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

Retford United

Retford United are a non league football club who come from the market town in the north of the county of Nottinghamshire. They were formed in 1987 and started off life in the local Gainsborough League and then the Nottinghamshire Alliance.

'The Badgers' carried on the mantle of the senior club in the town from Retford Town who were once Midland League members and Retford Rail, who later became known as BRSA Retford. Both those clubs played football in the Northern Counties East League for a spell.

United moved into the Central Midlands League in 2001, a year after moving into their out of town Cannon Park home, and then the Northern Counties East League in 2004. Within two years they had reached the top flight of that league. The following season they won the league title and were promoted into the Northern Premier League.

A player of the club Neil Harvey became their first international when he appeared for Barbados in the Caribbean Cup. More honours came to Cannon Park as they won the Northern Premier League Division One South title in 2008 under the player managership of Peter Duffield. However, promotion was denied as Cannon Park was deemed unfit for the higher division.

Not to be denied, United once again won the right to promotion to the top division the following season. They played home games at Ashby Avenue, the home of Lincoln United until Cannon Park was upgraded to the required standard.

The Badgers finished bottom of the league at the end of the 2010-11 season, but rather take relegation to the second tier, the club put in their resignation and applied to rejoin the NCEL owing to financial constraints at the club after their major backer withdrew.

Retford went on to lift the NCEL title in 2011-12, but they were denied promotion owing to the FA being not satisfied with the clubs financial situation. By the end of the 2014-15 season United just stayed clear of relegation.

Retford United FC will compete in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

Retford United 1 Scarborough Athletic 1 (Saturday 12th November 2011) Northern Counties East League Premier Division (att: 383)

I had booked the day off work well in advance of this game as it was the FA Cup first round day (well we can all dream!) and the match at Retford promised to be an important clash as well as me getting a new ground in.

Rustic in Retford. No pavements on the way to the ground!
I woke in good form on a beautiful late Autumn day. I enjoyed a marvellous fry up at a place I'd never used before while reading the paper and then got my bets on. I arrived at St Pancras at just the right time to board my train and I found a good seat in a quiet coach. All was good in the world.

Engineering works on the East Coast main line meant either a long journey involving buses, or going a longer way round via Sheffield at a cheaper price. It was a no brainer. In just over two hours I was in the superb Sheffield Tap pub on platform one of the station enjoying a couple of pints of fine ale. I then took the train to Retford through the former mining country of South Yorkshire.

I was in good time so I decided to walk to Cannon Park through the charismatic market square and town centre before I set off into the country down Leverson Road towards the ground. Now I realise some grounds have to be out of town (Arnold Town's new place springs to mind) but I'd never walked to a venue before where there were no footpaths for half a mile. I arrived shaking my head, to have my good mates taking the mickey out of me.

Cannon Park looked a neat enough venue, but it really must have made the bear minimum requirements for the level of football it had previously staged. The ear end was a thin strip of flat open standing which went down the far touchline. This side also had a modern assembly type seated stand straddling the half way line. The far end was more of the same with a cover across the eighteen yard area. The final side had all the facilities stood behind a slightly sloped open path. There was changing rooms, a boardroom, club shop and a sizeable clubhouse which had a small overhang in front for smokers and spectators.

The latest heat of Mr Scarborough 2011 taking place in Retford
I went in the clubhouse to join my mates and hand out some flyers to try and raise some money for the Seadogs. There was no choice of proper ale either in tap or in a bottle, which was a shame as the clubhouse itself was pretty good. The snack bar where I later bought an excellent Pukka Pie was also of a good standard.

The match kicked off with the low sun making watching hard work. The game was of a high standard on an abysmal playing surface which didn't do justice to the players on display. Retford looked to have a definite penalty turned down when a clumsy challenge sent Carl Haslam tumbling. Boro were aware of this lad's talents before the game and he didn't let us down. He had dyed his hair bright pink. We agreed that anyone who had the confidence to do that must have been able to play.

Boro got into the game after the first fifteen minutes. They were missing the suspended Gary Hepples and Ryan Blott, plus their excellent full back Paddy Miller owing to a bout of food poisoning. It didn't stop the team dominating for the rest of the half, with the home defence on the ropes. Veteran Seadog Dean Windass hit the foot of the post with an excellent free kick, but the ball wouldn't go in.

After half time United went ahead, when Haslam broke away from a suspiciously looking offside position and scored. For a few minutes this set Boro back, but they gradually fought their way back into the game, led by the quite brilliant Joe Naylor. United made a substitution and the player who came on remarkably grabbed Naylor by the neck and assaulted him in the penalty area while play was elsewhere. The travelling fans went berserk and the linesman flagged to get the referee's attention. Remarkably he gave a free kick ten yards outside the box and booked both players.

Boro full back Dave Kemp was fortunate not to be sent off when he deliberately handled a through ball, much to the annoyance of the home fans who were as vocal as the travelling Seadogs. I was with Fred, Jason and Andy who had offered me a ride back into the town centre. They had to be away on the full time whistle as two of them had tickets at the KC Stadium for the England v New Zealand Rugby League International, so we moved to where the home fans were in hyper moaning mode near the gates.

It didn't look like Boro would score despite having most of the play. Retford were employing some time wasting tactics and the clock went into stoppage time. We all agreed that even if we lost, there would be no despair as we had played so well. Then as we had just about given up Tony Hackworth who'd gone forward to try and salvage something, set up Joe Naylor who hammered home the equaliser in the ninety third minute. We went crazy, much to the disgust of the locals.

They moaned about how useless Boro were and how unjust the equaliser was. I offered plentiful feedback in return. The whistle went soon after and we all thanked each other for the game. It had been a brilliant game of football and probably the correct result.

Fred held cars up in the park so Andy could hit the road and they kindly dropped me near the local Wetherspoon's pub. I celebrated with a fine pint as the locals watched the England v Spain game begin. They didn't know what they had missed just a mile down the road. I grabbed another half before arriving on the station where I met Matt and a young fan called Will who was studying at Leicester University.

We grabbed another pint at Sheffield and grabbed some fine bottles from the York Brewery for the return ride. We chewed the fat about all things to do with the club, before Will alighted. I fell asleep and woke in London. I was glad to get home with a take away after an outstanding day out.

If only all Saturday's could be like that, with a few wins thrown in of course!

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