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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rayners Lane

Rayners Lane FC are based in North West London in the Borough of Harrow. The club were formed in 1933 and entered local league football. The Tithe Farm Social Club was formed with the football club being absorbed into it.

In 1951 'Lane' became Middlesex League champions before moving into the Spartan League in 1957. Unfortunately they failed to be re-elected in 1971 and returned to the Middlesex League. Lane soon returned to the higher status but when the league amalgamated it meant another step back.

A new challenge was sought and Lane joined the Hellenic League in 1978. They were successful and remained there until the ground graders came in and enforced higher standards for Premier League clubs. The club were demoted a division and remained there for a couple of seasons before dropping back down to the Middlesex League to regroup.

Lane applied to join the Chiltonian League on a couple of occasions before that league amalgamated with the Hellenic League to become the new Division One East with Lane becoming founder members in 2000.  

After several aborted attempts Lane were given planning permission to erect floodlights in May 2011. Lane won the Division One East title in the 2012-13 season, but were denied promotion owing to ground grading issues at Tithe Farm.

Floodlights were erected at Tithe Farm in 2013, with a Watford side playing in the official match to commemorate the occasion. Lane continued plying their trade in Division One East of the Hellenic League until the FA moved them to the Spartan South Midlands League from the 2017-18 season.

Rayners Lane FC will compete in the Spartan South Midlands League Division One in the 2017-18 season.

My visits

I travelled on the tube to have a look at the Tithe Farm ground one day after working on the underground in 2006 and to take some snaps. I was impressed by the neatness of the arena with the tall trees surrounding the pitch on three of the sides, with the social club and facilities down the other touchline.

Rayners Lane 3 Thame United 3 (after extra time). Thame won 5-4 on penalties (Saturday 29th January 2011) Hellenic League Supplementary Cup Round Two (att: 34)

I was on night shift for the week at work so I looked for somewhere quite local where I hadn't previously watched a game. After I made enquiries as to the kick off time, I got the good news that the game would start at 1.45pm to allow for the possibility of extra time and the lack of floodlights. I reasoned that this would allow me to get to the second half of Harrow Borough v Margate, which was only a fifteen minutes walk away.

I took the train, and clumsily took the wrong Metropolitan line service heading to Watford rather than the Uxbridge one I needed. Not to worry as it turned out because when I alighted at Pinner I found out the H12 bus passed at the bottom of the road and stopped right outside Tithe Farm.

I was soon at the ground and found my way into the clubhouse which was normally for members only. A very welcoming barman told me that I'd get the programmes outside and I'd be hunted down as it also acted as the ground admission. I watched some of the Everton v Chelsea FA Cup tie in the excellent room with a very reasonable pint of Reverend James as company.

I went outside before kick off and was liberated of £3 for admission and an excellent programme. The gentlemen were very hospitable and were delighted I'd chosen their game after initially having me down as a Thame supporter. The last time I had seen Thame in action was in a pre season friendly against Brentford around the turn of the millennium at their impressive old ground, when Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher was serving behind the bar.

The match was in the Supplementary Cup which I was told was for teams knocked out in the first round of the League Cup.

The ground hadn't changed much from my previous call, save for two small stands on the far side. The near side had picnic tables and benches, which I guess would be perfect on a warmer day. It really was cold. So bad in fact that I turned down the invitation to take a beer out with me.

I had a walk round to the far side and sat for a few minutes in one of the stands but the weather necessitated constant movement. The game was an absolute cracker. It was end to end on a decent surface and a very wide pitch. I went back round to the clubhouse side in time to see Lane go ahead to much from players and supporters alike. 

There weren't many there, but those who did attend really got behind their sides, even if the majority of the away support remained in their cars looking out towards the pitch and using their horns to salute something they enjoyed.

United levelled before half time when I bid a retreat for a small malt for medicinal reasons! I saw the visitors take the lead with a free kick through the clubhouse windows. The game ebbed and flowed with Lane dominating for long spells despite being a division below United.

They drew level but then lost momentum. An old Lane stalwart resplendent in his club woolly hat came for another chat. We agreed what a good choice I'd made. He then insisted on getting me the previous weeks programme so I could read all the league statistics. 

He was a smashing chap who patrolled the touch line yelling encouragement and acting as a ballboy. I really liked the way he welcomed and had a word for everyone, regardless of age. It's something officials of certain other clubs would do well to follow.

The game went to extra time much to the amusement of fellow fans who had heard of my Harrow Borough plans. I thought about it for all of a second before deciding to stay put. It really was too good to leave. Lane went ahead and it looked like a giant killing of sorts was in store. 

However Thame equalised and sent the game to penalties. Just like the previous hundred and twenty minutes lead in the shoot out went from one team to the other. Lane had the fifth kick to go through but the visiting keeper remained to form as he pulled off a great save. He had a brilliant game all the way through. If it hadn't been for him I'd have definitely seen the second half down the road.

Lane's sixth penalty was missed but the visitor made no mistake winning the game in sudden death. It had been a superb exhibition from both sides and amazing value for money.

Lane were attempting to overturn a previous refusal for the erection of floodlights in February 2011 at the council hearing so that they can be promoted to the Premier Division of the Hellenic League. They can guarantee they'll be seeing me again if they succeed.

Oh and Harrow Borough against Margate ended scoreless!

Rayners Lane 0 Enfield Borough 2 (Saturday 12th August 2017) Spartan South Midlands League Division One (att: 41)

It had been too long since my previous visit to Tithe Barn. Being located at Ruislip Manor on early shift meant that I would struggle to get to too many venues. This fitted the bill nicely, especially after my relief didn’t turn up until 2.40pm.

From the tube station I caught a bus a bit too far down Alexandra Avenue. It should only have been one stop but I went to the second; meaning a walk through the rural Newton Farm Ecology Park round to the ground.

The teams were out on the pitch as I peered through the gaps in the trees. The match was just underway after I paid my £5 admission; along with another quid for a decent enough programme.

The ground had been slightly upgraded since my last visit. Floodlights were now installed and the two small covers on the far side had been joined up in the centre to give it a continuous feel. The trees on three sides looked as stunning as ever and no doubt benefitted from the recent rain.

The match was Lane’s first ever in the SSML. They had expressed surprise in the programme at being moved from the Hellenic League by the FA as they hadn’t applied on this occasion. Borough had been promoted after a third place finish in Division Three in 2016-17.

It was Dave Fox’s first competitive game in charge of the home side, as his team took a step into the unknown. The match quickly developed into an intriguing contrast of styles. Lane were the more direct of the two; while Enfield were generally calm on the ball and preferred a passing game.

The hosts missed a glorious chance in the first goal mouth action; but the free header at the back post was squandered. They looked to play centre forward Bruno Tavares in whenever possible and he caused a bit of panic on occasions.

At the other end the visitors came close on several occasions. Home keeper George Hall had to deal with a series of crosses; while the flag of the linesman saved Rayners Lane. Surely there was going to be goals in this one?

The Borough centre backs soon gained control before their side went ahead with a quality goal. Forward Thomas Opoku picked up the ball in the left hand channel and turned on the after burners to outpace two defenders and slot home past Hall.

It was a pleasant afternoon sitting in front of the clubhouse on the picnic benches; especially so when news of Chelsea’s capitulation was coming through. At the interval I bought a decent pint of Robinson’s Trooper for £3.

The second half followed a pretty similar pattern. Referee Lee Randall had warned players several times for indiscretions before brandishing the yellow card on several occasions; mainly for pulling back opponents or their shirts.

Tavares continued to try his best to break through, but he didn’t have the pace to get past the excellent Reiss Gabriel and Richard Emin. Borough doubled the lead with around twenty minutes to go through  Issac Stevens.

Borough never looked like relinquishing their lead. I’d been impressed by the way that all of their players looked to play football, and didn’t panic in possession. It had been a reasonable game throughout, and it would be interesting to see how the season panned out.

I walked back to the station and took the tune home to watch the majority of the Brighton v Manchester City game, chuckling my head off at the Billericay result. There was a football supporting God after all!

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