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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Rushall Olympic

Rushall Olympic FC is a non-league football club from the former mining village of Rushall, which is located just north of Walsall in the West Midlands. The club was formed in 1893.

Initially Rushall played friendly games before becoming members of the Cannock & District League in 1895 before progressing to the Walsall & District League, where they competed at various levels.

The team played on a field behind the Miners Arms pub; using the hostelry as changing rooms. Most of the players worked down the local pit. The original club disbanded just prior to World War Two.

In 1951 Olympic were reformed by some local enthusiasts, playing at Rowley Place and using a local fish and chip shop as their headquarters. The club secured a place in the Walsall & District Amateur League; going on to win both divisions in consecutive seasons to progress to the Staffordshire County League (South).

‘The Pics’ continued moving forward with yet another title win at the first attempt. They then went on to win the Division One championship four times in the second half of the 1960’s. Rushall made a move to share the facilities at the Aston University Sports Ground, while securing land for their new Dales Lane home, which opened in 1977.

The endeavour paid dividends as the club were accepted into the West Midlands (Regional) League for the 1978-79 season; going on to win Division One in their second season to secure promotion to the Premier Division.

Pics became founder members of the Midland Football Alliance in 1994-95. The new millennium saw another Olympic surge. The club finished as league runners-up in 2001-02 and 2002-03. It would be third time lucky as Rushall were crowned as the Midland Football Alliance champions of 2004-05 to secure promotion to the Southern League Division One Midlands.

In 2008-09 the club were transferred to the Northern Premier League Division One South. In their debut season a fifth place finish ensured a place in the play-offs; where Pics were defeated 1-0 by Belper Town.

Neil Kitching came in as manager to replace Paul Holleran in the summer of 2009. His side finished in third place in 2010-11 before going on to defeat Brigg Town and then Grantham Town to reach the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League.

In Rushall’s first season as a step three club they finished in a creditable eighth place finish and reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup. In 2012-13 Olympic just missed out on the play-offs with a sixth place ending.

The club continued to consolidate before Kitching left on amicable terms in the summer of 2014.  The former Bolton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Richard Sneekes was appointed as the new manager.

Sneekes led the side to a mid table finish before departing to Sutton Coldfield Town. Joint chairman John Allen stepped into the breach as team boss in November 2016.

Rushall Olympic FC will play in the Northern Premier League Premier Division in the 2016-17 season.

My visit

Rushall Olympic 1 Halesowen Town 2 (Saturday 29th October 2016) FA Trophy First Qualifying Round (att: 189)

My old mate Ron Heywood was over with the New Zealand senior indoor cricket team and playing in the World Series event in Erdington in the north of Birmingham. I stayed in the city the previous evening and enjoyed the fine ales on offer.

The cricket was absolutely top class. I bumped into Andy Walton, a fine player who I knew from the Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes. I’m not sure which one of us was most shocked? It was also nice to see Mike Gatting there and to have a chat.

After lunch I said my goodbyes and caught a bus down to Aston before taking a train to Walsall. The service was busy as Coventry City were the visitors at the Bescot Stadium. I carried on through the pedestrian centre and to the bus station for the number 997, which dropped me a few yards from the ground ten minutes before kick off.

I paid my £9 admission along with a further couple of quid for an excellent programme. It was soon apparent that quite a few fans had travelled to support the visiting Yeltz. I’d resisted other opportunities of food and was rewarded with a fine portion of steak pie, chips and a tea, which came to £4.50. It was absolutely top drawer.

I’d settled down in a seat to enjoy my food and take in the surroundings of the Dale Lane ground that had plenty of character.

I was in one of two identical modern build seated stands which faced each other at the far end of the ground. Behind the goal was a long low cover. Further along the ‘top’ side was another cover along the middle third of the pitch. 

The far side was open standing with a TV gantry on the half way line. The entrance end was flat open standing and also contained the changing rooms, tea bar and clubhouse. There was quite a large slope down from the top side right across the pitch.

The programme described the visitors as “our good friends”. The next ninety minutes had me undecided whether that was a genuine welcome or irony? What I got was a feisty local derby with absolutely no love lost between the teams.

Halesowen had a couple of chances that flew just wide after a fairly even start. Then at the other end the visiting keeper Dan Platt made a fine low save from Rushall’s Alex Reid. Matt Birley hit the post for Yeltz, before they took the lead on thirty nine minutes.

Former Pic, Ethan Delaney headed home at the back post. The challenges were flying in, with Olympic’s being forced off Aris Christophorou after a bad tackle. The referee was getting plenty of advice from the players, benches and crowd.

At half time I gathered up the messages on my phone. I was to finish filing my report from the Thailand International Cricket Sixes. The fellas in Bangkok were sending me the results and news of anything notable, while I put the jigsaw together in Walsall. Oh for the joys of modern technology!

For the second half I decided to sit in the opposite seats down the slope, while continuing my task. It baffled me how reporters and statisticians manage to multi task match after match. Pics equalised soon after the break through a powerful Joe Hull header.

However, their task was made more difficult just a minute later as substitute Marlon Walters was given a straight red card by the referee after the linesman saw a stamp. That merely increased the verbal’s between the benches and towards the officials.

Gradually Halesowen took control of the game. It was no surprise when Jordan Goddard fired in what would prove to be the winner. Jose Veiga in the Pics goal pulled off some fine saves to keep the score down. It hadn't been a match for the timid or those who abhor plenty of profanities.

At full time I walked down the lane to catch the 35B bus back to Walsall and then a train to New Street. This left me with an hour to kill in the magnificent Wellington before my train back to London.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Kidderminster Harriers

Kidderminster Harriers is a professional football club from the town of the same name who were formed in 1866 from a successful local rugby union and athletics club.

The club started out playing matches at Chester Road, which became the town’s cricket club. In 1887 Harriers moved to Aggborough, at the same time a rival club Kidderminster Olympic were formed, with both becoming founder members of the Birmingham & District League in 1889.

Both clubs drew regular attendances of 2,000, while derbies over 7,000. The clubs amalgamated after Olympic won the league in 1890, becoming Kidderminster FC and joining the Midland League as a professional outfit.

The new club found it tough going. They resigned from the league and were wound up in March 1891. The club reverted to amateur status and joined the Birmingham & District League as Kidderminster Harriers.

Several famous names of the time such as Jesse Pennington, Stanley Fazackerley and George Getgood had short spells with the club, before Harriers were crowned as Birmingham & District League champions in the 1937-38 season. Harriers had a brief spell in the Southern League before returning to their roots at the outbreak of war.

In 1945 Harriers joined the Birmingham Combination before moving to the Southern League for 1948-49. Future FA Chairman Ted Croker as well as future England international Gerry Hitchens played for Harriers around this time.

On the 14th September 1955 Harriers became the first team to host a floodlit FA Cup tie, as they defeated Brierley Hill Alliance in a Preliminary Round replay. The club struggled financially, leading to a return to the more localised Birmingham League in 1960.

The league changed its name to the West Midlands (Regional) League in 1963, which also saw the debut of Peter Wassall for the club. He would go to score 448 goals in 621 in appearances in a Harriers shirt. His stellar performances led to Harriers being crowned as league champions in 1964-65, 1968-69, 1970-71 and 1970-71.

The club returned to the Southern League for the 1972-73 campaign in Division One North. Following a league restructuring Kidderminster were placed in the Midland Division of the Southern League in 1979-80.

In 1982 Harriers were placed in the Premier Division, before progressing into the Alliance Premier League for 1983-84 when they ended as Southern League runners-up to AP Leamington, who were denied entry to the top tier because of ground facility issues.

Leamington suffered further a few months later when their boss Graham Allner moved to Aggborough, to start on a sixteen year association at Harriers. In July 1985 striker Kim Casey was signed from Gloucester City for a £2,500 fee. This would prove to be a very wise piece of business as his partnership with Paul Davies tore many defence apart.

In 1986 Harriers reached the final of the Welsh Cup, where they were defeated in a replay at Aggborough by Wrexham in front of a crowd of 4,304. The following year Harriers lifted the FA Trophy, as Burton Albion were defeated 2-1 at The Hawthorns following a 0-0 draw at Wembley Stadium.

In 1989 Kiddy once again reached the Welsh Cup Final, but went down 5-0 at the Vetch Field to Swansea City. In 1991 Harriers were defeated 2-1 at Wembley against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Trophy Final.

The success continued on the pitch as Harriers won the Football Conference, as the Alliance Premier League had been renamed in 1993-94 but they were denied promotion to the Football League because Aggborough was deemed not up to standard. The season also saw a remarkable FA Cup run.

Wins over Chesham United, Kettering Town and Woking led to a third round tie away to near neighbours Birmingham City at St Andrews. Harriers defeated City 2-1 to set up a home tie with Preston North End. Once again Kidderminster pulled off a huge shock with a 1-0 win. The reward was a fifth round home tie against West Ham United. The Hammers won the match by a solitary goal in front of the Match of the Day cameras and an Aggborough crowd of 8,000.

Another Trophy final defeat followed in 1995. This time a 2-1 defeat to Woking at Wembley would break Aggborough hearts. In 1996-97 Harriers ended as Conference runners-up to Macclesfield Town.

Local retired retail millionaire Lionel Newton took over the club for the 1999-00 season and appointed former Liverpool and Denmark star Jan Molby as manager. The move worked as Harriers beat Rushden & Diamonds to the Conference title by nine points to win promotion to the Football League.

The move of former player Lee Hughes from West Bromwich Albion to Coventry City netted Harriers £700,000 in sell on fees. However, low attendances and the collapse of the ITV digital deal led to financial problems and relegation back to the Conference in 2005. In their five seasons as a League club, Kidderminster’s best finish had been tenth place in 2001-02.

Managers Molby, Shaun Cunnington and Stuart Watkiss all had a go in the League, before Mark Yates arrived during a disappointing first season back in the Conference. In 2007 Yates’ side reached the Trophy final once again. This time they were defeated 3-2 by Stevenage Borough in front of an astonishing crowd of 53,262 at Wembley.

In December 2009 Yates departed to take the managers job at Cheltenham Town to be replaced by Steve Burr. His side finished just outside the play-offs in his first two campaigns. An incredible run of twenty two wins in twenty six league games in 2011-12 saw Kidderminster in a battle with Mansfield Town for the title. The Nottinghamshire club came out victorious on the final day of the season. Harriers lost 5-2 on aggregate to Wrexham in the semi-final of the play-offs.

Burr was sacked in January 2014 following a rocky period. Former Wimbledon and Newcastle United centre back Andy Thorn was appointed in his place but lasted only fifty four days, despite a giant killing win at Peterborough United in the FA Cup. Star youngster Joe Lolley departed to Huddersfield Town.

Burr’s former assistant Gary Whild was Thorn’s replacement. His budget was greatly reduced at Christmas 2014 because of financial concerns. Thirty eight year old Lee Hughes returned to the club but several players departed.

After a terrible start to the 2015-16 season Whild was moved upstairs to the post of Head of Football Operations. Tim Flowers declined the invite to take over as Head Coach, leading the appointment of former agent Colin Gordon taking up the hot seat, with Whild departing the club.

John Eustace was appointed as team manager in April 2016, but he could not save the side from relegation.

Kidderminster Harriers FC will play in the National League North in the 2016-17 season

My visits

Tuesday 21st October 1987

Scarborough were playing away to Hereford United in the old Division Four. I was on annual leave from the Post Office, so I was delighted to get a seat with our regular driver Jon .Doomy’ Dyer along with Crusher and my brother Nick.

We set off nice and early and decided to visit a few grounds along the way. We’d been inside Eton Park at Burton, Villa Park, Fellows Park and The Hawthorns as well as been turned away at The Molineux.

We stopped off in Kidderminster around dusk with the people in the club office on the ground forecourt being friendly with us having a gander inside.

Aggborough was quite a basic venue at the time, with the remains of a cycling track around the pitch. Both ends were open shale standing. The far side had a cover over a few steps of terracing, while the Main Stand on the near side had seating in two sections, with an extended roof over the original offering cover to the patrons.

We headed down to Hereford for pre match beers to see a 1-1 draw in which future top flight star Craig Short came on as a Boro substitute for his Football League debut.

England U20s 1 Brazil U20s 2 (Sunday 4th September 2016) Friendly International (att: 4,007)

Aggborough had been on my radar for some time, having even missed one trip I’d already booked train tickets for. I was not going to miss out on the opportunity a second time, especially for an international charging just £3 admission. The programme cost more at £3.50!

I managed to buy a decent value rail ticket from Marylebone to Moor Street, from where I took a train straight across through the West Midlands and into Worcestershire. The streets leading up to the stadium had vendors selling their souvenirs. Lots of families were also grabbing a great offer to watch the stars of tomorrow.

My ticket was for the far end, which on normal match days had segregation for the away fans. The barriers were open for the day so I could choose anywhere behind the goal.

Aggborough really was a super little stadium, with identical covered terraces behind both goals. The Main Stand to my left had corporate facilities and a smart roof. The seated stand opposite was neat and tidy. The ground was well looked after everywhere I looked.

Of course I couldn’t visit without testing out the legendary catering. The soup was good and thick but didn’t taste how I’d envisaged. However, the cottage pie was extremely filling and top quality. It cost £4.50 but worth the money. Once full and taken my photos I settled into a spot to enjoy the action.

Often I complain about modern football; maybe a bit too much so? Players do get too much money, but those at the top have generally achieved. It’s the youth team players demanding this that and the other without even started out in the game that annoy me. I could imagine I was watching a fair few of those on this occasion.

For the first twenty minutes the England team were a shambles, full of errors and aimless and misplaced passes. Lucas Pacqeta put Brazil ahead on seven minutes when he nipped in between and slumbering defence and keeper Freddie Woodman to score.

England were awarded a penalty shortly after, but Adam Armstrong saw his penalty saved by Caique in the visitors net. The home side and Woodman in particular were made to pay on twenty six minutes when he dithered while trying to decide where to clear the ball, only for Malcolm to nip in, mug him and roll the ball into an empty net.

By this stage I’d made eye contact with an older fella stood close by. It was clear by his expressions that he wasn’t that impressed. He was a really nice chap, with that downbeat Brummie persona who went to Birmingham City and Solihull Moors.

We chatted about all things football and lamented just how we should be concerned about the future of the national team if these were the best players that the coaches and scouts could pick out.

Arsenal player Ainsley Maitland-Niles was lively enough, if a little greedy at times. He set up Tottenham’s Joshua Onomah who somehow scuffed wide soon after the interval. Caio Monteiro nearly extended the visitors lead, but at least they were being forced back a little as the home team resorted to a pressure game rather than the forlorn hope of trying to outplay the Brazilians.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin of Everton and Ademola Lookman who would join him from Charlton later in the season both had efforts well saved by Caique. With a few minutes remaining Calvert-Lewin scored with an excellent header. England piled on the pressure but couldn’t find an equaliser in the closing stages.

At full time it had been agreed that both sides would play a penalty shoot out regardless of the result, with the PA man emphasising the point in the hope that the crowd would stay behind. I thought this an excellent idea for young players to practice in a live environment rather than a training ground.

My pal and I wandered back to the station. Our main concern about the England side was not so much the forward players, but the standard of the defending. The team contained Reece Oxford of West Ham and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson of Manchester United who had both appeared in the Premier League. Neither installed much confidence in either of us.

I alighted at Moor Street once again as I had a couple of hours to kill. Steve Barnes had earmarked a couple of pubs for me to try in Digbeth just south of the city centre. The White Swan was a traditional old corner house with an uninspiring beer selection.

The Anchor had the Slovakia v England World Cup Qualifier on the TV. Sadly it looked like they’d sold most of their beer the day before. I found a couple that were OK if not outstanding. The actual pub was a belter. The match was hard work but I celebrated happily with the locals when Adam Lallana finally broke down a host team who were masters of the dark arts.

Once back at Marylebone after a nap I headed to the Wetherspoons outlet at Harrow-on-the-Hill for beers with Steve Speller.

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.