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, November 24, 2011


Barkingside FC are a non league football club from the London Borough of Redbridge in North East London. The club were formed by local enthusiasts in 1889, playing home games opposite the State Cinema in Barkingside High Road. The club became members of the Iford League.

The club was disbanded in 1923, but reformed as Barkingside Boys Guild FC a couple of years later. The team played on a pitch at Barkingside Recreation Ground for twenty five years before they moved to a new ground at Station Road, which later became Oakside and then Oakside Stadium.

In 1950 'The Side' progressed from local league football to the London League and then onto the Greater London League in 1964. A fire at Oakside meant a short spell at Woodford Avenue until the clubhouse was rebuilt in the early 1970's.

A downloaded image of Oakside before redevelopment

Many local honours were collected as Barkingside became founder members of the London Spartan League in 1976. In 1996 the league merged so The Side also became founder members of the Spartan South Midlands League.

In 1998 new owners took over the club with high ambition. Oakside was upgraded in the hope of higher grade football being staged. The league title was lifted for a second time, but promotion to the Isthmian League was denied. The club decided that they wished to move into the Essex Senior League, but the FA denied sideways moves across the football pyramid. To counteract this, The Side dropped out of senior football for one season before being accepted as new members in the Essex Senior League a year later.

The following season the club owners moved on mass to join an Isthmian League club. On departure they sold the lease of Oakside to Ford United FC, who would later become Redbridge FC. Jimmy Chapman, the Chairman at the time at Ford guaranteed Barkingside a permanent home at the ground and became the club President.

A new committee stabilised the club on and off the pitch over the next decade and they refurbished the clubhouse in the hope of attracting more members of the community down to the ground. Their hard work paid off as The Sky Blues finished as Essex Senior League runners up in 2012-13 and were promoted to the Isthmian League.

Barkingside under Matt Frew finished their first season back in the Isthmian League with a twentieth place finish to secure their survival. However, this relative success was tainted with the news that the club would have to move out of their Oakside home after a fall out with Redbridge after fifty six years in residence.

An agreement was made to move to the council owned Cricklefield Stadium to share with Ilford FC and the local athletics club. The team survived once again by the skin of their teeeth to secure their status. Frew departed and was replaced by Gus Gulfer.

Barkingside FC will play in the Isthmian League Division One North in the 2013-14 season.

My visits

Barkingside 1 Burnham Ramblers 3 (Monday 21st November 2011) Essex Senior League (att:89)

I was really looking forward to this evening's adventures for a few reasons. I had just done three consecutive twelve hour shifts over the weekend, my brother Nick was down on business and was going to the game, as was former colleague friend and Scarborough fan Steve Adamson who was down for a few days break in the metropolis.

The day started well as a colleague took me off my shift early at work, so I went home to relax and enjoy the climax of the enthralling South Africa v Australia Test Match while drifting off for a spell. I headed down to Westminster to meet Nick where we were going to have tea, but we had a change in plan and ended up eating on the move and having a pint and a catch up in The Feathers by St James Park station.

After a couple of packed tube rides we got out at Barkingside, where the floodlights were burning bright over the old tube station. Nick's first impression was, "bloody hell, we're in the back of beyond!" While that wasn't quite true, the area around the station was pretty rustic.

Oakside is infuriating as one side backs onto the railway, but to get to the turnstiles it's a good five minute walk down a couple of roads and over the bridge. If only there was an exit at both sides of the station. Nick kindly paid my £6 admission as my birthday present and we entered the very smart clubhouse. My brother was most impressed with his brief look at the ground and inside the rooms. His previous visit to a game with me had been to Hanwell Town, where the clubhouse offered much from a distance, but very little once inside. Oakside's offering had Sky TV, lovely clean toilets and even a small club shop set up on a table. If only they'd offered some proper beer. I had to make do with ice cold Greene King IPA on smoothflow. Why bar managers have bitter at the same temperature, and therefore the same taste as a McDonalds thick shake was a mystery to many a drinker.

Steve arrived after a nightmare of a journey. I had given him the correct directions, but had forgot to tell him he needed a Central line train to Hainault and that the line had two branches. He ended up going all the way to Epping and then back to Leytonstone. This caused his oyster card to fair because his journey had taken so long. To add to his woes, the bloke at the station said he'd need to go back to Leytonstone to get his card fixed, which was both wrong and unhelpful.

Steve mentioned that he'd been into Barkingside town centre and not seen one poster advertising the game and no locals knew where the ground was! He told the bloke on the gate about this who admitted they could probably do more to try and attract fans. We chewed the fat about football in general and Boro as well as our old cooleagues at the Post Office. He also said he was working with Colin Appleton, the former Scarborough and Leicester City hero about writing his biography.

Nick and Steve enjoying their night out
The ground was how I remembered it, with good open terracing behind one goal and down the Railway Side, where there was also a decent sized Main Stand. The far touchline had a low cover with a few steps of terracing along the full length of the pitch. The far end was fenced off as it looked like the back wall was on the verge of collapsing. It was a traditional proper football ground, which met with the approval of both my companions.

The match started with The Side well on top, although their final product was sadly lacking. Their player manager was none other than Matt 'Burger' Frew, whose performance I'd really enjoyed for London APSA on my visit the previous season. He could certainly put in some excellent dead balls into the danger area, to make up for his lack of pace. 

The home number nine had a ridiculously unjustified whinge at a decision right in front of us when we stood down the covered side. Steve soon put him right and we had fun for the rest of the game wondering whether we should give him some stick. I think his size and general physique put us off!

Another free kick into the Ramblers box was eventually finished off with a header that turned out be an own goal by Ross Wall to put Barkingside one up. This seemed to wake Burnham up, as they had one or two breaks with Wall showing a real deft touch at the right end of the pitch. Barkingside missed a real chance and then with half time approaching Burnham had a couple of well delivered corners, which should have been finished with a headed finish. The second one wasn't cleared properly and was eventually finished off by Wall to redeem his earlier faux pas. The referee blew for half time so the kick off couldn't even be taken to end the half even. 

We'd had some decent grup before the break so we went back to the clubhouse for some refreshment and to get warmed up while watching the Spurs v Aston Villa game on the TV. Steve came back from the shop with a pile of programmes and fanzines, many of which had been given free on top of his purchase, which was a really nice touch.

After a spell we went to sit in the Main Stand. The two dug outs blocked out a bit of the view, but it was comfortable enough despite the thick mist coming down and making it colder by the minute. Ramblers still played on the break, only on a far more regular basis after the interval. They certainly looked the more likely to score because of the quality of their play. They went ahead with a real screamer from just inside the area from star man Wall to loud cheers from the twenty or so visiting supporters.

Barkingside continued to press, but couldn't find a way through. Ramblers broke away once again and an excellent finish from Martin Llewellyn rounded off another fine flowing move. This saw the exodus from the stand of around fifteen groundhoppers, including some familiar faces, who headed towards the corner by the exit.

The star to us of the last quarter of the game was an official running the line who was surely looking for some kind of award as 'Pedant of the Year'. I appreciate that match officials have a difficult job, but a little bit of common sense wouldn't do any harm. He warned the home bench as they had more than two people standing? They replied that he was wrong and there was three of them! The lino said that if there were, he'd report them! Later he caused a delay over a substitution regarding a players studs, which had Burgers assistants blood pressure going through the roof. We laughed at all of this, but there is a serious side.

It's all very well officials adhering to all these silly meaningless rules to please the assessors and the FA, but it's all very immaterial when they get a vital match changing decision wrong. No wonder coaches, managers and players lose it at times. I sometimes wonder if all officials either work as pen pushers or traffic wardens when not ruining what should be a fun day out.

There was no further action of note and the visitors headed home with three deserved points. Nick didn't think the standard of football was up to the same level at the Spartan South Midlands League game he'd seen earlier in the season, but I thought it hard to tell under the circumstances.

We headed back to the station just as a train was due. Steve got off at Mile End to change trains, so he could hopefully have a stress free journey home, while Nick and I headed for the Metropolitan line back to Kingsbury.

Barkingside 2 Great Wakering Rovers 1 (Monday 21st September 2015) Isthmian League Division One North (att: 67)

Following an early finish from work and a lovely lunch with my pal Ross Sullivan and a catch up with his Mum and old friend Linda, I headed home for a siesta with thoughts of a further trip out before the day ended.

It had been raining pretty heavily throughout the day but was forecasted to stop later. My mind was made up. I wanted to see Barkingside at their newish location. Bearing in mind that the Cricklefield pitch wasn’t the best, I thought an early season encounter would see it at its best, especially with a slick wet surface.

Another bonus was offered by way of my staff travel pass. TFL had recently taken on the franchise of the line between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. This meant a free ride all the way to Seven Kings. I was on my way!

I was greeted at the turnstiles in the dark. The lighting had failed in the hut! I managed to work it out with the fella inside and paid £9, which included a programme. The refreshment counter was full of smoke. It looked like someone’s burger was definitely well done! I paid £1.50 for a tea and a Snickers bar.

Cricklefield Stadium was unaltered since my visit to see regular tenants Ilford a couple of years previously. It really was a decent arena with open terracing behind one end and down both sides. A seated covered stand stood astride the half way line further along from the sports club headquarters and its view from the upstairs bar. Opposite was a small covered standing area, with the dug outs in front.

The only pitfall as a football venue was that it was surrounded by an eight lane running track and the floodlights. They gave off an orange hue and reminded me of being in a motorway service station.

Barkingside, clad in sky and dark blue had a decent start. They were on the back of a 5-1 hammering at neighbours AFC Hornchurch two days earlier. The tall number nine Luke With really did look like an over age player who’d sneaked onto the pitch during a junior game.

The visitors from near to Southend grew into the game as I decided to have a look from the far side cover. A man in a Wakering jacket followed. We exchanged comments as the half progressed.

Our main centre of attention was the awful language from Gus Gulfer, the Barkingside manager. A larger than life character with a bald head, Gulfer was apoplectic with rage at his own team, the referee and the nearside linesman as he stood on the touchline. On many occasions he was just plain wrong. It was the worst set of expletives I’d heard since I ventured to see South Kilburn under the managership of Mick Jennings back in August 2012. Now he was a head case!

We both shook our heads in disbelief when after an outburst every few seconds a Barkingside player went down injured, requiring the treatment of the physio. A young lady emerged from the dug out and went to assist. She must have had thick skin or enjoyed the comedy value.

It hadn’t been a bad first half as I went upstairs to the bar. It was good to see the club shop still in operation. Clubs the world over at Barkingside’s level required hard working and loyal board members and volunteers; especially those who had gone through the same turmoil in losing their proper home ground.

I decided to remain on the main side for the second half. I could still hear Mr Gulfer, but it was more akin to background noise in the distance.

Whatever the virtues of his style, his team were giving it a real go. Jonathan Nzengo looked quality in the first half with his bursts forward. Six minutes after the restart he finished a jinking run with a quality finish past Adam Seal in the Wakering goal.

The visitor’s boss, Dan Trenkel made some substitutions to excellent effect in return. His side went for a more direct approach. Gulfer made some wise changes of his own; particularly replacing his left back.

The home side were undone when a ball from the half way line was flicked on by the larger of the subs for another replacement Tony Jacobs to slot past Darren Behcet in the Light Blues goal.

Wakering pressed forward and looked to be getting on top. Barkingside’s midfield were good, but they were now being by-passed. As the game reached it’s last ten minutes the visitors had two efforts bravely blocked. From the resulting corner, a header clattered back off the crossbar.

To add to the direct approach, Wakering had a player with a tremendously long throw. It was causing panic to the home defence, as the ball dropped from flicked headers or half clearances. I honestly thought an away win was on the cards.

Somehow Barkingside gained a bit of control. They got the ball on the floor and the midfield started producing again. The game flowed from end to end, but it would be the home side who’d take all three points.

A cross came in and With caused havoc once again. The ball dropped to the edge of the area where M Spencer beat a defender with a fine piece of skill before scoring with a low shot into the corner of the net. It was a quality goal worthy of winning any game.

The joy from players and fans alike when the goal went in and on the final whistle just a few minutes later showed just how much the club meant to everyone. Barkingside were obviously punching above their weight when it came to facilities and a playing budget, so wins were valuable and enjoyed. Best of all, it probably prevented Gus Gulver from exploding!

I headed back to Seven Kings having seen a good game, especially in the second half. Again it was good value for money and far better than watching a bigger game at home on TV. I was back on the 9.46 train and home before 11pm.

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