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

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bishop's Stortford

Bishop's Stortford FC were formed in 1874 and are based in the market town of the same name in Hertfordshire, close to London Stansted Airport.

Originally the club started out in local league football before becoming members of the Hertfordshire County League in 1921. Ten years later 'The Blues' or 'The Bishops', as they are nicknamed, switched to the Spartan League. They remained there for twenty years, when the club joined the Delphian League, lifting the title in 1955.

When that league disbanded The Bishops moved to the Athenian League in 1963. In 1970 they lifted the league's Premier Division title. In the same year The Blues also reached the FA Cup First Round for the first time. In 1971 they moved to the Isthmian League from where they reached the second round of the FA Cup in 1973, where Peterborough United put them out after a replay.

The Main Stand at Rhodes venue taken from the internet

In 1974 Bishops Stortford won the last ever FA Amateur Cup, defeating Ilford 4-1 at Wembley. This came after reaching the semi finals the previous season. 1980-81 saw a great season for the club as they regained top flight Isthmian League football and lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley as Sutton United were defeated 1-0.

In 1982-83, a Football League side were defeated for the first time after many previous attempts as Reading were defeated in Round One at Elm Park. Slough Town were beaten in the next round before The Blues held Middlesbrough 2-2 at Ayresome Park. Boro won the replay at Rhodes Avenue.

A picture of the Main Stand side at Woodside Park taken from the internet

Over the next twenty years the club had spells in the top two divisions of the Isthmian League. In 1999 the club moved from their old George Wilson Stadium at Rhodes Avenue to move to a new stadium on the town's outskirts at Woodside Park. In 2004 The Bishops became founder members of the Conference South with star striker Steve Morison in their line up. In 2011 Rushden & Diamonds went bust meaning that the club based the furthest north had to transfer to Conference North.

After an appeal Stortford were moved, meaning many long journeys, increased expenses and a loss of sponsorships. The Conference agreed to pay the club compensation in lieu of the move. Manager Ian Walker lamented the travelling involved and how it restricted his signings. He departed in December 2011 with the side struggling. Rod Stringer took over the reigns as the sides fortunes immediately improved.

The clubs endeavours were rewarded when they were transferred to the southern section after two seasons of long journeys.

Bishop's Stortford FC will play in Conference South in the 2013-14 season.

My visit

Bishop's Stortford 3 Blyth Spartans 3 (Saturday 3rd December 2011) Conference North (att: 297)

I had been meaning to get to a game at Bishop's Stortford for some time as my old mate Dave Cammish and his lad Ashley went along to Woodside Park whenever they could. I was on night shift and Dave had the day off, so I grabbed the opportunity. While it was going to take me a bit of time to get there, it was nothing to the lunacy created by the placing of Stortford would mean to the days visitors from Northumberland.

I caught the tube down to Finchley Road, where I transferred to the London Overground service to Highbury & Islington. After another tube ride to Tottenham Hale I got aboard the train to Bishops Stortford. I was already in a good mood, as my niece Sally had scored her first ever goal that morning after seasons of trying!

Dave and Ashley were waiting for me at the station and before long we had paid our £12 admission and were sat in the cosy clubhouse watching the Newcastle v Chelsea game on a foreign channel. The bar served a decent enough pint of Greene King IPA to aid my dry throat and the service was very friendly.

The home gaffer, Ian Walker popped in and out to watch the game on TV. Dave asked him about a player who he rated, but had left The Blues of late. Ian explained how difficult it was to keep players on the budget he had because of offers from elsewhere and owing to the considerable distances to many of the away games. He came across as a decent bloke.

We went outside and Dave and Ashley went into the Main Stand, while I had a walk around to take photos (see bottom of the page!). I aren't the biggest fan of a lot of new stadiums, but I really liked Woodside Park. The Main Stand was on the half way line above the changing rooms and clubhouse. It had flat standing at either side to allow for future developments if they are required. There was terracing behind both goals with a roof over both centre sections. The far side had terracing at each end and a second seated stand in the centre, stood back from the touchline.

I went to join my friends after trying one of the very nice, but pricey cheeseburgers for £2.50. The game was fairly scrappy, with both defences being generally on top. The match was a real six pointer at the wrong end of the table, with Blyth bottom of the pile and Stortford a couple of places above. Chances were generally limited to longer range efforts, but Stortford went one up through skipper Reece Prestedge who Dave rated as their best player. We went downstairs for a warm at half time, where unfortunately no half time scores were being shown. It was the only downside I found on the whole matchday experience.

Well I say that, but I was a bit down from the news coming via texts from Queensgate where top of the table Scarborough Athletic were two down at the break against Liversedge. This was definitely not good news.

Actually it was just like being at a Scarborough game sat in the stand with the regulars, as they bemoaned anything that went wrong and blamed the officials - though without the harsh cynicism found in the north! Their team cheered them up by doubling their lead just after the hour when David Adepipe slid home. Around the same time Boro had gone three down a couple of hundred miles away.

Spartans were cheered on by around thirty to forty hardy travellers, including a very loud gent in the directors box who amused the locals, and the gradually got back into the game. Dave forecasted that Stortford were poor at closing out games and he thought manager Walker was reactive rather than proactive with his substitutions.

A lovely move sent in Neal Hook to reduce the arrears to upset the home fans around us. The pressure gradually built and Glen Taylor was given time without anyone challenging as he ran and then fired home from the edge of the box. The Blues fought back, but it was of no surprise to me when Lee Mason fired Blyth ahead with a powerful shot. I thought the Blues keeper Jordan Archer could have kept it out. It was a shame as the youngster on loan from Spurs looked pretty good, save for that.

There were another couple of hopeful northerners in the stand in Dave and I, as news was coming through that Boro had rallied and were now only 3-2 down. There was still hope!

The home fans were not best pleased, whereas the northerners were in jubilant mood. One old local bemoaned the fact he'd turned down a couple of free tickets to have gone to Newcastle for the lunchtime game, to watch "this lot". Just before we went downstairs to the flat standing near the gate for the last few minutes, so we could make a quick getaway at full time, a text arrived to say Boro were now drawing 3-3.

Some Spartans fans were giving the linesman hell over one or two of his decisions, and then lack of them. The home fans also offered plentiful feedback, much of which was directed to their team.  The board went up showing that there would be a minimum of three added minutes added on, and seconds later the skipper Prestedge headed the equaliser from close range.

How the emotions changed amongst the fans! They could have done even further as Stortford pushed for an injury time winner, but the visitors held firm. A draw was the correct result in my opinion, but sadly it wasn't of much use to either side who looked likely to face a battle all season against relegation.

We had parked by the gate and were back at the station in plenty of time for me to catch the 5.09 train back to Tottenham Hale. My journey home meant coming into contact with plenty of happy Spurs fans on their way home from their victory against Bolton Wanderers as I received plenty of texts telling me Scarborough had got away with murder.

It had been a good match, nice ground amongst decent folk and lovely to catch up with Dave and Ashley. I was happy to see them supporting a local club. If only Boro had of got a late winner I'd have been really chipper, but the odds on the two games I was following closely both ending 3-3 must have been large!?

I took lots of photos at the game, and consequently deleted them when downloading the next day when half asleep after nights. Some extra pictures have been taken from the internet to complete views of the ground.

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