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 their maintenance.

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 fortunate 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 heightens 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 try today. They'll be delighted 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. Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby as he grows into a young man!

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


November 2018

Sunday, February 5, 2012

South Park

South Park FC are a non league football club based in the suburb of the same name in the historic Surrey town of Reigate, which is located around twenty five miles south of London.

The club were formed back in 1897 playing in local league football on a pitch between Church Road and Crescent Road. In 1925 the football club joined forces with the local cricket club to form the South Park Sports Association. They purchased some land on Whitehall Lane, which was named King George's Field from 1935.

Donations came in after World War Two to improve the grounds with toilets, changing rooms and showers being added to the air raid shelter on the site. For the next sixty or so years South Park continued to compete in local competitions, having success in some cups as the club gradually grew with the implementation of junior sides.

Neighbour's Reigate Town moved in with South Park in 2001 as the clubs merged. They were called South Park & Reigate Town FC for a couple of years before reverting to South Park FC. Improvements such as floodlights came to the club and in 2006 they were promoted from the Crawley & District League to the Combined Counties League.

The FA Vase was entered for the first time in the 2008-09 season and 2010-11 saw the clubs first ever FA Cup campaign. At the end of that season, the team finished in third place so they were promoted to the Premier Division. The following season saw an excellent FA Vase run, when they reached the 4th Round of the FA Vase where they were rewarded with a long trip to the winners of the previous three tournaments, Whitley Bay.

'The Sparks' continued their upward climb as the Combined Counties League title was secured in the 2013-14 season, before consolidating in their new surroundings of the Isthmian League.

South Park FC will compete in the Isthmian League Division One South in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

South Park 0 Mole Valley SCR 2 (Wednesday 4th January 2012) Combined Counties League Premier Division (att: approx 70)

I was off work resting after completing my New Year night shifts and eager to make it three games in three days. The calendar was pretty bare, but the fixture at South Park appealled as it was a ground that wouldn't be ideal when working the next morning.

I caught the tube to London Bridge and then bought my £10 return ticket. I stood with the hundred of commuters waiting to see which platform my train would be designated. All was good when I got on board and managed to find a seat. I drifted in and out of sleep listening to my iPod, but I started to worry when I saw us hurtle through Earlswood. 

I was pretty sure that was after Redill, the station I needed to alight at. I asked the bloke next to me where the train was going, and he said Brighton! I'd got on the wrong train. As look would have it modern technology by way of my iPhone came to the rescue. I could get out at Three Bridges and get a train back to Redhill more or less instantly. Just where were we before such innovations?

The down side was that I was now well behind schedule, so I had to take a taxi to the ground. This cost £8, but my luck was in as I found a couple of quid on my seat when I got up. It was a long way from Redhill, and I was glad I didn't walk it, especially as the route was along some country lanes.

I got out at the end of the narrow lane that was Whitehall Lane and walked across the windswept field by the South Park Sports Association. I gave the man in the small wooden hut by the entrance £5 admission plus a quid for a decent programme. He kindly informed me that there was a tea bar at the far end of the building down the side of the pitch.

The King George's Field ground was neat and functional, but fairly basic. There was a hard standing path all the way around the modern metal pitch side fence, with grass flat open standing beyond it. There was plenty of room for expansion. The dug outs were on the far side, with a small modern seated stand by the corner flag on the near side. Along this touchline was the main structure, which housed toilets, the changing rooms and a tea bar. The roof was cleverly designed to overhand over a couple of steps to offer shelter for standing spectators.

Because of the high swirling winds and occasional heavy showers, the tea bar was doing a roaring trade. The man behind the hatch worked wonders serving the queue with hot drinks, burgers and chips. He made multi tasking look relatively simple. Amongst the patrons were several other groundhoppers, some of whom I recognised from previous jaunts. 

A poster on Tony's Non League Forum later wrote that he thought there was around twenty or so hoppers in attendance. A local commented on my Scarborough woollen hat, and suggested to his mate that I was a spy from Whitley Bay taking notes for the forthcoming FA Vase tie. I think he was joking?

After warming up with a bovril and a snickers for a reasonable £1.50 I went out to do a lap and take photos before settling in the seats in the corner. It wasn't warm anywhere, but the small stand protected me from the wind. Several young locals also gathered and gradually increased in numbers as the game progressed, which was promising to see.

South Park, playing in a kit not dissimilar to that of Windsor's all red with green trim were the better side initially. However, bottom of the table Mole Valley SCR (Sutton Common Rovers) had already won at Windsor earlier in the season and they had some good ball players on display. What they did best was play to the awful conditions by keeping the ball on the deck. South Park continued to be frustrated until a fine low shot was scored for the visitors after thirty five minutes.

I had a cup of tea at half time while listening to Newcastle go one up against Man Utd before settling into the second half as best as I could. The pattern continued as the pitch started to cut up in patches. The referee had a fine game in my opinion by allowing for the conditions, but also clamping down when necessary and having a word with any dissenters. Many of the players on both sides were young so it made a change to see an official talk to them rather than take up the "I'm in control" stance and show cards willy nilly. 

South Park though they'd equalised when the ref originally waved away the linesman's flag to allow play to continue. As the home players celebrated he then went across and spoke to his assistant before chalking off the goal. The Park team were less than happy, but I thought he did the right thing. Surely he was better off giving play a chance? If he'd have blown his whistle immediately and the linesman had flagged for someone not interfering with play, then surely the players would have been even more disgruntled.

Mole Valley certainly didn't look like a bottom of the table team. Park were sixth in the league, but there was little between the sides. The visitors were encouraged by their larger than life boss from the opposite side to the dugouts who barked out instructions while battling with the elements. His team added a second from a cool low finish across a crowded area. Valley certainly had it right with their shooting. Park had plenty of attempts fly over the crossbar.

I decided to call it a day with around ten minutes to go as I thought there was a bus back to Redhill. Unfortunately I couldn't find the bus stop. The only one I found told me that the bus wasn't scheduled for another twenty minutes, so I decided to set off walking. I thought I knew where I was going as I climbed a large hill and kept going. I didn't find a turning on the left I expected and I could see some shops in the distance so I continued along. I ended up walking into the town of Reigate and very nice it looked too.

I gave the National Rail enquiries a call and discovered there was a train within ten minutes back to Redhill, with a direct connection to Victoria. I got directions to the station from some locals and kept up my pace which had alternated between power walking and jogging for the previous thirty minutes. I arrived with a few minutes to spare. I later estimated that I had done around three miles! I logged on once on board to confirm I hadn't missed any further goals.

I was back in Kingsbury at 11.30 pm to watch Match of the Day and see the players of South Park and Mole Valley weren't the only ones to struggle with the wind after Bolton Wanderers keeper Adam Bogdan had allowed a clearance from his opposite number in the Everton net, Tim Howard to sail over his head from around ninety yards. It was good to see that even the players at the top of their trade also made errors!

Congratulations to all players at my game for doing their very best, to the staff at South Park for their warm welcome and excellent service and to the groundsman for getting the game on after some rough weather. Sometimes fans forget what loyal club servants go through so that we can be entertained.

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