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

Sunday, February 5, 2012

AFC Telford United

AFC Telford United are a non league football club from the new town of Telford, which is located around thirty miles west of Birmingham. The club were formed on the 28th May 2004 by supporters of Telford United FC when it became the club would not survive.

The original club had a long proud history, having being formed in 1872 as Parish Church Institute FC. Seven years later they took on the name of the town that they represented and became Wellington Town FC. They soon progressed from local football to the Birmingham & District League. After World War Two 'The Bucks' or 'The Lillywhites' as the club were nicknamed moved into the Cheshire County League, where they became champions on three occasions.

In 1958 The Bucks became members of the Southern League where they soon joined the Premier Division. Ten years later, the club changed its name to Telford United FC after the new town that had developed around Wellington. In the first season under that name they reached the innaugural FA Trophy Final at Wembley where they were defeated 2-0 by Macclesfield Town. They weren't to be denied glory though, as they lifted the 1970 Trophy defeating Hillingdon Borough 3-2 in the Wembley showpiece.

In 1979 United became founder members of the Alliance Premier League, later to become the Football Conference. The 1980's saw many good FA Cup runs to keep the Bucks Head faithful happy as well as lifting the Trophy once again in 1983 after defeating Northwich Victoria.

That same season they reached the FA Cup second round. Tranmere Rovers knocked them out after Wigan Athletic were beaten in a home replay. The following season Stockport County, Northampton Town and Rochdale were sent out of the competition before United lost 3-2 in the Fourth Round at the Baseball Ground to Derby County. However, their best run was to come the next season as The Bucks reached Round Five. That magnificent tour took them past Lincoln City, Preston North End, Bradford City and Darlington. Their reward was a tie at Goodison Park. The might of Everton saw them through with a 3-0 victory. The last great run of that period resulted in the Third Round appearence. Leeds United won the game 2-1 at the neutral Hawthorns as the police moved the game away from Bucks Head. Telford had earlier beaten Burnley and Altrincham.

In 1988 Telford were runners up in the FA Trophy as Enfield victored after a replay. The following season they returned to Wembley for their fifth final and defeated Macclesfield Town 1-0 to avenge their 1969 defeat. Stoke City were added to their list of Football League scalps in the FA Cup during the 1991-92 season, while the club plugged away in the Conference without threatening to win any league honours.

A new owner, the businessman Andy Shaw arrived at Bucks Head in 1998 with big plans for the club. He set about transforming the aging stadium and for a season United played their home games at St George's Lane, the home of Worcester City. On their return to the sparkling new arena now called New Bucks Head with its ajoining hotel, cash was spent on the playing side of the clubs' operation, as they turned full time during two seperate spells.

Despite this it only really paid dividends in the FA Cup during the 2003-04 season as once again the club reached the Fourth Round. League sides Brentford and Crewe Alexandra were defeated along the way, before that seasons finalists Millwall ended their dream in the home tie.

All was not well by this time. Shaw's company Miras Contracts collapsed and with it the funding going into the club. Shaw had not run the club to allow for such circumstances as he threw money in his personal goal to get them into the Football League, allegedly spending up to a million pounds a year. When he departed they were left with debts of around £640,000. The players agreed to a wage deferral so that the club could see out ther season. At its end, Telford United FC entered into liquidation.

The new AFC Telford United were assisted in their setting up by Supporters Direct as they became a fans owned club. They were given a place in the Northern Premier League Division One by the FA. Crowds flocked to New Bucks Head as prmotion was won in their first season via the play offs. Two seasons later they went up once more, again through the play offs to reach Conference North.

After a couple of seasons of consolidation Telford once again got to a play off final, a couple of years after falling at the same hurdle. This time Guiseley were overcome in the final to see the phoenix club claim back the place they had before the old club went bust. 

The 2011-12 season saw United survive relegation, but it was tight. However, after Sinton left the club in January 2013 three further managers were tried but failed as Telford ended up bottom of the table and were relegated to Conference North. Former Southport boss Liam Watson was appointed as the new manager.

AFC Telford United will play in the Conference North in the 2013-14 season.

My visits

Telford United 0 Scarborough 0 (Saturday 21st February 1981) Alliance Premier League (att: 636)

I was still at Raincliffe School at the time of my first visit to Bucks Head as I travelled with a few pals on the supporters bus run by Derek Watson. Jim McAneraney was the Boro boss at the time and he'd assembled quite a decent attractive side. Even the team looked the business in their all red Umbro number which made them look like Liverpool.

Bucks Head was rare for non league grounds of the day in that it had seated stands on both sides of the pitch. The older one also contained the changing rooms and was slightly raised with a thin open paddock in front. The cantilevered stand opposite was raised high over a thin terrace. There was a bit of open terracing either side of these stands. The Watling Street End had a large open bank made of semi hard standing with a few steps at the bottom. The other end was slightly banked and open but a lot smaller.

I got a real national hero to sign my programme as Gordon Banks was managing Telford at the time. I waited by the tunnel after the teams had taken the field and Gordon obliged as he followed. The game ended goalless, which was a creditable result at the time, even though Boro probably had slightly more of the game.

My final memory of the day was the outstanding home made thick soup served at the refreshment hut at the Watling Street End.

Telford United 1 Scarborough 0 (Saturday 29th January 2000) Football Conference (att: 1,041)

By now I'd moved to London and Boro were having a great run in the first season back in non league. They went into the game on a six match unbeaten run, while Telford were near the other end of the table.

I travelled by train to Wolverhampton, where I changed to get my connection to Wellington. I was learning fast as I saved myself a few quid by buying two seperate tickets for the journey rather than a direct ticket when I went to buy them a few weeks earlier at Euston.

The walk from the station took just over ten minutes and before long I was in the vibrant clubhouse behind the Main Stand. I met up with Carl Ellis, who'd gone on the train from Malton and settled into a few beers. We weren't impressed that the clubhouse stayed open all afternoon but we couldn't gain access at half time.

We sat in the raised stand on a dull afternoon and watched as Boro stumbled to defeat with a very ordinary performance against even more ordinary opponents. My mood wasn't helped by a group of young local deinquents playing up during the second half.

We trudged away at full time and met up with a young Seadog who'd travelled from Lincoln. There were no trains back to Wolverhampton owing to engineering works, so a coach took us back down the motorway. 

Since my visit

The New Bucks Head saw an incredible transformation thanks to Andy Shaw. It was a shame that it cost the old club their existence, but at least AFC could move in. The stadium was transformed with leisure facilities and a hotel being built. Both ends were covered and a new Main Stand built. The final side was left as uncovered terracing.

Many of my mates travelled there for the Supporters Direct Trophy match when Scarborough Athletic defeated Merthyr Town and were most impressed.

The photos in this section have been taken from books and the internet. I hope to return one day to take some of my own, ideally with Scarborough Athletic against AFC Telford United. 

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