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

Guildford City

Guildford City FC are a non league football club who come from the county town of Surrey, twenty seven miles south west of London.

Football in Guildford has an interesting history, so there are different interpretations as to when City were formed. The first club from the town were called Guildford FC and were known as 'The Pinks', playing home games at Woodbridge Road Sports Ground. This amateur club often attracted some decent sized crowds, so it was suggested that the town had a professional club.

Guildford United were formed in 1920 and admitted into the Southern League a year later. Over 5,000 fans were attracted to their new home at Joseph's Road for their opening game against Reading Reserves. In 1927 the club changed its name to Guildford City FC taking on the colours of red and white stripes rather than their previous green and white outfit.

The second round of the FA Cup was reached in the 1928-29 season as Queens Park Rangers were defeated before Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic ended their run with both games attracting big crowds to Joseph's Road. However, despite these occasional interests, financial problems began to be a constant in the clubs' history.

In 1939 City became Southern League champions as crowds of over 9,000 attended a couple of home games. In the 1950-51 season over 200 City fans travelled for an FA Cup second round tie at Gateshead in the days before heaters on buses or motorways. A second league title was added in 1956, before the league was regionalised and reorganised on a couple of occasions as City also had a spell of consolidation.

The two pictures above of Joseph's Road have been taken from the GCFC Official Website

During the 60's finances were again biting, but despite that the first team won a couple of league cups. In the 1968-69 season another couple of FA Cup ties brought crowds of 7,500 and 8,000 flocking to Joseph's Road to see a win against Brentford and then a defeat to Newport County.

In 1970 Joseph's Road was sold with the club paying rent to try and solve their financial worries. The teams form fluctuated and crowds were sometimes over 3,000, but the deal on the ground was obviously a poor one as over 4,000 were required to break even. Some club stalwarts did their utmost to assist but the final match at the famous old ground was played on the 12th February 1974 as the final fixtures were transferred to Meadowbank, the home of neighbours Dorking. The ground was sold off to developers for housing.

Guildford & Dorking United FC lasted just two seasons, before Dorking went it alone once more. In 1978 the name of Guildford was partly restored as Guildford & Worplesdon FC entered the Home Counties League, which was later renamed as the Combined Counties League. This club departed from the league in 1984 because of ground grading issues.

In 2003 through an arrangement with Burpham FC, AFC Guildford were formed with the mayor of the city arranging for the club to use the arena at the Spectrum Leisure Centre so that they could enter the Combined Counties League, as he was a fan of the olf City club. Their name changed to Guildford United FC in 1995 and then Guildford City FC in 1996. The old City social club had remained open during all this time at Joseph's Road.

City consolidated but then had a turbulent few years from 2006 onwards, with the clubs future being in doubt until some hard work behind the scenes by manager Kevin Rayner, including promoting committee members to more prominent positions, saved the day.

City reached the fourth round of the FA Vase in the 2010-11 season before being knocked out by Leiston after extra time. The team went on to lift the Combined Counties League title, but were controversially denied promotion as the FA said that The Spectrum failed the required standards when they had inspected on the 31st March 2011. Senior council directors also advised the club that their new development at Slyfield would not have a new football ground, much to the dismay of the City faithful.

City made no mistake in the 2011-12 season as they won the Combined Counties League title once again and were promoted to the Southern League Division One Central. However, after one season they were switched to the South & West Division to assist with the geographical challenges facing the FA.

Guildford City will compete in the Southern League Division One South & West in the 2013-14 season.

My visit

Guildford City 2 Wembley 2 - Guildford won 5-4 on penalties after extra time (Wednesday 23rd November 2011) Combines Counties League Cup Round Three (att: 53)

This was a game that had the feeling of going all the way from early on, but I guess I would have been half way back to London when it finally ended!

I was in a dilemna of which match to go to. Steve Adamson was still in the East End, so Waltham Forest v AFC Sudbury looked favourite. However, Steve over exerted himself on the sightseeing front and after seeing Ilford were at home a few weeks later when I was free, also at Cricklewood Stadium, made my mind up.

I took the tube and then a fast train and found myself in Guildford after 6pm. I had a pub or two in mind, and the City Social Club on Joseph's Road was an option, but in the end I plumped for the Rodboro Buildings a Lloyds/Wetherspoons establishment on the way to the bus station. The young lady serving me was most versed in customer service and will no doubt have tempted many a red blooded man to remain in the pub. Sadly the pint of local ale she served me seemed to have been on the same cooler as the lager, but you can't have everything!

I arrived at the Spectrum Leisure Centre on the excellent park and ride service, which was just £2 return. The car park had two levels, with the lower backing onto the arena's spectators area above the track. I paid £6 admission plus another quid for an interesting programme which had some good reading before taking in the vista.

The Spectrum was not ideal for football as was basically an athletics arena. A shallow grass bank at the far end was matched by a much steeper and longer version at the turnstiles end. The far touchline was flat and open backed by large trees with just a path of hard standing, with the dug outs in front. The path went up the bank and joined up with the main area. This side had a large raised area with open terracing all the way along the pitch and a couple of covered seating stands towards the centre. Below and in front of this platform were several permanent cabins containing a clubhouse for both City and the track's athletes, a hospitality room, toilets and a refreshment hatch. The players used the leisure centre changing rooms under the stand.

There didn't appear to be any beer on sale so I made do with a coffee as I went around taking my photos, before taking up a position looking down from the seats. Tracks around pitches are not ideal, not least because any atmosphere tends to disappear, but City had one of the better arrangements.

The match started at a great pace with the home side looking more dangerous as they squandered a great opportunity. At the other end Wembley slowly got into things, with City's keeper not exactly filling me with confidence from time to time. Guildford had a decent shout for a penalty turned down and although they had more possession, their final ball or attempts on goal were poor, giving The Lions defenders time to put in some last ditch challenges.

Wembley missed a good chance of their own when the City keeper made a real hash of things. The ball was laid square with the keeper out of the action, but was wastefully blazed over. It was goalless at the break, when things picked up for me.

I had seen some beers in the clubhouse, so when a club official went in I asked if they were selling any bitter. My joy was unconfined when he told me they had bottles of the majestic Hogsback TEA at £2.70 a bottle. While enjoying Surrey's finest drop I got talking to the gents inside the clubhouse.

I was told about how the old club's ground would have been sold to the council and rented back for a peppercorn rent, but the chairman of the time arranged a private sale before disappearing to warmer climes. It was a real tale of woe as the recounted the glory days of City at Joseph's Road. I asked about why the club had been denied promotion the previous season. It appeared that they had failed over a very minor detail to the turnstiles, while other promoted clubs elsewhere had received less intense and later inspections. It was obviously, and quite rightly a sore point.

One of the gents was now involved with neighbours Godalming Town. I believe from reading the hihistorical articles in the programme that this man was called Peter Phillips. When I revealed I was a Scarborough Athletic fan he told me of a friend of his who had moved up to the seaside who was an Athletic regular who brought him a copy of Steve Adamson's excellent club history book. What a small world, and it would have been a lot smaller if Steve had of been with me! Peter told me he was with his young son at Boro's 1973 Wembley triumph against Wigan Athletic (whatever happened to them!). He was now in the process of writing the history of Guildford City FC. The talk was really nice and summed up why I love football at that standard. All good people were doing their best to offer something back. It was so good I had another bottle.

I went outside and stayed at pitch level to continue our chat. The match was very scrappy and not helped by the breaks as the ball went across the vast expanse of the track. I overheard that on Friday and Saturday games, a local school provides ballboys, but not on school nights. City missed a really easy opportunity which somehow escaped the linesman's flag. I was now looking at my watch. The game wasn't the best and there was a bus back to catch a fast train to  London. However, with fifteen minutes still to go I put my faith in the players to give me a result before I caught the 9.40 bus.

Out of nowhere Wembley went ahead with just a few minutes remaining, with a finish that looked suspiciously like a hand was used. I said my goodbyes and headed for the exit, where I spoke to another neutral. He said he'd been to over fifty games in the season and that this was the worst he'd seen. I wasn't sure about that, and while I thought about it City grabbed a last gasp equaliser. At that point the bus came into the car park so it was time for us to go. On the journey back I learned of some real sharp practices at local clubs including the fiasco at Farnborough FC and the mystery surrounding their new owner. The ground graders also got a good slating from the pair of us.

I walked back to the station through large gangs of students who were extremely emotional for such an early hour as the pubs and bars banged out their tunes. I enjoyed listening to the radio phone ins on the train back with Chelsea fans whining by the dozen. If only they supported their local clubs!

I found out on the Combined Counties forum the following morning that Wembley had taken the lead in extra time before City pegged them back with another late reply. They then went through on spot kicks.

I got back home around midnight. The game wasn't the best, but the company and beer was top class. I wish Guildford City all the best and hope that one day they get a home ground that they can really call home while playing in their rightful place in the Isthmian League.

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