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

London

September 2015

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stevenage



Stevenage FC are a football club from the designated new town thirty miles north of London in the county of Hertfordshire. The current club were formed in 1976 to take over as the senior football club in the town, after a couple of earlier clubs had some limited success until fincial problems got the better of them.

The first team in the town as also called Stevenage FC and were formed in 1894. In 1899 they took on the name of Stevenage Town FC. The club were members of the Herts County League until it disbanded. They joined the Delphian League in 1951 and five years later they merged with Stevenage Rangers FC to become Stevenage FC. In 1961 they reverted to Stevenage Town and two years later the club moved to their new ground at Broadhall Way as the town expanded.




In 1963 Town joined the Southern League after turning semi professional. Unfortunately it proved a step too far and the club were disbanded in 1968. A new club Stevenage Athletic FC took their place, starting in the Metropolitan League and then the Southern League in 1971. The club resigned from the league in August 1976.

A new club was once again required to represent the town so a new Stevenage FC was set up. It wasn't until 1980 that senior league football returned to the town as the United Counties League was entered with a revamped council owned Broadhall Way as the home ground, after the club had played junior football at the King George V Playing Fields on a roped off pitch. The club was titled Stevenage Borough FC.











In 1984 after a period of success Boro were promoted to the Isthmian League. They won one promotion but were soon relegated, when in 1990 Paul Fairclough took over as manager and transformed the club. Two titles were won in consecutive seasons so Borough found themselves in the leagues' Premier Division. That title was lifted in 1994 and with it entry to the Football Conference.

In 1996 The Boro won the Confeence, but were denied promotion into the Football League as Broadhall Way was deemed to be not up to the required standard. The following season they reached the FA Cup Third Round but lost at St Andrews to Birmingham City, after the game had been switched from Broadhall Way. The next season Boro went one better and reached Round Four. A temporary stand was erected to satisfy the FA as Newcastle United escaped with a 1-1 draw in a game that attracted plenty of fire because of pre match comments from both clubs. United won the replay in controversial circumstances.
















Despite two great cup runs the Chairman Victor Green announced that the club was in financial troubles and that he was prepared to close it down, which led to Fairclough moving on. Phil Wallace, a successful businessman in the food industry completed a 90% purchase of Stevenage Borough in 1999. He gradually rebuilt the clubs' finances and the previously rocky relationship with the local council.

Boro reached the 2002 FA Trophy Final at Villa Park, but lost out to Yeovil Town. Wallace provided a brand new training ground as well as Broadhall Way being gradually rebuilt. The following season Graham Westley came in as manager and helped to improve the teams league form. In 2005 Boro got all the way to the Conference Play Off Final, but were denied their cherished League place once again by Carlisle United in the Britannia Stadium show down. 



Westley moved on at the end of the following season to be replaced by Mark Stimpson. Boro became the first team to win a competitive final at the new Wembley, when they came from two goals down to defeat Kidderminster Harriers 3-2 in the 2007 FA Trophy Final with Steve Morison as one of the star players. Stimpson resigned during the next season and then Peter Taylor had an unsuccessful spell as boss.

Graham Westley returned in 2008 and Boro won another FA Trophy in 2009 against York City at Wembley as well as missing out in the play off semi finals against Cambridge United. The following season was the one where Boro finally achieved their dream as they won the Conference and promotion with two games to go into the Football League.




On the 1st June 2010, the club announced it would be named as Stevenage FC as it entered the League. In their first season they reached the FA Fourth Round after avenging some much awaited revenge by defeating Newcastle United 3-1 at Broadhall Way. Even better was to come as The Boro, as they were still nicknamed, were promoted after winning the Old Trafford Play Off Final defeating Torquay United by one goal to nil.

Westley moved on to Preston North End in January 2012 to be replaced by Gary Smith. However, the fortunes of both men were not good as both ended up being dismissed, with Westley returning to the Broadhall Way hot seat in March 2013 for a third spell in the job.




Boro were relegated back down to the League basement in 2013-14.

Stevenage FC will compete in the Football League Two in the 2014-15 season.


My visits

Stevenage Borough 0 Scarborough 1 (Saturday 6th November 1999) Football Conference (att: 1,743)





I had moved down to London the previous Spring and was keen to get to as many Scarborough away games as possible. I had every Saturday off when cricket wasn't taking place at Lord's so it gave me plenty of scope. Steve Walker was living near Oxford so I managed to talk him into a day out in pastures new.

I had to meet him off his train at Paddington as he couldn't find his way to Kings Cross on the tube! We were soon on our way on the short journey north where we went to our first pub on what was to prove a bit of a marathon session. I can't remember its name, but it was as desperate as its surroundings, so we decided to get a taxi to the ground and use the clubhouse. A crazy man drove us to the ground through a pretty soulless town to be honest, and told us about how he knew some gangsters in the news of late. The clubhouse was a massive improvement, even though it was busy. It had its own bookies and the locals were friendly enough.





Broadhall Way seemed a decent ground. The away end was a reasonable sized open terrace. The Main Stand was a single tiered covered stand on the left along the full length of the pitch. The East Terrace opposite also ran the full length of the pitch with a nice gable on the centre of the roof. The far North Terrace looked pretty shallow, with a roof from the penalty area to the Main Stand.





Scarborough had a reasonable team, as did Stevenage who had the better of the game if truth be told. However, it turned out to be one of those away games that I love so much, where your team is under the cosh but gradually get into it and end up winning.

Matty Russell got a chance in the second half at our end and buried it to send the hundred or so away fans into ecstasy. The team defended heroically for the rest of the game, so we could go back into the clubhouse with silly grins on our faces.

The locals took it better than I would have done as we chatted, before we got a taxi back to the station. Steve did a great line in wind ups with the lady driver as he initially made out what a lovely place Stevenage was. Amazingly, the lady agreed. I could only guess that she didn't travel far! We went to the entertainment centre in search of a better bar, but found none apart from a plastic establishment in a bowling alley.

We headed back to the station and ended up on a train without a toilet which stopped everywhere. The guard kindly advised us to quickly jump out at the next station and go on the end of the platform, while he held the train up! We got back to Kings Cross and headed for Paddington for a few more beers, including a couple in the Fountains Abbey before Steve headed off and I went back to Willesden.

Stevenage Borough 1 Scarborough 1 (Saturday 19th August 2000) Football Conference (att: 2,032)





I headed up to this game with Simon from Gillingham and Liz on a stunning summers day. My parents were staying in London for a few days, so I had to be relatively sensible on the sauce pre match! Scarborough FC were in a real state financially. John Russell had stepped down as Chairman but was still around the club. No-one expected him to pitch up on the front seat of the team coach after the problems he had caused, yet was still denying.

I met a few mates who were down for the match including Carl from Malton. We were wondering if this was going to be the clubs last ever away game. A high court hearing was due the following Friday after that weeks home game with Morecambe. We were not very happy with things, but we were determined to support the players, many of whom were losing out financially.

Some fans were talking of setting up an Independent Supporters Trust to run the club. This was the first time I'd ever heard of such a scheme. Some of the tales I was told about people in high positions making personal gain from the club didn't help my mood. Some others wandering around saying it was all lies and good people were running it. The team looked a bit of a state as some of their socks didn't match perfectly, which was extremely embarrassing.

Somehow Boro put in a brilliant performance, and we went berserk when Steve Brodie scored our goal. A draw was the least we deserved, simply on courage alone.

I headed straight back to the station, my voice resigned to a whisper, so I could meet my Mum and Dad in The Sir John Oldcastle at Farringdon for tea and a few drinks.

Stevenage Borough 2 Scarborough 2 (Saturday 11th October 2003) Football Conference (att: 1,776)


I headed to this game with Dave Cammish with the promise of a decent away ground to come. We had a quick pint in the Standard Bearer, a Wetherspoons pub in the new shopping mall, before heading by taxi to Broadhall Way.

The ground and clubhouse lived up to its billing and soon we were sat comfortably watching the afternoon's racing. I got off to a cracking start as I got a winner! After a couple of pints we went into the ground, where we were located in the new single tiered covered seated stand purely for away fans.

The game was decent enough. Stevenage went one up with a penalty before Lloyd Blackman levelled after fifty four minutes on one of his few appearances for the club. The home side created plenty of pressure, but Boro defended stoutly. Stevenage's forward Anthony Elding was getting plenty of stick as his team attacked out end for his attempted theatrics in his coloured boots.




He hardly endeared himself when Stevenage scored with just twelve minutes to go with his celebrations in front of us. It wouldn't have been so bad if he had scored the goal! However, we were about to have the last laugh. Chris Senior came off the bench with nine minutes to go and then scored an equaliser with just three minutes to go. It's fair to say we celebrated long and hard and gave Elding our thoughts!

Dave and I went back to the clubhouse, where they were showing on big screens, England playing away in a vital qualifier for Euro 2004 in Istanbul against Turkey. The club had put on a special offer on bangers and mash to entice punters to stay. It worked for us! Beckham missed a penalty as he slipped, I drank plenty of ale and pointed out Elding's limitations to the home fans as England clinched their place in Portugal with a goalless draw.

Stevenage Borough 1 Scarborough 0 (Saturday 19th February 2005) Football Conference (att: 1,728)





Karl Theobald had come down from Scarborough for the weekend, which I had off work. We were going to our annual visit to the Masters Snooker at Wembley Conference Centre of the Friday evening to kick off our fun.

We met up on Saturday morning to reflect on the fine performance the previous evening where we'd seen Ronnie O'Sullivan destroy Ding Junhui. Simon Keane was also joining us and as we boarded the train north Karl revealed his full naivety to us. He said he went, paper under his arm, to Starbucks to relax with a nice big coffee. Not realising the parlance in such establishments, he ordered a double espresso only to be given something he said he could balance on his thumb nail.

Karl was always full value and we'd told him all about Stevenage, but even he was shocked how bad the town centre was. He was shaking his head in disbelief when he say boards on lamp stands where people were requested to put their discarded chewing gum. Some of the clientele in Mall's two pubs didn't do an awful lot for the towns tourist drive either.

In the clubhouse a group of Seadog supporting Dutchmen joined us. They had flown over on the cheap by courtesy of Eastjet. They really had enjoyed the day out thus far!





The least said about the game the better. Boro were awful and Stevenage not much better. It was freezing cold and our team did little to warm us. To round off a bad ninety minutes the only goal was scored by a former Seadog favourite Darryn Stamp. It was so bad, even some of our loyalist fans were heard to boo.

It was a relief to get back to London for beers with our mate Colm in Cricklewood.


Stevenage 0 Maidstone United 0 (Sunday 9th November 2014) FA Cup Round One (att: 2,935)





It was my day off work for the weekend and the FA Cup offered up many options for a day out. The game that caught my eye was the Braintree Town v Chesterfield encounter. This would have been a new ground for me, but it would also mean a longish afternoon and early evening out when I had a Scarborough Athletic programme to complete that day.





I texted my mate Tony Foster, and he replied that he was heading to Stevenage and he could pick me up at Stanmore station. I hadn’t been to The Lamex Stadium, which was the sponsored name of Broadhall Way for several years, so I took up the offer.


It was a stunning afternoon weather wise as we arrived and parked up around ten minutes from the ground. We were inside by 1.15 awaiting the 2pm kick off. Although I knew that there was an excellent clubhouse at the ground, the weather meant that the roofless Corner Bar inside the turnstiles proved an excellent choice. They poured bottles of London Pride into plastic glass for my enjoyment before we took up a position on the covered terrace down the side. Admission had cost £15, with the programme an additional £3.














The visiting Stones fans filled the seats behind the goal and offered very voluble support to their heroes. Everyone in the ground took part in an immaculate tribute to the lost heroes of previous conflicts during a minute silence.


If we hadn’t known in advance it would have been difficult to spot which of the two teams played in the Football League. If Maidstone had just a little more pace out wide, they would have been a real handful all the match.













As it was, both defences did well to keep things scoreless. At the break the locals were most unimpressed, with many wanting their manager Graham Westley sacked. It was nice to listen in as a neutral and enjoy my ever excellent Pukka Pie without concern.

Maidstone leading marksman Frannie Collin had a real chance to put his side ahead, but his effort was kept out by the feet of Chris Day in the home net. The towering Stones skipper Steve Watt was doing a sterling job at the other end, while upsetting the home fans at the same time.












The intelligent wide play of Tom Pett looked to be Stevenage’s best hope. His side hit the woodwork through Roarie Deacon and then substitute Chris Beardsley saw a header come back off the post. Maidstone deservedly hung on for a draw.


We were back on the A1 within minutes heading south. Tony dropped me at the station and I was back home to really enjoy Swansea City come from behind to defeat Arsenal in the second half.














It had been a really good afternoon out at a proper old fashioned FA Cup tie, and thankfully BBC covered the whole round really well in their highlights package. Meanwhile I finished the Boro programme before the impending gloom of of three day management course at work.

The older grainy photos of Broadhall Way where the match is in progress were taken at the match in November 1999. The first two photos of the ground are from 1983 before major works took place.









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