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

Monday, May 9, 2011

Carshalton Athletic

Carshalton Athletic FC is a non league club based ten miles south of the centre of London in the Wandle Valley. The club was formed in 1905 as Mill Lane Mission FC and were strengthened in 1906 when Carshalton St Andrews FC amalgamated with them.

In 1907 the club became Carshalton Athletic FC playing in the Southern Suburban League Division 2 West at Wrythe Green Recreation Ground. The club were quickly successful and gained three promotions. 

At the outbreak of World War One the club was suspended as their ground was given over to agricultural use. They reformed in 1919 and moved into the new home on Colston Avenue which was called the War Memorial Sports Ground in honour to those who lost their lives during the conflict.

In 1922 'The Robins' became founder members of the Surrey Senior League and later voluntary work on imperative ground improvements allowed progression into the Corinthian League by 1947. 

An enormous crowd of over 8,000 attended a local derby with Tooting & Mitcham United around this period. A couple of league titles followed before election was granted into the Athenian League in 1956.

In 1973 Athletic became members of the Isthmian League when they created a new second division. They were soon promoted into the Premier Division and remained there despite an upheaval of many different managers and club ownership issues.

Athletic did have some decent times with a couple of FA Cup First Round appearances and some local cup triumphs but after a period of twenty four years they were relegated. New owners came in the shape of Steve Friend and Barry Gartell who despite a threat of eviction from the ground slowly steadied the clubs finances. The clubhouse was vandalised in an arson attack which didn't help matters.

Former England and Tottenham defender Graham Roberts managed to take the team back to the Premier Division in 2003 but left soon after owing to players budget cuts. Later that year a planned twelve million pounds rebuild at Colston Avenue was withdrawn after local residents complained.

In 2004 Athletic were given a place in the newly formed Conference South but their spell lasted but just one season, being sadly relegated in their centenary year. In 2008 a new owner Paul Dipre completely transformed the club. Personnel was changed as was the youth set up. The teams colours were changed from maroon to red, the club got a new crest and buildings and facilities were all upgraded.

By 2009 the facilities were some of the best in the area with the new junior section having five teams and the club having three hundred registered children who enjoyed coaching. The first team missed out on promotion after extra time in a play off final against Staines Town.

At the end of the 2010-11 season Dipre banned ten loyal supporters who disagreed with the way Dipre was running the club, including changing the club colours and badge as well as appointing himself team manager. Eventually after throwing a sizeable wage bill at the first team without success Dipre stood down as manager in October 2012 with Tommy Williams replacing him.

Despite the team finishing in the relegation places at the end of the 2012-13 season, they were given a reprieve owing to a points deduction being incurred by Thurrock.

There was to be no escape twelve months later as the team were relegated 2013-14 following the sacking of Williams in October 2013, with Ian Hazel; the manager of the clubs academy taking over until the end of the season. 

A new artificial pitch was installed in the summer of 2015 as the Robins weighed in with a mid table finish the following campaign in Division One South under new boss Matt Howard and then Chris McGinn from January 2016. McGinn stepped down as head coach in April 2016.

Peter Adeniyi arrived at Colston Avenue as the new team boss and led the side to a sixth place finish in the 2016-17 season.

Carshalton Athletic FC will play in the Isthmian League Division One South in the 2017-18 season.

My visits

April 1984

I was a young student based in Boreham Wood and decided my course was nearing its end. I decided one week day to educate myself in something that would give me far more satisfaction than some strange mathematics formula.

I travelled south of the river and used a one day travelcard to its fullest extent. I'd been to several grounds when I arrived at Colston Avenue. The first thing that caught my eye was the majestic covered terrace that filled the whole of the far side. It was very large for the standard of football and had big white walled exits. 

It looked very professional. The near end was just open flat standing and the far end an open grass bank. The near touchline consisted of a lot of open flat standing with a very small Main Stand near the half way line with various portacabins and outbuildings.

It seemed to be a ground with huge potential. I went on my way and took a train to their neighbours and big rivals Sutton United.

Thursday 16th November 2006

I had ventured to Surrey once again on a day when I revisited many grounds to take some photos. This time I arrived from Sutton and soon found the ground. It was open and I snapping away when a gentleman came out of a wooden hut. He asked what I was doing so I explained. He seemed delighted and invited me inside. 

He and other gents of his age who were involved with the club sat me down and made me a cuppa while we had a good twenty minutes chat about about Athletic, Scarborough and non league in general. They were great company.

The ground had changed as it was now more enclosed. Both ends had fences nearer the goal with both having basic covers. The Main Stand was now at least double in length after a relatively seamless addition.

I thanked my new friends and set off to find the new home of Tooting & Mitcham, which was made far easier by the bus advice I was given.

Carshalton Athletic 1 Margate 3 (Tuesday 8th February 2011) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 157)

I was scheduled to be on late shift at work but the call up to an annual training course offered the opportunity of a game. As I was based in the city, a trip to Surrey looked inviting. I had read big things about the matchday experience at Carshalton on their website with real ale advertised in the clubhouse and them bragging that they serve the best burgers in English football. How could I resist?

I had a good walk to charge my appetite along the Embankment for a few miles. I did well to avert the magnificent Market Porter pub at London Bridge to head straight into the station and take a packed train south.

The walk from the station to the ground was short and I was soon greeted on the turnstile by two smiling young ladies. I paid a tenner admission plus just £1 for a decent programme. Other clubs would do well to take note of that price. 

I went into a fairly plush clubhouse which had nice leather chairs and plasma TVs with very modern pictures of the team and the club. They were definitely very imaged based. The clubhouse had three dartboards and held events. It was also open from around 5pm each evening and from 10am on a weekend. It did meals and was really trying to push its Sunday lunch then live football offers.

I had a pint of Sambrook's excellent Wandle Ale and sat to read the programme. It was nice to see a few Margate fans in there although it was not too busy with Robins. I went outside before kick off to take a few photos before going to the catering van to see if the burgers really did live up to the hype?

Well I have to say that they were OK but nothing out of the ordinary. The chips were very good mindst. The game had kicked off at quite a pace and soon the visitors went ahead to loud cheers from the twenty or so fans behind the far goal. The home fans at the other end tried to create a bit of an atmosphere without ever threatening the sound barrier.

New fences surrounded the playing area with ample reminders to fans about what time the clubhouse was open and for youngsters to get involved with Saturday morning training.

Athletic equalised before Margate took the lead once more. They looked very dangerous although Carshalton had their moments. I had heard the home fans saying that their match on the previous Saturday was as bad a game of football as they'd ever seen. They were getting their monies worth in the first half.

I wandered round the ground and stood on the great terrace. Some of the views weren't the best because of the large dug outs at the front but I love anything like that side which took me back to my youth. 

I was behind the goal with the 'Gate' fans when they were instructing the Robins keeper how to set up his wall and warning him how their taker would bend it. The kick went in the net via a large deflection. The keeper was not happy and his mood was not enhanced by the fans saying "We told you it would bend". The home skipper also took exception to comments about his general demeanour!

Chances continued to come in the second half, mainly to Margate but neither side added to the tally. It was a very cold night and I was very tired as my body clock was struggling with changes of shift. I made a move around five minutes from the end to catch an earlier train back to Victoria.

I had enjoyed the experience. I like clubs who have positivity and make the best of what they have, although I couldn't help but think that Carshalton had gone maybe just a little too far. Maybe my opinion comes from the previous experience down there of a warm small friendly club. Whatever, I hope some of the kids on the clubs books become first team stars of the future. Community is definitely the way forward!

Carshalton Athletic 0 Dulwich Hamlet 4 (Tuesday 25th February 2014) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 277)

The terrible wet weather appeared to be abating, leaving me with more choices on the completion of my night shifts. My decision was made when fellow ‘hopper’ Anders Johansen got in touch with his itinerary on his sojourn from Norway. He fancied a trip to Surrey and I was in favour of another ninety minutes of seeing Dulwich in action.

We agreed to meet in The Hope, a pub highly recommended. I could soon ascertain why. The choice of beer was excellent in a cosy atmosphere. My hoppy Bethnal Green Bitter from Brodies in London’s east end hit the spot after I’d had a fine pint of Jeffrey Hudson Bitter from the fine Oakham Ales range in the horribly refurbished Wetherspoons on Victoria station. The pub got very busy with away fans leading up to the match.

We decided to have a beer before kick off at Colston Avenue. Usually we were both in favour of giving more money to the home club, but these were unusual circumstances. Athletic’s owner was a man called Paul Dipre. 

He was involved in a long running feud with long time fans, which had got worse since my earlier visit. Banned fans, along with sympathisers boycotting formed a peaceful protest outside. Ridiculously there was also a police presence, who seemed bemused by it all.

Admission was £10, with the programme another £2. It was the original issue from New Years Day with an updated four page insert. While it was glossy and contained plenty of colour and pictures, there was very little reading inside.

The Hamlet fans were out in force, with the bar busy. We took our drinks outside as kick off was approaching. Anders introduced me to fellow blogger Lawrence from Oxford. Hamlet deservedly went ahead after twenty minutes when Erhun Oztumer unselfishly rolled the ball square past the young Carshalton keeper Michael White for Nyres Clunis to roll the ball into an empty net.

I tucked into an ever excellent Pukka Pie for a very reasonable £2.20 as the second goal went in on the half hour after more pressure. Clunis broke through before squaring for Dean Lodge to score. 

We walked round through the terrace which had impressed Anders towards the mass of visiting Dultras and Rabble. Before we got to the far end it was three as another piece of fine football. The pace of Clunis out wide on the sticky surface set up Ian Daly in the middle to score.

Once behind the goal Anders asked some Hamlet fans the identity of one of their legendary support. We were introduced to Mishi Morath who had kept the faith for several decades as well as being a regular poster of the Non League Matters AKA Kempster forum. Mishi was friendly and very passionate. It was a pleasure to meet him.

We wandered back round with the masses at the break for another drink. We agreed that the second half had the potential of turning into a real hammering. The potential become greater when Hamlet made it 4-0 when the excellent Clunis sent in a delectable cross that Brady converted with a bullet header. 

When the official attendance was announced shortly after, the were a few giggles. There certainly seemed to be more there than the official figure.

To be fair to Carshalton they gave it a go for the rest of the game, getting forward on occasions, while tightening up at the back. Hamlet withdrew Oztumer to give him a break with the game won. 

The home side were extremely fortunate to end the game with a full compliment after Matthew Males put in a terrible challenge on Clunis, a second or two after missing him with an even worse attempt. Athletic came close to a consolation goal late on, while the Hamlet fans sung their support for the banned home fans.

Rather than standing around for the train it was agreed we call back at The Hope for a couple of pints. The evening was completed with a nightcap in The Willow Walk at Victoria. I was home just before 1pm with a chicken supper.

It had been a very enjoyable evening in good company with the excellent range of beer being just what the doctor ordered. Funnily enough I thought I’d need a visit to the doctor’s the next morning!

Carshalton Athletic 2 Guernsey 1 (Saturday 10th September 2017) Isthmian League Division One South (att: 235)

The weather decided my attendance for this match after the Wenlock Arms CC trip to Chappel & Wakes Colne in Essex fell foul of the weather. I’d been up bright and early and eaten breakfast in the pub. There was no way I wanted to waste a day.

I was in contact with fellow watcher and cricketer Steve Barnes and he was keen on the lunchtime kick off as well as a visit to a fine hostelry. We set off and managed a swift half at Wetherspoons at Victoria station before taking the train to Surrey.

The rain was still falling as we arrived at Colston Avenue; where the welcome was warm enough. They went out of their way to save me a programme after the season ticket holders had all arrived; as they all received one as part of the deal.

We took our position on the far side in the majestic covered terrace. It was good to see a sprinkling of Guernsey fans among the attendance. The ground had a new artificial pitch installed, so the heavy rain didn’t affect the surface.

The Robins started on the front foot; with Tom Bradford and Mickel Miller both going close. However, it was ‘The Green Lions’ who took the lead against the run of play mid way through the first half, as Ross Allen scored with an absolute screamer from twenty five yards.

Guernsey were up against it ten minutes later as Tom Miller was shown a straight red card for a high challenge. Sean O’Toole soon made the visitors pay when he scored with a fine shot into the roof of the net to level the scores.

Bradford went close before Ryan Zico-Black came close for Guernsey with an audacious long range effort before the referee blew his whistle for half time. Steve and I went to the clubhouse to share a bottle of ale during the interval.

It was backs against the wall stuff for Guernsey after the break. The kept out the hosts until the pressure eventually told as Ricky Korboa rolled the ball across for Miller to tuck the ball home from just inside the area.

At this point our third man; Steve Speller arrived. He was impressed with both the ground and standard of football. Carshalton went close through Korboa and O’Toole but were thwarted by Chris Tardiff; while Guernsey had a sniff of a chance at the other end.

Allen had a long range attempt for the men in green but his effort found the arms of Alexandros Kozakis in the home net. Both sides exchanged efforts on goal, while a case of ‘handbags’ broke out just before the full time whistle. It had been a decent game and the right result.

We headed off for what I’m sure was the main attraction for my colleagues. The Hope did not let us down, as we tried some excellent ales in a lovely atmosphere. Despite the weather it was agreed that we should try another couple of highly rated establishment while in town.

The Greyhound was hosting a music festival with extra marquees set up in the beer garden. It was absolutely packed, but we hung around to try a couple of guest ales before wandering across the pretty area to the Windsor Castle.

This was the poorest of the three pubs, but it would have been more than satisfactory in most little towns. It was unanimously agreed to reconvene in The Hope where we enjoyed a few more before heading back to Kingsbury; fully imbibed, but happy with life.

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