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.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Marlow FC are a non league football club who are based in the town historically known as Great Marlow on the banks of the River Thames, thirty three miles west of central London. Marlow were formed following a meeting at the Compleat Anhler Hotel on 22 November 1870, making them one of the older clubs in the country.
'The Blues', as they were later nicknamed, entered the first ever FA Cup competition in 1872 and missed only an occasional season ever since. In 1882 they reached the semi finals of the competition before going down five nil to Old Etonians in the clash at The Oval.
Marlow turned down turning professional and joining the Southern League in 1884 as Tottenham Hotspur took the place instead. Around this time the club were known as Great Marlow FC for a time.
In 1908 the club joined the Spartan League where they lasted for three seasons before reverting to more local competition such as the Reading League and the Great Western Suburban League.
Marlow had played their football at Crown Meadow, but moved to Star Meadow in 1919. In 1928 they moved once again, this time to a ground at Oak Tree Road, which was named the Alfred Davis Memorial Ground after their long serving former secretary.
The club rejoined the Spartan League the same year before moving to the Athenian League in 1965. When the league was disbanded in 1984 they became members of the bottom division of the Isthmian League. In 1987 promotion was sealed through a runners up league position. They followed that up by winning Division One the following season to become members of the Premier Division.
Marlow enjoyed their greatest successes since their formative years in the early 1990's thanks to their feats in the FA Cup. In the 1991-92 season they reached Round One and a tie away to West Bromwich Albion. The match ended in a six nil defeat at The Hawthorns but it stimulated further runs.
The following season Marlow entered at the fourth qualifying round stage and saw off Sittingbourne, Salisbury City and VS Rugby before being drawn at home to Tottenham Hotspur in Round Three. The match was switched to White Hart Lane where The Blues were seen off five one, but left with many memories and a far healthier bank account!
Plymouth Argyle put an end to a potential shock the next season at The Alfred Davis Memorial Ground in their first round clash, but 1994-95 saw another run to Round Three. Sutton United were seen off before Oxford United were defeated at home in a local derby. Woking also left Marlow beaten leading to a clash away to Swindon Town which ended in a two nil defeat.
Sadly the team were relegated the same season and two years later The Blues went down yet another division. Owing to the restructuring of the non league pyramid Marlow were transferred over to the Southern League in 2004.
From around the turn of the century, Marlow had been looking to develop a new facility and move out of their loved but ageing venue. Flackwell Heath FC who are based south of High Wycombe and not far away form the north of Marlow were also investigating a move to a venue with better facilities to enable the development of their youth set up. Both clubs entered into talks around 2010 with thoughts of a shared venue at a suitable location.
The Blues were relegated at the end of the 2011-12 season down to the Hellenic League. However, the returned to the Southern League at the first time of asking.
Marlow FC will play in the Southern League Division One Central in the 2015-16 season.
Marlow 3 Rugby Town 5 (Saturday 5th November 2011) Southern League Division One Central (att: 121)
I had wanted to visit Marlow for some time, especially after reading the days of The Alfred Davis may have been numbered. I was on night shift and Scarborough Athletic were away in West Yorkshire, so I checked out the fixture list and grabbed my opportunity.
I was in decent form. The weather was mild and I'd had a decent sleep. When I heard the rain reports from Thackley, where the Boro were in action, I was greatly optimistic of a good result up there. You just sometime wake up like that! I put on my weekly charity donation to Paddy Power's benevolent fund and set out for Paddington. To my delight I found on arrival that trains were running on time and my service was virtually empty.
After the familiar ride to Maidenhead, I changed train for the branch line to Marlow, and what a delight that turned out to be. After travelling through banked countryside, the line gave way to flatter land around Bourne End where we rode along the side of the Thames. It was a very well off area with smart bar and restaurants catering to the owners of the boats in the marina. Some stunning cottages were dotted along the banks. I would guess that the area hadn't seen many Labour MPs over the years!
I arrived at Marlow and headed straight for the ground. I missed out on the town centre, which was a bit of a shame if the example of the rest of the town was anything to go by. I would guess it would be an ideal early or late season midweek destination with a couple of hours free before kick off.
It took me just less than fifteen minutes to arrive at the turnstile, where I paid £8 admission, plus an extra pound for what seemed like a steady programme. The ground looked just my cup of Earl Grey. Old and traditional. I headed straight for the clubhouse underneath the Main Stand.
The bar seemed bereft of hand pumps or any bitter come to mention it. I asked the barman if there was any in stock. Things just got better. There was a pressurised container on the bar dispensing locally brewed Rebellion Ales. I handed over £2.90 for a majestic pint of Nutty Brown and took my seat to read the programme.
Something in the publication just wasn't right. I checked the Rugby line up against the pen portraits and they simply didn't match up. I went to look at the teamsheet that had just been pinned up by an official and the plot thickened. A kind local came up and told me I was wasting my time. Owing to what is known in the trade as a 'cock up', the Bedfont line up from the previous Tuesday night game was listed where the visitors from Rugby should have been.
A confused young away fan asked behind the bar for a teamsheet to no avail. Apart from that it was a decent enough programme. A fan's article bemoaned Marlow's lack of luck when it came to recent refereeing decisions. Where have I heard that before? The editor apologised over the PA system before kick off, which I thought was a decent gesture. It got a few laughs.
I went for a top up, but after a few drops the barrel ran out. A jacketed club official was assisting behind the bar and said there was no more! My jaw must have nearly hit the counter, before he broke into a smile and said, "But we have some IPA". It was yet another lovely brew. I so wished other clubs around the country would support the ever increasing list of local breweries, even if just in bottle form. It makes a visit to a poor game into a good day out.
A couple of local characters sat on the table next to me and regaled me with tales of their past footballing and drinking exploits. One said he was trying to avoid the demon drink and mentioned how good my ale looked. I didn't want him feeling bad, so I supped up and headed outside for a look around the ground as the floodlights were turned on for the first time for the start of a 3pm kick off that season.
The Main Stand was a wonderful structure with white paintwork and a raised seating deck offering a great view of the action. A few steps of terracing ran at either side of it, with a flat standing area in front. I loved the 'no smoking' sign in the shape of a giant cigarette hanging from the roof! The Training Area End was just a few steps of open terracing with an all weather area behind it which doubled up as a car park for the match. The players facilities were in the corner by the turnstiles. The far side had terracing and grass with the NWE Enclosure in the centre offering shelter for standing spectators. A solitary bench sat in there as well to take the weight off anyone's tired feet. Another entrance and exit was in the corner before the final side, The Trinity Road End. This was a terracing with a cover in the middle. All in all The Alfred Davis Memorial Ground was a lovely venue, and one of my favourite.
Rugby had brought maybe up to thirty fans with them from Warwickshire. Some stood behind the goal with an enormous St George Cross flag. The louder home fans went behind the other goal, also with some flags which hung from the back of the enclosure. These fans were called the Behind Both Goals Gang.
'Sports' as Rugby are nicknamed went one up through a free kick after sixteen minutes. By now I was jubilantly sending second hand texts to my Boro mates as they were three nil up at Thackley. Marlow were decent enough going forward, but their defence was in extremely generous mood. A second visitors goal went in after fourty minutes which saw around six or seven away fans behind the goal replicate the newest of fads, The Poznan. This act gets on my nerves when done at Eastlands, but today it was funny watching the happy fans as they sang along. They were at it again just before half time as the locals groaned one again as their defence sprang another leak.
I went downstairs to the clubhouse. All was good. The game was entertaining, Boro had gone four nil up and England had taken the lead against Australia at Wembley in the Rugby League. I had a look around the room at the lovely array of old pictures and posters of past glories. The Plymouth Argyle cup tie had featured on Match of the Day with John Motson covering the game as commentator. Motty's signed information sheet that he used on the day was framed on the wall. It was hungry work taking all this joy in, so I celebrated by tucking into a huge and very tasty bacon cheeseburger.
Yet another defensive error saw the Marlow rearguard offer a clear run on goal, with Sports going four up. The game got a little feisty at times with challenges flying in on the bobbly surface. I thought the referee coped admirably.
Eventually the home side pulled a deserved goal back. Within seconds Rugby went up the other end and added another as a forward headed home as the back four played statues. In fairness The Blues never gave up. On the evidence of the afternoon I would surmise that they would always score goals, but the defence needed sorting out rapidly. They pulled another goal back with fifteen minutes remaining. It was nice to see the away fans celebrate the goal with their dance routine!
There were more chances as the game reminded me of one of those goalie when needed matches I used to play in as a kid. Both sides really went for it. It was brilliant for a neutral. Marlow grabbed another through a brilliant header on full time, but it was too little, too late. I had applauded their goals on the day as I took a liking to them, both for the ground and the fact that their Supporters Trust were their shirt sponsors.
I headed out as the game entered injury time to get to the station for the 5.06 train. The way the match went I wouldn't have been shocked to log onto the Southern League website to find out I'd missed another couple of goals.
I had a nap on the trains back to the metropolis, where hoards were heading home from their particular games. I bet no-one had as good a collective day as me, especially as Boro ended up winning five nil!