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, June 7, 2018

Fredrikstad FK (Norway)

Fredrikstad Fotballklubb is a football club from the city of Fredrikstad in Norway’s Østfold county, located around sixty miles south of Oslo. FFK was formed on April 7th 1903, concentrating solely on football, unlike other clubs of the day.

Fredrikstad initially struggled for opposition, until an Englishman, HW Kenworthy started a club in nearby Sarpsborg, who played against FFK in their first ever match, with both clubs setting up regional series football.

In 1914 the club moved into the original Fredrikstad Stadion on the east bank of the River Glomma. After changing playing colours several times, FFK settled on red and white for the first time in 1927.

In 1932 the team reached their first Norgesmesterskapet i fotball for herrer; Norwegian Cup Final, which was won 6-1 against FK Ørn at the Marienlyst Stadion in Drammen. A 4-0 victory in the final of 1935 followed against Sarpsborg FK at Sarpsborg Stadion.

The Cup was retained in 1936 as Mjøndalen IF were defeated 2-0 at Oslo’s Ullevaal Stadion. FFK won the first ever national League of Norway in 1937-38 after victory over SFK Lyn in the Championship Final.

The team went on to complete the double with a Cup final win against Mjøndalen IF after extra time at Briskeby Gressbane in Hamar. The league title was retained in 1938-39 following a Championship Final win against Skeid.

Fredrikstad won the final Cup competition before a break for the War in 1940 as Skeid were defeated 3-0 with Arne Ileby scoring twice and Knut Brynildsen netting the other goal. As peace was restored FFK reached three Cup finals in four years, but lost out twice to Lyn, and then Sarpsborg FK.

The league title was collected for a third time in 1948-49 after an aggregate victory over Vålerenga. 1950 saw a sixth Cup triumph, with SK Brann the runners-up at Ullevall Stadion. The following decade would see a golden period in the clubs’ history.

Odds BK were beaten in the Championship Final of 1950-51 as Fredrikstad were crowned Norwegian champions once again. A win over SK Brann twelve months later meant the team retaining the title.

FFK saw off the challenge of Skeid in 1953-54 to lift their sixth national championship, but the same opponents gained revenge in the Cup final the same season. Fredrikstad finished as league runners-up to Larvik Turn in both 1954-55 and 1955-56.

However, FFK were not to be denied in 1956-57 as Odds BK were overcome on aggregate to win the title once again. A 4-0 Cup final win against Sandefjord BK completed the double thanks to a brace from Kristoffersen with Johannessen and Bjørn Borgen adding the other goals.

Further league championship wins were completed in 1959-60 and 1960-61 with Lillestrøm SK and then Eik-Tønsberg the beaten finalists. The second of the triumphs was married up with a 7-0 Cup final victory over SK Haugar, as Kristoffersen and Olsen both scored twice, with additional goals added by Borgen, Arne Pedersen and Kristiansen.

The league title saw Fredrikstad’s qualify for the European Cup in the 1960-61 campaign. Ajax were defeated 4-3 on aggregate in the Preliminary round before bowing out to Danish club AGF, as the club and town prospered through its shipbuilding industry.

Three second place league finishes ensued throughout the rest of the 60’s, while the 1966 Cup competition was won 3-2 against Lyn with two goals from Borgen and another from Pedersen. Strømsgodset IF defeated FFK after a replay in the 1969 final.

The club competed in the Cup Winners Cup of 1967-68; going out to Vitória de Setúbal in the first round. The team also reached the final of the 1971 Cup, losing out to Rosenborg BK, while they finished as league runners-up in 1972.

FFK went out to Dynamo Kyiv in the first round of the 1973-74 UEFA Cup, as a second tier club after being relegated the previous season. FFK continued to train just twice a week while competitors became more professional.

Promotion was won at the first attempt, but the team went back down in 1976. FFK returned to 1. Divisjon for the 1980 season. The team was relegated via the play offs in 1982 but bounced back just twelve months later.

The 1984 season saw Fredrikstad relegated once more, despite lifting the Cup for a tenth time after a 3-2 replay win against Viking FK thanks to goals from Jørn Andersen, Per Egil Ahlsen and Terje Jensen.

Worse was to follow in 1992 as FFK were demoted to the third level of Norwegian football. The club would languish at that level for the following decade. It would take the appointment of head coach Knut Torbjørn Eggen in 2001 to change fortunes.

In 2002 the team won promotion from 2. Divisjon before finishing as runners-up in 1. Divisjon the following season to return to the top tier Tippeligaen, aided by the goals of Markus Ringberg, where FFK consolidated their position.

Egil Olsen was head coach for the 2015 campaign before Eggen returned to lead the team to the Cup with a 3-0 win against Sandefjord Fotball as two goals from Raio Piiroja added to Hans Erik Ramberg’s strike.

Hammarby IF ended any European prospects in the UEFA Cup as Anders Grönhagen took over coaching duties, while Tarik Elyounoussi and then Garðar Jóhannsson scored the goals as the club crossed the river to the old shipbuilding area into the new Fredrikstad Stadion.

The move worked as crowds flocked to the new stadium and the team finished as league runners-up. The team lost to Lech Poznań in the first round of the Europa League as Tom Nordlie took charge of the team, who were relegated in the play-offs to Sarpsborg 08.

Tom Freddy Aune led the team to promotion in 2010 as the goals of Celso Borges helped the team win the play-off against Hønefoss BK. Trond Amundsen was in charge of Fredrikstad as they were relegated to the second level 1. Divisjon in 2012.

Lars Bakkerud arrived as the new head coach before Håkon Wibe-Lund took over as the team finished mid table in 2013 with Robert Stene topping the scoring charts. Fredrikstad failed to win promotion through the play-offs in 2014.

The 2015 season was a disappointment. Wibe-Lund was replaced by Arne Erlandsen with the team finishing one place above the relegation places despite the goals of Henrik Kjelsrud Johansen. Jan Halvor Halvorsen was appointed as the new team boss at the end of the season.

Mons Ivar Mjelde led the team in 2016, who once again just finished above the drop zone. A reign from coach Andrea Loberto was ended as Bjørn Petter Ingebretsen was given the task of keeping the team up.

Fredrikstad were defeated 5-3 on aggregate by Notodden FK in the play-offs to drop down to 2. Divisjon as Per-Mathias Høgmo was brought in as head coach in an attempt to halt the slide.

Fredrikstad FK will play in 2. Divisjon in the 2018 season.

My visit

Kråkerøy IL 1 Valdres FK 1 (Saturday 26th May 2018) Regionsligaen Avdeling 2 (att: 136)

Please click here to read about my visit to fourth tier football at Fredrikstad Stadion.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Sarpsborg 08 FF (Norway)

Sarpsborg 08 Fotballforening is a professional football club from the Norwegian city of Sarpsborg, located in Østfold county, around fifty miles south of Oslo. The club was formed on January 15th 2008 following several mergers and a complicated history.

Sarpsborg FK was formed on May 8th1903, reaching their first Norgesmesterskapet i fotball for herrer; Norwegian Cup Final in 1906, going down to Odds BK and then falling at the final hurdle the following year to Mercantile.

SFK would be victorious in 1917 as they defeated SK Brann 4-1 in Stavanger to lift the trophy, as Einar Nordlie netting twice with Alf Simensen and Norwegian international Asbjørn Halvorsen scoring the other goals.

Defeat in the final to SK Brann followed in 1925 before SFK regained the trophy in 1929 following a 2-1 win against Ørn FK. Losing final appearances came in 1934 against Mjøndalen IF and then the following year against Fredrikstad FK.

In 1939 a third Cup win was achieved with a 2-1 victory over Skeid in Tønsberg. Consecutive Cup triumphs arrived in 1948 against local rivals Fredrikstad FK with a 1-0 win before Skeid were defeated 3-1 as the final began its life at Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo.

The achievement was also a personal milestone for Harry Yven, who collected his first winners medal as a seventeen year old in 1929 and his fourth in 1949 as a thirty seven year old.

In 1951 SFK returned to the Ullevaal Stadion for a sixth Cup win as Asker were defeated 3-2 after extra time. A single 1. Divisjon top flight was created in 1963 with the season being played throughout the summer months. SFK played in the inaugural season, before finishing third in 1964 and 1965.

The 1964 season also saw another Cup final appearance. This time SFK went down 2-1 to Rosenborg BK. The club qualified to play in the 1970–71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, going out in the first round to Leeds United. The team continued to finish mid table until they were relegated at the end of the 1972 campaign.

An immediate return to the top flight twelve months later arrived, but SFK were relegated once more in 1974. By 1997 1. Divisjon had become the second tier of Norwegian football. SFK finished bottom of the table and were relegated.

SFK continued in their original form until 1999 when they joined with other local clubs to form Sarpsborg Fotball, taking SFK’s place in the league in an attempt to create a club to challenge at the top of Norwegian football.

However, after just one season the new club was relegated from 2. Divisjon and SFK withdrew from the arrangement and created a new team to play in the fifth tier regional Østfold football.

IL Sparta, another club in the Sarpsborg Fotball also had an interesting history to bring to the table, having been formed on November 23rd 1928. The club played at the top level of Norwegian football for many seasons in the 1950’s.

In 1952 Sparta lifted the Norwegian Cup with a 3-2 victory over Solberg SK. The team finished bottom of Hovedserien Group A in 1956-57 and were relegated to the second tier. Several decades followed in the lower divisions before promotion to the third tier came in 2003.

Sparta, like SFK had withdrawn from Sarpsborg Fotball in 2000 to continue alone. The other club in the arrangement formed Borg Fotball, winning promotion to the second tier in 2002 but were then relegated a year later.

At that point Sparta re-entered into the previous arrangement. The new club was called FK Sparta Sarpsborg, going on to win promotion to 1. Divisjon in 2005. To confuse things further, Sparta kept on their amateur side, which carried on in fifth tier regional Østfold football.

In 2007 SFK decided to join forces once more, so at last Sarpsborg had a united club to try and regain top flight football for the city in time for the 2008 season. The name of Sarpsborg Sparta FK was originally chosen but changed to Sarpsborg 08 FF in 2009.

Conny Karlsson was the first coach of the newly merged club before he was succeeded by Roar Johansen in September 2009. The goals of Morten Giæver helped the team to a runners-up place in 2010 and promotion to the top tier Tippeligaen.

Sarpsborg were relegated after just one season but bounced back at the first attempt, as Martin Wiig, Nicolay Solberg and Øyvind Hoås all rattled in the goals for the team. Brian Keane was appointed as head coach in January 2013.

The former England international managed to lead his charges to safety in a relegation play-off against Ranheim in his first season at the helm before a mid table finish in 2014. Deane was replaced by Geir Bakke in readiness for the 2015 campaign.

Sarpsborg reached the final of the Norwegian Cup, going down 2-0 to Rosenborg BK. A sixth place finish was topped by third place in 2017 as well as finishing as runners-up once more in the Cup.

The Ullevaal showpiece saw 08 go down 3-2 to Lillestrøm SK with the consolations coming from top scorer Patrick Mortensen and an own goal. The clubs record won entry to the qualifying round of the 2018-19 Europa League.

Sarpsborg 08 FF will play in the Eliteserien in the 2018 season.

My visit

Sarpsborg 08 FF 4 Stabæk 2 (Monday 26th May 2018) Eliteserien (att: 4,658)

My long weekend in Norway was in its final full day. I’d had a wonderful time visiting my brother Paul with Ragnhild and Andrea in Halden and catching up with my youngest brother Nick, along with Rach and Stan for the day.

The match dropped perfectly into my plans as I could head straight up to Oslo afterwards in readiness for my flight home the following afternoon. I was keen to see the standard of football, despite not knowing of Sarpsborg before my pre planning.

I’d enjoyed a few pints with Nick and Paul in the excellent Siste Reis pub before taking the 6.04 train for the twenty minute ride to my destination. Fire engines and police cars were immediately outside Sarpsborg station. It looked like a bowling alley and bar had been totally destroyed.

I was aware that the city wasn’t really a tourist destination, but I was keen to take a quick look and hopefully find some life. I waked along the main Olav Haraldssons Gate, but decided to cut in to where there looked more buildings.

The move paid off as I ended in a large pedestrianised square. Fans clad in blue and white were drinking under cover to shelter from the rain that had spoiled otherwise perfect weather throughout my trip.

There was time for another quick beer before following the crowds downhill along St. Marie Gate towards the stadium. It was good to see club flags hanging from every lampstand in a real show of local pride.

A fans park had been set up for junior supporters behind the ground, while free sausages were been given out. I was certainly happy with that experiment! I explained I wanted a standing ticket at the booth and was given one for 100 KON; around £10.

This was for behind the far goal. I walked past the main stand and found my entrance. The steward was easy going when searching my backpack and I was in. I quickly became aware that much of the stadium was newly built and was still being finished in places.

The Main Stand was raised and set back from the artificial pitch. The far end was a low seated affair, as was the stand down the far side; which had a small section of standing at the far third for visiting supporters.

My stand was large and all seated; even though the more vocal fans all stood towards the entrance side. Areas were still being paved and the facilities underneath were still in progress. It looked very much like the new stands covered where there was once a running or speedway track.

It was good to see plenty of families and youngsters supporting their local club. There was certainly plenty of enthusiasm around the place. Even when Franck Boli smashed in a fine goal in the first minute to give Stabæk the lead.

The main railway line to Oslo ran on my left from my lofty position behind the goal. The weather was getting cool but the action on the pitch was doing its very best to keep the spectators warm, who joined in. It reminded me a bit of being at Fulham in terms of atmosphere.

The hosts scored a fine equaliser when a cross was converted by the impressive Amin Askar on twenty seven minutes. The visitors still looked dangerous. Boli set up Ohikhuaeme Omoijuanfo, who saw his shot go wide off the outside of the post.

Sarpsborg had more of the play in a fine encounter, aided by the weather making passing slick on the immaculate surface. Hugo Vetlesen went on a brilliant mazy run for Stabæk that was ended in a clear trip. Referee Sigurd Kringstad waved away the appeals.

It was a long time since I’d seen a more blatant penalty and the visiting players were rightly furious. I wasn’t on my own laughing in the stand. The Sarpsborg fans couldn’t believe their luck. Five minutes later it was half time and a good chance of a walk to warm up.

At the interval I found a pile of free basic A4 sized programmes in the stand. Four minutes into the second half the home side went 2-1 up. An initial shot from a set piece was blocked before Ronnie Schwartz fired home.

On fifty two minutes Jeppe Moe saw his free kick hit the bar for the visitors. They continued to press, and it came as no surprise when they levelled around the hour mark. A decent ball came low across the box for Omoijuanfo to finish.

The same player saw an effort blocked as Stabæk looked the more likely to take the three points. However, Sarpsborg weren’t towards the top of the table for no reason. They gathered themselves and showed some real resolve.

A long throw was delivered into the Stabæk box with twelve minutes remaining. Joonas Tamm flicked the ball on for Kristoffer Zachariassen to make it 3-2. Three minutes later it was 4-2. Joachim Thomassen delivered an excellent corner which eventually fell to Patrick Mortensen who scored.

There was still time for Boli to miss a good chance to reduce the arrears but he side footed wide when well placed. Then Zachariassen sprung the offside trap for the hosts to set up Tobias Heintz with a simple finish, but the substitute blazed over.

It had been an entertaining game, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The Stabæk players and fans must have been wondering how they were leaving with nothing. They played their full part and weren’t helped by the earlier refereeing howler.

At full time I walked a slightly longer way back through the bus station but still had time to kill before the ninety minute train ride up to the capital. I had an early night in my Apartment Service AS room listening to the radio and devouring an enormous pizza.

It’d been another great day of discovery and adventure.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Bracknell Town

Bracknell Town FC is a non-league football club from the town of the same, located thirty-four miles west of London, that was formed in 1896 as Old Bracknell Wanderers, playing on a field near the Downshire Arms.

The club started out life playing in the Ascot & District League; moving to Station Field and winning the league title in 1911-12 and 1932-33. A move to Larges Lane came following the second success. The club changed their title to Bracknell FC in 1949, while moving to the Reading & District League.

A further move to the Great Western Combination followed in 1958, before adopting their current name four years later. In 1963 ‘The Robins’ joined the Surrey Senior League where they won the league and league cup double in the 1969-70 season.

The triumph led to a move to the Spartan League, which merged with the Metropolitan-London League to become the London Spartan League in the summer of 1975; with Bracknell being placed in Division One.

Division One was retitled the Premier Division, from where Town were relegated to the Senior Division in 1978-79 before winning that league title in 1980-81 to return to the top flight. Brackley went on to win the league and cup double in 1982-83.

The clubs’ application to join the Athenian League was rejected, so Town became members of Division Two South of the Isthmian League for the 1984-85 campaign. A runners-up berth in 1985-86 guaranteed promotion to Division One.

The 1988-89 season ended in relegation to Division Two South, before league reorganisation in the close season of 1991 saw the club placed in Division Three for the following season. Promotion to Division Two followed in 1993-94.

Bracknell were demoted back to Division Three at the conclusion of the 1998-99 season. Brothers Mark and Clive Tallentire were the joint-managers of the team in the 2000-01 season as Town went on a fantastic FA Cup run.

Victories against Hillingdon Borough, Ashford Town (Kent), Merstham, Banstead Athletic and Aylesbury United led to a first round game away to Lincoln City. Bracknell were defeated 4-0 as 500 visiting fans cheered the team on among a crowd of 2,387 at Sincil Bank.

Town were placed in Isthmian League Division One South after further restructuring in the summer of 2002, before being moved for geographical reasons to Division One West of the Southern League in 2004; which became Division One South and West in 2006.

The club looked at the possibility of moving from Larges Lane around the time that they finished bottom of the table in 2009-10 and were relegated to the Hellenic League Premier Division after being reprieved from the drop the previous year.

Worse was to come in 2010-11 as the team finished last and were relegated to Division One East. The club was promoted just twelve months later, despite only finishing in fifth position. The summer of 2016 saw extensive work being carried out at Larges Lane, including the instillation of a 3G pitch, under new chairman Kayne Steinborn-Busse.

Mark Tallentire led the side to a runners-up position in 2016-17, as the whole club received a facelift. Three cups were won as some form of compensation. Tallentire was replaced by joint managers Jeff Lamb and Paul McGrotty in September 2017.

The duo were surprisingly dismissed in February 2018 after Twon went out of the FA Vase at the quarter final stage at home to Marske United, with Carl Davies taking over as player-manager. The team went on to finish as league runners-up once again.

However, a major reorganisation of league football in the summer of 2018 meant that Bracknell were promoted to the Isthmian League South Central Division, as Tallentire returned to the club as Head of Football.

Bracknell Town FC will play in Isthmian League South Central Division in the 2018-19 season.

My visit

United Koreans of Japan 0 Kabylia 0 (Saturday 2nd June 2018) CONIFA World Football Cup Group D (att: c290)
It was day two in the CONIFA tournament, and I wasn’t going to miss out on a Saturday afternoon game; especially while on night shift at work. The opening day’s game between Padania and Matabeleland had whetted my appetite.

CONIFA is an independent international governing body whose members represent countries, minorities, linguistic minorities or remote territories that were not members of FIFA. Yorkshire had recently joined, but not in time for the 2018 tournament.

My journey was taken by tube down to Waterloo and then a train, which soon got busy full of hipsters in full fancy dress heading to Twickenham for the Rugby 7’s. How many had a clue about rugby was a matter of conjecture, but it was the latest “go to” event.

Once they cleared I noted a young chap wearing a CONIFA polo shirt. Leo was from Utah and assisting at the tournament as an official while his parents were over lecturing at universities. He was a very polite young chap and we had a nice chat.

I’d done my homework on Google Maps and we were at the ground within fifteen minutes after using paths and small lanes to reach the narrow Larges Lane. The ground was being engulfed by new housing on a couple of sides, with the new entrance looking spick and span.

I gave the busy bar area the swerve, especially as no real ale was available. It was soon apparent that the North African Kabylia side had a decent sized support. Indeed, we’d bumped into a couple back at Bracknell station.

Larges Lane was a tidy venue with a 3G pitch. All the areas around the pitch were newly tarmacked with little space to the perimeter fence. The main side had all the facilities, including a seated stand and a standing cover in mid construction.

The Koreans looked pretty good to me while warming up. Their shooting certainly looked potent, while their opponents concentrated on short passing. I met the legendary groundhopper Leo Hoenig for the first time just before kick off.

UKJ started out the brighter, with an effort on the volley from outside the area being fumbled by Kabylian keeper Murad Koulougli. Lyles Mihoubi tested Hyo Geum Lim at the other end. In the tenth minute play was delayed after a horrific collision.

A player from either side went to head a bouncing ball out wide with full commitment. The Kabylia player came off far worse as there was up to a ten minute delay, with players and officials showing great concern.

The player was laid at the side of the pitch while play continued, before eventually being stretchered to a building on the far side, while Kabylia fans and officials along with those of Bracknell Town looked to offer assistance.

The Kabylia support were in full voice getting behind their side who were increasingly under the cosh. The Korean number two, Yong Ki Shin saw a header palmed away from a corner by the slightly suspect Koulougli.

The pressure was being ramped up, but the North Africans were defending in numbers behind the ball. The Koreans were guilty of a lack of pace to their moves, despite some excellent technical football, marshalled by former World Cup player Yong Hak An.

They were also guilty of being offside when in promising positions. It was difficult to tell whether that was through their own negligence or smart defending on behalf of their opponents? Tong Jun Lee went close with a fierce shot from just outside the box.

A deflected cross reached Yeong Jang Byun at the back post, but he snatched at the opportunity and put it wide. Kabylia were restricted to breakaways and shots from distance that didn’t really trouble the goalkeeper.

I found a nice place in the shade during the interval on what was a very warm afternoon. It was a perfect way to relax between shifts and the tournament was really growing on me with nearly all in attendance smiling and entering into the spirit of the occasion.

The African support introduced musical accompaniment after the break, with the locals also lending their support. UKJ were still in control but a 0-0 was looking more and more likely as they began to run out of ideas and became frustrated.

Leo Snr joined me on the far side for a good yarn. There was a good mixture of supporters around the ground, and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. The ambulance eventually arrived to tend to the stricken player and over an hour after the incident.

On a rare foray to the Korean end, Yanis Kemache saw a low shot saved from distance. UKJ introduced their third sub with twelve minutes remaining, and he seemed to add some urgency to their attacking play.

Koulougli shocked the crowd as he pulled off a decent stop from Byun. The Koreans continued to be caught offside but should have taken the win when a fierce shot from Yun Guk Hong was put over the bar at point blank range by Shin.

There was much joy among the Kabylia contingent when German referee Leon Dastych blew for full time. Both teams received a good ovation from the appreciative crowd. I thoroughly enjoyed it and headed home via Richmond and Kilburn for a nap before work.

I’d certainly taken the better option than the England v Nigeria game that was taking place at Wembley as I headed home.