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

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. 

FC Porto (Portugal)

Futebol Clube do Porto, or FC Porto as the club is more commonly known is a professional football club from the city of Porto that was formed on September 28th 1893 as Foot-Ball Club do Porto by António Nicolau de Almeida, a local port wine merchant and avid sportsman.

The club entered a period of inactivity around the turn of the twentieth century owing to a waning of interest by Almeida, until Porto were revived on August 2nd 1906 under José Monteiro da Costa; who like Almeida had fallen in love with the game while studying in England.

The club also began to promote other sports such as gymnastics, weightlifting, wrestling, athletics and swimming. The football club rented its first ground; Campo da Rainha and appointed their first coach; the Frenchman Adolphe Cassaigne.

In 1912 Porto worked with local club, Leixões to form the Associação de Futebol do Porto (Porto Football Association) with ‘Dragões’ lifting their first league title in 1913-14. The club would go on to win the regional championship six times in seven years.

By then Porto had moved to The Campo da Constituição, which was opened with a match against Oporto Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club in January 1913.

Porto also won the Taça José Monteiro da Costa, the Campeonato do Norte de Portugal outright with three victories. In 1921-22 the Campeonato de Portugal was created as clubs competed for the national title for the first time; with Porto being crowned champions over Sporting CP.

Porto would collect that particular title on another three occasions under coach József Szabó. The Primera Liga was formed in 1934-35 and would quickly become the major league competition in Portugal. By 1938-39 the competition was renamed as Primeira Divisão.

The Campeonato de Portugal would become the national cup competition; the Taça de Portugal. Porto soon established themselves as a leading national club with championships in 1934-35, 1938-39 and 1939-40 under the management of Szabó and then fellow Hungarian Mihály Siska.

In 1950 the club began work on their new Estádio do Futebol Clube do Porto, which became known as Estádio das Antas after the eastern neighbourhood in which it was located. The stadium was opened with a 8-2 defeat to bitter rivals SL Benfica.

After a sixteen year title drought Porto lifted the Primeira Divisão in 1955-56, going on to complete the double with a 2-0 victory over SCU Torreense at Estádio Nacional in the Taça de Portugal with Brazilian Dorival Yustrich in charge of the team.

The cup was regained in 1957-58 with a 1-0 win against SL Benfica under coach Otto Bumbel. Another Hungarian, Béla Guttmann had taken over as coach as a fifth league title arrived at the club in 1958-59.

The team being denied another double after SL Benfica exacted revenge in the final of the the Taça de Portugal. Porto would then enter a period without a trophy as the two major Lisbon clubs came to the fore.

The cub went through many coaches at an alarming rate. Eleven men from five different nations all failed to deliver a major trophy to Estádio das Antas until the Poruguese, José Maria Pedroto led Porto to a third Taça in 1967-68 with a 2-1 win against Vitória de Setúbal.

Elek Schwartz, Vieirinha and then Tommy Docherty had spells during the 1969-70 season as Porto finished in a record low ninth position in the Primeira Divisão. Ten more coaches would take charge between May 1971 and July 1976 before the appointment of José Maria Pedroto.

Tragedy hit Porto on December 16th 1973 as the twenty six year old club skipper, Pavão fell unconscious on the pitch during a game with Vitória de Setúbal before later dying in hospital. A month later the club completed the highly successful signing of Peruvian international Teófilo Cubillas.

Under Pedrota, Porto won the league title in 1977-78 and 1978-79 as well as the Taça de Portugal following a 1-0 victory against SC Braga at Estádio das Antas before losing the next season’s final against Sporting CP after a replay.

António Morais was in the position of head coach, as Porto lifted another Taça in 1983-84 as Rio Ave were defeated 4-1. The same season would also see the club reach their first European final.

Dinamo Zagreb, Rangers, Shakhtar Donetsk and Aberdeen were defeated as Porto reached the final of the European Cup Winners Cup; where they were defeated 2-1 by Juventus at St. Jakob Stadium in Basel with António Sousa netting the Dragões goal.

Former Portugal forward Artur Jorge took charge at Porto in July 1984 as the club entered its most successful period since their formation. The team went on to win the Primeira Divisão in 1984-85 with Fernando Gomes banging in the goals and again in 1985-86.

Estádio das Antas was extended as the cycling and athletic tracks were removed and the pitch lowered so an extra tier was created, which initially increased capacity to 95,000; which would later be reduced to 55,000 by the placing of individual seats.

The second league triumph set Porto on an historic European Cup run. Rabat Ajax, Vítkovice, Brøndby and Dynamo Kyiv were defeated to set up a final against FC Bayern München. Late goals from Rabah Madjer and Juary overturned a 1-0 deficit to lift the trophy.

Jorge was replaced by the Yugoslav Tomislav Ivić, who took Porto to the league and cup double in 1987-88; with victory in the Taça being achieved with a 1-0 win against Vitória de Guimarães. The team also won the Intercontinental Cup against Peñarol and the European Super Cup against Ajax.

Artur Jorge returned to the club as the team won the Primeira Divisão title in 1989-90 and the Taça in 1990-91 following a 3-1 extra time win against Beira-Mar before he was replaced in August 1991 by Carlos Alberto Silva who would lead the team to the league titles of 1991-92 and 1992-93.

Ivić returned for a short spell before Bobby Robson took over as head coach in January 1994. Porto progressed through the group stages of the UEFA Champions League before going out to FC Barcelona in the semi-final before the team lifted another Taça de Portugal victory; this time over Sporting CP.

Porto won their fourteenth Primeira Liga in 1994-95 to start a run of five consecutive finals as the club were also victorious in 1995-96 under Robson as Domingos Paciência finished as the league top scorer.

António Oliveira was head coach as Porto won the league in 1996-97 and 1997-98, with the side also winning their ninth Taça to complete the double in May 1998 with a 3-1 win against SC Braga.

Fernando Santos led Porto to the Primeira Liga title in 1998-99 as Mário Jardel continued to lead the league scoring charts before the team won the 1999-00 and 2000-01 Taça de Portugal with wins against Sporting CP and then Marítimo with goals from Pena and Dmitri Alenichev.

After a short spell from Octávio Machado, Porto appointed José Mourinho as head coach in January 2002 in what was an inspired choice. The new man led the team to the league title and another Taça against União de Leiria in 2002-03 as well as taking Porto to further European glory.

Porto won the UEFA Cup in the same season to complete the treble as they defeated Polonia Warsaw, Austria Wien, Lens, Denizlispor, Panathinaikos and SS Lazio to reach the final; where Celtic were defeated 3-2 after extra time at Estadio Olímpico de Sevilla as Derlei scored twice with Alenichev netting the other goal.

After Portugal had been awarded the 2004 European Championships, Porto decided to take the opportunity to build a brand new stadium. The new site was located a few hundreds of meters southeast of the Estádio das Antas.

After two years construction, Estádio do Dragão was opened with a 2-0 victory over FC Barcelona in front of 52,000 fans, in a game that also marked the professional debut of Lionel Messi.

Porto retained the Primeira Liga title in 2003-04 as Benni McCarthy topped the scoring charts while the ever reliable Vítor Baía keeping goal, Ricardo Carvalho marshalled the defence and Deco carved out numerous opportunities.

However, a greater glory came in the Champions League in the same season. Porto finished as runners-up to Real Madrid in the group stage before seeing off Manchester United, Olympique Lyonnais and Deportivo La Coruña to set up a final against AS Monaco.

The match was played at Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen and saw Mourinho’s side become champions of Europe for a second time with a 3-0 win with goals from Carlos Alberto, Alenichev and man of the match Deco.

Víctor Fernández took over from Mourinho, who departed for Chelsea after the final, and led the team to Intercontinental Cup for a second time after defeating Colombian side Once Caldas on penalties in Yokohama.

Dutchman Co Adriaanse was appointed as coach for the 2005-06 season tasked with rebuilding a team that had gradually broken up. New signings Lucho González and Lisandro López led the side to a twenty first Primeira Liga title.

Porto completed the double with a 1-0 win over Vitória de Setúbal in the final of the Taça de Portugal by courtesy of an Adriano goal. The remainder of the decade continued to bring further success to the club under Portuguese head coach Jesualdo Ferreira.

The league title was secured in 2006-07, 2007,08 and 2008-09, with the third of the triumphs coinciding with another double as the Taça was won with a 1-0 victory over Paços de Ferreira with a goal from top scorer López.

The trophy was retained the following May as Chaves were defeated 2-1 with goals from Fredy Guarín and new hero from River Plate; the Colombian Radamel Falcao. Even better was to come for the Estádio do Dragão faithful in the 2010-11 campaign.

Under André Villas-Boas, Porto were crowned as league champions as well as lifting the cup for a third consecutive season with a 6-2 hammering of Vitória de Guimarães. Ace goalscorer James Rodríguez netted a hat trick with Silvestre Varela, Rolando and Hulk also on target.

In the UEFA Europa League victories over KRC Genk, a group win ahead of Beşiktaş and then further successes against Sevilla, CSKA Moscow, Spartak Moscow and Villareal saw Porto progress to the final.

In the showpiece, Porto defeated near neighbours SC Braga 1-0 at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium with a goal from Falcao. Villas-Boas departed for Chelsea with his assistant Vítor Pereira taking over the reigns. The new man made it twenty seven Primeira Liga titles with successes in 2011-12 and 2012-13 as Jackson Martinez took over the role as leading striker.

Pereira departed in June 2013 to be replaced by Paulo Fonseca and then the Spaniard Julen Lopetegui. Arch rivals SL Benfica’s successes in lifting the Primeira Liga put pressure on Porto despite the goals of Martinez, who employed José Peseiro as coach from January 2016.

The appointment didn’t pay off, with Nuno Espírito Santo coming in and leading Porto to a runners-up berth in 2016-17. The club replaced Santo with former Porto and Portugal winger, Sérgio Conceição, in June 2017.

FC Porto will play in Primeira Liga in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

FC Porto 5 AS Monaco FC 2 (Wednesday 6th December 2017) UEFA Champions League Group G (att: 42,509)

I’d been designated a weeks annual leave from work, so my plans for a trip somewhere a little warmer were put in place several months in advance. Cheap flights were obtained with Easy Jet with the following night’s Europa League game in Guimarães making it a perfect outing.

Tom Stockman, the hard working manager of the Silver Jubilee Park home of Hendon and Edgware Town had hinted that he fancied an overseas trip. His colleague Rob Morris and I got together and arranged a little surprise for our mate.

We met early at Wembley Central on a cold morning. England had blown their slim chance in the Ashes Second Test and I was short on sleep after my trip down from York the previous evening had been blighted with delays.

Our flight was on time and we had a fine few hours exploring the wonderful city of Porto in sunny weather and temperatures in the teens. It really was a fine place with many hills and interesting buildings along with a fantastic quayside to the Douro River.

We decamped to our excellent accommodation; Porto D’ Ēpoca II, for a siesta before awaking thirsty, hungry and ready to take in the full experience of Estádio do Dragão. The Metro from 24 de Agosto took us to the designated stadium station in just a few minutes.

We walked around outside the north end of the impressive arena and up the slope by Almeda Shopping Mall, where souvenir and food and drink stalls were setting up. Drinks were €1.50 for Super Bock or Sagres. We enjoyed a few halves before heading over the road.

I’d bought our tickets online for €20 each. The ladies in charge of the accommodation printed them out for me and offered some valuable advice for Porto; while Tom picked up a leaflet that would be extremely useful post match.

We got through a security and then ticket check and climbed to the upper tier. The stadium confusingly had different numbers to each entrance to the corresponding block of seats. We thought we’d struck lucky with half way line seats until the locals put us right. Not that we could complain with our excellent view.

Estádio do Dragão really was an excellent stadium, with once continuous lower tier. The sides had upper tiers shaped like the stands at Huddersfield. The roof was a continuous bowl with gaps open behind both goals to allow light and wind to assist the pitch’s growth.

Tom’s Brazilian Portuguese continued to be a major help as he spotted that the beer inside the stadium was alcohol free. We went for the meal combo of bafana in a roll (marinated meat) and fries with a coffee or coke. The meat was a far better quality than that I’d tried at Benfica.

Porto went into the repeat of the 2004 Champions League Final needing a win to secure their passage to the next round; or hope that RB Leipzig achieved a worse result against group leaders Beşiktaş.

The stadium was by no means full, but the crowd in attendance would create a fantastic atmosphere throughout. The visitors from the south of France were cheered on by a couple of hundred fans opposite us.

We’d actually bumped into the Monaco side earlier in the day, when we got off the Metro from the airport to try and have a look inside the Estádio do Bessa home of Boavista. ‘Les Monégasques’ were staying at the nearby Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa and came out of the hotel as we walked by.

Porto began the match the more positive even though both sides displayed undoubted quality. They went ahead on nine minutes when Vincent Aboubakar latched onto a Yacine Brahimi pass following a half clearance to slot home.

The man on the PA boomed out the name of the scorer many times as the crowd joined in. A sweeping move just past the half hour mark saw Danilo Pereira set up Aboubakar for his second goal, while Leipzig went behind in Germany; much to the joy of the vocal home fans.

Seven minutes before the break both sides were down to ten men. Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson decided to show straight red cards to the home side’s Felipe and Monaco’s Rachid Ghezzal for violent conduct after a disagreement led to a series of mass pushing and shoving.

It looked all up for the visitors on the stroke of the half time whistle. A beautifully weighted dinked pass from Aboubakar sent in Brahimi past the threadbare French defence to slot past visiting keeper Diego Benaglio.

The wide concourses in the stadium were pretty basic, but there was a TV showing all the other Champions League goals at the break. The temperature was down to 6’, so it was nice to go inside for a few minutes rest bite.

The half time team talk from Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim seemed to inspire his team after the break. They looked a lot more determined; although that could have been down to Porto sitting on a comfortable lead?

Soualiho Meité was trying to pull the strings for Monaco in midfield and looked a fine player. Both Tom and I agreed that a goal to reduce the arrears could make things interesting. Adama Diakhaby, Meité and Rony Lopes all had efforts on goal.

It took a fine bit of defending by Terence Kongolo to deny Moussa Marega and keep thje score at 3-0 before the visiting side were given a lifeline on the hour mark. Referee Eriksson decided that Iván Marcano handled the ball with Kamil Glik converting the spot kick.

Meité went very close to further narrowing the arrears before Alex Telles scored with a wonderful low left footed shot from the outside of the area to make it 4-1. Shortly afterwards Monaco brought on former Porto players João Moutinho and Radamel Falcao who both received impressive ovations.

Both sides continued to play attacking football, which made it a very decent viewing spectacle. Falcao reduced the arrears once more with a fine header from a Keita Baldé cross. Porto fans applauded the goal, with Falcao responding in kind.

The scoreboard showed that Leipzig were losing 2-1. All the home fans were in party mood, assisted when Ricardo Pereira crossed for Tiquinho Soares to score with a good header from the centre of the box to make it 5-2 with just a couple of minutes remaining.

We scarpered well into stoppage time to head back round to the Estadio do Dragao station. We nearly got on the wrong train, but Tom quickly got us back on track as we headed into the city. The organisation was first class.

We looked to see if there was any bars between 24 de Agosto and Rua da Alegria; the main shopping street. The streets were lit up with pretty Christmas lights, but little else. Fortunately we had a good stand by.

Tom had picked up a leaflet for Letraria Craft Beer Garden when I was getting the tickets printed. We were turned away at 4.30pm as they didn’t open until 5; but we now had a couple of hours to adventure. The service proved to be first class.

The beers were probably too strong in a lot of cases; I started on a beer with junipers at 8.5%, but we were sipping rather than quaffing and the glasses were smaller. The gent behind the counter gave us a big bowl of peanuts and several free samples.

It was a bit of a worry getting up to go to the downstairs loos, but it certainly warmed me through. It was top quality stuff and turned out to be decent value when we settled up at the end. The drinking was perfectly accompanied by some fine old rock music.

It had been a fabulous day in a great city. The football had more than matched it!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tadcaster Albion

Tadcaster Albion AFC is a non-league football club that was formed in 1892 as John Smith’s FC in the North Yorkshire brewery town of Tadcaster, which is located between Leeds and York.

The earliest records are of the team playing at the cricket ground on Station Road and competing in the York League in the second tier Division One. The league title was secured in 1909-10 before the name was changed to Tadcaster Albion as they won the league in 1923-24.

The club was back under the brewing John Smith’s name soon afterwards, winning another in 1932-33. Another associated club playing as Tadcaster Albion appeared on the scene as both teams shared a ground at The Ings.

Both sides merged and kept the Tadcaster Albion title, while adopting the nickname of ‘The Brewers’ while competing in the York Football League. Albion were crowned champions in 1947-48 and finished as runners-up in 1953-54 before moving along the river to The Parks in 1960.

Tad became members of the Third Division of the Yorkshire League for the 1973-74 season, going on to win promotion from Division Two in their second season. A further elevation came in 1976-77 as the side went up to Division One on goal difference.

The following season saw Albion go all the way to the fifth round of the FA Vase; where they were knocked out 2-1 at home to fellow Yorkshire League side Frecheville Community. However, the club suffered successive relegations in 1978-79 and 1979-80.

Tadcaster became founder members of the Northern Counties East League for the 1982-83 season; remaining in Division One of the competition for the following sixteen seasons before winning the league title in 2009-10 and gaining promotion to the Premier Division under manager Paul Marshall.

Albion finished in fourth place in their debut season and after a couple of top end finishes, they ended in third place in 2013-14. The 2014-15 season saw another third place achieved as well as a fantastic FA Vase campaign.

Winsford Town, Morpeth Town, St Helens Town, Brocton and AFC Mansfield were all dispatched which set up a semi-final tie against Highworth Town. The side from Wiltshire went through on aggregate but the second leg was marred by a melee.

Marshall departed at the end of the season to be replaced by Billy Miller as new owners i2i; a coaching and football agent company, invested heavily in the club; as well as changing the ground name to the i2i Stadium.

Miller led the team to the NCEL Premier Division title in 2015-16 as further investments were made to the ground and playing squad ahead of Northern Premier League football, as former Premier League star Jono Greening signed for the club.

Miller was replaced by Michael Morton and Simon Collins; who had been managing the under 21 team after Albion finished their first ever season at step four level in nineteenth position.

Tadcaster Albion AFC will play in the Northern Premier League Division One North in the 2017-18 season.

My visits

Tadcaster Albion v Scarborough Athletic - Match Postponed (Saturday 8th December 2007)

I must have had a fleeting glimpse of Tadcaster’s Ings Lane ground on hundreds of occasions as we passed on the A64 on the by-pass around the town. It’s just I’d never any real cause to head there for a game, despite my groundhopping tendencies.

However, once the old Scarborough FC went bust in the summer of 2007, both Athletic and Albion found themselves in the same league. It was on a visit back home to visit my parents for the weekend that the fixtures fell right to allow me to head to a match.

I’d been extremely close to fulfilling the 'North Yorkshire Derby' in the first season Boro and Tad were due to face each other. I’d travelled up with Dave Cammish and met Fred Firman and several other Seadogs in driving rain in Tadcaster.

The game hadn’t been called off, despite the River Aire nearly coming over the top of the road bridge. It fell to the landlord of the Coach and Horses to break the news of the postponement. He was the first to know as he was making the after match sandwiches!

A long and elongated pub crawl around the town ensued, which included the worst game of killer pool imaginable before the bus back was fired at by an air pistol. A curry followed in York before Dave and I nearly missed the train home!

Tadcaster Albion 0 Scarborough Athletic 4 (Saturday 24th January 2009) Northern Counties East League Division One (att: 340)

On the second occasion heading to Ings Lane for a match, Karl picked me and Barry Rewcroft up for the ride through. The weather wasn’t the best, but the game was definitely on. As ever, a good turn out of Seadogs had also made the journey along the A64.

We got there early enough to have a couple of pints in the clubhouse before the teams came out. A rumour was doing the rounds that Tadcaster were fielding an outside layer in goal because of a late injury. I tried to get the info passed on.

Ings Lane was a tidy enough little venue, with a overhand from the clubhouse offering a bit of cover to fans wanting to stand down the side. There was a small semi temporary seated stand at the town end, with the rest of the ground made up of hard and grass flat open standing.

I never did find out if it was Taddy’s usual keeper but Boro raced to a 3-0 lead by the interval as Ryan Blott had bagged a brace with a Danny Gray goal coming in between. I remember there being a rather hostile exchange by the tunnel as the team came off at half time.

Tad battled well in the second half, but the game was gone by then. Boro played in complete control in what would be a title winning season as opposing defences struggled to cope with the incessant fire power. Gray wrapped up the victory in the final minute.

If I remember correctly, we got back, had food and then went out to enjoy the pubs of Falsgrave!

Tadcaster Albion 2 Scarborough Athletic 3 (Tuesday 29th March 2011) Northern Counties East League Premier Division (att: 233)

My days off work fell for me to attend this midweek game, which I think was re-arranged because of the flooding earlier in the season. I took the Megabus to Leeds and then a service bus to Tadcaster in good time for a few pints in the main street.

Boro were in a bit of a strange position. They weren.t doing terribly, but they weren’t performing as well as many fans expected either. Manager Paul Olsson hadn’t done himself too many favours when he told a fans forum that he struggled to attract players to the club.

It looked as though the manager would be given until the end of the season before any changes were made. I spent some time in the company of Chairman Dave Holland and told him that Mitch Cook would be my choice as the next manager. He seemed happy to let things go for a while longer.

Boro went ahead through centre back Chris Jenkinson on thirty six minutes before future Scarborough player Carl Stewart levelled things up ten minutes after the break. Tadcaster went 2-1 ahead through Danny Pitts seven minutes later.

While Boro’s side drew criticism from quite a few fans, they always gave their best. The tactics were probably not always right and the players often lacked self belief, but they tried. This match was a perfect case in point.

Billy Law equalised on sixty four minutes, as the team played some nice stuff. Perhaps it was because the pressure of a title challenge had subsided or that there was not the same volume of visiting fans as usual, which allowed them to relax?

Whatever it was, the team played well and got a deserved winner when Ryan Blott converted a penalty with twenty minutes remaining, to the customary moans of the home fans. At full time Col Whelan gave me a ride back to my Dad’s.

The following morning, we were somewhat shocked when it was revealed that Olsson had been relieved of his duties after the game. A few days later Rudy Funk was installed as the new Boro manager.

Stocksbridge Park Steels

Stocksbridge Park Steels FC is a non-league football club formed in 1986; following a merger between Stocksbridge Works and Oxley Park, who hail from the small town of Stocksbridge; which is located just north of Sheffield in South Yorkshire.

Stocksbridge Works FC first competed in the Division Two of the Yorkshire League in 1949-50, going on to lift the divisional title and win promotion to Division One in their second season. It was the start of a decade of dominance for the club.

Stocksbridge were crowned as Yorkshire League champions in 1951-52, before going on to win the league in 1954-55, 1955-56,1956-57 and 1957-58 to complete a four in a row triumph. A runners-up slot came in 1960-61 before further titles were collected in 1961-62 and 1962-63.

The seven times champions were surprisingly relegated the following season, before regaining their top flight status in 1964-65 as they won Division Two. The ups and downs continued as the team were relegated in 1965-66, promoted in 1966-67 and demoted again in 1967-68.

A new Division Three was added to the Yorkshire League in 1970, with Works being relegated into it. In 1970-71 the team won the Division Three title, but were relegated back to that status in 1972-73. Promotion came with another title win in 1974-75, but the stay in Division Two lasted just one season.

A further promotion was secured in 1978-79, but once again the clubs stay in Division Two lasted just twelve months. Stocksbridge Works became founder members of the Northern Counties East League in 1982-83, from where they were placed in Division One Central for the 1984-85 campaign.

When the league was re-organised they were given a position in Division Three for the 1985-86 season, where they competed before merging with Oxley Park a few months later.

The NCEL merged their Divisions Two and One into one league for the 1991-92 season, with Stocksbridge Park Steels becoming Division One champions and moving up to the Premier Division under manager Mick Horne. The 1993-94 season saw the club crowned as league champions.

A runners-up spot followed in 1995-96, which was enough to secure a move to Division One of the Northern Premier League. The club settled into their new surroundings at their Bracken Moor home. Towards the end of the 2000-01 campaign Horne resigned after eleven years at the helm to be replaced by Wayne Biggins.

Biggins departed in November 2003 to be replaced by Peter Rinkcavage, who oversaw some stability on the pitch before taking Steels to the play-offs in 2005-06. Kendal Town ended any dreams of promotion with a win on penalties.

Gary Marrow had taken charge of the side including Jamie Vardy; which was placed in Division One South as the side lost to Sheffield in the play-offs of 2007-08. However, it was to be second time lucky as Carlton Town and then Belper Town were defeated in the play-offs at the end of the 2008-09 season to win promotion to the Premier Division.

Simon Collins arrived as the new team manager during the 2009-10 campaign, but his spell lasted just six months. Steve Stutt had a short spell in charge before former boss Marrow returned to the club.

Chris Willcock and then Darren Schofield would also have terms at the helm at Bracken Moor before the team was relegated in 2013-14 after a second from bottom finish. Steels managed to stave off relegation in Division One South under the management of Chris Hilton.

A sixth place followed in 2015-16 before Stocksbridge finished in the play-off places in 2016-17 where they lost out to Spalding United in the semi-finals.

Stocksbridge Park Steels FC will play in the Northern Premier League Division One South in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Stocksbridge Park Steels 0 Scarborough 0 (Saturday 15th January 2000) FA Trophy Round Three (att: )

Boro were in their first season back as a non-league club following thirteen years in the League; and as such were quite a big fish at the time. They’d got a bye to the second round, where they despatched Ilkeston Town away from home. Steels were a couple of divisions lower in the pecking order.

My pal Steve Walker was keen to make the journey from his Oxford home, so I took the train from St Pancras to meet him. The plan was to stay overnight in the city. We had a pint on arrival and decided to take a taxi to Stocksbridge.

Not for the last time a poor driver would be the loser taking the pair of us to a game. Steve had negotiated a fare before we jumped in. Our cabbie obviously forgot to put the fact that Sheffield Wednesday were also at home into the equation.

The journey was painfully slow until we got past Hillsborough. I seem to remember we came to a compromise and left on good terms, just as our old pals rocked up in their mini-bus. If I remember correctly admission was just £5.

Our hosts were brilliant all day. Many other clubs would have been tempted to cash in on a large travelling support, but not Stocksbridge. Programmes, refreshments and beer prices were great value for money. Indeed, many Seadogs didn’t even bother leaving the bar.

Bracken Moor was a tidy and unique venue, built into a hill. The Main Stand was a distinctive seated structure with grass banking and hard standing at the front. Opposite was a fence separating the pitch from the cricket ground and wicket.

The clubhouse and turnstiles were built in the top corner, with the bar and patio outside offering a great view. The far end had a concrete path and a bank behind, while the near end had a reasonable sized cover for standing spectators.

Karl tests out the food as Butch watches on

 Again, I rely upon my memory as I write this report in 2017, but Boro dominated huge swathes of play without really looking like scoring. There was no real panic as everyone assumed that it would only be a matter of time before they broke the deadlock.

The same pattern continued in the second half, only Steels realised that they had a chance of creating an upset. The travelling support were getting upset at their sides performance, with manager Colin Addison taking some of the flak. Stocksbridge fully deserved their draw.

I recall appealing to the Boro directors to let any visiting fans in at cut price for the replay, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. I thought it was the east that they deserved. We said goodbye to our pals who headed home while we walked down the hill.

We found a pub that is still remembered many years later. We ended up on lager as they had run out of bitter, cider and Guinness. It really was a glum place and surely a matter of time before it would shut down for good?

After a couple of pints we caught the bus to Sheffield Interchange, where we were still stuck with the conundrum of where to stay? Steve negotiated at the nearby Travelodge, where I predictably lost the toss and would spend the night on the floor.

We headed out up the hill into the city and had beers in the vibrant student area around West Street before grabbing food. It was a long and interesting day, Boro went on to win the replay 5-0 and bagged an away tie at Burnham; which would lead to further shenanigans!