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

FC Halifax Town

FC Halifax Town, from West Yorkshire were formed in 2008 to replace the former club Halifax Town AFC who entered into administration at the end of the 2007-08 season. The club is generally regarded by fans to be the same.

Halifax Town AFC were formed at the Saddle Hotel in the town on the 24th May 1911. The club played in the Yorkshire Combination and then the Midland League in 1912. In 1921 'The Shaymen'  became founder members of the extended Football League Division Three North as they moved into their new ground at The Shay.

The club remained in that division until reorganisation saw them placed in Division Three in 1958. They remained there until 1963 when they were relegated to the League's bottom tier. Halifax were successfully re-elected several times to keep their status as well as struggling financially, before Alan Ball Snr arrived in 1967 as manager.

Promotion was won in 1969 and two years later they finished one place short of reaching the old Division Two. Manchester United were beaten the same year at The Shay in the Watney Cup.

To watch the great day at The Shay, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lObtYecN0Iw

The team were relegated once more in 1976 and entered a period of struggle, both on and off the pitch. One bright spot was an FA Cup run in the 1979-80 season, when The Shaymen reached the fourth round. Scarborough, Walsall and then Manchester City were seen off, before the run ended at Burnden Park against Bolton Wanderers.

Highlights of the Manchester City game at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGofgn5pi7Q

Eventually, the constant struggle beat Town and their League place was lost when they were relegated to the Football Conference in 1993. They found that league just as difficult and the future didn't look too promising until veteran manager George Mulhall took over the reigns towards the end of the 1996-97 season. Amazingly the club were promoted the following season to regain their League position, with Geoff Horsfield running riot up front.

At the start of the 1998-99 season Mulhall decided to retire for reasons that were never revealed, but it sadly returned Town to their old pattern of struggle. In 2002 Town became the first ever club to be relegated from the Football League on two occassions.

Chris Wilder was appointed as team manager and he gradually built a good side. Town reached the play offs in 2006, but lost the final to Hereford United at the Walkers Stadium, Leicester. Continual financial problems led to the break up off that side, leading to more struggles on the pitch with attendances dipping.

At the end of the 2007-08 season it was announced that the club were around £2M in debt, including owing HMRC over £800,000. The Conference demoted the club from their leagues' and Town's Supporters Trust looked to set up a new club as a local consortium put Town into administration and then wound it up.

However, the same directors of Town took charge and set up FC Halifax Town, who were placed in the Northern Premier League Division One North with the team remaining at The Shay.

Despite being placed in a lower division The Shaymen found the going far from easy. Neil Aspin took charge for the start of the 2009-10 season and got the club on target as they lifted the championship. Their success was repeated the following season as crowds and interest in the club were high, meaning promotion to the Conference North.

Town appeared on live TV in the FA Cup Round One in November 2011, when Charlton Athletic visited The Shay and ended the dream with a 4-0 win in front of an impressive crowd of 4,601. That season ended in defeat in the Play Offs to Gainsborough Trinity, but Aspin's side regrouped and reached the final in 2012-13. This time they made no mistake as Brackley Town were beaten to seal a return to the Conference national.

FC Halifax Town will play in the Football Conference in the 2011-12 season.

My visits

Halifax Town 2 Scarborough 0 (Saturday 24th November 1979) FA Cup Round One (att: 3,778)

Scarborough were one of the prominent non league clubs in the country and the memories of the glory days at Wembley were still reasonably fresh in the mind. Indeed Boro under the Chairmanship of Don Robinson had attempted to buy Town and move them to the coast to secure Football League status. Town meanwhile were perenial strugglers.

We went through to West Yorkshire as a family on the train. My Mum went shopping with Paul, while Dad took Nick and I to The Shay. His workmate Don had told him it was a twenty minute walk to the ground from town, yet we were through the dark industrial streets on the miserable afternoon in half that time. The weather really did suit the town, with its steep hillsides and tall old buildings setting the stereotypical scene.

The Shay around the time of my first visit
Picture taken from the internet - Speedway Plus
The Shay also fitted in well. To be honest, it was a dump. The pitch had a dirty speedway track surrounding it with a mud splattered white wall. There was crumbling terracing and shale banks at the Town End with a thin cover at the rear. The far Bus Depot End had a bit of shale banking with no cover. The Main Stand was built into the bank and had a block of covered terracing where the vocal Shaymen stood and then seating. The Family Stand on the far side was a lot smaller and housed the changing rooms. It also had a few seats and some covered standing. The majority of the Boro fans were in there and behind the goal.

We were quite optimistic before hand, but Town went two up and never really looked back. One of the goals was a long range low effort from a winger called Andy Stafford who cut in and fired home. Boro huffed and puffed without really looking like scoring.

We all met up for something to eat at a local cafe at full time. There was a sneering home fan laughing at claims of Boro being a good club. A visiting fan soon put him right on the comparitive condition of both clubs home grounds!

Halifax Town 1 Hull City 2 (Monday 4th April 1983) Division Four (att: 5,001)

The Tigers were chasing promotion under the managership of Colin Appleton and former Scarborough Chairman Don Robinson. I was a regular at Boothferry Park and had started taking Nick with me. Dad decided we would go on the train to this Easter Bank Holiday game on the train.

I remember the excitement when waiting for the connecting train at Leeds station, a steam train came through. We got to Halifax quite early, which proved to be a bit of an error as it resembled a ghost town, save for the sprinkling of football fans. We went into the beautifully restored Piece Hall, but there wasn't too much to do inside. I thought it an apt name for a building in Halifax as it could be interpreted that it somed up what was there.

The Shay hadn't changed, but it looked slightly more aesthetic as the weather was pleasant. City secured a valuable win after Town had come from behind to equalise. As was usual at the time, Brian Marwood and Les Mutrie stood out for The Tigers. Marwood and Billy Woof scored the goals.

We waited behind at the end as Don Robinson gave us good news of results elsewhere, while the groundstaff prepared the stadium in readiness for the evenings entertainment as the Halifax Dukes Speedway Team were at home.

Halifax Town 1 Cardiff City 1 (Friday 31st October 1986) Division Four (att: 1,640)

I was invited along to this match with my Cardiff City and Scarborough supporting mate, Gary Griffiths. The plan was to go to the match and then stay with university pals of his in Levenshulme at Manchester overnight, before going to a few grounds the next morning and then the match between Chester City and Walsall.

Town as ever were struggling for money and were asking for fans to put an extra ten pence into a bucket for every programme purchased. The game itself didn't stand out in any way, but it meant the start of a decent mini weekend break.

I know the pub once we got to Manchester was most welcoming!

Halifax Town 2 Scarborough 2 (Monday 4th April 1988) Division Four (att: 1,747)

By now Scarborough were a Football League club and I travelled regularly on a mini bus run by George Johnson from the Post Office and the Gas Board Club. We had a happy throng and the trips were usually full of laughter.

As ever george had done the business and brought a tray of pies from Sam Bairstow's fine emporium on Dean Road and we stopped at a pub on the hill down into Halifax for pre match refreshments.

Our happy throng in the away end at The Shay
It was the first visit for many of my travelling pals to The Shay. Someone joked that it must have been a squeeze when The Beatles had played there! They weren't massively impressed. The police were heavy handed as well removing a few Boro fans and making poor old Trevor Pole from our bus stay in the same position under the cover all afternoon. They were severely lacking in sense of humour.

Trev enjoys the hospitality at Halifax, while Siggy offers his sympathy

The scores alternated and ended two each. We stopped as ever for a few pints on the way home. All in all, it was a decent way to spend a Bank Holiday.

Halifax Town 1 Scarborough 2 (Saturday 10th March 1990) Division Four (att: 1,490)

I went to this match by car with Brian Marshall and his pal, along with Barry Rewcroft. We set off nice and early and arrived around 1pm as I had a treat in plan before the match.

Through reading many fanzines and books I believed I had found the perfect pre match pub, which had a huge selection of real ales. It was about ten years ahead of its time in that respect. The Shears Inn was extremely difficult to find as we descended down the valley down some narrow lanes, but were well rewarded when we got there. There were even doubts pointed in my direction that I didn't know where I was going! How dare they?

Boro played well enough and went on to win the game two one. It appeared that my decision to go by car had proved to be a wise one as there had been a few altercations as the lads from the train and mini bus had been offered some poor hospitality in their watering holes. The way home was apparently even more eventful when stopping in Tadcaster!

Halifax Town 1 Scarborough 0 (Friday 26th December 2003) Football Conference (att: 2,136)

I was up from London for Christmas with the family and the chance of a ride to The Shay with Jamie Nunns was too good to turn down. Boro were having a good run and were getting ready to travel to Southend United in the FA Cup Third Round thirteen days later.

We got inside a pub with uninspiring ales near to the ground and watched Charlton Athletic take Chelsea apart in the Premier League in the lunchtime kick off. We then wrapped up and walked around the corner to the away turnstiles.

The Shay had changed massively since my previous visit. The first change was that the away fans were now at the Town End. This had being reprofiled, the same as the other end with large steep terracing and roofs. These were now called the North and South Stands. To the left the stand had been tidied up with new seating and was now called the Skircoat Stand. On the final side a new large single tiered East Stand had been built. This had not been completed as the money had run out and was only open for the changing rooms and directors area. The work had been carried out by Calderdale Council, Town and Halifax RLFC who had sold their Thrum Hall home so that they could enter the Rugby Super League if the opportunity arose.

The match turned out to be a real rough affair. It was tight early on and then an incident in the thirty sixth minute overshadowed everything else. What seemed like not much at all turned into a twenty two man brawl, or should I say twenty two men posturing? I don't wish to sound biased, but the perpetrator was a home defender and former Seadog James Dudgeon. Referee Rob Shoebridge sent him off, but remarkably he sent off another Town player, as well as non plussed Boro mean Matt Redmile and Wayne Gill. 

The rest of the game got really niggly. The away fans were naturally very displeased with goings on. Five other players (three of Scarborough) were shown yellow cards. I heard a remarkable shout from one of my Seadog bretheren, when he complained that we were giving Town too much room. Well at a guess I'd have put that down to the game being nine a side!

Town scored the only goal with fifteen minutes to go to add to our frustration. I wasn't in the best of moods after the game, but two weeks later I was back on form after a great result at Southend!

Wednesday 17th September 2008

I was in West Yorkshire after going to the Glasshoughton Welfare v Scarborough Athletic game the previous evening. I had stayed overnight in Leeds and bought myself a days rover for public transport. After calling at Park Avenue and then Horsfall Stadium a little ahead of time, I was about to get the bus back into Bradford when a Plan B entered my head.

The bus stop near Horsfall Stadium was on Halifax Road and there was a regular service, with a bus due so I jumped on board. I grabbed a pie and soup at Gregg's and then walked past some welcoming stone pubs on the hill down towards The Shay. The town of Halifax looked much improved on what I remembered and had obviously had a lot of work spent on it.

I eventually found a gate into the stadium. Some business folk were entering the rear of the Main Stand, but said I was OK to pop inside and take some photos. I stood in the corner between the East and North Stands. The new stand still wasn't completed - it eventually opened in March 2010.

I walked back to the refurbished railway station and caught a service to Bradford Interchange, ready to go to my next ground: Valley Parade.

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