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

London

September 2015

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blackburn Rovers



Blackburn Rovers FC were formed at a meeting at the Leger Hotel in the town on 5th November 1975 and the club played their first ever game the following month.

In 1878 the club were one of the founder members of the Lancashire Football Association. The following year they entered the FA Cup for the first time. In 1882 they reached the final of the competition, but were defeated by Old Etonians. Two years later they returned to the final, where they beat Scottish side Queen's Park. This feat was achieved the following season against the same opponents. In 1886 Rovers made it three consecutive wins when West Bromwich Albion were seen off. Rovers were awarded a special plaque and given the unique privilege of being allowed to have their club crest on their corner flags.




From 1878 to 1889 Rovers had to content with local rivals Blackburn Olympic. This club played at a ground called Hole-i'th'-Wall, after the pub adjacent to it. Olympic won the FA Cup in 1883 against Old Etonians, in a victory that had influence in allowing professionalism into the sport two years later. Sadly for Olympic, they couldn't compete with other professional clubs so they folded before the turn of the century.

Rovers became founder members of the Football League in 1888 and in 1890 and 1891 they added two more FA Cup wins against Sheffield Wednesday (or The Wednesday as they were known back then) and Notts County.




After a struggle for a few years, Rovers improved Ewood Park by covering the Darwen End and building the grand new Nuthall Street Stand. Rovers were seen as one of the top sides in the country and they went on to become league champions in 1912 and 1914 as well as winning a sixth FA Cup in 1928. Unfortunately that was to be their last major trophy for nearly seventy years.

Rovers were relegated for the first time in their history in 1936 and they spent the next twenty five years in the top two divisions. Rovers were defeated against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1960 FA Cup final and after a brief flurry towards the top of the top tier, they were relegated again in 1966. The next fifteen years were spent in the old second and third divisions before they cemented a place in the second tier for ten seasons.




In 1990 local steelworks owner and lifelong supporter Jack Walker took over the club to revive Rovers fortunes in dramatic fashion. Kenny Dalglish was soon appointed as manager and given millions to spend on players. In 1992 an English transfer fee of £3.5M was paid to sign Alan Shearer from Southampton after promotion had been won to the top flight.

Ewood Park undertook a huge redevelopment with all four sides being rebuilt.

In 1994 Rovers lifted the Premier League title before Dalglish moved upstairs to become Director of Football with Ray Harford taking the managerial reigns. The good times quickly came to an end as the club failed to build on the title win. Rovers were relegated by 1999.

Sir Jack Walker passed away soon after the 2000-01 season began. Graeme Souness took the side to promotion as runners up to Fulham as the club stabilised itself. Cash had been left to keep Rovers going for several seasons by Sir Jack. Managers came and went but Rovers were relatively secure and even reached the UEFA Cup for the 2006-07 season.













Sam Allardyce found himself at the helm in December 2008 and he was taken to be doing a good job on a limited budget as the Walker money began to dry up. The club were sold to an Indian company, Venkateshwara Hatcheries Group who specialised in chicken meat production. They sacked Allardyce a month later and replaced him with first team coach Steve Kean.

To say that Kean's reign was unpopular must be one of the understatements of the century as fans protested vehemently at home games and attendance figures dropped. The team were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2011-12 season and Kean was dismissed soon into the following season. He was replaced by Henning Berg who lasted just fifty seven days before Shebby Singh who was appointed by owners Venkys to oversee the club showed him the door. 

The shambles continued as Michael Appleton took over for a spell of sixty seven days before being shown the door. Gary Bowyer was eventually installed as permanent manager in May 2013 after two previous spells as caretaker boss. He led the side to a promising eighth place finish in his first full season at the helm, which was followed up by a ninth place.

Blackburn Rovers FC will play in the Football League Championship in the 2015-16 season.


My visits

Blackburn Rovers 2 Hull City 2 (Saturday 1st February 1986) Division Two (att: 5,414)





Hull City were having a very good season in the second division and we took regular coaches to away games from Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington as well as every home match. Promotion was not out of the question.

Our bus on this occasion got to Blackburn just before two o'clock and we managed to get into a pub near the ground, which was most unusual back then in terms of being allowed and for our own safety. The Rovers fans seemed a decent bunch as I sampled Thwaites beers for the first time.

The match was a good one with Frankie Bunn and Stan McEwan striking for The Tigers and the atmosphere in the away matched it with around six or seven hundred away fans being in attendance.

Ewood Park was showing signs of age but I liked it. We were placed in the Darwen End which was a large terrace behind the goal with a roof to assist our acoustics. To our right was a large open terrace with the Riverside Stand stood behind it, but it was now closed because it was deemed unsafe in the aftermath of the Bradford Fire Disaster. The far Blackburn End had a plain cantilever cover over its terracing while the Nuthall Street Stand slanted away from the pitch at both ends so that the centre was furthest away. It had an open terrace paddock in front of a seated tier.





Wednesday 14th September 2011

I was planning to visit East Lancashire as I had a couple of days off work after completing my night shifts. This included going to the Accrington Stanley versus Rotherham United game the previous evening and then visiting grounds in the area the next day before moving on to Manchester.



 










I decided to try and contact someone at the tours office at Ewood Park and see what my chance were of getting inside the stadium. I explained I would normally have paid for a tour but there was non available on the day I was there. Within a day the lady from tours Elaine Whittington had emailed me back telling me it wasn't a problem and to let her know when I was near.

I took a couple of buses from Padiham and found myself outside the towering stands of Ewood Park. It really had changed since my last visit! There was a wonderful statue of Sir Jack Walker behind the Blackburn End Stand with the original brickwork reading 'Rovers FC' from above the turnstiles before redevelopment.

I went into reception and before long Elaine had come to meet me. I explained where I'd been so far and explained I was careful at Turf Moor when telling the lady there that I was going to Blackburn Rovers. I needn't have worried either way. Elaine revealed herself to be a Burnley fan! She was friends with Veronica Simpson who had taken me round earlier that day.


 









We went out and had a look at the stadium so I could take my photos. As I mentioned, the ground had changed massively since my last visit. Indeed, all four stands were new.The first stand to be replaced at Ewood Park was the Riverside Stand with the grand old structure which was constructed in 1928 being swapped for a rather dull single tier of covered seats in 1988.

Identical two tiered seated stands, the Darwen and Blackburn End Stands behind the goals were opened in February 1994. The new Jack Walker Stand, which was a large two tiered stand, was opened in August 1994 after some houses on Nuthall Street had been demolished two years previously to allow for the large new structure.

All this work gave the ground a capacity of 31,154 seats.

We had a good chat about the game as Elaine admitted to being a self confessed football 'anorak' who also went to Accrington Stanley matches when she could. We went into the Blue Bar under the Blackburn End, which had just been named the Ronnie Clayton Stand after the former player. We chatted about the grounds of old and how atmosphere had changed with the new stereotypical modern stadia, over a coffee. 


 









I went on my way to catch a bus outside on Bolton Road towards Darwen. It was really nice to get pitchside at Ewood Park and see things from the inside. It also gladdened my heart as it had done at Turf Moor (see Burnley page in Volume One), to see lovely people employed by the clubs who actually cared rather than turn up to do just another job.


The early pictures on this page of Ewood Park have been taken from the internet as I rarely took photos of grounds at the time of my visit.






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