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

Monday, February 20, 2017

1. FSV Mainz 05 (Germany)

1. FSV Mainz 05 is a professional football team from the city of Mainz, which is located in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, on the opposite side of the river to Frankfurt. The football club was formed in 1905.

An attempt to set up a club had failed in 1903, but two years later 1. Mainzer Fussballclub Hassia 1905 was formed, playing their football in Süddeutschen Fußballverband (South German Football League).

A merger took place with FC Hermannia 07 to form 1. Mainzer Fussballverein Hassia 05. In 1912 the club shortened its name to Mainzer Fussballverein 05. Anorther merger took place in 1919 with Sportverein 1908 Mainz to become 1. Mainzer Fußball- und Sportverein 05.

The club won several regional titles as well as Kreisliga Hessen in 1921. In 1928 Stadion am Bruchweg was opened as Mainz found a new home. “Die Nullfünfer” (0 5’s) won Bezirksliga Main-Hessen in 1932 and 1933, and were placed in Gauliga Südwest, one of sixteen top flight divisions put in place in Germany under the rule of the Third Reich.

Karl Scherm banged in the goals for Mainz, but they were relegated after just one season. A further merger took place in 1938 with Reichsbahn SV Mainz, with the club taking on the title Reichsbahn SV Mainz 05 until the end of World War Two.

Following the war, Mainz resumed in the Oberliga Südwest, one of several top tiered divisions at the time. The Bundesliga was formed for the 1963-64 season. The second tier Regionalliga operated with five regional divisions. Mainz were place in Regionalliga Südwest.

A third place finish in 1965-66 meant the club just missed out on the promotion play offs, but they did qualify in 1972-73 when they lifted the league title. However they finished third out of five in the promotion group, so they remained in the Regionalliga.

Another decent finish the following season earned the club a place in the newly formed two section 2. Bundesliga for the 1974-75 season where they took their place in the south division. Despite a mid table finish in 1975-76, Mainz voluntarily gave up their license and were relegated to Oberliga Rheinland-Pfalz/Saar.

In 1980-81 the team won the league title and went on to be crowned as the amateur champions of Germany. Further Oberliga Rheinland-Pfalz/Saar championships followed in 1987-88 and 1989-90, with promotion being sealed back to 2. Bundesliga on the second occasion.

Mainz struggled once back in the second tier until head coach Wolfgang Frank brought in a system that worked for a team including Jürgen Klopp and goals from Thomas Ziemer, Abderrahim Ouakili and Sven Demandt as the side just missed out on promotion in 1996-97.

Gustav Policella was the top scorer as Mainz pushed on. Eckhard Krautzun was the manager of the time, until he was replaced by Klopp when he retired from his playing career in February 2001. Klopp’s side managed to save themselves from relegation to begin an upturn at the club.

After just missing out on promotion for two seasons running, Mainz reached the top flight Bundesliga at the end of the 2003-04 season after a third place finish with Michael Thurk contributing to the goals tally.

The team won a place in the UEFA Cup for their fair play in their debut season but the team were relegated in 2006-07. In May 2008 Klopp left to take over as team boss at Borussia Dortmund. Jørn Andersen arrived in his place and led Mainz back to the Bundesliga in 2008-09 as Aristide Bancé finishing as top scorer.

Thomas Tuchel was appointed as head coach for their return to the top flight, with the team finishing in fifth place in 2010-11 with Nikolče Noveski as captain and Ádám Szalai the leading scorer.

The brand new Coface Arena opened on the outskirts of the city in 2011 with a larger capacity and facilities. Mainz continued to establish themselves in the upper echelons of the Bundesliga aided by the goals of Shinji Okazaki in 2013-14.

Tuchel stepped down as manager in May 2014 to be replaced by Kasper Hjulmand. However, the Dane only lasted until February 2015 when the Swiss Martin Schmidt took over. He led the side to a mid table finish.

Julian Baumgartlinger captained the side to a seventh place finish in 2015-16 with Yoshinori Muto a regular scorer. A new sponsorship deal in the summer of 2016 saw the renaming of the stadium to the Opel Arena.

1. FSV Mainz 05 will play in the Bundesliga in the 2016-17 season.

My visit

1. FSV Mainz 05 1 Borussia Dortmund 1 (Sunday 29th January 2017) Bundesliga (att: 34,000)

My long weekend in Germany had hit its fair share of travel problems for the first couple of days, but fortunately all was going reasonably well on the third day.

I’d got back from the Wildparkstadion in Karlsruhe after the home teams game against Arminia Bielefeld in decent time and grabbed myself some snacks for the hour long train ride back north. The times were tight for my second game, but they were the best I could do.

The IC Bahn service was bang on time, arriving just twelve minutes before the scheduled kick off. I quickly got off and found the left luggage lockers straight away. Within a couple of minutes I was in a taxi and heading to the match.

A home fan was also obviously late and when we stopped at the lights he looked desperate for a lift. A mixture of sign language and my basic German saw him getting into the back of the cab. Our driver did a fine job and we pulled up with just a couple of minutes of the game gone. My new pal went half on the fare so I was more than happy.

Just as I went through the turnstiles I heard a muted roar. The TV’s on the concourse told the story. The Mainz defence had gone on walkabout following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, allowing Andre Schurrle to set up Marco Reus to score for Dortmund he were being led by former home boss Thomas Tuchel.

At that point I decided to make sure I bought a programme before going upstairs onto the terracing behind the goal. As the game was sold out it was always going to be a struggle to get a good place when arriving late. Stewards were doing their best to keep the aisles clear. I went right to the back on the flat standing to try and get a view.

The Opel Arena was a typical modern build, but it was attractive. The four stands were enclosed in the corners to keep any wind out. The main side was to my left with the usual corporate facilities. Apart from our end and a section for visiting fans in the far corner, the rest of the ground was all seated.

I did my best to see all the pitch but it was proving difficult. Jonas Lossl in the home net was fortunate not to concede a second goal before the break as he totally misjudged a through ball. He got lucky as Aubameyang couldn’t score into an empty net from a tight angle.

When the referee blew his whistle for half time I grabbed my opportunity. Many fans looked to respond to their call of nature or to pop off for a beer or sausage. I grabbed a good spot right by the fence down the side a dozen or so steps down from the back.

The second half was so much more enjoyable once I was in a comfy place. The home fans started to get behind their side as they kicked towards us. Dortmund were the far classier team, but Mainz dug in.

Schurrle volleyed narrowly wide and had another effort saved by Lossl. The game became a midfield battle with few chances either way. Seven minutes from time 05’s Levin Oztunali crossed to the far post where Danny Latza headed home.

Pablo De Blasis nearly stole all three points for Mainz with the last kick of the game, but he dragged his shot wide.

The terrace began to empty apart from the loudest of the Mainz fans behind the goal, and I certainly didn’t want to hang around. While in the taxi before the game we passed a fleet of parked buses which I presumed were for after the game.

I wasn’t sure where they departed from so I followed the crowds across the huge car park and then over some undeveloped land. A recently laid tram track gave me the impression that the area could be due for some building works. After about ten minutes I reached the main road through the crowds to the bus stop. I was soon on a special bus and back at the station.

With forty minutes to kill before my train I went over the road for a couple of beers in a rough and ready bar. I was delighted and jaded when I got the train to Darmstädt where I was staying in the InterCityHotel.

After a shower I was out and about again. My research had earmarked the Braustüb'l brew pub for a nice traditional German meal and sampling the local ale. Unfortunately they were closed on Sunday!

My fellow groundhopping and beer aficionado pal Ken Stockhill had been around the same area all weekend without us crossing path. His knowledge proved invaluable once again when I texted him from the pleasant Gaststätte Die Theke. The bar was nice enough, but his suggestion would have topped the lot in many cities.

I think Darmstädt was probably best summed up by the fact that the Darmstädter Ratskeller Hausbrauerei was the prettiest building I came across. It was an absolute cracker of a place with a really classy interior. The staff were also top class.

Köln had been in town the previous day and hammered the home side 5-1. The amiable barman described his shift as “A bloody nightmare” despite him not being a big football fan. I think they may have been very busy!

The bar kicked out at 1am which was enough for me as I had to be up early for the next morning for my train to Frankfurt and then Hanover. I let a taxi take the strain to get me back to my hotel. It had been a long but fantastic day.

1. FC Union Berlin (Germany)

1. FC Union Berlin is a professional football club from the German capital, who were formed in 1906, initially through a group of youngsters in the Oberschöneweider district of the city who formed FC Olympia.

Other local clubs; Excelsior, Preußen, Lichtenberger S.C and Vorwarts joined together with Olympia to form Olympia Oberschöneweide on the 17th June 1906 at a meeting at Großkopf restaurant on Luisenstraße.

A further merger took place with B.T.u.F.C. Helgoland 1897, as the club became known as B.T. und F.C. Helgoland/Abteilung Oberschöneweide. Union 92 Berlin had been crowned as champions of Germany in 1905 and invited the new club into their ranks to become B.T. und F.C. Union 92/Abteilung Oberschöneweide.

In January 1909 the club were taken over by Verband Brandenburgischer Ballspielvereine, who renamed them as Union 06 Oberschöneweide.

The area where the club initially played was taken over by factories as Oberschöneweide became an industrial superb. Union moved to a new venue on Wattstraße, where they would remain until 1920.

By 1913 the club had risen to the top tier in local football. A second place finish in 1919-20 saw the club continue with victories over Germania Spandau, Berolina 01 and BTuFC Viktoria to become champions of Berlin. They went on to reach the quarter finals of the German championships before being defeated by Sportfreunden Breslau.

A third place finish the following season saw Union claim a place in the VBB-Oberliga, which was the top level of Berlin football at the time.

Union required a new home as the industry in the area was growing all the time. Some land was found near Köpenick near the hunting lodge at Alten Försterei. 7,000 fans attended the opening game in August 1920 against reigning German champions 1. FC Nürnberg.

The 1922-23 season saw Union finish top of the league and go forward in the German championships. Victories over Vorwärts 1890, Arminia Bielefeld and Fürth before losing the final 3-0, to Hamburger SV in the Grunewald-Stadion, Berlin.

Under the Third Reich, German football was re-organised into sixteen equal top Gauliga divisions. Union were placed in Gauliga Berlin-Brandenburg, going on to defeat Blau-Weiß 90 to become champions in 1939-40.

Following the War, all sports clubs were dissolved. The club changed title to SG (Sportgruppe) Oberschöneweide. They won their divisional title in 1946-47 before defeating SG Wilmersdorf to become champions of Berlin once again.

For the 1948-49 season the club became known as SG Union Oberschöneweide. These were difficult times as Est Germany (DDR) had come into being. Union qualified for the German championship and required special permission to travel to Kiel to play Hamburger SV.

Several of Union’s players and officials left Oberschöneweide in East Berlin to form SC Union 06 Berlin in West Berlin in June 1950. Those left behind would play in the DDR Oberliga.

In 1951-52 Union were taken over by the motor company Motor Oberschöneweide to become known as BSG Motor Oberschöneweide. The lower grades at the club continued under their old title. In 1952-53 the team were relegated.

Over the next few years, the club went down a further level with several name changes occurring at the same time, with Union being known as SC Motor Berlin, Klub in Turn-und Sportclub, TSC Oberschöneweide, SC Einheit Berlin and then TSC Berlin in 1963, before a new set up was formed as 1. FC Union Berlin was created in 1966.

Union Berlin won promotion back to the top flight Oberliga before going on to win the local FDGB-Pokal-Sieg in 1967-68 leading to a place in the last eight of the national FDGB-Pokal (East German Cup).

Wins against Sachsenring Zwickau and FC Vorwärts Berlin at Stadion an der Alten Försterei set Union up with a final tie against reigning East German champions, FC Carl Zeiss Jena. Union went on to lift the cup with a 2-1 victory in Halle an der Saale. However, Union could not compete in European competition the following season as the DDR were in political dispute with potential rivals, so they withdrew all their sides.

Union were relegated from the Oberliga after three years in 1972, before returning to the top flight at the conclusion of the 1975-76 campaign. After four years the club were once again relegated, but returned for the 1982-83 season.

Union were relegated following the 1983-84 season after losing in the play-off games against Chemie Leipzig, before returning to their higher status in 1985-86.

It was nearly a double celebration for the club as they also fought their way to the FDGB-Pokal cup final after defeating Dynamo Dresden in the semi-final. In the showpiece at Berlin’s Stadion der Weltjugend, Union went down 5-1 to Lokomotive Leipzig.

Union defeated FC Karl-Marx-Stadt on the final day of the 1987-88 season, but were relegated at the end of the following campaign.

Following the unification of Germany, Union were placed in NOFV-Oberliga Mitte; one of several third tiered divisions around the country. Success came on the field as the team won the league title in 1991-92 and 1992-93, fired by the goals of Matthias Zimmerling and Jacek Mencel. However, because the clubs financial state they were denied promotion.

Goran Markov would become the new goalscoring hero at Stadion an der Alten Försterei as Union made it three league titles on the bounce. After a sustained spell near the top of the table the club eventually got their finances in order to win the Regionalliga Nord title in 2000-01 with Daniel Teixeira leading the scoring charts.

After two decent league finishes, ‘Eiserne’ (The Iron Ones) were relegated back to Regionalliga Nord for the 2004-05 season. Worse was to follow for Union as they suffered a second successive demotion to find themselves in the fourth tier NOFV-Oberliga Nord.

The returning Teixeira fired in the goals to return Union at the first attempt as they lifted the title under head coach Uwe Neuhaus. In 2008-09 Regionalliga Nord became 3. Liga, with Union being awarded a place due to a fourth place finish. They went on to win the inaugural championship and regain their status as a 2. Bundesliga club.

Union soon found their feet again and put in a series of upper mid table finishes. Regular goalscorers included Simon Terodde, Torsten Mattuschka and Sebastian Polter before Neuhaus ended his spell at the club in 2014 after seven years at the club to join rivals Dynamo Dresden.

In 2013 over 2,300 Union fans volunteered to help in carry out the redevelopment work at Stadion an der Alten Försterei.

Norbert Düwel, Sascha Lewandowski and André Hofschneider all had short spells in charge of the team before Jens Keller took over in April 2016.

1. FC Union Berlin will play in 2. Bundesliga in the 2016-17 season.

My visit

1. FC Union Berlin 2 VFL Bochum 1 (Friday 27th January 2017) 2. Bundesliga (att: 19,130)

While I was no stranger to Berlin or football in the city, I was well aware that Union were seen by many to be the real heartbeat of the game in the capital. It was time to find out for myself.

My first impression was very good when my ticket to stand up was only €14. I bought this online before I set off for a weekend which would see me also watching home games of SG Fortuna Köln, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Karlsruher SC, Mainz 05 and Hannover 96.

It had already been a football packed week as I’d been up north to watch Scarborough Athletic at Stokesley and Hull City take on Manchester United in the semi-final of the League Cup. I arrived at Manchester Airport in good time after spending the night lodging with Fred Firman.

Ryan Air are generally reliable as a budget airline, so I was a bit concerned to find that my flight was delayed. I tried to find out some information, but the staff were pretty vague. I was concerned as I had my large bag with me and I needed to offload it before the game.

Some staff told me not to worry as I could check it straight in on arrival at Berlin Schönefeld Airport in readiness for my later flight to Bonn/Cologne if I paid for it online. While reluctant I paid the £14 fee on my App.

Eventually the plane arrived. I tried to relax on the flight, but I was surrounded by a group who were either drunk or just plain excited. The late teens proceeded to shout insults across at each other and generally act like kids. My mood was not fantastic.

It worsened as we arrived ninety minutes late. There was no way I’d see the 6.30pm kick off. The baggage queue was huge so I sought out a member of staff to try and help me out. I was hardly thrilled when he told me that not only could he help out, but baggage could only be checked in two hours before a flight. In short, I’d been fobbed off back in Manchester.

My bag would have to go with me. My Bahn App suggested that a train was held up and I may just make it. It wasn’t a short walk from the station to the terminal. There was also a real lack of information regarding departures. I ran up the ramp and got to the train doors just as they closed and it pulled away.

By now I was simmering. Eventually I was on my way fifteen minutes later and heading towards Berlin-Schöneweide where I alighted to catch the number 60 tram. Just to round things off, it terminated a mile short of the stadium at Freizeit-und Erholungszentrum. After another delay I eventually arrived.

Next up was the issue of my bag. The young steward started to look inside but fortunately he gave up within seconds. At last I was inside but then there was the problem of getting onto the terracing. I decided that I’d wait until half time and watch until then from flat standing next to the Main Stand.

My mood was gradually mellowing as I enjoyed a bratwurst and a gluhwein; followed up by a local beer. However, the Union fans were less than happy within a few minutes of my arrival.

Peniel Mlapa put the visitors ahead just five minutes before the break. He headed home a Marco Stiepermann cross, which went in off the unfortunate home defender Michael Parensen. Simon Hedlung really should have equalised immediately but he sent his header over. Bochum created a couple more chances before the referee blew his whistle for half time.

This was the opportunity I was looking for as I went behind the goal and wandered round to the opposite corner where my ticket was for before climbing to the back from the rear. Plenty of fans had left their spots to use the facilities or queue for more sausages and beer. I found a position right at the back next to a stanchion where I could place my bag.

Stadion an der Alten Försterei was my kind of football stadium. The Main Stand was completely separate with its large block of seats and hospitality suits at the back. The other three sides were covered with a continuous roof and were all terracing. This really aided the atmosphere.

The second half was ideal for me. The home fans really got behind their side. It certainly seemed to inspire the players. Several crosses were dealt with at easy by the visiting keeper Manuel Riemann.

It took a goal of basic simplicity to equal the scores. A long ball from Pedersen was aimed towards Sebastian Polster. Bochum defender Felix Bastians slipped in pursuit, Riemann came rushing out and Polster pushed the ball past him before scoring into an empty net. The place went wild.

The singing from the home fans was incessant, even though neither side looked likely to forge a winning goal. Then with ten minutes to go Riemann punched another cross away, only this time it found Union’s Felix Kroos who set up Steven Skrzybski to score.

The Berliners had another couple of late chances to make the score more emphatic but they seemed happy enough at full time; as did the passionate home supporters. I hung around to watch the celebrations after a win that put Union in fourth place.

Click here to see the crowd celebrations

Eventually I drifted out down the tunnel and through the park and past the old lodge, before finding my way to the Köpenick station. A train took me towards the city at Karlshorst where I changed for another non stop service directly to the airport.

My travel issues continued as the flight to Bonn/Cologne was delayed by forty minutes. I got a bit of a surprise when I looked up from reading in the departure area. As well as a few Bochum supporters, the team had arrived and were sitting in the cafeteria. They returned home on the same flight as us.

On our arrival I went straight downstairs to find that my train had been cancelled and there would be a thirty minutes wait for the next one. The only shock was that the KFC was still open when I got out at the Frankfurter Straße station. I didn’t need much rocking when I hit the sack at the Hotel ibis budget Koeln Porz.

What a day of travel! Despite all the hold ups I would have done the same the next day.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Angers SCO (France)

Angers Sporting Club de l'Ouest, or Angers SCO as the club are more commonly known, is a professional football club from the historic city in western France who were formed in 1919.

Beginning life in the local Division d'Honneur and playing at Stade Jean-Bouin, Angers progressed to regional football in 1931, before becoming founding members of Ligue 2 for the 1945-46 season. A young Raymond Kopa began his career at the club in 1949 before finding fame elsewhere.

Success came in the 1955-56 campaign as ASCO were promoted to Ligue 1 under manager Karel Michlowsky as league runners-up.

‘Les Scoïstes’ retained their top flight status until 1968, when they were relegated. However, their absence lasted just one season as they returned as champions. A fourth place finish in 1971-72 was rewarded with a place in the following seasons UEFA Cup.

However, Angers went out on aggregate in the first round to Berliner FC Dynamo. On their return to Ligue 1, Angers established themselves before suffering relegation in 1975 after finishing the season third from the bottom of the table despite the goals of Bozidar Antic.

The club returned to Ligue 1 after just one season away once again. The joy was short lived as Anger were demoted twelve months later, but remarkably they won promotion straight back up, to round off four seasons that the loyal fans were unlikely to forget.

The next spell in Ligue 1 lasted until 1981. On this occasion the relegation would take some time to recover from as ASCO remained in Ligue 2 until the conclusion of the 1992-93 campaign. Once again the top tier proved a bit too much for the club as they returned to the second level the following season.

The next time that Angers departed Ligue 2 it was in the wrong direction as they went down to the third tier National division in 1996. Over the next ten years the club would yo yo between the two leagues; spending the 2000-01, 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons at the higher level, but the others in the National division.

Promotion was secured in 2006-07 under the stewardship of Jean-Louis Garcia and from there Angers stabilised for seven seasons, with Stéphane Moulin taking over as head coach in 2011, before winning promotion back to Ligue 1 at the end of the 2014-15 season.

On their return Angers finished in a mid table berth under the captaincy of Olivier Auriac and the creative skills of Billy Ketkeophomphone.

Angers SCO will play in Ligue 1 in the 2016-17 season.

My visit

Angers SCO 0 Stade Rennais 0 (Wednesday 8th February 2017) Ligue 1 (att: 10,897)

It was the third day of my mini French break and for the second time in a month I’d broken away from the Paris to see what else was on offer; aided as usual by the fixture calendar of course!

A nice morning had been spent sightseeing and working out my evening’s pub activities upon my return before having a ride out to Colombes. My mode of transport south west was by Flixbus as the train fair was too expensive.

After a couple of drinks and collecting some food for my journey, I settled back on the coach. Unfortunately for me an older French couple in the seats in front decided that they’d like to use their reclining seats, nearly breaking my knees in the process. Fortunately there was nobody in the seat next to me, so I could stretch sideways.

It was nice to drift in and out of sleep on the journey, which took us down motorways before coming off on the outskirts of Le Mans, where some passengers departed. Just less than an hour later we entered Angers.

It looked a pretty city, with its old castle being most striking. Parts of the city looked historic, although the station was so modern I struggled to exactly work out where it was. Unfortunately the time restraints meant that I wouldn’t have much time to explore.

Instead I set off walking to the stadium, going past a pretty college and heading straight down Rue Volney. I knew that the stadium wasn’t too close, but I was surprised it was as far as it turned out. More and more black and white clad fans joined the walk with still no signs of the floodlights.

I kept checking bus timetables for after the game as I was pushed for time. I wasn’t having any luck on the transport front. Eventually the walk down the long slope opened out at into
Boulevard Pierre de Coubertin, with its food and souvenir stalls on one side and Stade Jean Bouin straight in front.

Hunger was getting the better of me so I bought a spicy sausage in a bread roll with delicious fried onions. The problem now was to find my entrance into my standing position inside the stadium. It was at that point I should have asked for help.

However, I was at my most determined. The result was that I walked right to the end I had my ticket for, but in the wrong corner. A steward pointed me back in the right direction. At least it gave me some exercise I suppose!

My gate was the one nearest to the food stand. The confusion came about because the gates served the Main Stand as well as the terrace; with access underneath. At last I was inside after scanning my €15 ticket. I was given a free colour four page programme.

Access to my block was under the main stand, but even then it was confusing as a toilet block seemed to be in the way half way along. I retraced my steps and then noticed some small arrowed signage. I needed to go up some steps and then back down again to avoid the toilets. At last I found my correct place.

Stade Jean Bouin was a traditional ground, which had obviously being modernised in recent years. The single tiered Tribune Jean Bouin was the main stand on the left. Opposite was Tribune St Leonard, which was a semi-permanent new stand, a bit like the ones found at Fulham’s Craven Cottage. The far end Tribune Coubertin was a similar construction, while finally I stood on the steep open terraced Tribune Colombier, with its old style segregation just across from the centre.

My view was fantastic. I’d checked out the weather forecast in advance, and with no rain being due, I saved myself a few Euro’s. A lot of the spectators in Colombier appeared to be students, with Angers being a university city. A few tried to drum up an atmosphere, whereas most of the noise was coming from the far end. The fans used the metal floors of the newer stands to make quite a din at times.

To see the teams enter the fray, click here.

The match itself was not exactly what could be termed as a thriller. There was definitely plenty of skill and pace on show, but like too many modern matches, there seemed to be too many passes instead of creativity or directness.

Angers had the better of the first half with skipper Cheikh Ndoye seeing his header tipped over by Rennes keeper Benoit Costil. Pierrick Capelle also had a shot that went narrowly wide for the hosts.

At the interval I decided to stand in lower section as I needed to be away before full time. I didn’t indulge in any catering as the club had adopted a club card system, which needed to be loaded to purchase anything.

The second half had even less goalmouth action, although Costil did make an excellent stop to deny Ndoye. It was obvious to me that there was unlikely to be a goal, so with just over ten minutes to go I made my move to ensure I didn’t miss my train back to the capital.

Sure enough I was right. I’d made good time cack to the station, so I could buy some snacks for on board. The 21:08 service arrived bang on time. It wasn’t too full so I could enjoy a relaxing ride back. The journey took just over an hour and a half.

On reaching Paris Montparnasse I walked to find the platform for Metro 4 and went the seven stops to Châtelet, then finding the correct exit for Rue St Denis. It was time to see if my morning recce was up to scratch.

First up was Hall’s Beer Tavern, where a helpful local barman charged up my phone, while I watched France’s equivalent to Match of the Day. I caught up with the highlights of my game. I’d missed an away player being sent off, and Angers’ Pepe missing a sitter.

The Thistle enticed my in by its advert for €5 Euro pints of Innis & Gunn all day. Again, it tried to dress itself up as a British bar, but the clientele was made up of local youngsters. It did the job before I ended up at my final destination.

Although La Cordonnerie served Stella out of plastic glasses, it was only €4 a pint. This was most acceptable! The bar had a mixed clientele but played good vibrant music and the crowd were up for a good time. Some stood outside with beers.

My day was done, after finding something for supper anyway! It had been another fantastic day out visiting places I’d never seen before. The match at Angers could have been a a lot better, but that’s the gamble with football. I was still glad that I made the effort.