange that grabbed my attention. The Borders Railway service dropped my off around 6.20pm. My only slight regret was that I was too late to have a look at the National Mining Museum.

Nitten had obvious signs of being a former mining town, with its many streets of old employee houses on rows of terraced streets. I wandered down Main Street, past the leisure centre and into the excellent Dean Tavern.

The pub is run by the Gothenburg method that limits the amount of spirits sold and uses profits to go back into the local community. The bright roomy building had lots of memorabilia to commemorate the town’s mining heritage. I had a pint of keg Belhaven before the short walk to the ground.

A coach load of Broxburn fans had just dropped off at the bottom of the sloping windy road up to the entrance. The clubhouse was absolutely packed so I gave it a miss and went to join the queues waiting to get inside New Victoria Park.

Admission was £7, with an eight page programme costing an extra quid. As I was hungry, I was delighted to be served a scotch pie, a steak pie and a can of Irn Bru for just £3.80. Those were prices I yearned for at bigger venues.

New Victoria Park was a cracking venue, with its decent sized covered terrace with a row of seats on one side. The entrance end had toilets, changing rooms, offices and the refreshments with flat concrete standing. The rest of the ground had grass banking, with fans allowed to stand on them.

Kick off was put back by fifteen minutes to allow the larger than expected crowd to pack in, meaning a 7.30pm start. I took up a position at the bac of the terrace with a decent view. There was a minutes silence before we got under way for a Tranent club stalwart who’d passed away the previous weekend.

This was only my second Junior game, and I’d forgotten just how frenetic they tend to be. It was end to end from the start although neither side got away anything too menacing on goal. The game needed someone to put their foot on the ball and slow things down.

The referee Peter Stuart did his best to make sure that nothing got out of hand in the showpiece; often frustrating players of both sides when he was a little eager with his whistle rather than allowing advantage.

The Broxburn defenders looked pretty good to me, with the keeper being far taller than the Tranent stopper. I could see that leading to an interesting scenario if the game went to penalties after ninety minutes.

Broxburn played in the division above Tranent and their class showed on occasions, while the mean in maroon were a little busier. At the interval I had a bit of a stretch. It was noticeable that the tuck shop was down to pop, crisps and sweets.

A similar pattern ensued after the break, with chances at a premium. Tranent came close with a far post header. It seemed that most of the section under the roof were favouring that side from east of the capital.

Just as the game looked certain to go to a penalty shoot out, Kenny Fisher received the ball, cut inside and then unleashed a low curling shot into the far corner of the net to set off absolute bedlam among the Tranent fans a minute from the end of normal time.

The devastated Broxburn players tried to pick themselves up for the couple of minutes of stoppage time, but it was too late. The crowd went barmy once again as the final whistle blew. Many ran onto the pitch, including many of the clubs colts players.