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

Raynes Park Vale

Raynes Park Vale FC are a non league football club from Raynes Park in South West London, who were formed in 1995 after the merger of Malden Vale FC and Raynes Park FC.

Raynes Park FC were formed in 1964 taking over from the Southern Railway football section. The club played in local competition, fielding five senior sides, youth teams and a veterans XI. 

Malden Vale FC were formed in 1967 and played their first decade in local football and picking up many honours before gaining senior status. They initially played in the Surrey Senior League before winning promotion to the Combined Counties League after two seasons. 

In 1988, after much work on their Prince George Playing Fields home, the club were promoted to the Isthmian League. After restructuring they found themselves in Division Two of that league in 1991. At the end of the 1993-94 season, the management left with many players to run Hendon FC. Relegation followed the following season, but the newly formed club opted to join the Combined Counties League.

It took two years of planning before Raynes Park Vale FC made their Combined Counties League debut from their Prince George Playing Fields home on Grand Drive in the 1995-96 season.

The same year the Prince George Playing Fields were sold to Wimbledon FC for their new academy, but they decided to move to Milton Keynes leaving Raynes Park Vale to be the custodians of the grounds. The club are continually looking for alternative sites for a new home.

Raynes Park Vale FC will compete in the Combined Counties League Premier Division in the 2015-16 season.

My visits

Friday 3rd November 2006

I was having a days groundhop around Surrey and South West London and after visiting Kingsmeadow I caught a bus to Burlington Road before making my way to Grand Drive and then up the lane to the ground.

The ground was locked, but the perimeter fence made up mainly of tight green netting was low enough for me to take some photographs. In all honesty, I was disappointed with the ground as the pitch sloped badly from side to side and then down towards the Grand Drive End goal. The spectator facilities were also a little on the basic side. 

The pitch had a mixture of hard standing and flat open grass all around and was surrounded by a blue and red rail, with blue fence fill ins at each end. There was a small cover near the turnstiles behind the goal. A small wooden Main Stand with seating sat near to the half way line with a couple of steps of terracing either side.

However, this was before the time of Scarborough Athletic were formed and I went to many other venues of similar league status. How little I knew at the time!

I went on to take another bus for my final visit of the day, Wibbundune the home of Colliers Wood United, before heading to The Star in St John's Wood for drinks with my mates. They thought I was crackers for going to watch Scarborough at Droylsden the following day, before I regaled them with tales about Chessington & Hook United, Corinthian Casuals and Raynes Park Vale. They were now convinced!

Raynes Park Vale 0 Croydon 3 (Tuesday 6th December 2011) Combined Counties Premier Division (att: approx 50)

To me the best thing about my hobby is feeling and seeing a real sense of pride that goes into running a football club. I've seen it time and again following Scarborough Athletic around the grounds of the Northern Counties East League, and on my travels around the south east. Yes, I sometimes see a really good game or find a clubhouse with exceptional ale, but all those factors are immaterial compared to a friendly welcome and seeing pride in a club and the players giving their all.

I had finished my night shift and was meeting my good friends Linda and Ross at Tottenham Court Road to catch up for drinks and a meal. We had a lovely late afternoon and early evening  having lots of laughs. It was gone 7.10pm when we left Cafe Rouge, but I knew after night shifts that I needed fresh air so I could stay up late, if I had any chance at all of returning to a normal sleeping pattern.

I said my goodbyes and then made a decision based on the brief notes of which games were on that evening. I wanted to see a game at Grand Drive because I knew I hadn't seen it at its best on my previous visit, and I desperately wanted a damning review I'd read on one of the blogs to be so wrong.

I rushed on to the Northern line to Waterloo and where I caught one of the regular trains. I could see the floodlights glowing as the train pulled into Raynes Park station. By the time I'd made my way to the ground it was probably just gone 8pm.

A kind man in a Raynes Park top gave me admission for £3 because I'd missed a chunk of the game. Unfortunately he'd run out of programmes, but when I asked he said he'd get me a recent edition at half time. I was immediately impressed.

When I got in the game was 1-0 to Croydon. I was most pleased by the communication skills shown by the near side linesman and the young referee. How nice it was to see officials and players deal with a foul with a bit of humour. The visitors, nicknamed The Trams, seemed to have the clearer chances in an open game although there was not a lot of difference in terms of possession. The pitch with its slope and bobbly surface didn't help either side at times.

At half time I adjourned with most of the crowd to the clubhouse. I was not let down with the promise of a programme as I sat down with a warming bovril for just 60p in a proper mug. Again the welcome was friendly from the man behind the bar. I got talking to a visiting fan who noticed my Boro badge. 

It turned out that he speaks to Walter, the man who produces them for us and gets one sent each season. The clubhouse was relatively basic but warm and I really liked the simple but effective touch of opponents programmes being on display above the bar. What a good inexpensive idea and a clever conversation piece for visitor such as myself.

I went back out for the second half and had a walk around the ground, as the temperatures dropped noticeably. I came across a little shelter at the far end of the ground which had just four chairs underneath it! I then walked back and watched from the side of the Main Stand, with the houses of Berrylands forming a barrier with the ground. There looked to be a few groundhoppers in evidence and up to twenty visiting fans. It was nice to see Raynes Park officials and other players come in and offer their support after finishing training on the field next door.

Croydon extended their lead soon after the interval before Vale missed an easy chance from a free header and they were then belatedly awarded a penalty after a player held his face and let out a scream. The Trams keeper pullled off a great save from the spot kick and the rebound was put wide.

I put it to the fan I'd spoken to in the clubhouse that it was an even game, but Croydon had just a little more class. He agreed and added that class isn't something associated with their team of late. There was then an outbreak of handbags over nothing, which ended with just one yellow card being handed out, which was about right.

Croydon attacked down the left near the end and the shaky Vale keeper went walkabouts and lost the ball, which allowed a cross to be headed into an empty net, much to the delight of the visiting posse. The game ended 3-0, which I thought slightly flattered Croydon.

On my way out I noticed a lovely memorial stone which had been laid in remembrance to a loyal Vale supporter. A nice touch, but only typical of what I'd encountered all night.

I headed across the fields just in time to run up the ramp and jump on a train to Waterloo. I decided to pop into the Hole in the Wall pub, where I rounded off a lovely day with a pint of the majestic Hogsback TEA. There were several Chelsea fans in there, happy with their lot rather than their whining of the previous month. 

They may have watched a supposedly big game, but they'd paid big money where they were seen as little more than a number. They certainly won't have got a warm welcome like I did, and their bovril would have definitely have come in a plastic cup and cost more than 60p!

Each to their own, and I do enjoy an occasional night at a big game, but definitely only occasionally. I could go to a non league game three or four times a week.

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