Rules- non competitive games do not count, including minor competitions like the Surrey Senior cup and friendlies. Wimbledon and Charlton away when they were using Selhurst Park for home games do not count as ‘away from SE25’.
Reprise again! Not for a new ground with Palace. But an unusual tick, on November 5th 2017 for a league game v Spurs (Game 510 away from SE25) at Wembley whilst White Hart Lane is rebuilt. My 15th away match v Spurs. Looking forward to the new rebuilt White Hart Lane.
Away Game number 508, Burnley v Palace, Premier League, Sunday September 10th 2107… Only my third visit to Turf Moor, 3 defeats and no goals scored yet! Bogey ground!
Reprising this blog once again.
The London Stadium was added to my ‘Palace’ list this January for a visit to WHU, a 3-0 defeat topped off a thoroughly miserable day, only enhanced by meeting a couple of friends for pre-match drinks. Anyone considering visiting as an away fan, I’d strongly recommend trying to get a seat in the lower tier, the upper tier is very distant from the pitch. With a big gap between the upper and lower tiers.
26th December 2015 – A visit to the ‘Vitality Stadium’ of Bournemouth FC for a Premier League fixtures, a virtually full house of 11,218 watched a rather drab 0-0. This took my total of Palace away grounds to 106. Although technically the new stadium was built over some of the old Dean Court ground, the pitch was rotated, and four new stands built, as my Bournemouth friend confirmed to me;
Dean Court was completely rebuilt and the pitch turned round 90 degrees in 2001.
All that’s left of the old ground is the bank where the narrow terrace opposite main stand stood and the wall behind. The murals on the wall behind the away stand are where the back of the old away (Brighton Beach) end was.
So, that’s good enough for me, like the New Wembley this counts as a new ground.
|September 2015 – Last Sunday, Sept 27th, I visited Watford FC at Vicarage Road for the first ever Premier League fixture between the two clubs, but my 16th visit there as an away fan. This is my most visited away venue since I first ventured there for a Div 3 fixture in the 1974/75 season. Edging out 15 visits to ‘The Valley’ of Charlton Athletic.|
May 2015- My 11th visit to Anfield on May 16th and my 496th away from SE25, Stevie Gerrard’s last game at Anfield, and a 3-1 victory for Palace, resulted in a fantastic day out for our travelling 1,883.
Jan 2015 -Last Sunday I added the historic ‘Crabble Athletic Ground’, ‘Crabble’ or if you prefer ‘The Crabble’ of Dover Athletic FC, to bring my current total to 105.
For all Palace ground hoppers this was a fantastic FA cup draw, and the first time we’d been drawn against a non league club in the cup since 1982 when we visited Southbury Road, Enfield FC for a third round tie (won 3-2). This being our first ever competitive game in Dover.
Palace were given a healthy allocation of about 2,500 tickets, and at games kick off, an overall total of 5,645 packed the terraces and stands. For Palace fans more used to large stadiums and fancy prices in the Premier League, £20 to stand up, to shuffle ones feet and have a good old sing song, was too good an offer to turn down, what is it about standing that brings out the terrace wits? The same sort of banter doesn’t seem to translate into seated areas of grounds for some reason.
I expected Conference Premier (Nationally, level 5), Dover to give us a hard competitive game, sadly for them, they appeared to freeze on their big day, and Palace eased to a 4-0 win.
The football ground was opened in 1931, and is known locally as the ‘Upper Ground’, and was built because the lower ground (opened in 1897) also hosted cricket, and the football club had to wait until the cricket season had finished before having access to it. In fact, the lower gound has some history, having hosted over 100 Kent CC cricket matches up until 1976. Palace fans had a good lofty view of that, as our access was by a path that looped around a bank overlooking it.
Half and half football scarf’s are a horrible invention of the Premier greed corporate tourist football fan era, who for instance wants a Palace scarf with the words Chelsea defacing it? I’m sure Millwall fans would say the same about a Palace/Millwall half and half scarf. However, for a NL v Premier League encounter in the FA Cup, they seem entirely appropriate and what, surely, they were invented for? So, I was happy to hand over £10 for my commerative scarf and match day badge. 🙂
Ground 104 with Palace, The Libery Stadium, Swansea City FC.
This blog will list by club/ground, and how many times I have watched Crystal Palace FC at that venue, in a competitive game. Entry in () indicates how many games I have watched Palace at that venue.
Competitive games entail any league match, FAC (FACup), LC (League Cup), FMC (Full Members Cup/Simod Cup/Zenith Data Systems Cup), AIC (Anglo Italian Cup).
League competitions are abbreviated by the following;
Prem – Premier League or Premiership (from 1992-93), D1 (Before 1992), ND1 (Since 1992, the old D2), Championship, D3 (Palace only played in this in the 70s when it was still the old third tier).
‘Away’ games against Charlton and Wimbledon whilst they were ground sharing at Selhurst Park (SE25), have NOT been included in the list below.
(2) Aldershot – The Recreation Ground – 74-75 (D3), 75-76 (D3).
(11) Arsenal – Highbury Stadium – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 89-90 (D1), 90-91 (D1), 91-92 (D1), 92-93 (LC), 92-93 (Prem), 94-95 (Prem), 97-98 (FAC), 97-98 (Prem), 04-05 (Prem).
(1) Arsenal – The Emirates Stadium – 13-14 (Prem).
(12) Aston Villa – Villa Park – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 89-90 (D1), 89-90 (FAC S-F v Liverpool), 90-91 (D1), 91-92 (D1), 92-93 (Prem), 94-95 (Prem), 94-95 (FAC S-F v Man Utd), 94-95 (FAC S-F Rep v Man Utd), 04-05 (Prem), 14-15 (Prem).
(6) Barnsley – Oakwell – 81-82 (D2), 83-84 (D2), 86-87 (D2), 96-97 (ND1), 97-98 (Prem), 99-00 (ND1).
(9) Birmingham City – St Andrews – 80-81 (D1), 86-87 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 91-92 (LC), 93-94 (ND1), 95-96 (ND1), 96-97 (ND1), 99-00(ND1), 04-05 (Prem).
(9) Blackburn Rovers – Ewood Park – 77-78 (D2), 78-79 (D2), 83-84 (D2), 86-87 (D2), 87-88 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 88-89 (Play Off Final 1st Leg), 97-98 (Prem), 00-01 (ND1).
(1) Blackpool – Bloomfield Road – 02-03 (FAC).
(3) Bolton Wanderers – Burnden Park – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (LC), 96-97 (ND1).
(2) Bolton Wanderers – The Reebok Stadium – 97-98 (Prem), 04-05 (Prem).
(2) Bournemouth (AFC) – Dean Court – 87-88 (D2), 88-89 (D2).
(2) Bournemouth – The Vitality Stadium – 15-16 (Prem), 16-17 (Prem).
(2) Bradford City – The Odsal Stadium – 85-86 (D2), 86-87 (D2).
(2) Bradford City – Valley Parade – 87-88 (D2), 96-97 (ND1).
(1) Brentford – Griffin Park – 77-78 (LC).
(12) Brighton & Hove Albion – The Goldstone Ground – 74-75 (D3), 76-77 (FAC), 77-78 (D2), 78-79 (D2), 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 83-84 (D2), 84-85 (D2), 85-86 (D2), 86-87 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 90-91 (FMC).
(2) Brighton & Hove Albion – The Amex Stadium – 11-12 (Champ), 12-13 (Champ P-Off S/F 2nd Leg).
(7) Bristol City – Ashton Gate – 78-79 (LC), 79-80 (D1), 88-89 (LC), 93-94 (ND1), 07-08 (Champ Play Off S/F), 10-11 (Champ), 17-18 (LC).
(1) Bristol Rovers – Eastville – 78-79 (D2).
(1) Bristol Rovers – The Memorial Ground – 07-08 (LC).
(3) Burnley – Turf Moor – 82-83 (FAC), 01-02 (ND1), 17-18 (Prem).
(1) Bury – Gigg Lane – 86-87 (LC).
(4) Cambridge United – The Abbey Stadium – 78-79 (D2), 81-82 (D2), 82-83 (D2), 89-90 (FAC).
(1) Cardiff – The Millennium Stadium – 03-04 (ND1 Play Off Final v WHU).
(7) Cardiff City – Ninian Park – 78-79 (D2), 79-80 (FAC v Swansea), 81-82 (D2), 84-85 (D2), 05-06 (Champ), 06-07 (Champ), 08-09 (Champ).
(5) Cardiff City -The Cardiff City Stadium – 09-10 (Champ), 11-12 (Champ), 11-12 (LC S/F), 12-13 (Champ), 13-14 (Prem).
(2) Carlisle United – Brunton Park – 83-84 (D2), 85-86 (D2).
(15) Charlton Athletic – The Valley – 77-78 (D2), 78-79 (D2), 81-82 (D2), 82-83 (D2), 83-84 (D2), 85-86 (LC), 85-86 (D2), 93-94 (AIC), 93-94 (LC), 95-96 (ND1), 95-96 (Play Off S/F), 96-97 (ND1), 99-00 (ND1), 04-05 (LC), 07-08 (Champ).
(12) Chelsea – Stamford Bridge – 75-76 (FAC), 75-76 (FAC S/F v Southampton), 81-82 (D2), 82-83 (D2), 83-84 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 89-90 (D1), 91-92 (D1), 92-93 (Prem), 94-95 (Prem), 97-98 (Prem), 04-05 (Prem).
(1) Chesterfield – The Recreation Ground – 76-77 (D3).
(2) Colchester United – Layer Road – 99.00 (LC), 07-08 (Champ).
(8) Coventry City – Highfield Road – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 90-91 (D1), 91-92 (D1), 92-93 (Prem), 94-95 (Prem), 97-98 (Prem), 03-04 (ND1),
(1) Coventry City – The Ricoh Arena – 06-07 (Champ).
(4) Crewe Alexandra – Gresty Road – 98-99 (ND1), 00-01 (ND1), 01-02 (ND1), 03-04 (ND1).
(5) Derby County – The Baseball Ground – 79-80 (D1), 83-84 (D2), 86-87 (D2), 90-91 (D1), 95-96 (ND1).
(2) Derby County – Pride Park – 97-98 (Prem), 11-12 (Champ).
(1) Doncaster Rovers – Belle Vue Ground – 81-82 (LC).
(1) Dover Athletic – The Crabble – 14-15 (FACup).
(1) Doncaster Rovers – The Keepmoat Stadium – 08-09 (Champ).
(1) Enfield – Southbury Road – 81-82 (FAC).
(6) Everton – Goodison Park – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 89-90 (D1), 90-91 (D1), 93-94 (LC), 97-98 (Prem).
(1) Exeter City – St James Park – 12-13 (LC).
(11) Fulham – Craven Cottage – 73-74 (D2), 77-78 (D2), 78-79 (D2), 82-83 (D2), 83-84 (D2), 84-85 (D2), 85-86 (D2), 99-00 (ND1), 00-01 (ND1), 04-05 (Prem), 13-14 (Prem).
(5) Gillingham – Priestfield Stadium – 75-76 (D3), 00-01 (ND1), 01-02 (ND1), 02-03 (ND1), 03-04 (ND1).
(5) Grimsby Town – Blundell Park – 83-84 (D2), 84-85 (D2), 86-87 (D2), 96-97 (ND1), 01-02 (ND1).
(1) Hartlepool United – Victoria Ground – 91-92 (LC).
(1) Huddersfield Town – Leeds Road – 84-85 (D2).
(2) Huddersfield Town – McAlpine Stadium (Now Galpharm Stadium) – 95-96 (ND1), 99-00 (ND1).
(3) Hull City – Boothferry Park – 85-86 (D2), 86-87 (D2), 97-98 (LC).
(1) Hull City – KC Stadium – 07-08 (Champ).
(11) Ipswich Town – Portman Road – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 86-87 (D2), 87-88 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 92-93 (Prem), 95-96 (ND1), 96-97 (LC), 96-97 (ND1), 02-03 (ND1), 06-07 (Champ).
(10) Leeds United – Elland Road – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 83-84 (D2), 86-87 (D2), 87-88 (D2), 91-92 (ND1), 92-93 (Prem), 96-97 (FAC), 97-98 (Prem), 12-13 (Champ).
(12) Leicester City – Filbert Street – 78-79 (D2), 80-81 (D1), 81-82 (D2), 82-83 (D2), 87-88 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 91-92 (FAC), 93-94 (ND1), 94-95 (Prem), 97-98 (Prem), 99-00 (LC), 00-01 (LC).
(2) Leicester City – The Walkers Stadium – 02-03 (ND1), 14-15 (Prem).
(6) Leyton Orient – Brisbane Road – 77-78 (D2), 78-79 (D2), 81-82 (FAC), 81-82 (D2), 90-91 (LC), 01-02 (LC).
(1) Lincoln City – Sincil Bank – 92-93 (LC).
(12) Liverpool – Anfield – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 90-91 (D1), 91-92 (D1), 92-93 (Prem), 92-93 (LC), 94-95 (Prem), 94-95 (LC S/F), 00-01 (LC S/F), 04-05 (Prem), 14-15 (Prem), 16-17 (Prem).
(7) Luton Town – Kenilworth Road – 77-78 (D2), 78-79 (D2), 81-82 (D2), 90-91 (D1), 91-92 (D1), 93-94 (ND1), 06-07 (Champ).
(8) Manchester City – Maine Road – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 80-81 (FAC), 83-84 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 91-92 (D1), 96-97 (ND1), 99-00 (ND1).
(1) Manchester City – Eastlands – 04-05 (Prem).
(9) Manchester United – Old Trafford – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 85-86 (LC), 87-88 (LC), 90-91 (D1), 94-95 (Prem), 97-98 (Prem), 04-05 (LC), 04-05 (Prem).
(3) Middlesbrough – Ayresome Park – 80-81 (D1), 88-89 (FMC), 93-94 (ND1).
(1) Middlesbrough – The Riverside Stadium – 04-05 (Prem).
(7) Millwall – The Den – 77-78 (D2), 78-79 (D2), 84-85 (FAC), 85-86 (D2), 86-87 (2), 87-88 (D2), 89-90 (D1).
(5) Millwall – The New Den – 93-94 (ND1), 01-02 (ND1), 02-03 (ND1), 03-04 (ND1), 11-12 (Champ).
(4) Newcastle United – St James Park – 87-88 (FAC), 94-95 (Prem), 01-02 (FAC), 04-05 (Prem).
(1) Northampton Town – The County Ground – 84-85 (LC).
(13) Norwich City – Carrow Road – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 81-82 (D2), 85-86 (D2), 89-90 (D1), 90-91 (D1), 90-91 (FMC), 94-95 (Prem), 96-97 (ND1), 00-01 (ND1), 02-03 (ND1), 03-04 (ND1), 04-05 (Prem).
(13) Nottm Forest – The City Ground – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 86-87 (LC), 88-89 (FMC S-F), 89-90 (LC), 89-90 (D1), 90-91 (FAC), 90-91 (FAC), 91-92 (D1), 91-92 (LC), 92-93 (Prem), 94-95 (FAC), 00-01 (ND1).
(3) Notts County – Meadow Lane – 77-78 (D2), 84-85 (D2), 93-94 (ND1).
(5) Oldham Athletic – Boundary Park – 77-78 (D2), 81-82 (D2), 84-85 (D2), 87-88 (D2), 92-93 (Prem).
(4) Oxford United – The Manor Ground – 84-85 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 93-94 (ND1), 96-97 (ND1).
(2) Peterborough United – London Road – 93-94 (ND1), 11-12 (Champ).
(12) Portsmouth – Fratton Park – 76-77 (D3), 82-83 (LC), 83-84 (D2), 84-85 (D2), 85-86 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 93-94 (ND1), 96-97 (ND1), 99-00 (ND1), 00-01 (ND1), 02-03 (ND1), 04-05 (Prem).
(1) Plymouth Argyle- Home Park – 88-89 (D2).
(1) Port Vale – Vale Park – 96-97 (ND1).
(2) Preston North End – Deepdale – 78-79 (D2), 02-03 (ND1).
(13) Queens Park Rangers – Loftus Road – 81-82 (D2), 81-82 (FAC), 82-83 (D2), 89-90 (D1), 90-91 (D1), 91-92 (FMC), 91-92 (D1), 92-93 (Prem), 94-95 (Prem), 96-97 (ND1), 99-00 (ND1), 00-01 (ND1), 07-08 (Champ).
(2) Reading- Elm Park – 87-88 (D2), 96-97 (ND1).
(9) Reading – Madejski Stadium – 02-03 (ND1), 03-04 (ND1), 05-06 (ND1), 08-09 (Champ), 09-10 (Champ), 10-11 (Champ), 11-12 (Champ), 15-16 (FAC).
(2) Rotherham United – Millmoor – 01-02 (ND1), 02-03 (ND1).
(1) Scunthorpe United – Glanford Park – 10-11 (Champ).
(8) Sheffield Wednesday – Hillsborough – 81-82 (D2), 83-84 (D2), 89-90 (D1), 91-92 (D1), 97-98 (Prem), 01-02 (ND1), 07-08 (Champ), 09-10 (Champ).
(4) Sheffield United – Bramall Lane – 78-79 (D2), 85-86 (D2), 96-97 (ND1), 99-00 (ND1).
(11) Southampton – The Dell – 77-78 (LC), 77-78 (D2), 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 88-89 (FMC), 90-91 (LC), 91-92 (D1), 92-93 (LC), 92-93 (Prem), 94-95 (Prem), 97-98 (Prem).
(4) Southampton – St Marys – 04-05 (Prem), 07-08 (Prem), 13/14 (Prem), 15-16 (FACup).
(4) Southend United – Roots Hall – 90-91 (LC), 93-94 (ND1), 95-96 (LC), 96-97 (ND1).
(2) Stockport County – Edgeley Park – 98-99 (ND1), 00-01 (ND1).
(6) Stoke City – The Victoria Ground – 78-79 (D2), 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 85-96 (D2), 88-89 (FAC), 93-94 (ND1).
(2) Stoke City – The Brittania Stadium – 02-03 (ND1), 13-14 (Prem).
(2) Sunderland – Roker Park – 80-81 (D1), 85-86 (D2).
(2) Swansea City – The Vetch Field – 79-80 (FAC), 83-84 (D2).
(2) Swansea City – The Liberty Stadium – 13-14 (Prem), 15-16 (Prem).
(7) Swindon Town – The County Ground – 87-88 (D2), 88-89 (LC), 88-89 (D2), 88-89 (PlayOff S/F), 96-97 (ND1), 98-99 (ND1), 99-00 (ND1).
(14) Tottenham Hotspur – White Hart Lane – 77-78 (D2), 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (LC), 80-81 (D1), 86-87 (FAC), 89-90 (D1), 90-91 (D1), 91-92 (D1), 94-95 (Prem), 97-98 (Prem), 03-04 (FAC) 04-05 (Prem), 13-14 (Prem). 15-16 (FAC).
(1) Tottenham Hotspur – Wembley (also see Wembley below) – 17/18 (Prem).
(3) Tranmere Rovers – Prenton Park – 93-94 (ND1), 96-97 (ND1), 99-00 (ND1).
(2) Walsall – The Bescot Stadium – 99-00 (ND1), 02-03 (ND1).
(16) Watford – Vicarage Road – 74-75 (D3), 81-82 (D2), 88-89 (D2), 93-94 (ND1), 94-95 (FAC), 95-96 (ND1), 98-99 (ND1), 00-01 (ND1), 01-02 (ND1), 02-03 (ND1), 05-06 (Play Off S/F), 07-08 (FAC), 09-10 (Champ), 10-11 (Champ), 12-13 (Champ), 15-16 (Prem).
(5) Wembley Stadium (Old Wembley)- 89-90 (FAC Final v Man Utd), 89-90 (FAC Final Replay v Man Utd), 90-91 (FMC Final v Everton), 95-96 (ND1 Play Off Final v Leicester), 96-97 (ND1 Play Off Final v Sheff Utd).
(4) Wembley Stadium (New Wembley) – 12-13 (Champ Play Off Final v Watford), 15-16 (FA Cup S/F v Watford), 16-17 (FAC Final v Man United), 17-18 v Spurs (Prem League game, see above).
(9) West Bromwich Albion – The Hawthorns – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 88-89 (D2), 93-94 (ND1), 95-96 (ND1), 96-97 (ND1), 99-00 (ND1), 01-02 (ND1), 04-05 (Prem).
(7) West Ham United – Upton Park – 78-79 (D2), 83-84 (FAC), 91-92 (D1), 94-95 (Prem), 97-98 (Prem-Abndnd 65 mins), 97-98 (Prem), 03-04 (ND1).
(1) West Ham United – The London Stadium – 16-17 (Prem).
(4) Wimbledon – Plough Lane – 84-85 (D2), 85-86 (D2), 89-90 (D1), 90-91 (D1).
(9) Wolverhampton Wanderers – Molineux – 79-80 (D1), 80-81 (D1), 82-83 (D2), 93-94 (ND1), 94-95 (FAC), 95-96 (ND1), 96-97 (ND1), 96-97 (Play Off S/F), 05-06 (Champ).
(2) Wrexham – The Racecourse Ground – 78-79 (D2), 81-82 (D2).
(1) Yeovil Town – Huish Park – 10-11 (LC).
A total of 510 competitive away games (Up to and including November 5th 2017).
I have seen a Palace competitive away game at 66 of the ‘current’ in use other 91 grounds (up to end of season 2016-17).
I have also seen Palace at 28 ex league club grounds, not now in use, either built over, or not used for football – (Last, the old White Hart Lane).
I have also seen Palace at 11 grounds currently being used in Non League.
I have seen Palace at 1 Non League ground no longer in use (Enfield/Soutbury Road).
I have seen Palace at 3 National Stadiums (The Old Wembley, The New Wembley and The Millennuim Stadium).
So I have seen Palace at a total of 107 different grounds in competitive games (Up to May 2017).
I need the following clubs ‘current’ grounds with Palace away to add to my total of 66> And these will be the clubs I will keeping an eye out for in away cup draws in the LC and FAC 🙂
2017-18 Season, I now need 23 of the ‘current’ grounds ‘with’ Palace…..to complete the 91 (of 92) ‘with’ Palace. 68 of the current 91 visited with Palace.
The Premier League (0) > Complete.
The Championship (2) > Burton Albion, Sunderland.
League One (10) > Fleetwood Town, MK Dons, Northampton Town, Oxford United, Rochdale, Rotherham United, Scunthorpe United, Shrewsbury Town, Wigan Athletic, AFC Wimbledon.
League Two (11) > Accrington Stanley, Barnet, Cheltenham, Chesterfield, Colchester United, Crawley Town, Forest Green Rovers, Morecambe, Newport County, Stevenage, Wycombe Wanderers.
Calor Gas Southern League D1 South & West Division.
At ‘The Spiers and Hartwell Jubilee Stadium’.
Evesham United (Red’N’White Stripes/White) 2-6 Wimborne Town (Yellow/Navy Blue), Att 183.
Admission £9, programme £2, jumbo hot dog £2.50, coffee £1.
For my last game of 2013 I made the 86 mile journey west and north-west to the new home of Evesham United to re-complete again the South & West Division of the Calor Gas League (The Southern League to us old timers). My enthusiasm for the ground was low, having heard and read of a similar design to the new (ish) home of Thame United. Actually I was pleasantly surprised. Yes like Thame, the main stand has been frustratingly built far too many yards from the edge of the pitch, and the cover behind one of the goals could have been enhanced by a few steps of terracing, but it is the wrap around of the local hills that gives some character and a pleasing outlook and ambience, and why I’d left this one for daylight.
By chance I had been at Evesham’s last ever league game at the old ground at Crown Meadow in 2006. The long running dispute over who pays for the new access road (from the main ‘a’ road roundabout, which runs alongside the new ground) had rumbled on, seemingly for ever, before the Robins could take full ownership of the jubilee stadium, which they opened in the Summer of 2012. Arriving after a hassle free drive, and parking my bum at a table in the clubhouse, I felt a warm feeling for the club when an official came round handing out team sheets, a nice touch, one which I wish more clubs would think about.
What ensued was a very eventful match, which turned on one major decision a minute or two before the half time break. There was no indication of a goal fest as early end to end exchanges did not result in clear-cut chances until the 5th minute when Lance Smith put the Robins ahead deftly turning in a left-wing cross. The game remained pretty even until after 29 minutes another cross from the left fell to the head of Griffin who looped a well placed header over the keeper into the far corner to level it up at one each. And a few minutes before the break debut making Robins keeper Louie Barnfather got in a mix up with a defender, crucially hesitated and had the ball taken from him by Magpies striker Mark Gamble who rolled the ball into an empty net, 1-2. Just a minute later Gamble followed a ball into the box and was, according to the referee taken out by the keeper Barnfather, penalty, and a red for Barnfather, a debut to forget! From my position on the other side of the penalty area it was impossible to see if the decision had been correct. But, as you would expect, the Evesham fans did not believe it was. The ref left the pitch at HT to dogs abuse after Gamble converted the penalty with Evesham keeper coach Gary Baines taking over in goal, 1-3 ht.
I hadn’t expected an early second half goal from Evesham, but only a few minutes after the break, a very tidy finish indeed from that man, the impressive Lance Smith again, gave fresh hope for the 10 men, 2-3. For a while it looked like Evesham may get back in the game, but on a sticky pitch the extra pair of legs started to tell, and two great strikes from George Webb, and another goal, and hat trick from man of the match Mark Gamble, gave a slightly flattering scoreline of 2-6. The last third of the game however was spent admiring the heroics of stand in coach/keeper Gaines who made a string of great reaction saves, and left most of the crowd around me in the main stand wondering why he had not started the game rather than the unfortunate Barnfather.
To finish 2013 wth eight goals was an unexpected bonus, as was the warm welcome from the car park to the clubhouse. A friendly club who will hopefully flourish at their long awaited new out of town venue.
Saturday December 21st 2013, KO 15:00.
Barclays Premier League
Selhurst Park Stadium – Official Attendance: 24,936
Crystal Palace (RedNBlue/Blue) (0) 0 Newcastle United (Yellow/Blue) (2) 3
Admission – Season ticket, programme 3.00, Balti pie 4.00 and coffee 2.20.
Maestro on the Palace BBS ……”One goal was a deflection, one was an O.G and one was a pen”
Kevin W on Tony Kempster Forums, ‘where did you go’ …..”I blame the weather”
The difference was that Newcastle had two world-class performers on the day in Johan Cabaye and Fabricio Coloccini. Cabaye dominated the midfield highlighting our lack of quality in not being able to consistently pass to a red and blue shirt. And Coloccini, a Puyol lookalike gracefully and seemingly effortlessly sweeping everything up at the back. I expect both to make an impression at Brazil 2014 for France and Argentina.
Our lack of strength in-depth was evident today, which hopefully will be partly rectified in the January transfer window, whether by permanent or loan deals, Wilf Zaha please? Although a raid on Stoke by Tony Pulis may be more likely scenario?
Following on the back of an encouraging and battling 1-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge last Saturday, in this game, we were never really in it as the football gods, lady luck, call it what you like, turned away and did not smile on us. A couple of square pins in round holes did not help with Joel Ward having to switch from right full back to cover centre midfield for the injured KG and O’Keefe, and Dean Moxey returning from injury at left back but not looking match fit, and having to be replaced at half time by Jonny Parr. As a result we looked weak down both flanks when defending in the fist forty-five.
An early fifteen yard snap shot from Cabaye took an unfortunate deflection and wrong footed Speroni. And then Danny Gabbidon stuck out a foot and diverted at a hopeful cross swung in from the right to again wrong foot Speroni, and firmly left us with the proverbial ‘mountain to climb’.
An improved second half performance couldn’t hide our deficiencies although sub Bolasie added some much-needed pace and trickery. But overall Newcastle just had too much quality and composure on the ball.
This again was emphasised when they were able to bring on the skillful Ben Arfa for a ten minute maestro performance, his encore being a well struck penalty late on. And so the SE25 faithful dolefully trooped out into the wet and windy night contemplating a tough Xmas with away games at Villa and Man City, closely followed by the massive six pointer against the Canaries on New Years Day. A ‘fussball team’ we hope will not be of the same quality as Newcastle!
The only real positive of the day was the return from injury of fans favourite Jonny Parr, his first game since early spring, calmly filling in at left back at half time, and already looking a potential stronger long-term proposition than Dean Moxey.
Sunday December 15th 2013, at the ‘Stadio Vicente Calderon’, KO 9pm, La Liga.
Atletico Madrid (RedNWhiteStripes/Blue) 3-0 Valencia (White/Black)
Admission 50 Euro (central area in the middle tier opp main stand). Programme n/a, badge 3 euros.
It’s only five stops from the centre of Madrid using the blue line on the Metro system (from Gran Via to Pirimedes), before you disembark for a mere ten minute walk to the historic Stadio Vicente Calderon in the Arganzuela district of Madrid. Well when I say historic, in reality it was opened in 1966, but it feels and looks older. The steep rake of the stands hang over the pitch, but concrete is evident everywhere, particularly when climbing the steps to the upper tiers and the outside of the stadium looks rather like the Camp Nou, which in reality means it’s rather ugly.
In 2016 they plan to leave the wonderful Vicente Calderon stadium and move into the re-built La Peineta Stadium, which is planned to have a capacity of 70,000, an increase of 50K from its current 20,000.
Atletico were formed in 1903 by students from Bilbao living in Madrid. They are a team currently threatening to become one of the European biggies and certainly under ex Argentina player, coach Diego Simeone, they have been gaining respect and kudos after their Europa league win a few years ago. And their current form that sees them pushing their bitter rival Real and Barcelona all the way this season for the La Liga title. Because of the Bilbao connection Atletico also wear the same Red and White Stripes, and are nicknamed ‘The mattress makers’ because of the similarity with old-fashioned striped mattresses, apparently! The stadium has the Manzanares river running alongside, as well as a motorway, neither apparent or visible from our position high up in the middle tier.
Whatever their long term ambitions, today, certainly in the first half Atletico looked far from a European giant. Valencia had the edge all over the pitch, and shaded the half. Action in the penalty areas was very thin on the ground, and I was starting to worry that our wonderful sunny weekend (to celebrate my 51st) in this great city would be spoilt by a dull nil all to take home to England. I needn’t have worried, as I suspect some harsh Argentinian Spanish were spoken at half time, as Atletico looked a different proposition in the second half. Diego Costa looked a very fine player, very direct with the ball at his feet. Apparently he has been linked with a move to England (which he has denied any interest in), and on this performance displayed a very English type of game, and he was the dominant performer.
It didn’t take long, just fourteen minutes into the second half as Costa ran towards and into the Valencia box before cutting a shot across Diego Alves into the net, 1-0. With the Ultras now enthusiastically urging the rest of the crowd and team on, just five minutes later it was two as Raul Garcia, took advantage of a mis hit defensive clearance to snap a shot from 10 yards into the back of the net, 2-0. Not long after this, Costa had the chance to make it three from the spot as Victor Ruiz conceded a penalty, but a good save from Diego Alves kept it to two, at least for the time being.
Nine minutes from time, another penalty was conceded, and this time Costa made no mistake by blasting the ball into the roof of the net, 3-0. A scoreline we really had not expected at half time. Valencia coach Miroslav Djukic was relieved of his job after this defeat, and the points sent Atletico joint top with Barcelona. Only time will tell if they will be able to sustain the challenge and break the domination of Barca and Real. The game finished at 22:50 local time, and such was the efficiency of the local metro system we were back in our central hotel by 23:30 🙂
Wed 30th Oct 2013, 20:00 – Group D
Attendance: 7,247 – Venue: Memorial Stadium, Bristol.
USA 32 (20) VS. Cook Islands (12) 20
Admission 10.00 (standing), group programme 4.00.
Sat 16th Nov 2013, 20:00 – Quarter Finals.
Attendance: 22,276 – Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan.
England 34 (26) VS. France (6) 6
Admission 30.00 (seated), programme 5.00.
Sun 17th Nov 2013, 15:00 – Quarter Finals.
Attendance: 12,766 – Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington.
Samoa 4 (0) VS. Fiji (18) 22
Admission 20.00 (standing), programme 5.00.
Sat 23rd November, 13:00 – ‘The Big Hit’, Semi Finals Day.
Attendance 67,545 – Venue: Wembley Stadium.
New Zealand 20 (8) VS. England (8) 18
Admission 50.00 (seated), programme 6.00 (covered both games).
Saturday 23rd November, 15:00 – ‘The Big Hit’ Semi finals Day.
Attendance 67,545 – Venue: Wembley Stadium.
Australia 64 (34 ) VS. Fiji (0) 0
Admission- as above- programme as above.
I’ve had a month since the Final on Nov 30th at Old Trafford to reflect on this wonderful tournament. During the Autumn of 2000, the last time we had the World Cup on these shores I had dipped my toes in and watched two England games at Twickenham and Leeds Headingley. Both of which were thoroughly enjoyed, and I had made a vow at the time to make more of an effort to watch Rugby League live.
As it has turned out, since, I’ve only actually watched two live games, one at Castleford (v Halifax, 2002), and one at London Broncos (v Leeds, 2013). The main reason I guess being the time and effort I’ve spent visiting new football grounds and also collecting the Speedway tracks of England/Scotland and Europe. So for me personally, this WC tournament was a real wake up call to get my finger out, and dedicate some serious time and effort to visit the Rugby League and even possibly some new Rugby Union grounds of our fair islands.
The final itself was a disappointment. Whether NZ had given too much of themselves in the ‘battle of Wembley’ v England in semi, or whether the Aussie team were just man for man too strong, is hard to say. But Australia regained the trophy they had lost to New Zealand in Brisbane in 2008, winning 34-2 and in the process Old Trafford recorded an international record crowd of 74,468. A more fitting final would have been the NZ/Eng Semi.
But the tournament for me had started at a windy and drizzly dark night at the Memorial stadium in Bristol. Home to Bristol Rovers FC and Bristol RFU, so hardly a Rugby league heartland. Yet 7,500 turned out to watch the minnows of ‘The Cook Islands’ and the debut making ‘USA’. The vast majority of the crowd, who created a carnival atmosphere were backing the Cooks. After they performed their version of the Haka the game started with them on the front foot, but as the game progressed the USA grew stronger, and early in the second half they took a stranglehold on the game to eventually win by 12 points. Did it make the back page of USA sports pages? I doubt it, it should have though.
Although my next games were not until the Quarter final stages, I was reading and hearing of great games and very good crowds at unlikely places such as Rochdale, Workington and Wrexham. Huddersfields John Smiths Stadium recorded its first ever full house for a sports fixture for England’s group game against Ireland and Rochdale FC’s ‘Spotland’ had a full house and the locals backing Fiji! The Scots took up residence, bag pipes an all at Derwent Park, Workington. But my next game was at Wigan’s ‘DW stadium’, the home of Wigan Athletic FC and Wigan RFL team, a super league giant. Although not a complete sell out, it was close to it, and although our seats were a little disappointing with a poor view, being down by a corner flag, England cantered to a fairly easy 34-6 victory over France, job done, a Wembley SF guaranteed.
The following day, I had a terrace ticket at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington for the South Sea Island QF match up of Samoa v Fiji. Ros decided on the day, as the weather was too gloomy to visit anywhere else to purchase a terrace ticket as well. As a ground collector, I only had one word to describe the HJ Stadium, ‘Wow’. Purpose-built for the Warrington Wolves and opened in 2004, it is exactly what all new build football grounds ‘should be’, were it not for the Taylor reports insistence on all seater stadium. Frankly the stadium knocked spots off the rather soulless DW Stadium. The 15,200 capacity HJ has one side of a steeply raked covered terracing, where we stood at the back, one end behind the goal is also terraced, with the main stand opposite, with another stand of seats off to our right. The crowd created a fantastic atmosphere.
It’s hard to describe how emotional one (I) can (did) get about two countries you’d struggle to pinpoint on a map, but pre-match, we were treated to the national anthems of both countries. With muscle toned fit athletes standing and holding each other shoulder to shoulder blasting out their anthems whilst gently swaying side to side. The Fijians in particular have a very jaunty anthem, that seems to confirm their Island as being deeply religious. Then the Samoan’s got into position, the crowd hushed, as they performed their war dance, called ‘The Manu Siva Tau’ in front of the Fijians, mikes placed on the pitch to pick out their guttural chants. An enormous round of applause followed it, before silence again, and the Fijian’s get in a circle, and blast out their hymn, like they were a professional choir. At the end, I admit to having wet eyes, I looked at Ros and she was beaming from ear to ear, this was pure theatre, ‘pure sport’ and you just knew these two teams would give everything they could to make it to the Semi Finals at Wembley Stadium.
What ensued was as I’ve told people since, one of the most enjoyable sporting events I’ve ever witnessed. The Samoan’s who had been based in Warrington had the backing of the locals, who regularly chanted ‘Whoaaaaa Samoaaa’. Due to my ignorance of League, I had expected Samoa to be too strong for Fiji. How wrong I was. It would seem that Samoa are a stronger ‘Union’ playing nation. Fiji were the keenest, quicker and sharper in their passing. The physicality of the game was a sight to behold, no holds barred tackling, which a couple of times threatened to get out of hand, but didn’t. Fiji won the respect of the local crowd and won many new fans with their display. In summary, great venue, great theatre, great game, great crowd, enjoyment factor 10/10 🙂
Sat 23rd Nov, a rare ‘non football’ Saturday for me, as I took the train and tube to Wembley Stadium. I’d splashed out on a fifty pound ticket for the ‘Big Hit’ Semi Finals, and was chuffed to find I was in the Club Wembley area. Not the area opposite the TV cameras, but the Club Wembley on the camera side. Very spacious concourses with so many more places to buy food and drink, a diner style cafe, it really was very nice indeed. My friend Steve had also purchased a ticket and was a block down, and after finding I had a seat free next to me, nearer the half way line in the middle tier, he joined me for the second half of the England game. And what a game it turned out to be, as holders NZ were still ‘slight’ favourites to beat England, but England after a shaky opening minutes looked determined to be at Old Trafford, Sam Burgess was dominant, Hall and Charnley impressive on the wings, and Graham a rock in the middle. The atmosphere was amazing, with many New Zealanders in the crowd. After a phenomenal game of RL which you couldn’t take your eyes off, with 1 minute to go, yes just 1 minute away from the World Cup final, England were 18-14 to the good. A try 15 mins from the end from Burgess and a conversion from Sinfield, and the crowd were on the edge of their seats anticipating celebrating reaching the final.
Then with 20 seconds left on the clock, NZ after some serious last five-minutes of pressure in the England last quarter finally scored a try from Shaun Johnson, all around could be seen England fans with heads in hands, New Zealanders dancing around like they had just won the world cup. Sport can be very cruel as well as life affirming. That man again Johnson kept his cool and converted the kick, 20-18, all over, England out. The mood around Wembley had changed in a matter of minutes.
It didn’t hurt me as deep to my soul as it had when I was at Wembley in 1996, when England lost on penalties to Germany in the Euros in ‘my sport’, but I was never the less absolutely gutted. The England players stood, sat, drained, unbelieving, they had given so much on the day, and probably deserved to have gone through on the balance of play.
What followed was a procession, as Australia dumped Fiji 64-0, in such a one-sided game of sport, that of the 67,000 who’d been present for the Eng v NZ Semi, only about 15-20,000 remained at the end. A real case of ‘After the Lords Mayors Show’, it’s a shame the draw hadn’t fallen the other way round with the Eng game being the main course of the day.
On reflection, in some ways I rediscovered so much in watching the Rugby in the WC that I feel has been lost in football, especially at the higher levels of the professional football game. Honesty, committment, a feeling that the players were giving their all, but that they had a deep respect for their sport (and the referees), and if they lost, yes they might cry (as some of the Samoan’s did at Warrington and England players did at Wembley), but ultimately they knew, that their Sport, and this competition was the winner. Hopefully the BBC exposure of the tournament turned many new fans onto RL. Especially with it being such a Northern dominated code. There is such a deep ingrained intolerance to League in Union territories, personally as a spectator sport I believe it’s miles ahead of Union, with its continual stoppages and scrums. So, I shall keeping a close eye on the progress and attendances of the likes of the London Skolars, Oxford and Hemel Rugby League Clubs, and live in hope that the re-emergence from administration of The London Broncos with their new venture of ground sharing at ‘The Hive’ with Barnet FC, will be a positive one. And I shall be stepping into more Rugby League grounds during the Spring/Summer of 2014, if you haven’t experienced it as a live sport, you should.
As sung in Warrington, and at Wembley…..
Blessing grant oh God of nations on the isles of Fiji
As we stand united under noble banner blue
And we honour and defend the cause of freedom ever
Onward march together
God bless Fiji
For Fiji, ever Fiji, let our voices ring with pride
For Fiji, ever Fiji, her name hail far and wide,
A land of freedom, hope and glory, to endure what ever befall
May God bless Fiji
Blessing grant, oh God of nations, on the isles of Fiji
Shores of golden sand and sunshine, happiness and song
Stand united, we of Fiji, fame and glory ever
Onward march together
God bless Fiji.
Saturday November 30th 2013, KO 15:00 at ‘The Rapid Solicitors Stadium’ AKA Belle Vue.
Northern Premier League Division One North.
Wakefield (Royal Blue/Royal Blue) 0-3 Bamber Bridge (Red/Red), attendance 46.
Admission £9.50, programme £1, badge £3.50, hot dog £2.40, coffee £1.
Over breakfast on the morning of the game I was still undecided about my eventual destination. Ros who’d accompanied me on this little jaunt, wished to photograph Wakefield cathedral in/out, and in the dark, as part of her project to photograph all 42 of the English Anglican cathedrals. So, I would be going to Wakefield regardless, but I had a nagging desire to take in a new ground at NL Step three, so I was still toying with visiting Frickley Athletic, which would have meant a thirty mile roundtrip from Wakefield to South Elmsall and back again to collect Ros. Ultimately also nagging at the back of my brain was the knowledge that Wakefield are currently playing at a Rugby League venue. So, I thought two things could, and probably would happen in the future, a/ They may move away from this venue, and it could be lost to football for ever, and or b/ the ground is modernised and redeveloped, which I believe will happen. So, Wakefield FC it was to be.
A lovely relaxed forty something mile drive across the northern edges of the peaks gave us plenty of time to kill in the centre of Wakefield, a city much ignored by those outside of Yorkshire, but once you are there, you realise what a large place it is, population circa 77,000. Rather overshadowed by its noisy neighbours, specifically Leeds with its splendid Victorian and Georgian architecture, Wakefield is less glamorous, but is like most of this region solidly working class and solidly white rose Yorkshire! I’d driven passed Belle Vue in the past, but had no idea of where the entrance to this substantial stadium was located. Driving up the main Doncaster Road you can see the back of the stands and the floodlights but no obvious entry point into a car park. I found out, having parked elsewhere, that the car park for the stadium sits behind another car park for wimpy/superbowl, a sign would not have gone amiss, hey ho I should have read the website, which tells you exactly that!
Once I had retrieved my car, and parked in the correct location, I was soon into the stadium. It was an immediate wow factor, on entrance a stand that ran virtually from corner flag to corner flag, with terracing in front. At the other end of the stadium substantial covered terracing. At the nearest end behind the goal, a large rather ugly corporate hospitality structure, and opposite more terracing, some covered, with portacabins raised up in the centre which housed the match day refreshments etc. All in all, it had a very strong feel of a football ground from the 1960s/70s before the all seater requirements were introduced. A cheesy grin was playing around my face, pleased that I’d decided on this venue, of course being the home of Rugby League Wakefield ‘Trinity’ Wildcats the stadium is used to hosting super league fixtures in front of 5,000 rather than the 50 or so expecting today.
Built in 1895, the current capacity is listed as somewhere between 11 or 13,000 depending on which source you view, and the record crowd was 28,254 v Wigan in 1962. Or 29,235 for the challenge cup final in 1923 again depending on the source. Many scenes from This Sporting Life were filmed at the Belle Vue Stadium during Wakefield’s third round Challenge Cup match against Wigan in 1962.
Wakefield Trinity have long been in negotiation with the local council to find an alternative site, as the present Belle Vue stadium does not comply with the proposed standards required by the Super League. However, there have been difficulties in agreeing with the council on a suitable alternative site. Plans for a new stadium in partnership with Wakefield City Council were rejected after the council decided that it would be difficult to deliver within budget on an appropriate timescale. Plans for a 12,000 seater stadium near junction 30 of the M62, in Stanley, were unveiled on 17 April 2009, with the development proposed by Yorkcourt Properties and a community trust, chaired by former Rugby Football League chairman Sir Rodney Walker.
On 8 June 2011 it was announced that the club will totally redevelop the existing ground to a capacity of 12,000 to meet the Super League criteria.It is hoped that this will safeguard the Wildcats future in the Super League as this was seen as the main reason the club could be demoted out of the top flight. On 26 July 2011 Wakefield were granted a grade ‘c’ so Belle Vue stadium will be redeveloped. So the message is, ‘Get there soon’ if you want to see it in its current incarnation.
I’d got chatting to a fella in the car park, and also met him in the ground, Brendan from Scunthorpe was also ticking the ground, and had been pleased to tick a Wetherspoons in Hemsworth on the way over. It was good to catch up with Brendan at times during the game and at HT, to talk all things football and grounds. Such a shame then that only 46 of us rattled round this wonderful old ground. Maybe the lack of local support is due to the city being a rugby league stronghold, that Leeds United are so popular locally, and more likely because of the clubs recent history which was not in Wakefield at all. The club was based in the little village of Emley. Emley AFC were playing at their quaint three-sided ground, but their fortunes on the pitch had meant they needed to leave for ground grading purposed to allow the club it’s promotion up the pyramid. So in 2000 they decamped to Wakefield and became Wakefield Emley FC, it seems the support did not move with them, as AFC Emley were formed later and continued to play in the village, as they do to this day.
Since those early days they have played at College Grove in Wakefield and also recently at Ossett Town FC, before moving back to Belle Vue this season, they also dropped the old colours once AFC Emley had been formed. Going into this game the ‘Bears’ of Wakefield were still without a home league victory, whereas visitors from Lancashire Bamber Bridge were happily top three and looking set for a strike at an automatic promotion place. Well this form never really looked like being overturned. As early as the 14th minute Wakefield conceded a penalty, but a good save from keeper Dan Trueman from Tom Williams kept the score at 0-0. However it was only another 8 minutes before Williams made up for this aberration, striking home from inside the area. Further second half strikes from Chris Marlow n 57 and Alistair Waddecar on 81 only emphasised the difference in quality between the two sides. I spent much of the game seeking out the nooks and cranny’s of the wonderful old stadium and had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
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Friday November 29th 2013, KO 19:45pm at ‘Church Lane’, New Mills, Derbyshire.
Evo Stick Northern Premier League D1 North.
New Mills (Amber/Black) 0-2 Salford City (Sky/Navy Blue), attendance 140.
Admission £6.50, programme £1.50, badge £3, coffee £1.
Scheduling a Friday night fixture, for a ground hopper is like throwing a stick for a dog. Especially in my case, because I needed this ground, and it being in a part of the country where the Saturday ‘new ground’ options would be numerous. New Mills FC were experimenting to see if they could entice more through the gate. I suspect what they gained in the many ground hopping faces present, they lost in locals who preferred to stay home, or at the pub on a cold evening. The gate of 140 was about average for the season, so I’m not sure they’d view it as a total success?
New Mills is in the North West of the Peak District, only fifteen miles from Manchester and bordering Cheshire, but just in North Derbyshire. Historically, apart from being a tourist magnet for its very good walking and hill climbing country, economically it’s prosperity was through coal mining and cotton-spinning and bleaching.
One of my main employers now for the local population of about 10,000 is sweets manufacturer Swizzels Matlow who produce popular brands which include, ‘Parma Violets, ‘Refreshers’ ‘Drumstick lollies’ and ‘Lovehearts.
These are all sweets from my youth which are as visible in the shops now as then. Apparently Swizzels Matlow moved to New Mills during the second world war during the blitz of London, and have stayed ever since.
By the time we arrived in nearby Hayfield at our overnight stay, the GBG listed ‘George Hotel’, it was already dark, and so even though we were in the ‘High Peaks’ of the Peak District, enjoyment of the views would need to wait until the Saturday morning. Never has a ground been more appropriately named, with the church of ‘St George’s ‘ being literally twenty yards across the lane, in fact the club were once known as New Mills St George’s and for the first time in my 43 years of watching live football, we were treated to some very loud bell ringing for long periods of the game!
Even before kick off I was recognising a few faces from previous weekend groundhops, and I soon fell into a conversation with another hopper from Watford, up for Fri/Sat fixture, and then later with the kit man (no less) of Maidstone United, who’d been up North all week, because “The Stones don’t have a game this week”. He’d been quite chuffed to have taken in a Europa League fixture the night before at the DW Stadium home of Wigan Athletic for just fifteen pounds admission.
The Millers and Salford were both lower mid table, with New Mills having the slightly loftier league position. As the game progressed you’d not have guessed this, as Salford started with pace and intention. Immediately taking a grip on the game with a six-minute fifteen yard strike from Purcell. The Millers cause not helped by early injuries and substitution of Danny Shaw and Daniel Douglas-Pringle. On the half hour I made my excuses from chatting to my fellow hopper friend from Maidstone and made my circuit of the ground, stalling at a point opposite and between the two dugouts, where after what had seemed a short break the bell ringers were in full flow again, and where I experienced the juxtaposition of some glorious (but loud) church bells, and the expletives and anger of the two benches (Salford being the worse). Made me wonder why so many bores and morons are attached to our wonderful game, that they think communication is always only possible with regular usage of foul and abusive, and haranguing of officials, shame really. On that note, all power to the Northern League with their secret shopper campaign, although I do wonder if this is the equivalent of trying to push an elephant up a stairway? At least they are trying. Having just spent a month watching Rugby League during the world cup, where the behaviour from the players and bench is impeccable I’d love to see improvement in our game, but I believe it is probably just to ingrained for any impression to be made long term.
The second half like the first saw more of the same, Salford created more clear-cut chances, and but for some poor finishing and some good goalkeeping from Pete Collinge, they did not add a second until the 52nd minute when Daniel Browne scored, and although New Mills tried hard for a route back into the game, it was the twenty or so Salford fans that would have had the happier journey home. The second half had been spent under the low slung cover chatting with my new Watford and Maidstone friends and chewing the fat on grounds visited, and where we might all be the following day. At that point in time Mossley and FC United of Manchester were my friends prefered options, whereas mine (at the time) was Frickley Athletic.
And so I journeyed back the three miles to the George hotel to enjoy a few pints with Ros by the warming log fire, and reflect on another enjoyable football evening, amongst the company of a group of red shirted ‘mountain rescue’ volunteers, reminding me that clearly I was not in Berkshire!