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, February 17, 2011

Chelmsford City

Chelmsford City FC, from the county town of Essex were formed in 1938. They weren't however the first senior club from the town.

Chelmsford FC were formed in 1878 and until they folded in 1938 they appeared in the Athenian, Eastern Counties, Essex Senior County and Spartan Leagues.

The old home of City, New Writtle Street
This image has been taken from the internet

City joined the Southern League Eastern Section and became joint champions in 1940 after the drawing play off match with Lovells Athletic. A year earlier they had quickly made their mark by reaching the Fourth Round of the FA Cup where Birmingham City ended their run in front of a crowd of over 44,000. City won the league outright in 1946 pipping Hereford United to the title.

In 1967 'The Clarets' reached the FA Cup Second Round and a crowd of well over 16,000 attended the local derby against Colchester United which saw the visitors win through. In 1973 another great run saw a Third Round tie at home to Ipswich Town which drew in a crowd of 15,557.

This was a great period for the club as the Southern League title was lifted in 1968 and 1972. On both occasions City failed in their bid to be elected into the Football League. The club were relegated for the first time in 1977 despite having a young Nigel Spink in goal and an aging Jimmy Greaves up front.

City struggled with cash problems and tried on a couple of occasions to develop their New Writtle Street stadium so it could bring in regular income, but the local council blocked the plans. In 1993 a supporters' group, led by Trevor Wright, stepped in to take over the club at the last minute following the resignation of Dennis Wakeling due to a fruitless High Court battle which effectively left Chelmsford City without a future.

The financial problems did not abate and the club received a terrible setback when the official receiver sold New Writtle Street Stadium, the home to football since 1938 in 1997. The team also struggled on the pitch having spells in and out of the Southern League Premier Division. The club decamped to share at Park Drive, the home of Maldon Town ten miles away from Chelmsford. They later moved to New Lodge, Billericay a similar distance from their home town.

City did not give up and on 2nd January 2006 the culmination of the club's toil to secure a home under the chairmanship of Paul Hopkins, a loyal Board of Directors, and with the assistance of the Council was rewarded when the club returned to Chelmsford to play at Melbourne Stadium.

City progressed and benefited when Jeff King arrived with money and many of his successful Canvey Island team. The club were promoted into the Conference South while off the pitch local businessmen got involved and reorganised the playing and youth set up.

Manager Glenn Pennyfather was sacked as team manager folllowing another play off loss in 2012-13, to be replaced by Dean Holdsworth.

Chelmsford City FC will compete in the Conference South in the 2013-14 season.

My visit

Chelmsford City 3 Boreham Wood 1 (Monday 14th February 2011) Conference South (att: 697)

I was on early shift and this offered me a choice of Chelmsford City v Boreham Wood or Basingstoke Town v Maidenhead United on a clear cool Monday evening. The ride to Essex won my choice so I boarded a busy commuter train for the fifty minute ride east.

I left the station where the bus stands awaited. I spotted some old boys in claret and white scarves and confirmed I was in the right place. The bus was due and soon the 'hopper' took us on the ten minute ride out to Melbourne.

I got chatting to a couple of the fans on the bus who knew the short cuts through the estate. They were good company and seemed pleased I'd decided to give City a go. I mentioned that they must miss the old stadium, but their response surprised me. They said it was just about falling down at the time and even though the Melbourne Stadium had an athletics track around the pitch they liked it. They wished that I enjoyed the game as we went separate ways.

I paid £11.50 to stand. The other option was a seat for a quid more but I like to wander around. Once through the modern turnstile block I was reminded a little of my visit to Withdean, the semi temporary home of Brighton & Hove Albion. There were several small outbuildings and many fans looking to sell programmes and half time draw tickets.

I wandered round to the large modern block that contained corporate facilities, the changing rooms and the clubhouse. The clubhouse was quite large with several TVs and a nice large bar. I tried a reasonable pint of Greene King IPA while having a quick look through the impressive programme. It wasn't cheap at £2.50 but it did contain one hundred pages. There was also a loose four pages in the middle which gave up to date information. The game was originally meant to be played on Monday 8th November and the same programme was being used to save money.

My attention was being drawn to the advert of a special Chelmsford City Ale on sale behind the bar. It was 6% but seemed very reasonable for £2.90. I don't normally go for beers of that strength, definitely not while at a match but I couldn't resist. It was a fine brew with a hint of Fullers ESB about it. I wouldn't want more than one in a session mind! The room had some nice memorabilia including a page from a brochure urging people to support City's application to the Football League in 1974.

I went outside to take photos and survey the scene. The Melbourne Stadium was neat and tidy and a real mixture of structures. The Main Stand was elevated and quite impressive with a small area of metal terracing at the front. However it stood back a very long way from the pitch. Not only was there the eight lane running track, but also the area used for long and triple jumps as well as the pole vault area. It must have been at least thirty yards from the front of the terracing to the touchline. The other side had the Athletics Stand. This had a roof overhang from the leisure centre behind and three rows of seating. Fans were allowed to stand on the flat bit in front to watch the game. This side only had the track between it and the pitch. City had made great strives to cater for other standing spectators. Through a series of portable fences a path had been created which led to a small portable metal terrace behind each goal. On my visit the club were in the process of raising money to upgrade these areas so that they would have roofs fitted. From the front fence the fans were as close to the byline as at any ground I'd ever visited. The whole stadium really was a mixture of views for the fans.

I started off looking from the terrace in front of the Main Stand but the view was badly obstructed by the two dug outs. I could see the value in spending the extra pound for a raised seat. I went behind the goal The Clarets were attacking only for Wood to take the lead. Some of the City players were apoplectic with rage that the linesman hadn't flagged for offside. They had a bit of a nerve as by then they should have been down to ten men. Wide man Takumi Ake should have walked for a terrible lunge that sparked a lot of pushing and shoving. The astonished looks of the visiting players and the laughter of the home fans when a yellow card was produced said it all.

The referee was not one of the philosophy that a good ref isn't noticed. He was handing out more cards than a croupier. I was heading to the clubhouse for a warm just before half time when City were awarded a controversial penalty that was dispatched by their ultra competitive skipper, Dave Rainford.

The second half started as the first period had been played out. City had more of the ball but Wood looked decent on the break. I stood down the Athletics Side and had a bloke who reminded me of Golden Gordon from the classic Ripping Yarns episode along from me. As usual the ball took longer to retrieve at an athletics stadium, although I must give credit to the many young ballboys doing their best. It was certainly a shorter break than at Kentish Town, London APSA and Bethnal Green!

City went ahead with a goal from Matthew Lock and slowly got control. Wayne Gray was being a real handful up front with his pace. Lock sealed the game with his second with fifteen minutes remaining.

It was cold by the end and I was glad of a brisk walk down to Melbourne shops to await the bus back to the station. The bus dropped me in good time for the regular service to take me back to Liverpool Street.

I enjoyed the City experience. They had made the best of what was on offer at Melbourne and the game was very quick if a little tetchy at times, no thanks to a fussy ref. I got home to find out that my other option had been abandoned after an hour owing to an injury to the Basingstoke keeper. Hopefully he will have recovered by the time I get to visit 'Stoke'.

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