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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sheffield United

Sheffield United FC were formed on the 22nd March 1889 by the President of Sheffiled United Cricket Club, Sir Charles Clegg who was also the President of Sheffield Wednesday and was known as 'The Napoleon of Football'. The meeting was held at the Adelphi Hotel, which is where the Crucible Theatre stands today. Wednesday had originally played at Bramall Lane but had moved to their new home at Olive Grove. A new club was needed to generate income throughout the winter.

The team started with a season of friendly matches before becoming members of the Midland Counties League. After a season in the Northern League, United became founder members of the Football League Division Two in 1892. Promotion was won to the top flight in their first season to begin a spell of thirty seven consecutive seasons in division one.

These were the glory days in the club's history. They lifted the championship in 1898 as well as finishing as runners up 1897 and 1900. United won the FA Cup in 1899 by four goals to one against Derby County at Crystal Palace. The second success at the same venue came after a replay in 1902 against Southampton. 

In 1915 the cup was won after a three nil win against Chelsea at Old Trafford in the last final before the outbreak of World War One and then their fourth victory was secured with a single goal victory over Cardiff City at Wembley in 1925. Tottenham Hotspur defeated United after a replay at Burnden Park Bolton in 1901.

In 1934 the club were relegated for the first time and over the next few decades only an occasional season was spent in the top flight. Some local youngsters came to the fore at the end of the 1950's in the shape of Joe Shaw, Alan Hodgkinson and Graham Shaw. In 1961 promotion was won as well as a run in the FA Cup which ended in the semi finals.

After a two year spell back in the second tier, 'The Blades' returned with some quality players such as Tony Currie, Alan Woodward, Billy Dearden, Len Badger and Trevor Hockey. In the early 1970's the decision was taken to end cricket at Bramall Lane. 

It was Yorkshire CC's original home ground and had staged Test cricket in the past as well as seeing many memorable days. In 1968 a Fred Trueman led Yorkshire side defeated the touring Australians by an innings on the ground. In 1975 a new South Stand was built where the former square once stood.

It was said that removing the original proprietors of the club would bring bad luck to the club. In 1976 they were relegated, saddled with debt from the building of the stand and they were forced to sell Tony Currie. The slump continued despite cult hero Alex Sabella arriving from Argentina, with local youngsters leaving. It continued to relegation to the third tier in 1979.

Manager Harry Haslam's health suffered despite a bright start on the pitch. World Cup winner Martin Peters came in but the side went into freefall culminating in relegation to the fourth division in 1981.

Ian Porterfield came in as boss from Rotherham United and began the revival helped by the goals of former Blade Keith Edwards. Promotion was won at the first attempt before going up again two years later. Mangers came and went as United remained in the second tier without ever threatening promotion before they were relegated under the managership of Dave Beasant who took on a lost cause in 1988.

'Harry' as he was known set about sorting out the team. The masterminded two successive promotions moulding the side in a similar style to that of his former team, Wimbledon including the forward play of Brian Deane. The Blades spent four seasons in the top flight including the first two in the new Premier League. Deane was the first ever scorer in that league, notching after just five minutes in the opening day defeat of Manchester United.

In 1994 Deane was sold to Leeds United and the club slid to relegation before Bassett resigned the following season. After a couple of failed appointments, not helped by boardroom shenanigans, lifetime Blades fan Neil Warnock took on the role.

After twelve years and plenty of grumbles from the loyal fans to go with a lost play off final and two FA Cup and League Cup semi final appearence, promotion was sealed back to the top flight in 2006. Sadly the spell lasted just one season and ended in controversy.

After being relegated, Sheffield United mounted a legal challenge against their relegation on the basis that West Ham United should have been docked points over irregularities with the transfers of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. Unfortunately they failed in their bid and later received financial compansation from West Ham.

Around this period owner and chairman of The Blades, Kevin McCabe formed links when he purchased Ferencváros in Hungary and Chengdu Blades (formerly Chengdu Wuniu) in China for the development of players and coaching as well as commercial reasons.

Warnock left after eight years at the helm and in the subsequent few years Bryan Robson, Kevin Blackwell, Gary Speed, John Carver and Micky Adams all went through the revolving managerial door, leading to relegation once again at the end of the 2010-11 season. Danny Wilson replaced Adams, and lasted nearly two seasons at the helm. However, the board decided on a change at an unusual time of the 2012-13 campaign with the play offs looming.

Former player Chris Morgan was given a chance to stake his claim in an acting capacity, but after Yeovil Town dumped The Blades out at the semi final stage, Morgan made way for David Weir to be appointed in his first managerial role. Weir's spell was short as he departed in October after the team won only one game out of thirteen.

Nigel Clough was the next incumbent of the manager's seat, as he built a fast enthusiastic side who finished just outside the play-offs, but had a terrific FA Cup run all the way to the semi-final where they were defeated 5-3 by Hull City at Wembley.

United reached the League Cup semi-final in 2014-15 before narrowly going out over two legs to Tottenham Hotspur. The team finished in fifth place but went out in the play-offs to Swindon Town, despite an amazing effort in a 5-5 draw at the County Ground.

Clough was dismissed in May 2015 to be replaced by Nigel Adkins.

Sheffield United FC will appear in Football League One for the 2015-16 season.

My visits

Sheffield United 2 Hull City 2 (Saturday 17th March 1984) Division Three (att: 15,374)

I had just about finished with college in Borehamwood and was back in Scarborough. City were having a good season and my brother Nick was going to games with me by then. This was a crunch match as The Blades were also looking like filling a promotion spot.

We travelled through on the train arriving early. It was before my days of having a beer before games, not that it would have been a very good idea anyway. It was at the peak of the trouble on the way to games so we walked down to Bramall Lane as soon we arrived.

We were the first in the away end so it gave us plenty of chance to have a look and read the programme!

We were downstairs on the terracing at the Bramall Lane End. A seated tier was above us. To our left was the John Street Stand. This was the Main Stand for many years while cricket was still played at the ground. It had a large terrace at the front with seats at the rear. The far end was the large Kop roofed terrace and the fourth side was occupied by the South Stand, which was a single tiered bank of seating. All the stands had plenty of room between them and the pitch, which was the aftermath of its former use for cricket.

The match itself was a cracker with both teams going all out for a vital win in front of a large and volatile crowd. I was delighted with The Tigers getting a point thanks to Brian Marwood and Steve McClaren goals, and even happier when we got back to the station unscathed ready for the ride back home!

Sheffield United 3 Hull City 1 (Saturday 2nd November 1985) Division Two (att: 13,272)

I travelled with Nick and my Dad along with many mates on the supporters coach from Scarborough and picked up in Filey and Bridlington. There was a heavy police presence as we were escorted from the M1 into the coach parking place.

We were kept together until several coaches arrived and then marched through the streets to the Bramall Lane End. I decided with some of the lads to sit upstairs, thinking lots of City fans were following suit.

Unfortunately there weren't too many up there and the area was shared with home fans. It was a magnificent view that gave the impression that we were about to fall out of the stand, such was the steepness. It was fairly hostile at the same time.

The Blades had acquired a nickname of 'Dad's Army' with their signings of Peter Withe, Ray Lewington and Phil Thompson in an attempted push for promotion. Another veteran Colin Morris set up City's former star and public enemy number one, Keith Edwards. Morris was brilliant and manager Porterfield was roundly booed when he took him off to give new signing Steve Wigley a run out.

The Blades ran out well deserved winners, with Peter Skipper scoring for City. I went to a party in the evening to drown my sorrows!

Wednesday 20th July 2011

I was in Sheffield after an evening watching Goole v Scarborough Athletic. I had already visited Millmoor, The Don Valley Stadium and Hillsborough before taking a bus back into the city centre.

I tried to work out a way to fit in another ground as well as Bramall Lane before I headed back to Doncaster to connect with my train to London, but there didn't seem a way, so I headed off down Shoreham Street towards the stadium.

I walked through the car park where the old cricket pavilion and outfield once stood to the back of the South Stand and past the fine statues of club legends Derek Dooley and Joe Shaw. There didn't seem to be a way inside for a look. A gate gave a view in the corner of the ground and I tried to get someone inside to let me inside for a quick look, but he apologised that he couldn't. I had just about given up when two more men went through the gate. I asked if there was any chance of me going in?

Again I was refused and then called back. One of them said I was fine as long as I stuck with him in the corner. He was a true football fan and a club employee in charge of the "Legends of the Lane" museum and tours by the name of John Garrett. 

Bramall Lane had really changed since my last visit. The Kop at the Shoreham Street End had been re-aligned and seated. The John Street Stand was a new single tiered structure with boxes at the rear. Credit to the club as they had a gable of the centre of it, to give it a bit more character. The Bramall Lane End Stand was seated downstairs as well as up and an upper corner section enclosed the ground going round to the South Stand.

He was very helpful and we had a good chat about the connection between our two clubs and how sorry he was for us that the old club went bust. He gave me plenty of info on Bramall Lane as well as a good pub tip for chat about Yorkshire sport near to my London home, before he then invited me briefly into the museum.

A tour was going round at the time, and I looked up to see myself stood next to a true legend, Tony Currie. The museum looked extremely interesting with some quality artifacts. We went back outside and I was so pleased to see the old cricket pavilion clock above the museum in full working order and in pristine condition. I shook hands and went on my way.

As I walked back to the station I reflected on how nice it was to have good people involved in the game. I've never been the biggest fan of Sheffield United, but I'll certainly wish them better luck in the future and will continue as a member of the club's Superdraw which runs with Scarborough Athletic fans in the weekly draw.

I gave up on being greedy and trying to fit another ground in, and instead plumped for a quality hour in the Sheffield Tap pub on platform one of the railway station. I had a lovely time in and around South Yorkshire, and my final selection was the icing on the cake. I recommend a visit heartily. I will be back!

The pictures of the old Bramall Lane have been taken from the internet.


1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT475.
    The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.