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


Lewes FC are a community owned non league football club from the county town of East Sussex, which is located around seven miles north east of Brighton.

'The Rooks' as the club are nicknamed after the towns castle, were formed at The Royal Oak pub in 1885 moving into the Dripping Pan ground. The team originally played in green shirts to reflect the South Downs that surround the town, until they adopted their red and black colours in 1893.

The club were members of the Mid Sussex League until 1920, when they joined the Sussex County League.

In 1965 they were crowned league champions which led to a move to the Athenian League for the following season. In 1977 Lewes joined the newly extended Isthmian League, where they played in the lower divisions. Jimmy Quinn took over as manager in 1998 with The Rooks in the bottom tier. He led the side to two promotions in consecutive seasons.

Steve King took over in 2003 as through non league re-organisation and a play off win, Lewes found themselves joining Conference South as founder members. The team continued to prosper and they missed out on promotion in the play offs on a couple of occasions. At the end of the 2007-08 season The Rooks were crowned champions and promoted to the Conference National. However, the celebrations were somewhat muted amongst fans as King's contract was not renewed, with all the players except one departing.

Kevin Keehan was appointed somewhat surprisingly as his only previous football experience was as Commercial Manager of Brighton & Hove Albion. It was soon apparent he was out of his depth and he resigned by the following March, with Lewes finishing bottom of the league and relegated a few weeks later.

Worse still for the club was news of a financial crisis. They had overspent to chase their dream and also spent a lot of money on renovating the homely but aging Dripping Pan into a stadium fit for their recent status. Lewes were taken over by the Rooks 125 group, with six founder members forming the new board. The club were members owned, with lifetime shares of £1,000 only initially available. The team were relegated once again back to the Isthmian League as they battled on with an inexperienced side.

In April 2011 members shares became available for £30 per year, which entitled equal owners to be involved in elections and receive a membership card which gives discounts at many local businesses. Meanwhile King returned as manager for the 2011-12 season. However, his latest spell didn't last long as he left the club by mutual consent following an internal investigation in January 2012.

Simon Wormull took over as manager, but was dismissed in March 2013 after The rooks failed to reach a play off position, with Garry Wilson being handed the reigns. He led the side to a sixteenth place finish before departing in February 2015. In October 2015 the former Brighton and Fulham favourite Darren Freeman took over as manager.

The Rooks were relegated to Division One South of the Isthmian League in 2015-16. The board kept faith in manager Freeman who gradually remodelled the team, who finished in ninth position in the 2016-17 campaign.

Lewes FC will play in the Isthmian League Division One South in the 2017-18 season.

My visits

Tuesday 12th December 2007

I decided a nice day out of London in East Sussex was just what the doctor ordered to get work out of my system on my day off. What nicer than visiting some towns I had never visited, but had read about and heard of second hand from family and friends? Southern Railways issued a ticket for just £10 that allowed unlimited travel on their trains for the day, so I set about making my plans.

It was a cold but beautiful bright day as the train dropped me at Lewes station from Victoria. I walked round to Mountfield Road, which was less than five minutes from the platform where a gate was open, with a club worker going about his business. He was more than happy for me to go inside and take some photos.

The Dripping Pan was simply stunning. Just the name had me intrigued from the first time I heard it. When I first saw photos, I just had to go. The ground had seen quite a change in the previous few years before my visit, but it had kept the charm of old, with some tasteful buildings being added to the natural contours of the site.

The clubhouse and changing room block once stood next to a grass bank. It had now been joined by the Philcox Terrace, a steep area for standing fans with an aesthetic roof. To the left was the Grass Bank. This was as it says. A steep bank with an area of flat standing at the top so fans look down on the action. 

The far end was just about completed. The Ham Lane End was a newly constructed open terrace for the demands of segregated matches, which had taken a lot of planning and appeals to get passed. Finally the Rookery Stand was an all seated structure, built into the old banking. Previously the South Stand, an old cover stood on top of the natural bank. It was one the best and characteristic venues I'd ever had the pleasure to visit.

I walked into town and charm just oozed from there as well. The castle stood on the hill and a river ran through the beautiful streets. The Harvey's Brewery was another very welcome feature. I tried to find a bus going to nearby Ringmer, but there was a very irregualr service, so I looked around my surroundings for a bit longer. Eventually I returned to the station to take a train to Eastbourne.

I was determined to be back.

Lewes 1 AFC Sudbury 1 (Lewes won 5-4 on penalties) Wednesday 18th January 2012 (Isthmian League Cup Quarter Final) att: 266

Indeed I did return, but it took far longer than I intended. The good news was that I was not disappointed.

Again I found the Southern Railway day saver better value than buying a return ticket. I took the 6.06 train and just over an hour later I alighted in Lewes. I had read that the clubhouse had hand pulled Harvey's on draught, a beer I'd grown to like from a few sessions in the Market Porter at London Bridge. That sealed the deal for me, and I walked round to the ground at a great rate of knots.

Two youngsters sold programmes outside from a stand normally associated with League clubs. The issue for the evening was reduced in size, but only cost a quid. Very sensible in my book. I paid the reduced admission of £8 (kids were free!) and purchased a golden goal ticket. It read the 75th minute. While I wanted to win, I didn't really want to wait that long to see a goal. As I was walking down the steps of the Coxhil Terrace I was greated with news that the game would be put back until 8pm as the visitors had arrived late. No problems with me. My return train was at 9.50 and I had somewhere in mind to settle for a couple of pints.

The beers was excellent. I tried a Sussex Best, my usual choice for £3.10 and then a slightly stronger and darker Old Ale for £3.20. The match posters at Lewes had been getting rave reviews from my Boro supporting mate Richard Oldale. He wasn't wrong. There was a selection on the walls, with some deserving of their own exhibition.

I wandered outside and took some photos. My own emergence into the 21st Century and the purchase of an iphone enabled me to put a picture straight onto twitter and facebook. I decided to go to the far end of the ground with the home fans to watch the first half. The pitch wasn't totally level, but it was in excellent condition allowing passing football. At least it should have done, but if truth be told the game was scrappy.

The visitors from Suffolk, with a commendable sprinkling of travelling fans had a couple of chances, while the Milan lookalike home side didn't extend the keeper, until a fine turn and shot from Lewes's number nine Michael Malcolm. I was walking round to the clubhouse when a delightful chip from Sudbury's Robbie Martin put his side ahead. The previous Saturday we'd all laughed at my brother when he missed the only goal at the KC Stadium when the call of nature defeated him. Well it was now my turn. Apparently the roars I heard from the portaloo greeted a sweeping header from Matt Somner.

I sought solace with another pint as I listened to Brighton's FA Cup replay at Wrexham. There seemed to be a mixed reaction to Albion's equaliser amongst the locals. I checked my tweets, where I followed Lewes FC where they recommended the home made scotch eggs. The club had its own catering point as well as a portable van from a local firm on top of the bank.

I stood on the Coxhil Terrace and also viewed from on top of the bank. The locals were in good spirits, helped by the beers being allowed on the terraces. They seemed to treat it as a night out with football thrown in. It certainly assisted the atmosphere despite the low attendance.

Lewes were on top but couldn't score. They missed some good opportunities and were incredibly denied a penalty when Malcolm was about to tap in when he was more or less rugby tackled a few yards from goal with the goalie looking on. It was a nailed on spot kick and a sending off in my book, but the ref gave a goal kick!

I caved in to the temptation of the clubs catering. I asked if there were any scotch eggs left? They had all gone, and a local told me I had to be there early for one of those home made beauties. They had Sussex Pasties available, again home made, but I went for a hot dog. It was clear the ladies running the stand oozed creativity and loved their roles as even the hot dog went away from nornal blandness associated with the product as two dogs were served in a lump of French Stick with caramalised onions. I thought it offered decent value for £2.50. I also noted the huge cups of Sweet Thai Soup with French Stick was highly popular. I only wished more clubs made such an effort. Customers will pay if the product is good, and a little bit away from the ordinary. My diet would be ruined if I was a season ticket holder at the Dripping Pan!

The teams could not be separated, and I had to leave to catch my train with five minutes remaining. I got a tweet ten minutes into my journey from the Lewes on loan keeper Rikki Banks who was very happy with himself, as his save in the penalty shoot out had sent Lewes in the League Cup semi finals for the first time in the clubs history.

I really enjoyed my visit. Lewes were doing things right. I always like to visit fellow fans owned clubs, as my beloved Scarborough Athletic are run on that model. I thought it fantastic the way fans were encouraged to become equal owners and to get their membership cards to receive their discounts around the town. I also liked the number of current members - and counting, being advertised. The catering was top class, the beer lovely and the stadium the stuff of dreams to me. The luminous strip on the roof of the Rookery Stand rounded it all off.

I must return to Lewes, but ideally for a Saturday game when I have time to really enjoy everything the town and the Dripping Pan has to offer!

Lewes 7 Horsham YMCA 0 (Wednesday 8th November 2017) Sussex Senior Cup Round Two (att: 236)

My roster at work had fallen with Wednesday and Thursday as my day’s off. As usual I looked for some live football action. Steve Barnes, a pal from Kingsbury said he fancied a trip to Lewes as we could also get some quality pub action. Who was I to argue?

I took the opportunity to meet Steve Jarvis for a good fry up in West Hampstead before the other Steve met me after work. We decided on an early start as there was the possibility of cancellations on Southern Railways owing to industrial action.

As it worked out we took a train to East Croydon before changing to a direct service to Shoreham-on-Sea. I’d visited the town a few months earlier for a pre season friendly between Shoreham and Witham Town and enjoyed it.

Steve had directed me to a couple of pubs on that visit; which we called in to. The Duke of Wellington had a steady trade, decent ale and excellent background music to set the tone for the day. Steve was an old friend of the owner; who was out, but had a chat on the phone arranged by the friendly lass behind the bar.

We were treated to an impromptu sea shanty by the local group who met in the Old Star Ale & Cider House. The micropub also offered a decent selection of ale, as we went onto halves so we could sample more as the day went on.

We changed trains at Brighton before heading to Lewes; where I took us on an unintentional route march up and down dale before we found where I wanted to be. It was Steve’s first visit for many years, so I was in charge.

We started in Harvey’s Brewery tap; the John Harvey Tavern before taking a decent walk. Initially we went the wrong way and almost ended up on a brewery tour, before we were corrected and found The Snowdrop Inn.

The Gardeners Arms was another fine establishment; where a local confirmed my knowledge of the parish bonfires and Box Day. It was a friendly place where a few Lewes fans were enjoying a couple of pre match pints.

Our next port of call was the Lansdown Arms opposite the railway station. It was another decent enough choice elsewhere; but probably the poorest of the pubs we went in. We really had done well in our selection.

It was time to wander round to The Dripping Pan. Steve was suitably impressed, as I predicted. How could anyone not be? The only change since my previous visit was the installation of beach huts, which were used as corporate boxes.

Lewes were leading Division One South of the Isthmian League before play; while the YMCA visitors occupied a place towards the upper echelons of the Southern Combination League Premier Division.

The underdogs needed a good start and to keep things tight against their free scoring hosts. Therefore it wasn’t ideal when Lewes’s Charlie Coppola cut inside and scored with a powerful curling effort past Aaron Jeal and in off the underside of the bar in the first minute.

Horsham’s centre back Matt Crane looked as though he could play, but his lack of pace and agility were quickly found out. On four minutes it was 2-0 as Jonte Smith was played through past a static defence to square to Wilf Grimaud who tapped home into an empty net.

Jeal pulled off a couple of good saves from Coppola and then Ronnie Conlon as The Rooks dominated. We were sat in the Main Stand and I enjoyed some decent food from the refreshment counter by the clubhouse.

Smith made it 3-0 seven minutes before the interval as he converted a low cross from Grimaud; before Jeal kept out the same player with a decent stop. However, Smith was not to be denied just before the break when he collected a pass from Bouwe Bosma to round the custodian and score.

At the break we headed to the well stocked bar for a pint of Harvey’s ale. There was a choice of three beers on hand pump, as well as a full range of bottles from the local brewery. One or two punters looked on at the Chester City v Wrexham derby on the TV.

Lewes manager Darren Freeman introduced three youth team players for the second half; while YM hauled Crane off. The visitors continued to try and play football and didn’t resort to foul play, as many sides may have done in their position.

One of the subs; Ross Barclay, saw an effort well saved by the overworked Jeal. Mark Cave had an effort saved by the previously redundant Chris Winterton in the Lewes net. Smith collected his hat trick with twenty minutes remaining as he was set up by Dylan Gifford.

Horsham were unable to clear a corner to allow Smith to smash home on the half volley from the penalty spot to make it 6-0 before Barclay converted a low Gifford cross at the far post in the final minute to conclude the scoring.

It had been a decent enough game, if a little one sided. We enjoyed watching a game from so many decent vantage points and certainly intended a revisit; especially if Hendon were the visitors on a Saturday.

We then had a decision to make. We could head to London or take a fifteen minute ride back to Brighton and enjoy some more beer. Inevitably enough we were soon in The Evening Star for a couple of pints.

It was at this point that the train times began to go haywire with delays; unrelated to the strike. It meant that the 11.07 would leave at 11.45. A quick look at my App led us to The Prince Albert; where we were the youngest customers.

The beers and music were top class in the lively pub. The sign to the gents toilets had to be seen to be believed! We caught our train and nodded off. I was rather relieved when I woke up to hear an announcement I dreaded.

Our train was scheduled to take us all the way to Hendon, but a change meant that it wouldn’t be stopping between St Pancras and Luton. We had to get out and wait for forty minutes for the next service. We had no other choice.

Eventually, through the aid of an Uber cab I dropped Steve off and put the key in my door at 2.45am. It had been a long but brilliant day out!

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